When Subaru first offered a turbocharged Forester XT model to US customers for the 2004 model year, the shoe-shaped second-gen model fell into a ready-made competitive set of small, V6-powered crossovers and SUVs. The XT might have been more of a raucous shopping-trip companion than, say, a Ford Escape V6, but the basics of the cars offered a clear differentiation from the naturally aspirated, four-cylinder models found just a bit downmarket. Here in 2013, the V6 breed of crossover in this size class is all but extinct, and turbocharged four-cylinders with the power to compete with the XT are not thick on the ground.
In many ways, the comparative analysis gets most interesting when you start looking around for CUVs to match up with the all-boxes-ticked Forester XT Touring that we had as a tester for a recent week. The top of the line Touring trim means that the Forester comes with features like 10-way power seats, leather, navigation, a Harmon Kardon sound system with HD radio, Bluetooth and more. In fact, our Forester also had the only option package available on the XT Touring; one that included keyless access, HID headlights and Subaru's EyeSight system (adaptive cruise, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking).
And, of course, because of the XT trim, we knew that we were getting one of the most powerful crossovers in this segment, too. Subaru's turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder lay under the hood, ready to pump out some 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque at the flex of an ankle. Combined with a light-for-the class curb weight of around 3,600 pounds and Subaru's grippy all-wheel-drive system, the XT feels pretty quick in town and on the freeway.