Subaru Forester tS takes Subaru performance in a new direction

2013 Subaru Forester tS front three-quarter viewThe acronyms WRX, STI, and BRZ are like a secret code to Subaru fans. They are indicators of the Japanese company’s performance models, and the fans may need to add another set of letters to their list: tS. Subaru showed the Forester tS at last week’s Moscow Motor Show, and it could be the first in a new line of performance vehicles from Subaru.

The Forester tS (tS stands for “Tuned by STI”) is currently sold in Japan only, but Subaru decided to test it out on the worldwide market in Russia. The tS borrows styling cues and hardware from the Impreza WRX STI, the most hardcore Subaru performance car. STI (Subaru Tecnica International) is Subaru’s in-house tuner.

The Forester tS is powered by a 2.5-liter boxer-four, with 259 horsepower and 256 pound-feet of torque. That’s a significant increase over the stock Forester 2.5XT’s 224 hp and 226 pound-feet.

Subaru says the Forester tS is a sportier version of its small sport-utility, yet it ditches the five-speed manual transmission offered in lesser Foresters for a five-speed automatic.

As is customary with Subaru, the Forester tS sends its power to all four wheels through an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system.

The tS also gets STI springs, shock absorbers, chassis braces, and anti-sway bars to improve handling. The tS may ride higher than the Impreza-based WRX, but STI’s modifications should make it go around corners with aplomb.2013 Subaru Forester tS rear three-quarter view

To show that it is not an ordinary SUV, the Forester tS wears Subaru’s signature rally blue paint and gold wheels. The blue-and-gold treatment comes from Subaru’s World Rally Championship cars of the 1990s and 2000s. It has been worn by numerous performance-related concept cars as well, including the 2011 BRZ STI.

The Forester tS could offer performance buyers a third alternative to the BRZ and WRX. A Subaru official told Autocar that the tS’ Russian launch will be a test, to determine whether STI should work on models other than the WRX.

“Russia is the perfect market to trial sales of a more aggressive Forester,” the Subaru insider said. “It’s clear that STI’s abilities and experience could work on other cars in other markets. Confining them to WRX projects doesn’t make sense when the demand is there.”

Could Subaru build a full line of performance vehicles, like BMW M or Mercedes-Benz AMG? Since most Subaru models share many parts it wouldn’t be too difficult for STI to move from one model to another. The only outlier would be the BRZ, which many enthusiasts want STI to tune.

One thing is certain: a Forester tS would be the perfect vehicle to get a BRZ racecar to the track in a hurry.

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