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The Subaru Forester STI Was Real, Rare and Very Cool

Here’s something you may not have realized: Subaru once made an STI version of the Forester. Disappointingly, it wasn’t sold in North America, or anywhere outside of Japan, but it existed, and it existed in the best way possible: Subaru took the Forester, they put in the WRX STI engine and they added a giant hood scoop.

I love the Forester STI because it’s what all car enthusiasts would make if we ran a car company. We have a popular crossover, we have a high-performance sedan … why not marry them? It’d be like adding the Ford Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 to the Explorer, which is, of course, a laughable decision from a business standpoint, but you can’t tell me that wouldn’t be a fun thing to see actually take place.

So what exactly is the deal with the Forester STI? It was offered on the second-generation Forester, which was available from 2003 to 2008. That’s still back when the Forester was more station-wagonny than SUV like, as it is today, so the STI version made even more sense. And, indeed, Subaru did exactly what I said: they took the STI’s 2.5-liter turbocharged flat four and they dumped it in the Forester, where it made 265 horsepower. It also got the requisite modifications that an STI car would need: a few styling upgrades, a hood scoop, bigger wheels. It was delightful.

Unfortunately, it was only sold in right-hand drive, as it was only offered for the Japanese market — and it wasn’t delightful for long, as Subaru only offered the Forester STI for one generation, and they haven’t returned to it since. But the idea is wonderful, and the Forester STI was cool long before sporty SUVs really started to take off as a “thing.” Find a Subaru Forester for sale

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  1. The STi Forester is my dream car, would love to see a review of one whenever you are in Japan again (I know about you wanting to be on holidays if you are overseas, but come on, would be sick!).  If you do, please do a facelift model (same as the photo), they look better imo

  2. Best generation of pretty much any Subaru is between ’03-’08. They just made everything seemingly cheaper since. 

    • Honest question, was it the performance based 5.0 from the Mustang? I ask because Tahoes/Yukons/Escalades/trucks/etc. have had a 6.2 GM engine in them, as does the Camaro/Corvette, but they are related but with different bores, rod, intakes, etc. L92 vs LSx

  3. I am not sure I agree that putting the 5.0 in an Explorer would be that crazy from a business standpoint.  Companies may not move huge volumes of performance SUVs, but the margins are insane. $100k for a Cherokee bc they put in the Hellcat.

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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