It's only natural to crave an all-wheel drive performance car when the worst of winter arrives. And, if you're reading these words, it's almost inevitable that you will have previously considered a Subaru. If that consideration has ever extended to a Forester STI, then congratulations, because it still ranks as one of the most lovable (we don't use that word lightly) and genuinely usable second-hand wagons out there. Not bad for a car never officially sold in the UK.
Its appeal goes well beyond the Haldex-equipped VW Groupies you might otherwise consider. Most importantly, it features Subaru's characterful 2.5-litre blown flat four under its snout. In JDM spec the engine is rated at a not insignificant 265hp, which is a fair amount of punch even by today's standards. It's tough too, with many cars that have been remapped to work better with British petrol said to reliably produce 70hp more than the factory output.
Which doesn't mean that you won't instantly be put off by the STI's looks, of course. You probably need to come at the Forester with a bit of love for Japanese throwbacks already in your heart. Only to the right eyes does the gaping bonnet intake and handlebar rear spoiler result in a superlative appearance - although for anyone not convinced, you only have to turn the key.
The way the Forester sounds, pulls and handles is classic Subaru. The boxer motor never catches instantly, instead requiring a couple of turns of the crank. But once spinning and up to temperature there's plenty of boost and accompanying burble to satisfy the senses. There's lag, true, but it only serves to emphasise the subsequent punch. And with proper four-wheel drive beneath, there's endless traction.
Subarus like this require a certain driving style to be best appreciated, with their tendency for initial understeer best countered by greedy uses of the accelerator through the bends. Do this, and you'll be sliding through slow corners like an Impreza owner. Admittedly, the Forester, even in most focused STI form, doesn't quite offer the athleticism of its flat-four cousin - but that's only because it's the more comfortable car to live with.
Prices for used Forester STIs have remained strong for all these reasons, although their comparative rarity (and large fan base) is obviously the kicker. While that has kept them from shed territory, good STIs seem to have settled at around £10,000 to £12,000 for some time now - PH's old fleet STI was bought for just under the former three years back. So there's always the fair chance you might get your money back after a couple of winters.
Today's Spotted fits the bill perfectly for such an opportunity. It's a 2005 model in fine condition, having covered a not hugely substantial 63,000 miles. There's full service history, including the original Japanese brochures, and a fresh MOT. Course, for those after a winter hack, it might just be too good. But those wanting proper Subaru all-wheel drive performance in its most practical setting, look no further.
SPECIFICATIONS - SUBARU FORESTER STI
Engine: 2,457cc, flat-four
Transmission: 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 278@3,600rpm
First registered: 2005
Recorded mileage: 63,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £10,995