For Subaru, creating vehicles that are built rugged and designed for off-road action is nothing new, but in 1997 they came up with a new concept, one that would prove very popular indeed: meet the 1997 Subaru Forester. Built on the chassis of the Impreza, the Subaru Forester combines the advantages of a station wagon with those of an SUV, making what at first looked like a strange hybrid, but soon became accepted, familiar, and dare one say, beloved. Design-wide, the Forester sported a chunky, manly look, and with the extra ground clearance and excellent all-wheel drive system, could lay in a claim to some genuine off-road capabilities.
Unfortunately, the first engine to be put in the Forester, a Boxer-configuration (flat) four-cylinder engine with a 2-liter displacement, proved to be somewhat anemic, with only 122 horsepower. Acceleration to 60 mph was a tired 12 seconds, and to speed, 110 miles per hour. Thankfully, Subaru saw the errors of their ways and made available more powerful engines on later models.
While the Forester did not exactly herald the end of the SUV, it brought back the station wagon in a big way. Station wagons are appreciated for their roominess, and for just how much like a car they behave on the road, unlike truck-based SUVs. The 1997 Subaru Forester is the first of a now-long line of vehicles that tried to break away from the traditional SUV format.