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Subaru democratises STI

In absence of hardcore STI variants, Subaru rolls out enhancements for regular models

17 Jan 2023

SUBARU’S axing of the hi-po WRX STI variant last year disappointed a legion of fans who were left on the hook in expectation of an electrified STI, which the car-maker now says is not going to happen during the lifecycle of the current generation.


The Japanese company has instead responded to the outcry by democratising its STI performance brand, making it available through component upgrades across a number of models, although Subaru Australia would not comment on local availability.


Showcasing the enhancements were a range of STI Sport versions of current models unveiled at the recent Tokyo Auto Salon including a Forester, WRX S4, Levorg (sold here as the WRX Sportswagon and Impreza STI Sport.


Though a hardcore, dedicated WRX STI model is not in the offing, the parts-enhanced new STI line-up provides an opportunity to tap into the pink-badged performance brand using race- and rally-developed componentry from Subaru Tecnica International.


STI cars shown in Tokyo feature exterior and interior upgrades along with mechanical improvements with a focus on driveability.


A feature across the Japanese domestic market STI Sport models shown in Tokyo are newly developed front shock absorbers that automatically adjust damping force according to the frequency of vibration transmitted from the road surface, helping achieve a smooth and “high quality” ride as well as more responsive handling.


In addition, the rear dampers have been specially tuned so that the outside of the tyres hold firmly in corners while the inside grip the road surface flexibly, thereby stabilising the stance.


The Forester STI Sport features STI-tuned dampers, specific 18-inch alloys and black- painted bodykit, while inside black and Bordeaux (dark red) Nappa leather seats and upholstery facings are complemented by a sports steering wheel and swatches of piano black fascia.


Power comes from a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder boxer engine with direct injection, delivering 130kW of power and 300Nm of torque to all four wheels through an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).


The WRX S4 STI Sport (sedan) and Levorg STI Sport (wagon) have Recaro sports seats upholstered in red and black ‘ultrasuede’ material, the STI suspension and a five-mode drive selector providing Individual (customisable), Sport+, Sport, Normal and Comfort calibrations for the engine, steering, adaptive suspension, all-wheel-drive system, EyeSight safety suite and air-conditioning.


Electronically controlled dampers (sourced from German component manufacturer ZF) constantly provide instant adjustments by sensing multiple factors such as driving conditions and vehicle movement, overlaid by STI-specific tuning based on "Skyhook theory" to maintain the vehicle’s body posture.


In addition, a so-called ‘unequal and variable torque distribution electronic control’ all-wheel drive calibration for the centre differential distributes torque with a 55 per cent bias toward the rear wheels.


Power comes from a 2.4-litre, turbo-petrol four-cylinder boxer engine with direct injection producing 202kW and 375Nm through a CVT dubbed “Subaru Performance Transmission”.   


The Levorg is also available in Japan with the Forester STI Sport’s 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine and regular CVT, while the 2.4-litre version shares the WRX engine and performance CVT combination.


Sharing much in terms of mechanical components, interior colour scheme and upholstery with the WRX and Levorg STI Sport is the Impreza STI Sport, with subtle styling differences and adaptive suspension by Japanese supplier Hitachi rather than ZF.


On the Japanese domestic market, the car will be available with front- or all-wheel drive, a CVT and a choice a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder boxer engine developing a modest 113kW and 196Nm.


Although no hardcore WRX STI in the accepted sense are on the cards, the appearance of these cars in Tokyo – particularly those with the 2.4L turbo engine – gives hope that a forced-induction version of the BRZ sports coupe could be developed in the near future.

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