Hotter Subaru Forester ‘STI’ on Australian radar

A FIRE-BREATHING, STI-tuned Subaru Forester that would sit above the current range-topping XT petrol turbo is high on the car maker's Australian wish list, the company has revealed.

Similar in concept to the recent limited-edition tS model offered in Japan, the high-performance Subaru Tecnica International (STi)-enhanced Forester hotshot would undergo similar enhancement to take over as the Forester range's top dog.

However, while Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior told Wheels there was a strong desire for a Forester STI-style range-topper, particularly after the success of the Impreza-based WRX and STI sedans launched last year, it hung on upcoming talks involving the Levorg performance wagon’s future in this country.

As we revealed earlier this year, the final decision on the latter will be made by the end of this month. The most serious stumbling block remains soaring ongoing demand in Japan (where there currently is a backlog of 8000-plus orders) – a situation exacerbated by limited production capacity.

Senior said if the Levorg was given the Aussie green light, any Forester STI-style variant for this market would be placed on the backburner for the time being due to his company’s limited resources.

“There was a limited-edition Subaru Forester launched in Japan last year, and (an STI-style flagship) has been added to our wishlist,” he revealed. “But it is sort of down on our wishlist. We need to get the Levorg decision sorted before we look at the Forester.”

Developed with STI, jus 300 limited-edition Forester tS models were sold in Japan from late November last year.

Among other modifications, it featured “exclusive tuning” of the S# (Sport Sharp) SI-Drive driving mode function, STI-upgraded suspension fettling including a 15mm lower ride height, revised stability and traction control, an adjustable strut tower brace and beefed-up subframe, uprated Brembo vented discs, BBS-designed 19-inch alloys and unique aero foils beneath the vehicle.

On the engine front, the tS topped the current 177kW/350NM 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo Forester XT with a 206kW version of the highly-strung boxer unit via a rejigged engine control unit and continuously variable transmission, as well as a gearbox oil coolersimilar to the one fitted to the new turbo-diesel CVT auto Forester.

Now discontinued in Japan, the tS was marketed as offering a mix of performance and luxury, with specification and trim enhancements that pushed it to the top of the Forester food chain.

With the latest MY15 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium CVT topping out at $47,990 (plus on-road costs), any potential STI-style performance hero would probably exceed $55,000 – the same price for the existing WRX STI.

With the Levorg decision scheduled to be discussed on March 28, according to Senior, the future of a Forester STI is expected to follow soon after.

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