Subaru Forester Review (2002) - Scan Tool Demo
An Owner's Perspective

OBD scan tool digital readouts with graphs showing RPM and ignition advance for automotive diagnostics with software and computers for cars and other vehicles.OBD scan tool for Subaru vehicles - automotive diagnostics with software and computers for cars and other vehicles

2002 Subaru Forseter test drive Review: OBD 2 Scan Tool Interfaces with 
2002 Subaru Forester with All Wheel Drive AWD

by Adrian Biffen
Systems Administrator
Software For Cars

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We decided this year that it was time to replace our venerable old Volvo with a vehicle that could be used to demonstrate our OBD scan tool systems. Having bought a house on a hill in the countryside, we felt that it would make sense to purchase a compact SUV with 4 wheel drive to handle the occasional bout of snow and ice conditions in the winter. 2002 Subaru Forester Review Other issues that affected our decision included fuel economy, safety and ride comfort. Jenni and I had originally considered buying the superb Subaru Outback wagon, but found that we preferred the extra space and raised seating position (visibility) of the compact SUV class.  If I was doing it again today, I would get  a FREE QUOTE first from the folks at

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We tested most of the compact SUV's and found that our choice would not be an easy one. We ruled out the heavy duty, off-road type as we did not want to use it for that purpose, choosing quietness, ride comfort and economy over mud bashing and all out ditch crawling capabilities. We found that the remaining choices were too large, or too noisy, or underpowered or uneconomical. Road and engine noise were big issues for us, particularly since my Solara had set a new benchmark in this area.

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2002 Subaru Forester Type 'S'
The deluxe 'S' model features 16" wheels, 4 wheel disc brakes, limited slip differential.

Finally, we drove the Forester and found that it had the combination of qualities we had been looking for. We immediately discovered that it had very low road noise at all speeds, a peppy 2.5 L four cylinder engine with reasonable gas consumption, plenty of interior space with high visibility, excellent ride comfort and a high level of 'fit and finish'. 2002 Subaru Forester Review - rear cargo door viewHeated seats, mirrors and windshield wipers add a nice touch to the level of comfort. The absence of a rear tire mount allows the cargo door to swing up high, out of the way, creating an effective rain shield. The rear seats flip down, creating a large storage area that easily handles larger objects such as furniture, bicycles, etc. 

The 152 cubic inch (2.5 Litre) SOHC 'boxer' engine (also used in Outback models) has a sophisticated fuel injected 4 valve per cylinder design that puts out 165 peppy horses (yes, that's better than a 1 hp/cubic inch ratio). It also generates 166 lb-ft of torque that provides plenty of kick at low rpm, without straining the engine. The horizontally opposed design whereby the pistons are arranged 'lying down' keeps the center of gravity very low in this vehicle (it has no tendency to roll that I could detect), with the added safety bonus that it slides under the cab in the event of a head on collision. The 7 year bumper to bumper extended warranty also contributed to our peace of mind around this purchase; there's a lot of value here for around $25k US ...

The powertrain is very quiet and the motor exhibits none of the high pitched whine of smaller engines when accelerating rapidly. It is smooth and quiet at idle and hard to tell if it is actually running if there is any ambient noise. I have actually had to glance at the tachometer a few times to assure myself that it was indeed turning over.

Fuel consumption is surprisingly low considering the AWD and abundant power of the engine, probably due in part to the 'true overdrive' feature of the silky smooth electronically controlled 4 speed automatic transmission. There are no levers for the AWD, just a conventional console shift that can be basically left in 'Drive' all the time you are moving. At highway speeds I found I was getting close to 28 mpg (70 mph @ 2700 rpm) with regular gas. The electronic cruise control is perfectly smooth and adjusts the electronically controlled automatic overdrive (ECT) transmission and throttle position to regulate downhill and uphill speeds. All cruise functions are controlled by the wheel mounted switch, so 'drive by finger' is entirely possible in this car. Tapping the set switch up or down adjusts the cruise setting in 2 mph increments - handy for fine speed adjustment while in traffic.

The interior is roomy and comfortable, with plenty of legroom for driver and passenger. With some minor positioning of the front seats, the rear seating is also comfortable for additional passengers. All controls are well placed and easily understood, and there are storage compartments everywhere you look, not to mention Subaru's famous pop-out dash holder for drinks. We found the seats very comfortable, even on extended drives, with no feelings of fatigue from a long drive.

Despite the elevated profile, this SUV also handles very well. Subaru Forester chassis and differential view It has MacPherson strut front suspension with gas-filled shock absorbers and dual-link independent rear strut suspension. The S model also comes with a limited-slip rear differential for added traction control. Note how compact the differential housing is (picture), providing excellent ground clearance.. We have yet to try it on snow and ice, but turning out quickly from a gravel road onto asphalt with a lot of power applied produced no slippage whatsoever.

The steering is effortless with the speed sensing, variable-assist power rack-and-pinion mechanism. Our Volvo was the all-time 'instant U-turn' turning ratio champ, but we were very impressed with the tight turning ratio on the Forester, especially considering that it is a 4WD vehicle. Braking is superb, with 4 wheel disk brakes on the 16" Yokahama performance radials and an ABS (Antilock Braking System) coupled to a 4 channel 4 sensor actuation system.

With all the electronic sophistication of the Forester, the OBD (On Board Diagnostic) Subaru Forester Data Link Connectore DLC for scan tool system hasn't been neglected either.  The DLC (Data Link Connector) port is tucked neatly under the driver's side dash, facing down and flush with the lower edge. Although you can't see it without peering under the dash, the positioning is such that plugging a scan tool in is a relatively simple task.

The data stream coming into the software scan tool revealed the structure of the emission control system, with oxygen sensors at the heart of the emissions control system. The scan tool digital readout could easily detect the 7 rpm idle speed variation, although it was impossible to see this on the vehicle's tachometer (this is one smooth engine!). We were also able to observe increased system activity when the engine cooling fan kicked in, holding the engine temperature very close to 199 F. There are many other parameters that can be monitored.

As expected, there weren't any trouble codes stored in the on board memory, Henry inspects Forester - laptop connected to scan tool on the left but we'll report later in an updated article if this happens.  We arranged for a full service manual to be delivered with this car and will be thoroughly examining the control systems over the next few months. If you're interested in some of the screen data, please see the screen captures below. If you're interested in getting this software for your own car, take a look at our scan tool products page.

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Kudos to Subaru - the Forester met all our expectations of what a new compact SUV should be like ... smooth, comfortable and efficient, with great traction control and cargo space rolled into one affordable package.




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