I have owned my 2001 SF dual-range for about five years. I bought it for 1000 bucks with 333000km on it, and it's now got 455500km on the clock.
My Forester's colour is Deep Blue Mica and frankly, it should never have been removed from the range.
During the time of ownership I have done the following:
Upgraded the exhaust with extractors from the headers back (1200 bucks), which breathed new life into the EJ202. Installed a 2-inch Subie Lift Oz lift kit ($650), which took three and a half hours to fit and didn't require subframe drops, meaning everything came up. I added SG rear struts ($320) as the SG struts have a higher spring perch clearance which enables the fitment of larger tyres. Also on here are Pedders heavy duty standard height springs at the front and rear ($400), larger wheels (a total of five 215/70R16 dueler 697's at $1100), an alloy sump guard ($100), a Subaxtreme bull bar (which are normally $2500-$3000 but as chance would have it I found a slightly bent one for $80.00), and a Snorkel off a 90's Pajero. The last item fit with a little manipulation from a heat gun, and cost me $120.
I have off-roaded this setup extensively and final ground clearance measurements are 290mm front and 330mm rear. When engaging the 45% low range it makes mince meat of bog holes and hill climbs and will handle almost anything I throw at it, except driving up cliff faces or boulders. Little goes wrong with it, and going to work and back in this configuration with a roof basket on uses between 8.5 to 9.5 litres of fuel every 100 kilometres - 10.2L/100km offroad and 13-14L/100km when towing a 1200-1300kg camper trailer.
The car comes very well equipped stock with the following;
70 profile tyres,
Two power sockets; one in the back for a fridge,
Fishing rod holder in the boot,
Power windows, mirrors and steering,
ABS brakes with a special built-in algorithm for dirt road stopping,
Factory ice box,
Many useful storage compartments, and,
Fold down arm rests in the front.
To call these softroaders is an insult to what this model can do, especially considering its MC category rating. It has stock clearance on par with some more traditional off-roaders and you can now buy an auto locker through torque locker for about 800 bucks. The advantage of this Forester is that it's a petrol, making it cheap to maintain while using less fuel than many turbo diesels. The 60-litre fuel tank could be bigger but it isn't half bad.
Base model SS doesn't have airbags, which makes them ideal for winch bars. The low range can also be used on bitumen road, making it great for hill starts, especially when towing. The two front drink holders are in front of the main two air con vents which restricts airflow but does keep your drink cold or hot, however you set it.
Pay load is a reasonable 560kg and the roof rail rating of 80kg is up there with some much heavier 4WDs. Towing capacity of 1300kg braked isn't useless and it can tow a decent soft-floor camper trailer just fine.
The car doesn't come with Bluetooth or USB connectivity, but when this car came out CD players were big news. Those more modern features can easily be fitted, though.
The rear leg room is a little cramped for tall adults but it's fine for kids, although the factory headrests restrict driver visibility. The transmission is a bit of a slush box but it does change gear fine. The clutch is smooth and easily operated .
The standard headlights suck and need brighter bulbs. It would have been nice to have in-built spotlights.
I bought the car because I wanted to get into offroading and I needed it to be reliable enough to be a daily driver. My budget cannot afford big truck costs. It handles like a sports car despite the height, and it always delivers a sure-footed drive. Its the most versatile car on the planet in my opinion, and I definitely recommend buying one.