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Taking on Jeep trails in a Subaru is a breeze with a 4 inch lift kit

By Ben Boxer

I saw Brandon’s Forester (Sherman) online and had to have him on the site. The 2009-2014 Forester platform doesn’t get nearly the respect and recognition it deserves. Sure, in stock form they weren’t the most flashy cars in stock form. But what better car to show how good they can look and be the first SH chassis on Lifted Imports than this?

Table of Contents

Watch the whole walk-around:

YouTube video

Year Make & Model

Sherman is 2010 Subaru Forester X Premium

Why Did You Lift Your Forester?

Sherman was already lifted when I bought him, but having already had a lifted forester, I knew what I was after when the time came. Had I not found Sherman, I had my eyes on a handful of stock Foresters, as I typically like to start with a blank slate. However, this was the perfect starting point for what I had in mind.
4 inch lifted subaru forester parking lot

Which Lift Kit Do You Have?

Anderson Design and Fab is the manufacturer of the 4” lift kit on Sherman, also featuring the front and rear subframe drop, to keep the cv axles within spec. I have since been told this particular lift kit has been discontinued, and is in fact kind of rare due to low production numbers. It certainly is an eye catcher, and a conversation starter.

Modification List

  • 4 inch Anderson Design & Fab lift kit
  • BFGoodrich K02 253/75R15 tires
  • 15 inch racing steelies
  • 1 inch wheel spacers
  • Yakima Load Warrior roof rack with the 18 inch extension
  • Ironman 4×4 awning
  • Retrofitted projector headlights
  • Custom front bumper
  • Pioneer head unit with custom gauges
  • Heavy duty ball joints
  • STI mufflers
  • Roof rack light bar
  • Ironman rock lights
  • Auxbean 8 gang switch panel
  • Front sway bar delete
  • Washer fluid bottle relocation
  • 3D MAXpider floor mats

Some of the notable mods on my Forester include LT235/75/15 BF Goodrich KO2’s on steelies, with a one inch spacer, giving that super aggressive stance everybody loves. The headlight housings have been opened up and blacked out/painted yellow inside, as well as a projector retrofit for HID’s. I’ve installed a Pioneer double din Apple carplay head unit with an idatalink Maestro interface for oem feature retention, but more importantly for the custom gauges it offers. I recently removed the front sway bar, and replaced the front lower ball joints with some upgraded heavy duty ones from Movotech. Also have STI mufflers.

maxpider floor mats for subaru forester

The MAXpider mats are killer! They’re this super weird hybrid material that’s heavy duty, and has a really rough velcro backing so they adhere to the floor nicely and don’t ever slide around. They’re also completely waterproof! I take them out and blast them with the pressure washer often.

2010 subaru forester offroad with heavy duty tires

Why a 4 Inch Lift Instead of Just 2 Inches and Have You Found Any Trade-Offs?

I had an ADF 2” lift on my last Forester, and had always wanted to go bigger with that one. There is definitely a lot more work involved with the 4” lift vs the 2”. And there are definitely some trade offs between the two of them.

For example, there is currently no bolt on skid plate option for my Forester, due to the subframe drop. Even ADF’s skid plate option does not work with the subframe drop.

In my area, you see a lot of Subarus with either the 2” lift kit from ADF, or Rallitek, and a handful with a full suspension lift like the Ironman kit. There are not too many Subaru’s in Portland as big as Sherman.

lifted subaru forester in a forest tunnel

Gas Mileage With Larger Tires and Full Modifications

I get a whopping 15.5mpg driving back and forth to downtown Portland from Hillsboro everyday. On a
roadtrip out of the city, I can get about 20mpg on the highway.

These numbers are straight off the dash. But any time I fill up and track my mileage before the next gas stop, the difference is only about half an mpg or so different. The 235’s are close enough to the OEM tire diameter that it keeps the odometer close to stock.

subaru forester offroad modified with dog

Challenges Installing Subaru Lift Kits

I wasn’t the one to install this lift, as I bought Sherman already lifted. However, I did install the 2” kit myself on my last forester.

Overall, ADF products are really easy and simple to install. When installing the lift on my SG6, I started at the front left and worked clockwise. I had no problems with the first spacer. However, I did not secure the axle when I did the second one, so as I turned around to grab the spacer, the whole axle separated from the inner cup and fell out, at work, on a Friday, at 5:30, I was now stranded at work.

Why a Lifted Subaru Instead of a 4x4?

Anybody can drive a Jeep or a 4Runner through the mud, and its no big deal. But the looks, expressions, and comments you get from people while doing it in a Subaru just doesn’t compare to anything else. Doing something extreme in a vehicle that was never designed or intended to do, is way more fun. Now with that being said, I’ve never been proper “wheeling” in a jeep or anything. Before lifted Forester’s, I was rolling around in lowered cars, and I have no idea what prompted the sudden change in taste.
offroad subaru forester in the woods

How Capable Is Your Forester?

Sherman has been an unstoppable beast in every terrain I’ve been on. The ride can be a bit rough on trails due to the spacers, but airing the tires down really mitigates that feeling. But with the new HD lower ball joints and sway bar delete, its actually quite nice out on the trails now. Sand is always a blast to drive in. And Sherman got his first snow these last couple days and well, you guessed it, he’s a beast in the snow as well. The traction control has been interesting to adjust to though, as my SG6 did not have that, so it was never a thought in my mind to turn it off. I’ve heard of some people wiring in a switch to fully disable the Traction control, and that is definitely on my to do list.

Wheel Fitment

How hard was it to make my wheels and tires fit? They don’t, that’s the simple answer. I’ve hammered
the pinch welds flat and even hammered in the rocker panels, and I still cant fully turn my wheel. My
tires rub like a Mofo. Partially from the spacers though.

Offroad Mods

I don’t know anything about the front bumper.
It’s either been custom fabricated, or retrofitted from another vehicle, but it does not appear to actually
be for a Forester. It would be nice to add a winch later on down the road, as well as some better fog
lights.

Up on the roof, I have the Yakima Load Warrior cargo basket, with their 18” extension for the
middle, mounted to OEM crossbars. I have a 6.5’ Ironman awning mounted to my basket with ADF’s
awning mounts. The light bar on the basket was picked up second hand, and I don’t know what brand it
is, but its bright enough. I’ve also got a pair of Ironman Ditch lights mounted to ADF mounts. Before I put
my rooftop stuff on, I was getting about 17.5-18mpg driving back and forth to work. There was a 2-3mpg
loss, the extra drag is certainly noticeable, and I have a fair amount of wind noise, but that’s nothing a
little volume knob on the radio can’t take care of.

K02 Tire Review

2010 subaru forester lifted with bfg k02 tires

I have become a huge fan of the KO2’s. They’re a bit heavy, but they perform so well in all terrains. Their deep sand and snow performance is the best I’ve experienced. I have tested out Yokohama Geolandar A/T’s, Falken Widpeak AT3 Trail’s, and BF Goodrich KO2’s. I am a firm believer in the saying “you get what you pay for” and that is no different with tires. If you’re your looking for just an upgrade to get you off the pavement, or maybe over the mountain pass, the Falken WildPeak Trails are a fantastic budget all terrain tire which I have nothing but good to say about.

If you need a heavier duty, more off road oriented tire, the KO2’s are absolutely the way to go. Not to mention, the sidewalls just look so good when aired down to 12psi.

Second Gen Forester vs Third Gen Forester

subaru foresters

RIP to Chum, my SG6. Laid to rest 7/29/23 thanks to a Honda Odyssey that t-boned my fiancé and I at around 45mph. Subaru builds a solid car, and Method builds an even stronger wheel. Shoutout to Method Race wheels.

I had crashed into a curb while snow drifting earlier in the year, and cracked the lip of one of my Method wheels. The impact took about a 6’ chunk off the lip of the wheel, however it never lost any air, nor was it bent. So I continued to run that wheel. I even had it aired down to 12psi, and up to 90+mph on the highway and never ever doubted or questioned the wheel. That same wheel is what took the brunt of the impact in the accident, and got pushed up into the firewall and was still holding air, right up until the tow truck driver drug it, then the bead finally slipped.

The SH has quite a few upgrades compared to the SG, the biggest mechanical upgrade I notice is the brakes. My SG had drum brakes in the rear, and my SH is disc and it makes a night and day difference. I also think Subaru really failed with the SH chassis by keeping the previous Ej253/4EAT combo. It’s a bigger and heavier vehicle being powered by the same engine and transmission as the previous generation.

Its slow. 0-60 in about 3-5 business days. For road trips, the SH is a much better platform. The interior is far superior, the seats are way more comfortable, and the addition of framed windows really cut down on the wind noise. I also smacked my head/face on them constantly when I first got Sherman because the extra width of the door frames took some adjusting to, believe it or not.

Offroad Recoveries In a Lifted Subaru

The hitch shackle was one of the very first things I added to Sherman. I have not had to use It yet thankfully. But One time, I buried my SG6 to the frame on the beach. I was so embarrassed. It was a beach I had driven on several times before, and never once needed to air down, or even felt like I was ever going to get stuck. Well I waited until I got stuck to air down, which then left the Forester sitting on its frame, with all four wheels spinning in the air. A few people offered to pull me out, but I was unsure of where to safely hook up to, without damaging my car. With some digging, pushing, and a solid burnout on my traction boards, I eventually was freed.

Do You Have Any Mechanical Experience?

I have been a mechanic for about 8 years now. I grew up working on cars with my dad, and now I do it for a living. I’ve got about 5 years experience with Toyota, and 3 years with Kia as a Certified Master Technician. And I’ve been maintaining, repairing, and modifying my Subaru’s myself.

Advice For New Subaru Owners Wanting to Go Offroad

The best advice I can offer someone, is just get out there. Don’t waste your time and money on modifications until you know what you need. A good set of tires, skid plates, and an air compressor will get you farther than you think. And keeping a set of traction/recovery boards on hand is always a good idea, they’ve definitely saved my bacon a handful of times. 

Theres tons of different Off-road and Subaru groups on Facebook and other social medias. Not to mention, the Subaru community is one of the kindest, most welcoming groups of people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. You can pretty much make friends anywhere you go, just by driving a Subaru. And that’s one of the coolest things. I often say “the Subaru community is the last saving grace of Humanity”.

Community Involvement

I am the 503 Chapter President of TeamSubieSquad (@team.subie.squad, @503subiesquad on Instagram) I would also like to give Vvash Auto Care a shoutout for keeping Sherman clean and shiny, and HeyTrip for making camping in a Subaru a breeze with their Subaru air mattress. Anyone reading this can use the code “Sherman” for 15% off at Vvash Auto Care and HeyTrip. 

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