The Forester was introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show November 1995 as the "Sutoriga" concept and made available for sale February 1997 in Japan, and to the American market in 1998, using the Impreza platform but with the larger 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine from the Outback, making 165horsepower (123kW) at 5,600 rpm and 162lb·ft (220N·m) of torque at 4,000 rpm. In Japan, the Forester replaced the Subaru Impreza Gravel Express, known in the USA as the Subaru Outback Sport. Due to the Forester's low center of gravity, it meets the United States federal safety standards for Passenger Vehicles, and does not require a risk of rollover warning label on the driver's visor. Size and price wise it fits between the smaller Impreza, and the larger Legacy.
As with all Subaru models marketed in the United States and other international markets since the early 1990s, the Forester is equipped with an all-wheel drive drivetrain. Subaru advertising employed the slogan "SUV tough, Car Easy" to appeal to the SUV-oriented market; and to this end, the Forester from its inception had features associated with SUVs such as a large, boxy cargo area, higher h-point seating and more ground clearance while based on unibody rather than body-on-frame construction. In this sense, the Forester met the criteria of the term crossover before the term appeared. Notably, the third generation of the Forester is marketed by Subaru as a crossover.
The Forester, up until recently, was also sold in India as a Chevrolet alongside other Chevrolet models sold there. However since General Motors no longer holds an ownership stake in Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, sales in India of the Chevrolet-badged Forester have ended. The Forester is produced at the Gunma Yajima Factory in Japan.
The automatic transmission used on AWD equipped vehicles would normally send 90% of the engines torque to the front wheels and 10% to the rear wheels, using a computer controlled, continuously variable, multi-plate transfer clutch. When the front wheels began to experience a loss of grip, the transmission automatically sent available torque to the rear wheels, up to 50-50 split between the front and rear wheels until grip was reestablished at the front wheels, without notifying the driver or occupants that torque was being redirected. When accelerating or driving uphill, the vehicles weight shifts rearward, reducing front wheel traction, causing the transmission to automatically send torque to the rear wheels to compensate. When braking or driving downhill, the vehicle's weight shifts towards the front, reducing rear wheel traction. The transmission again compensates by sending torque to the front wheels for better steering control and braking performance. If the automatic is placed in Reverse or "1st" gear, the transmission divides the torque 50-50 to both front and rear wheels.