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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi! I'm new to the forums, and I've lurked a fair bit, but I've finally registered to seek your advice! I've read quite a few Outback VS Forester threads already, but I'm making my own in hopes that you can help address some of my specific needs.

This car will be for myself and my husband, and will be replacing our horrible North America-only version of the Accord (which is being borrowed from his parents). Previously my husband had a 99 RS that he swapped to a complete version 8 JDM STi drive-train with rotated turbo, active diff controller, meth, etc. He also had a 91 Legacy that he converted into a rally car (see avatar). Both were sold a couple years ago to pay for expensive tuition in the US (we are Canadian). Hence, we are sad and Subaru-less!!

For the Forester we are mainly considering the 2.5X Limited, and for the Outback, the 2.5i Premium with the All Weather pkg (heated seats are important to me :p). Our local dealership has zero Outbacks currently, so we can't fairly compare anything ourselves. Now here come the questions in no particular order....

1. Transmission: CVT vs 4-speed Auto. Disregarding fuel-consumption and problems that may arise from the CVT's "newness", how do you feel about how they drive? We are interested in comparisons for in-town, on the highway, and off-road.

2. Front Seats. I've only sat in a Premium Forester so far, but the seats were only about a 6 out of 10 for me. Are the Limited seats any comfier, and how do the Outback seats compare? We are both quite small/narrow.

3. Ease of cleaning the interior. The Forester would have leather, and the Outback would have cloth. We have a small dog who thinks he's an adventuresome Retriever, and he likes to lay in the ocean and then roll in the sand. My husband's RS pretty much permanently had sand in the carpet and seats, and though we don't actually care tooo much (a dirty Subaru is a happy Subaru) it's a slight consideration. We've noticed that different cloth and carpet (in various vehicles) traps dirt and sand more or less, so I'd appreciate your thoughts if you've actually noticed such a thing.

4. Long-term comfort. We're currently in Arizona but make several road trips a year back up to the west coast of Canada. Ride comfort, noise, etc, are all a factor.

5. Perceived size and visibility. I know the dimensions, but I'm wondering how they feel to drive, and how easy it is to be spatially aware in each vehicle. My husband is comfortable with anything, but I've only driven small cars like Civics and Proteges, so I'd like a vehicle that feels fairly intuitive and natural. I don't do a lot of driving so this is one of the most important factors for me.

6. Off-roading ability. I know the Forester has a better angle of approach, etc, but how extreme do you have to be for this to actually become a factor? My husband and I like to do things like camp off the well-beaten track, but I'm not sure that the Forester's greater off-roading ability will actually make a difference in our case.

7. Interior quality. The Forester's interior is pretty mediocre, but is the Outback that much better, and how? Also, we haven't seen a Limited Forester yet, so maybe it's a fair bit better than the Premium?

8. Things we haven't thought of. Sometimes little details make big differences! We don't care about sound systems, navigation, exterior look, or street-cred. We have a shih tzu, so looking badass is already out of the question!


Sorry this is so long, but TIA for your help! I realize that some of these things have already been somewhat addressed on the forums, but the new Outback in particular hasn't been out too long, and people are always learning more and more details.

My husband has a history of car-forum addiction, so I'm sure once we get our vehicle we will be posting here regularly! We quite enjoy these forums and are happy to be away from the stereotypical mod-scene ^_^

EDIT: My husband just noticed that on the NHTSA site there are a lot of complaints for the Outback regarding the passenger air-bag not activating for light-weight people. I am only 115lbs, so this is a big concern, particularly since Subaru's excellent safety features are largely why we want a Subaru in the first place. Does anyone know if this is being addressed?
 

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2010 Forester 2.5X Premiu
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1. Transmission: CVT vs 4-speed Auto. Disregarding fuel-consumption and problems that may arise from the CVT's "newness", how do you feel about how they drive? ...
You really ought to try them yourselves. I found the Outback CVT to lag compared to the 4AT in the Forester. When I punched it, it cowered. The Forester responded by downshifting and giving me some HP.

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3. Ease of cleaning the interior. The Forester would have leather, and the Outback would have cloth...
I had leather seats in an '03 Acura CL. I will never have leather again. It's cold in winter, hot in summer, and you have to take CARE of it or it will crack and rip. Every time you move it sounds like you have bad flatulence. Seriously.

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4. Long-term comfort. We're currently in Arizona but make several road trips a year back up to the west coast of Canada. Ride comfort, noise, etc, are all a factor.
Little doubt to me that I would much rather drive an Outback 100+ miles than a Forester. I have a Forester. I love it. But I've driven long long miles, and it's more fun in a larger, more sedan-like car.

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5. Perceived size and visibility. I know the dimensions, but I'm wondering how they feel to drive, and how easy it is to be spatially aware in each vehicle. My husband is comfortable with anything, but I've only driven small cars like Civics and Proteges, so I'd like a vehicle that feels fairly intuitive and natural. I don't do a lot of driving so this is one of the most important factors for me.
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As I said, the Outback handled more like a touring sedan, the Forester more like a small SUV. However, the visibility in the Forester spanks the Outback. The moonroof is humongous in the Forester. It's actually worth pushing the button to open it. For long drives, the Outback will be more pleasant. For short commutes, they're even. The Forester is really easy to maneuver and park.

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7. Interior quality. The Forester's interior is pretty mediocre, but is the Outback that much better, and how? Also, we haven't seen a Limited Forester yet, so maybe it's a fair bit better than the Premium?
Both seemed about even to me. This is a Forester Premium, not Ltd though.

It was very difficult for me to choose one or the other on merit. I just liked the Forester a little better, liked the visibility, liked the response of the 4AT, liked the roominess of the cargo area, LOVED the moonroof.
 
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