"Practically Wicked" - Forester XTI Concept To Bow At SEMA

October 31, 2008
On the heels of its 2009 Motor Trend SUV Of The Year win with its 2009 Forester, Subaru teases with the Forester XTI Concept (2.5 XT shown), which they claim combines the versatility of the Forester 2.5 XT with the street performance of the Impreza WRX STI. While the standard-issue Forester has moved closer and closer to the center of vehicular tastes (improving sales and winning awards but disappointing enthusiasts and iconoclasts), this XTI resurrects growly Subaru street racing cred with 315 hp of intercooled flat-four turbo power in the form of the same 2.5-liter engine found in the rally-winning Impreza WRX STI. Thankfully, a six-speed manual is the sole transmission for this vehicle, as the '09 2.5XT's healthy turbo four is saddled with a four-speed auto.

They claim a 0-60 mph time of under five seconds for the XTI Concept, making us agree with Motor Trend that, yes, this Forester is definitely the "SUV for our times." Far lighter on its feet than any tall, truck-based, full-frame SUV could ever hope to be, the Forester XTI Concept is lean and mean, but still manages impressive cargo capacity in its boxy and versatile interior. And as Subaru's interior quality has improved markedly as of late, even luxury SUV owners won't feel they're stepping down if they switch into this vehicle.

We think this vehicle is a wise alternative to the likes of the bloated BMW X6 or Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Those models do impress with their all-out, brute force approach to SUV superiority, but getting 5,000+ lbs to change directions, accelerate, and brake with any excitement consumes profligate amounts of energy.

We recall a project Forester done up nicely by the folks at Sport Compact Car some years ago, and this Forester XTI Concept is the closest thing we've seen yet to that ultimate sleeper wagon. SCC lowered that Forester 2.5 XT's ride height, gave it more roll stiffness with more aggressive anti-roll bars, and fitted other performance goodies that made the mom-mobile run with hot hatches and STIs.

We can't wait to see this lowered, fat-tired (255/40 R18), JDM body-kit equipped, Brembo braked concept on the floor at SEMA. Far from automotive flights of fancy like Ford's gargantuan gas hog F-150 concepts, this Subaru offers a modicum of efficiency, intelligent design and packaging, a killer surge from its turbo four, and the tenacity of Subaru's all-wheel drive. We just hope it moves from concept to reality sometime very soon.--Colin Mathews

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