In case you missed our review last month, we’re pretty big fans of the Subaru Forester. We loved its “go anywhere” toughness and dependability, refined drivetrain and the fact that it still excelled as being a supremely comfortable family SUV day-to-day. Locally in Australia, the hottest Forester you can currently buy is the 177kW (237hp) 2.0XT, though that is about to change. That’s because Subaru of Japan is going to produce a limited-run STI-enhanced ‘tS’ model with 209kW (280hp) – and people living in the land down under will also have a chance to get their hands on one.
There’s a little bit of bad news though. While the Australian spec Forester tS might look the same as its Japanese counterpart, it misses out on the more powerful engine – meaning prospective Australian buyers will have to make do with the 177kW (237hp) turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder and CVT automatic gearbox that the 2.0XT has. But they do get lots of fast goodies including Brembo brakes, 19″ Enkei wheels, STI-tuned dampers and coil springs (lowered by 15mm) and a faster-looking interior with STI stamped everywhere. Subaru says a total of 28 unique changes have been made.
The difference in output doesn’t seem to have affected local interest, however. “When we flagged Forester tS late last year, the customer enquiries went through the roof and the end result is we’re already wishing we’d ordered more than 300,” said Subaru Australia managing director, Nick Senior. “Arguably it is the only true sports SUV under $80,000. And with its rarity and Subaru’s renowned retained value, it is bound to be one of the first collectible SUVs.”
When it lands, in early June, the Forester tS will command a $7000 premium over the Forester2.0 XT Premium model, while it is understood that more than half of the 300 examples available have already been sold.
The Forester was originally introduced as a concept in 1995 based on an Impreza’s chassis. But the Japanese firm took a banzai approach later on by stuffing the 2.5L turbocharged boxer four engine from the Impreza STI into its soft-roader, thus creating the Forester STI.
In Australia there are very few powerful petrol engined vehicles in this class of vehicle, yet in the US there are many. I can’t think of any reason for the difference and I regret that Subaru are not taking the opportunity to redress this imbalance.