By EWAN KENNEDY in Isu, Japan ….. Subaru has been famed for high-performance cars since the launch of the first WRX in 1984 stunned the critics with its turbo power and the road grip offered by all-wheel-drive. Plenty of other hot Subarus have joined it over the years.

Now another quick Subaru, the Forester tS Special Edition has been added to the range for 2016. Despite the use of a chequered flag on the tS badge, this Forester is aimed more at the grand touring (GT) market rather than those looking for a track day machine.

In Euro terms Forester tS is comparable to an Audi S rather than an Audi RS. Offering added urge, more dynamic suspension and bigger brakes than the standard Forester to appeal to the keen family car driver wanting a practical SUV.

Some 22 changes have been made to the standard Forester XT off the assembly line. The car is then transported to the STI (Subaru Technica International) high-performance division where a further 28 items are installed. Having said that, we are told the tS isn’t an STI model as such.

Powered by a turbo-petrol 2.0-litre boxer engine the Forester tS has power of 177 kW at 5600 rpm, unchanged from that of the current Forester XT. However, retuning of the engine may give it more torque than seen in other 177 kW versions. The final torque number may exceed the 350 Nm to which we are accustomed, or it may be spread over a wider band – or both.


Stay tuned and we will bring you details of the final engine setup when the tS reaches us downunder midway through 2016. We can confirm no manual transmissions will be imported, all will use Subaru’s competent CVT, which will have semi-manual overrides.

Changes to the dynamics are significant, however. Brembo disc brakes are used at all four wheels, which are new design STI Enkei 19-inch alloys and support 245/45 19 Bridgestone tyres. The 45 per cent profile looks good and doesn’t destroy ride comfort the way lower tyres often do.

The addition of added soundproofing in comparison to the standard Forester XT is another clue that it’s aimed at grand touring because more soundproofing almost inevitably adds weight.

A sideline comment; it’s interesting to see the Japanese company that appeals to may Aussies because of its conservative nature has suddenly gone trendy in using a lower-case initial for the model name. The tS sort of stands for tough Speedy.

Body changes are subtle. To start with there’s no bonnet scoop; the suspension has been lowered by 15 mm, reducing off-road ability, though the tS will still be able to tackle unsealed roads competently.


Our on-road driving impressions were gained on a closed road in Izu, a couple of hours out of Tokyo not far past Mount Fuji. A winding hilly route of five kilometres it had bumps, dips, cracks, broken edges and everything you are likely to encounter in normal driving on an Australian country road.

Interestingly, the roads will be used for some cycling events at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 as they surround a huge indoor velodrome.

Forester tS has handling that’s competent enough for a worked SUV, but you wouldn’t call it sporty in the true sense. It has precise turn-in and good feedback through the steering wheel. Comfort is good and the seats support well. As a family machine that won’t tempt dad into provoking car sickness in the littlies it should be just about right.

Three colours are to be imported, WR Blue, white and black – no marks for guessing which is likely to be the most popular…

Only 300 Forester tS Special Editions have been allocated to Australia. It’s likely quite of a few of them will be pre-ordered, so don’t hesitate or you may lose out.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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