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2006 lifted subaru forester in the woods

Here's What makes a lifted 2006 Subaru Forester one of the best offroaders in my garage

By Ben Boxer

As someone who has been driving Subarus for almost 20 years and offroading in them for 10, I’ve had my fair share of different models. But I think I’ve finally landed on one that has quickly become my favorite for mild offroading and adventuring.

I also own a lifted Jeep Cherokee XJ and a lowered Subaru Legacy. But this Forester is the vehicle that gets the most seat time during the summer for these reasons:

  • Reliability
  • Part Interchangeability
  • Spacious Interior for Car Camping
  • Impressive Gas Mileage
  • Off-Road Versatility

Table of Contents

Why I purchased the Forester

I previously owned a manual transmission 2000 Subaru Forester that was lifted on mud terrain tires. It was a great car and I had a lot of fun in it.

However, I noticed that my friends with equally equipped Foresters that had automatic transmissions could handle steep terrain much more easily. After one particular day on the trails where I watched my buddy’s automatic walk all over the trails, I knew it was time to switch.

So I searched around and found this 2006 Forester. It was a little rough around the edges and had worn out tires. But that didn’t bother me because I knew I would be replacing them anyways.

All these years later, I’m still enjoying the car and building it little by little into the perfect adventure car.

What makes my 2006 Forester such a great car for offroading


It’s no secret that Subarus have built a reputation for being reliable. Yes, back in the 90’s and some years in the 00’s they had catastrophic head gasket problems. However, this Forester had its head gaskets replaced with a set of multi layered steel gaskets and has been solid the entire time I’ve owned it.

It has the fairly simple naturally aspirated EJ253 that is easy to work on without specialized equipment or expertise. I can do most of the maintenance on the car with basic tools in my own garage.


2006 lifted subaru forester in the woods with fuel can
2006 lifted subaru forester in the rain with mud tires

I’ve never had a single doubt that the car will start when I get in it. I can take the subie 100 miles into the wilderness with zero worries that it’ll start up and perform well every time. The 2006 Forester has great ratings on Repair Pal from other consumers.

Even if there’s something that needs to be addressed while out on the trails, I can perform basic repairs easily with a few tools.

man standing next to 2006 lifted subaru forester in the woods

The 2006 Forester also has the well-respected 4EAT that is regarded by many Subaru enthusiasts as being a stout automatic transmission. In fact, there are a number of folks running the 4EAT in their high-horsepower Forester XT’s with no issues.

Of course this transmission has its limitations but overall it’s sturdy and has held up to over three years of trail abuse despite having over 200k miles on it.

I will say this; while Subarus are reliable, maintenance is important. If the oil is changed regularly and the maintenance intervals are followed, most Subarus will go for hundreds of thousands of miles.

My Forester currently has around 218,000 miles on it. I don’t care who you are, that’s a lot of miles!

Part Interchangeability

While the saying isn’t as true these days, with the early 2000’s Subarus, “they’re like legos” is pretty accurate. My Forester shares parts like axles, heads, short blocks, transmissions, starters, oil filters, fuel pumps, spark plugs, ignition coils and a wide range of other components with multiple other Subaru years and models.

If I need to make a repair, I’m not searching for weeks to find someone who sells the part I need. I can usually get anything I need from the local parts store or a used OEM unit from ebay easily.

primitive racing skid plate for subaru forester

It’s also convenient that my Forester shares a platform with the turbocharged Forester XT. This means there is a much better aftermarket support for it than earlier Foresters that didn’t have a turbo’d counterpart in the USA. This means small accessories like battery mounts, window visors, engine bay dress up, skid plates, and suspension components are widely available for the SG chassis Forester.

You can check out my Forester build article that outlines the modifications that I’ve done to it so far.

Spacious Enough For Car Camping

I find the interior size of my Forester to be pretty impressive. I’m six feet tall, 215 lbs, and have back injuries. Needless to say, car camping isn’t usually feasible for me. But in the Forester, I can camp right in the back of the car if needed.

lifted subaru forester offroad

If I just want to be able to crash in the back of the car during a road trip, I can put a small air mattress back there and sleep for the night. I use a 12 inch air mattress so that I have headroom but overall it works very well.

For those times when I just don’t feel like carrying around a full camping setup, the Forester is the perfect car for me to sleep in comfortably.

Great Fuel Economy

Despite having a bumper cut, big mud tires, and a roof rack, the Subaru still gets between 22-24 mpg. I can adventure for an entire weekend on one tank of gas without worrying about spending hundreds just on fuel costs.

What fun is having a huge capable offroader if it drains your bank account just to drive it to the trail head? Compared to the 14 mpg I usually get in my Jeep, the Forester is much more affordable and fun to drive.

I typically carry a five gallon fuel can with me when I go deep into the forest and can adventure all weekend without heading back into town for gas.

Here are some tips that I follow for better gas mileage in my Subaru.

2006 lifted subaru forester with custom offroad bumper in the sun

Offroad Capability

It’s no secret that a unibody Subaru with independent suspension and no low range transfer case isn’t going to be as capable as my “real” 4×4. There’s no debate. The Jeep can walk circles around my Subaru in the rocks or in deep snow.

However, my Forester can absolutely take on mild 4×4 trails and rutted out roads. Even with only basic modifications, it’s been able to get me way up into the hills where most people even with 4wd won’t take their vehicles.

2006 lifted subaru forester in the woods with black rhino boxer wheels

I do find that I need to choose my lines carefully when navigating trails. But the offroad tires and extra clearance that the lift kit provide make the car pretty capable.

The biggest challenges come when I find myself trying to climb something really steep. Without a low range gearbox, steep grades can be very hard to drive up. Aside from that, even some pretty aggressive rocks can be conquered in this car. I love the looks I get from other drivers out on the trail as well. That makes it even more fun.

If you’re curious about how capable Subarus actually are, check out my article “The Offroad Limits Of Subarus” to get a good idea of what you can really do in them.