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Across the USA in a Subaru Forester XT

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My family just finished an epic cross-country move from our previous home in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, to our new home in Portland, Oregon.   We did the trip in our new 2014 Subaru Forester XT – our 4th Subaru, and the 2nd Subaru we’ve used for a cross-country move.

The Route:

Cross-Country Road Trip Map


As my wife & I have taken a southern & middle route before when going cross-country, we selected a Northern route this time for a change of scenery.

Camping on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi on the Wisconsin / Minnesota Border

Camping on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi on the Wisconsin / Minnesota Border.  The dual-hinged roof carrier (can be opened from either side of the car) was a godsend.

We had the little Forester loaded up with our things, and got the Subaru-supplied long box for the roof to put our camping equipment, sleeping bags, etc.   It was the perfect size for our family of four.   The dual-hinged box on the roof was easy to access, and the 13-cu-ft of space was exactly right for fitting our tent, sleeping bags, pads and other camping items – leaving the car itself for only our clothes, food & travel distractions.

Gas Mileage

Prior to affixing the box to the roof, we were getting almost spot-on with the EPA estimates for the Forester XT, getting between 20-22mpg in the city, and 28-30mpg on the highway – not bad at all for a 250hp turbo.

The box on the roof definitely took its toll on mileage, however – especially felt on speeds above 70mph.   Below 60mph or so, we had no problem staying in the same 28mpg range as before, but there’s no way to really cheat the aerodynamics of having a big box up there.

Our mileage log was as follows:

  • Left Silver Spring, MD.  Mile Zero!! 6/28
  • Lawrenceville, PA – 330/14.07 = 23.45mpg
  • Port Huron, MI – 361.8 / 15.60 = 23.1mpg
  • Portage, IN – 293.7 / 13.77 =21.3mpg
  • La Crosse, WI – 322.4 / 13.7 = 23.53 mpg
  • Sioux Falls, SD – 310.3 / 14.87 = 20.86 mpg
  • Presho, SD (100m out of Badlands) – 195.5 / 9.91 = 19.73 mpg <– worst MPG on trip.   Totally flat terrain, 80mph speed limit and sustained headwind = no bueno.
  • Custer, SD – 244 / 11.17 = 21.84mpg
  • Worland, WY – 271.6 / 12.19 = 22.28mpg
  • Yellowstone National Park, WY –  278.8 / 10.92 = 25.53
  • Three Forks, MT 308.2 / 12.02 = 25.6 mpg <– best MPG on trip.  Despite the mountain climbs, dirt roads, etc that we traversed in Yellowstone, we also kept the speed below 55mph almost exclusively, so the aerodynamic liability of the rooftop carrier wasn’t a factor.
  • St Mary (Glacier), MT – 267.5 / 12.44 = 21.5mpg
  • Hot Springs, MT – 301.5 / 12.94 = 23.29mpg
  • Kennewick, WA – 313 / 13.07 = 23.95
  • Portland, OR (6/14) – 284.8 / 14.02 = 20.3mpg – END TRIP


The Drive

The little Forester was outstanding as a road trip car.   As much as I continue to bemoan the car not having a manual transmission (especially since I sold my WRX when buying this car), the CVT + torque-rich turbo does make it extremely smooth and effortless on any sort of highway.   There is never any lack of power for 2-lane passing, and I found that keeping it in [S#] mode on 2-lane roads was the best – allowing for quick & controllable downshifts for passing.  Interstates, however, were best left in [I]ntelligent mode, which kept the transmission from hunting, and maximized gas mileage.    I still would much, much rather have a stick in this car, but have grown to understand and respect the CVT for what it can do.


5 thoughts on “Across the USA in a Subaru Forester XT”

  1. Get out of town with your Forester XT!

    I had been a Toyota owner for some 20 years and then 8 years ago went looking for my first SUV. Wasn’t blown away by any of the usual choices and also was not thrilled with the MPG…so I took one last look…at the Forester XT! The test drive closed me.

    Four cylinder (is it still?) and the thing has enormous power to spare. I still haven’t floored it!

    I could go on and on as I love this car, but I’ll leave it at this: 8 years later, the car is very close to running as smooth as when I purchased it. It looks fabulous inside and out and it likely has another eight years on it.

    1. Nice! Yes, Subarus that have less than 100,000 miles on them are still classified as “gently used” or “nearly new”. We’re on our 4th Subaru here with this Forester XT, and we’ve got no reason not to go Subaru when we get our next one in 150,000+ miles. 🙂

  2. Oh, and Jettero Heller is one exceptional dude! Mission Earth was a phenomenal book…exceptionally funny; compelling insights into our planet and our culture; and a wonderful story line that held up all the way through ten novels!

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