Few can stretch a platform quite like Subaru can. Look at the company’s range through the ages and you’ll spot an executive saloon in the form of the Legacy, the Outback estate and an assortment of crossovers that, when you peel back the skin, are all (aside from the BRZ and Solterra EV) based on architecture first launched on the most recent car to wear the Impreza tag – which is now different to the WRX, even though it’s confusingly still based on the same platform. Still following? Good.
Anyway, it’s been spreading its platform far and wide since the dawn of time, and for the most part it’s been very good at doing so. That’s not exactly hard to fathom given that much of its lineup has been underpinned by roughly the same architecture that gave us the WRX and an endless stream of rally specials. More impressive is that when Subaru decided to give its Forester the STI treatment, it managed to pull off something only a handful of carmakers have succeeded in doing: making an SUV (he says through gritted teeth) that is as fun to drive as the non-jacked-up car it’s based on.
Like so many Subaru specials, we never officially received the Forester STI. It launched exclusively in Japan in 2004, and it was everything you could have wanted from an STI-tuned wardrobe on its side. Under the bonnet scoop was a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer with bits and pieces, such as the manifold and six-speed gearbox, plucked from the Impreza WRX STI. The intercooler was bigger and the exhaust freer flowing as well, bringing the total power up to 265hp and 278lb ft of torque – enough to get you and a pack of hounds from 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds. Punchy.
The hilarity continues with a vastly more sporty suspension setup that all but removes the Forester’s off-roading ability, though it does somewhat resemble M-Sport’s bonkers Puma Rally1 machine. Which is very much a good thing, of course. Gold Brembo brake callipers are pure STI, as is the nutty body kit – right down to the fog lamp covers branded with three of the greatest letters in the car world. The interior is practically identical to that of the Impreza’s, including the sublime STI sports seats, only there’s a boot so vast that cartographers are still exploring its limits to this day.
Why Subaru thought against sending the Forester STI our way is a mystery. We bought the Impreza STI in droves, and the regular Forester has been a trusty workhorse for folks in the sticks for yonks. Thank goodness someone’s gone through the trouble of bringing this one over here. Not that the Forester STI’s a particularly rare sight in the UK, they’ve actually been imported in significant numbers because there’s a massive appetite for them here (hear that, Subaru?), but even if the roads were filled with them – it still wouldn’t be enough.
So, dear reader, kindly do your part by considering the example we have for sale here. It’s a 2004 car, which many consider to be a little easier on the eyes than the 2006 facelift, and has been recently imported from Japan with 72,296 miles on the clock. That means it’s (probably) never seen a salt road in its life, nor does it look to have been modified to within an inch of its life, which is a real rarity on anything with an STI sticker. So if you’re down about all your favourite performance cars being replaced by SUVs, just know that Subaru showed everyone how it’s done 20 years ago. If only it could find some of that magic today.
SPECIFICATION | SUBARU FORESTER STI
Engine: 2,457cc four-cylinder boxer, turbocharged
Transmission: six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 278@3,600rpm
Year registered: 2004
Recorded mileage: 72,296
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £17,985
Laura Adams is a tech enthusiast residing in the UK. Her articles cover the latest technological innovations, from AI to consumer gadgets, providing readers with a glimpse into the future of technology.