Certain machines come to mind when we stop to think about cars that are built for driving. The usual suspects are BMW, Porsche, and anything else that can be brought out to the track and tear things up straight from the factory floor.
The Subaru Forester isn’t one of those cars. It doesn’t see much track time, nor do people customize it to make it as fast possible. That’s because a Forester, no matter what is done to it, is still a Forester. It’s the hiking boot of the auto world—not luxurious or fast, but it’ll get you to some fun places in relative comfort.
The Forester plays in a niche segment that also includes the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Nissan Rogue. These are not fun cars to drive. They are nice to drive, don’t get me wrong, but no enthusiast alive would call them particularly entertaining when behind the wheel.
A Japanese tuning company thinks it can change that.
Subaru Tecnica International (STI) took a stock Forester and turned it into the Forester tS by adding structural braces, new tires, new brakes (Brembo, of course), and other performance bits. There are no changes to the engine, though, save for retuning the electronic control boxes for the engine and transmission.
STI made 300 of these Foresters. Would they sell in America? The guys over at Automobile Magazine took a drive and said,
The results are surprising. There’s not much pitching and rolling from the chassis, and there’s not much delay in response as you steer into a corner. The Subaru Forester tS cuts the racing line around the track remarkably well. Of course, even though STI has successfully engineered this JDM crossover to speed confidently around a road course, there’s no amount of wrench time that could make the Forester fun while doing so. The Subaru Forester tS still feels big, only less so. Buoyant, only less so. And really, it’s not a bit more rousing than a bone-stock Forester.
All that effort and the souped-up Forester remained just a Forester.
This is a lesson that vehicles meant for the safe transport of your family generally don’t belong in the tuner’s shop. There are exceptions, of course, but if you want a performance SUV, Subaru isn’t the place to look.
What family car would you like to tune for the track?