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Subaru mulls more tS models

STI-lite: Half of the 300 Forester tS allocation was bagged before the special edition had even gone on sale in Australia and Subaru is considering applying the same tuning tricks to other models.

Forester tS success prompts Subaru to consider more sub-STI sports specials

12 Sep 2016


THE warm reception in Australia to the limited-edition Forester tS mid-sized SUV earlier this year has spurred Subaru to explore the possibility of other STI-fettled variants for the local market.

Just 300 examples of the range-topping Foresters were offered Down Under, but their price premium of $7000 over the unlimited Forester XT Premium did not deter local fans, with about half of the tS versions snapped up before officially going on sale in June and fewer than 50 remaining.

Following the success of Subarus tS foray, the Japanese car-maker is considering if the package of styling and handling treatments could be applied to other models in the Australian line-up, providing another opportunity to get into one of the sub-STI sports specials.

Speaking at the international first drive of the all-new Impreza, Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the company was pleased with the performance of the Forester tS and that it was considering how to best apply the badge to other models.

“The last 50 just arrived, so at the end of this month we’re going to do a review to find out the learnings on what we could do differently and hopefully out of that, that provides the opportunity for us to come up with doing other ones in the future,” he said.

Mr Senior explained that the tS treatment was harder for higher performance Subarus, but if a second version hits showrooms it will follow a similar recipe to the Forester with small batches to boost exclusivity and desirability.

“Yeah, I think it’s been positive. Where it’s harder is performance, but certainly the theme of the tS we will look at in the future. It will be small and on the right occasions. It won’t be flooding the market.”

To create the Forester tS, Subaru pulled the SUV off its Japanese production line and handed it over to the STI (Subaru Tecnica International) skunkworks tuning shop, where its suspension was revised for more rewarding handling, as well as a number of internal and external aesthetic tweaks.

In addition to the fettled Forester, Japanese customers were also offered a tS version of the BRZ sportscar, but Mr Senior said the Australian arm was not interested in the variant because local cars were relatively high-spec and added almost the same equipment as standard.

“It was only a no-go ... because we did our sports pack BRZ basically at launch,” he said. “It basically had everything that the tS had.”

Mr Senior said there was no reason the tS badge could not be applied to anything in the eight-car line-up but it made more sense for models that already offer a sporty persona.

“It could – but would you want it on some? No. By nature anything STI and tS has got to be sporty. So I think you’ve got to tick that box.”

Mr Senior shut down any hopes for tS versions of the Outback and an Impreza, confirming the large crossover wagon and small hatchback were “not on the radar” but a hotter Levorg and Liberty made more sense for the STI-lite brand.

“Liberty with the 3.6 could be one that potentially we could look at doing something with, so yeah that’s possibly one.

“You’ve got Forester XT, Liberty 3.6s, Levorgs and things like that. So we’re lucky to be doing a few sporty derivatives.”

As it stands, the BRZ sporstcar, WRX and WRX STI carry the performance flag for Subaru, but with an evolving line-up the car-maker is trying to capture a new audience with a particular focus on a younger market.

Sportier offerings such as the tS line that do not carry the premium of full-blown STI variants are likely to appeal to customers who aspire to the rally-bred WRX but with a more accessible pricetag.

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