Hey mate I have an old 99 SF forester that I do a bit of off-roading in mines an NA Manual, I chose the manual as it had the hi/lo ratio
Id have to say its VERY impressive off road only thing that limits mine is its not lifted at all so ground clearance is sometimes an issue
Occasionally I find a bit more power would be great especially on some steep muddy/rocky slopes
In some ways an auto might actually be better off road as well as the hi/lo range isn't actually very low...
if your going for an auto SH series i would probably get the XT just for that extra power..
Hope this helps