SUZUKA CITY, Japan – Humans are aspirational, sometimes to a fault. There's no tree too tall to climb, no ocean too deep to dive into, and no car too inept to race. Sometimes we fall, sometimes we drown, and sometimes we build the Subaru Forester tS tuned by STI.
Fortunately for the Forester, the team turning it into a track-day toy is Subaru Tecnica International (STI), which is composed of 50-odd nitpicky engineering geniuses. Unfortunately for the Forester, it's still a Subaru Forester -- big, buoyant, and anything but rousing as a driving machine.
STI tells us that it's tried to mitigate the crossover's serious shortcomings by equipping it with a selection of high-performance hardware. This includes structural enhancements such as STI's unique strut-tower brace, underbody stiffeners with rod-end joints, and a rear subframe support with rock-hard bushings. Wide 245/45R-19 Bridgestone Turanza tires on cast-aluminum BBS wheels plus Brembo brakes are part of the program, and the electronic control boxes for the engine and transmission have also been retuned. To prove the value of the changes, STI handed us the keys to a Forester tS (just 300 have been built for the Japanese market) and cut us loose on the Suzuka Circuit, the famous Formula 1 racetrack in Japan.
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.
We step out of the Subaru Forester tS, and an STI engineer asks, "You like it? Should we bring it to the United States?" We say, "It's better, but we don't really get it. So, no." He looks wounded, so we quickly add, "But, what the hell? Every car is turning into a pudgy crossover these days. So, sure, send it stateside."
Our friend seems somewhat pleased. We are less so, although we find his aspirations somewhat enchanting, if perhaps foolhearted.