Turbo Forester is back, officially

Back in the 1990s if you wanted a Subaru, the odds were that it was an Impreza Turbo 2000. They were, for a time, the biggest news in performance motoring: a four-wheel-drive saloon that offered vast tracts of grip and huge power.

But while everyone had heard of the Impreza, there was another Subaru that gained itself a smaller but no less devoted following: the Forester.

New car not a looker in base spec
New car not a looker in base spec
The Forester was an Impreza wearing a Barbour jacket and wellies. It used the same platform and in S-Turbo guise the same two-litre boxer turbo engine, albeit de-tuned to 177bhp. That still meant it had poke though, and despite its awkward looks, it was a genuinely entertaining steer. As a result, it’s remembered with fondness by many PHers.

The current car didn't get the turbo option, but the new one, arriving around May next year, will.

It looks just as ungainly as the old ones ever did, but under the bonnet there's the option of a 280hp 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol turbo, even in the UK. Not so good news is that it'll only come with a CVT ‘Lineartronic’ automatic gearbox.

First-gen S-Turbo gained a cult following
First-gen S-Turbo gained a cult following
Now this is concerning. We can't think of any belt drive auto 'box that's mated to a properly sporty set-up. The closest is Audi's Multitronic CVT available with the two-litre TFSI petrol engines in models like the A4.

The upside is that Subaru is a company stuffed with brilliant engineers (if not designers) so we're certain it won't be completely pony. We know it'll have eight pre-progammed ratios for example.

It did get us thinking about manual Forester turbos, and that led to a root around in the classifieds.

First up, this Forester STi (pictured top). This really was the Forester everyone had been crying out for, and while it was never an official UK import, this one’s in stock and ready to be imported as soon as someone puts down a deposit.

It doesn’t quite have the sleeper chic of the original and it's pricey, but it’s still a neat alternative to an Impreza – and with 280hp from a 2.5-litre boxer turbo that was later fitted to the third-generation Impreza WRX STi, as well as a six-speed manual 'box, we reckon it’s the fastest standard production Forester that Subaru ever made.

If the STi’s a bit too showy for you, you could try this second-generation UK market XT Turbo for a shade under £4,000. It’s got a few toys, including heated seats and cruise control, plus of course the all-important turbocharged boxer, again the 2.5-litre version, and with reasonable mileage and a full history, it’s likely to be fantastically reliable. The best bit, though, is that its plain-jane looks will mean only the very well-educated will have any idea of its potential.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (78) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Stinkfist 21 Aug 2013

    beergibbon said:
    Sshhhhhhh Pistonheads, don't tell everyone about the FSTI or my car won't be a sleeper any more! A new exhaust and remap and I have 340bhp / 360lb ft, which is more than enough. Removed the horrible pink stickers from the front though.
    Yes indeed, not a fan myself of the front pinkies and mine were removed likewise !

    You don't by an FSTi for its looks you buy it for its sheer abilities on the road. If there's not enough room in an Impreza for you then this is the one to have. If you must have the looks, have a MUCH fatter wallet and want similar performance WITHOUT the practicality now then buy a Mercedes A45 AMG

    IMO (having owned both)the XT is a much more accomplished sleeper though and all UK spec Forester SG XT's (224BHP)with a few cheap suspension tweeks will still have you grinning like a loon biglaugh

    CONS) Pistons are soft and head gasket failure on higher mileage 2004-2007 FSTi's are pretty common and its a costly engine out jobby to repair eek Search Subaruforester.org (European section) for symtoms and experiences of failure and rebuilds

    All JDM (Jap Domestic Market) FSTi cars are NOT undersealed so if it hasn't been done then there will be lots of surface rust underneath and its recommended to get it sorted rapido

    You will have to run it on minimum 97 Ron UK fuel or higher

    ADVISE) Buy one registered before April 2006 and its a few hundred pounds cheaper to tax (£280 compared to £480)

    STRANGE ONE) Rear ARB on pre face lift models (2004-2005) are 19mm and face lift models 17mm confused

    I have a 2005 Litchfield import with their 330BHP performance upgrade pack

    BEWARE importers who will be happy to sell WITHOUT mapping for UK fuel

    Edited by Stinkfist on Wednesday 21st August 13:22

    Edited by Stinkfist on Wednesday 21st August 13:37

  • RT 30 Mar 2013

    The more thorough way is to replace the triangular seals called gussets.

    It's those that cause this as they harden and split.

    I have a 2003xt and my wife has a 2005xt. We absolutely love them!

    Why oh why is the new turbo one auto only frown

  • jr502 03 Dec 2012

  • cullenster 03 Dec 2012

    Thanks JR. If you do find it I'd be glad to know.
    jr502 said:
    I haven't got round to trying it yet, but I've been told this is due to the seal not pushing against the glass hard enough (due to age) and I did see a fix, I will see if I can find the link.

  • rovermorris999 30 Nov 2012

    I've had my 2003 Forester XT auto for nearly 4 years now, going from 40k to 90k miles. I get 25-29mpg on Vpower but I'm in the sticks so no sitting in traffic. I wangled 2 years Subaru warranty when I bought it and had a MAF sensor and one rear shock replaced with no quibbles. I've paid for new arb links all round, £169 fitted at the main dealer. Other than a pair of front discs and pads from Blueprint which I did myself, that's it. I suspect a wheel bearing may be on the way put now. It's still on the original exhaust. I'll probably keep it for a few years yet unless the main mechanicals start to get dodgy of which there is no sign. It feels as sorted to drive as when I bought it. I run Geolanders in the summer, better than everything else I tried, and a set of steel wheels and Vredstein Wintrac extreme from November to March.
    If I ever sell it will be to get another newer, old model or a 3 litre Outback.

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