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Subaru XV STI Not On The Agenda, Hotter Foresters Maybe Photo:

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Tony O'Kane | Feb, 29 2016 | 1 Comment

Given Australia's voracious appetite for both SUVs of all sizes and performance cars of all prices, one would assume that performance SUVs would be close to the top of the corporate "to do" list of most car companies in this market.

And while the top end of town is awash with hi-po SUVs (how many hours has it been since you saw a Porsche Cayenne on the road?), it's a slightly different story with the mainstream brands.

In fact, Subaru pretty much has the mainstream performance SUV niche all to itself right now with the Forester XT, which uses a detuned version of the Subaru WRX's turbocharged 2.0 litre flat-four with 177kW of power and 350Nm of torque.

And that model will be joined in June by the limited-edition Forester tS (above), an STI-tuned special that boosts power to 206kW (peak torque remains at 350Nm) and features improved brakes, a lowered suspension and unique body parts that make it more overtly sporty than the Forester XT it's based upon.

But beyond what's planned for the Forester, there appears to be little willingness within Subaru to experiment further with performance-tuned SUVs and crossovers.

Asked if a turbocharged version of the popular XV compact crossover (which is heavily based on the Impreza hatch) was something that's under consideration by the company, Subaru Australia Managing Director Nick Senior gave an emphatic "no".

“We’ve had a look at it, but internally we’ve never gone to [Subaru parent company] FHI with it," said to TMR.

"It’s something that doesn’t really stack up from an international sense, so there’s no point flogging a dead horse."

While a WRX-powered or STI-tuned XV might work well in performance-mad Australia, Senior says the concept wouldn't necessarily translate so well overseas.

Considering Australia ranks in fourth place for Subaru global sales, the business case for such a car simply doesn't stack up for FHI - which is already struggling to meet demand for its mainstream models thanks to its small production base.

"It's not going to work," Senior continued.

"When FHI are constrained by production they’re not going to all of a sudden put a whole lot of resources into building something for us."

But while a high-riding Subaru hot hatch isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future, Senior said there's the potential for more performance variants of the Forester to come our way depending on how the market reacts to the arrival of the Forester tS.

"We’re only building 300 [of the Forester tS] and they’re going to come in over a 4-month period. So that’s about 70 a month - that’s it.

"Then we’ll sit down and have a look at what we can do with that model in the future. There’s nothing planned, but we want to play in that space more.

"If there’s another Forester version in the future - it may be 2, 3 or four years away - to be able to tap into what they’re offering in the Japanese domestic, this model may help us."

And Subaru Australia might be on to something with that strategy. Last year around 25 percent of all Audi Q5 sales were for the performance-tuned SQ5, while just 5 percent of Q3 sales were for the turbo five-cylinder RS Q3. At least right now, it appears size matters when it comes to hotted-up SUVs.

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