Subaru has added an STI Sport trim level to the Japanese-market Subaru Forester crossover range, evoking memories of the JDM Forester STI of the mid-2000s.
But where the 2004-08 machine was a fully-fledged STi machine with over 260 hp (264 PS), the new one is definitely more about the style than the solid shove in the back and gets no additional horses over the regular car.
Helping create the right STI look are visual additions like black 18-inch alloy wheels, black door mirrors, front fog lamp surrounds with black detailing, black side cladding, and a roof spoiler finished, you won’t be surprised to hear, in black. Plus you get STI badges front and rear, but no angry hood scoop like the one fitted to the last real STI.
The STI makeover continues inside, where you’ll find black nappa leather seats with bordeaux accents and red stitching, a black headliner and door pillar trim, STI Sport gauges, a piano black dash panel, and a leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob.
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Most Japanese Foresters come with the marque’s 2.0-liter e-Boxer hybrid powertrain, but the STI gets the 1.8-liter turbocharged non-hybrid boxer four found in the Forester Sport. That delivers 174 hp (177 PS) and 221 lb-ft (300 Nm) to Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system via a compulsory CVT gearbox.
In fact, bar the blackout chrome trim and STI badges, there doesn’t appear to be much to differentiate the regular 3,355,000 Yen ($24,415) Sport from the 3,630,000 Yen ($26,575) STI Sport from the outside. But the two are separated by some crucial hardware hiding under the skin as only the STI Sport gets STI-tuned dampers that Subaru claims have been developed to give the SUV the “steering stability” of a sports sedan.
Subaru hasn’t confirmed that the STI Sport trim will make it out of Japan and reach North American or European buyers, but given how the Forester is marketed in those regions, and that fact that neither market gets Foresters with the 1.8 turbo motor, it’s quite possible this will remain a JDM curio.