I know this is the spy photos thread but it seems there is quite a bit of discussion going on in here as well.
My wife and I have been shopping for an Outback 3.6R or 2.5i 6MT to add to the "fleet" because we now have a dog and a kid on the way. We went to the dealer on Saturday evening to check out the 2013 as well as see what '10-'12 models they had on the lot.
It turned out this dealer also has a 2.0XT Touring with Eyesight/Keyless/HID package on the lot, so we both took a look and were really impressed! First impression from the exterior styling is that it is a much better looking vehicle than the Outback. We liked that the hood was shorter than the Outback, and this was appreciated from the drivers seat as well. The XT front end is more aggressive than the vanilla model, and while the fake vents near the fog lights are a bit poseur-ish and the lack of a functional hood scoop is a loss, in dark colors it looks really sharp (this model was the dark grey metallic). It also had the gunmetal trim grille and wheels, which we were divided on style-wise, but neither of us would pay for.
The fender flares have the little cut-back which neither of us care for, but in dark colors it is not all that noticeable. The side profile is very typical Forester, and the rear of the car hasn't changed much either. The side view mirrors look a bit funny being mounted on the door, and our salesman (who was excellent - knew his product and had a great personality) explained that Subaru did this to reduce noise in the cabin. Apparently they can brace the base of the mirror better as it is tied to the door structure.
Sitting in the car we both really liked the interior styling as compared to the Outback. Where the Outback is longer and wider, the Forester is taller and more open feeling. The Outback has more of a cockpit feel and when I was in and everything was adjusted around me it felt like a long-range missile. The Forester felt like we had miles of headroom, although it was also noticeably narrower and shorter in length than the Outback. (I am 6' tall by the way.)
Under the hood I was really happy to see the layout of the 2.0T with it's center-mounted turbo. There was actually a decent amount of room around the engine too. I also learned that all the XTs are being built in the Gunma plant in Japan, rather than in Indiana! That was quite a pleasant surprise.
I am not as thrilled that the XT is only available with the CVT, although I am willing to go for a test drive prior to passing judgement. I am shopping for a family car, so outright performance is not a 1st or even 2nd tier criteria, but the car does need to be reasonably fun to drive which means it can be low-power with a manual, or higher-power with an auto/CVT.
All in all I am having a tough time with the Forester/Outback decision - both seem to be great options for a family car with AWD capability and reasonable amenities for the money. Of course there are three model years of used Outbacks out there, which greatly tips the equation it the Outbacks favor, but the wife and I also see value in buying new. One thing to note: I felt the slightest
notion that I would be willing to get rid of my '06 GT Ltd. sedan if it was the only way to get the Forester XT... I have never
felt that way about the Outback.