When the Subaru BRZ was announced in 2011, everybody assumed that there would eventually be a turbocharged, higher-performance version as well. Sports cars almost always end up with a more powerful version after the original goes on sale, so while 200 horsepower was certainly enough for the BRZ, fans and press eagerly looked forward to getting their hands on the inevitable BRZ STI. Sadly, four years later, not only is there still no BRZ STI, but Toyota has clearly said that it has no plans of turbocharging the BRZ’s Scion twin, the FR-S.
In a few years, though, that’s going to change. Subaru has confirmed to Automotive News that an STI version of the BRZ is coming, and it’s coming to the United States. The exact specifications have yet to be decided, and it may not be called the BRZ STI. Instead, it could be a version that’s tuned by STI. Whether either version will come with a boost in horsepower has yet to be decided.
Subaru showed a preview of what’s coming with the STI Performance Concept at this year’s New York Auto Show. Loosely based on the BRZ, the STI Performance Concept added a wild carbon-fiber aerodynamics package and a rear wing to an STI-tuned chassis, body, exhaust, and air intake system. The stock 200-horsepower engine was thrown out in favor a 345-horsepower version that’s used in Japanese race cars. Sadly, it’s already been confirmed that the concept’s engine will not find its way into a production version.
“The United States is the highest priority for STI,” said STI President Yoshio Hirakawa. “We’d like to create a car that drivers can control like their own legs so they can push the car to the limit.”
Subaru’s STI is not simply an in-house tuning division. It has three separate arms: one that builds complete cars like the WRX STI, one that offers aftermarket performance parts from the factory, and one that handles Subaru’s involvement in motorsports. Part of the reasoning behind introducing a BRZ STI in the United States is to help raise brand awareness and increase profits by selling both more profitable vehicles and more aftermarket parts.
The United States is Subaru’s biggest market for STI, selling 6,500 WRX STIs here in 2014. The WRX STI is the only STI-badged car sold by Subaru in \the U.S., but Subaru may expand that to include an STI version of more vehicles than just the BRZ. In Japan, for example, there are already STI-badged versions of Subaru’s Legacy sedan and Forester crossover SUV.
How Subaru goes about expanding the presence of the STI brand in the United States could have a major effect on how successful it is. The STI name carries a lot of weight in the car enthusiast community, and it’s going to be important for Subaru to not expand too quickly or deliver underwhelming products.
There’s already a large group of tuners who love both the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S. If the BRZ STI isn’t significantly better than the regular version of the BRZ, it probably won’t sell well. The regular BRZ also already handles so well that Subaru is going to have to keep a tight watch on the price of an STI version. While $25,000 for a 200-horsepower BRZ is a great price, a $35,000 BRZ STI with no extra power is going to be a hard sell.
But done properly, a BRZ STI and even a Legacy STI would be valuable additions to the STI brand. They would not only garner a lot of attention for Subaru but would probably bring in larger profits and help sell STI performance parts. They would also be an important part in fending off brands like Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen that are starting to encroach on Subaru’s territory.
Not only is there a near-300-horsepower Volkswagen Golf R, but Ford is bringing over the Focus RS, an all-wheel-drive hot hatch that makes more than 315 horsepower. Honda, not to be left out, recently announced that it’s bringing the Civic Type R to America as well. Added competition for the WRX STI means that Subaru could use a few other high performance models to prop up STI sales.
Hopefully that means a more powerful BRZ STI, but it could also mean a BRZ tuned by STI. It could also eventually mean a Legacy STI, a Forester STI, and perhaps even a Crosstrek STI. Sadly, it’s incredibly unlikely that Subaru will ever be convinced to bring back the Brat and build and STI version of that.