Tony O'Kane | May 17, 2008

Japanese auto enthusiasts have a lot to be thankful for. Not only do they get some rather decent JDM automobiles - most of them loaded with gizmos that are mega-dollar options in Western brands - but they also occasionally get treated to the odd hi-po special edition. Some of them are slightly bizarre, like the Snoopy Edition Mitsubishi Pajero Mini, or the Princess Kitty Mitsubishi i, but others are a little more serious and a little more likely to get the heart racing. The Subaru Legacy STI S402 is the latter.

The S402 features a number of revisions which make it perhaps the best mid-size Japanese performance sedan available. Not only is it practical (both sedan and wagon body styles are offered), but thanks to some STI tweakage this is a family car that could conceivably do double-duty as a weekend track car.

A twin-scroll turbo, low-restriction exhaust and variable valve timing see the S402's 2.5-litre boxer four to a healthy 210kW and 392Nm of torque, around 20kW more than the standard Legacy.

Of course, power is useless without control, and STI have firmed up the S402's suspension with Bilstein shocks and springs. They've also produced their own unique suspension links which replace the standard soft rubber bushings with rock-hard spherical bearings. The spherical bearings (or pillow balls, or rose joints) do increase ride harshness and road noise, however it's clear that STI don't believe the average S402 owner is going to care about something as trivial as that. In fact, if you're after comfort, you'd better look elsewhere- the only gearbox on offer is a 6-speed manual. No slushbox here.

Other handling mods include a pair of front and rear suspension tower bars while a set of Brembo brakes turn the "go" into "whoah". The braking package is quite impressive for the S402, with 6-piston front calipers and 2-piston rear calipers squeezing two-piece floating rotors - perfect for smashing out some hard, fade-free laps after a long week of work. 18-inch forged BBS rims cover those brakes, and are shod in grippy 235/40 Bridgestone Potenza RE050As.

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The body has also been "tuned", with the front guards being widened by 20mm to accomodate those BBS alloys. A subtle aero kit has also been applied, which features a nifty front splitter/undertray made from dry carbon-fibre. The bodykit combined with the drop in ride height makes the S402 a pretty attractive car, and one that signals its sporting intent quite well. The sedan might be the lighter, cheaper one, but if I had to pick between the two I'd choose the wagon - there's something so indescribably awesome about racing a wagon, let alone one from Subaru's own tuning arm.

Sadly, only 402 will be made. Sadder still is the fact that it's only for the Japanese market, but there is hope: Subaru Australia has sold a "Tuned by STI" version of the Liberty GT in recent years so there's still hope that the S402, in some form or another, may yet make it to our shores.

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