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STI returns! 2023 Subaru Forester scores STI Sport treatment as more athletic rival to Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5

Though the Forester STI Sport wears go-fast badges, it does not feature an engine upgrade.

Subaru’s WRX STI might be dead, but the Japanese brand will continue delivering sportier models under the STI name with the Forester mid-size SUV to score go-fast modifications.

Revealed for the Japanese market, Subaru Australia is yet to confirm the Forester STI Sport is for local showrooms, but said "we are working closely with the factory on upcoming Special Edition options for the Australian market".

From the outside, the Forester STI Sport differentiates itself with red STI badges front and rear, as well as unique 18-inch wheels and gloss-black exterior highlights.

Inside, the new Forester scores a Nappa leather-clad interior, gloss-black accents and red stitching throughout, but most eye-catching is the contrasting red-leather highlights found on the dashboard, door trims, seats and armrest.

The instrumentation is also STI branded to remind drivers they aren’t in any ordinary Forester, while a powered tailgate and upgraded EyeSight safety suite are on the options list for Japan.

To justify its STI badges however, Subaru has fitted the Forester with bespoke front dampers, and retuned the rear suspension as well, to give the mid-size SUV a handling ability “that responds to the needs of customers who want to drive sportier … even though it is an SUV”, according to the brand.

Sadly, Subaru has left the powertrain untouched, which means a 130kW/300Nm 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine for Japan.

In Australia however, all Foresters (barring the hybrids) are powered by a 136kW/239Nm 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder, which sends drive to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).