The Subaru WRX is a legend among rally enthusiasts and boy racers, but the legend is under threat from a new brand of hyped-up hot-hatch which offers 99 percent of its back road pace in a comfier, more practical package. Although it hasn't been given the complete overhaul it really needs, STI has given the WRX a mild work over with fitter, faster special editions for Japan.
Under the skin, the WRX S4 tS has been reworked with a glut of chassis changes that debuted on the S207 in Tokyo last year. A flexible strengthening brace (tower bar), adjustable dampers up front and sticky 255 section tires should all tighten up the car's handling, as should the new rear subframe.
Power comes from the same boxer engine you'll find in the regular WRX, with an unchanged 221 kW (300 hp) of power on tap. Modified air intakes and a new exhaust system have liberated 10 percent more torque, which is channeled through a Lineartronic CVT gearbox. That's right, even though this is a faster, fitter WRX aimed at enthusiasts, there's no manual on offer.
Putting handling aside, Subaru has done a fantastic job making its special editions look, well, special. The S4 tS sits on gorgeous 19-inch BBS wheels, and it's been fitted with a subtle bodykit that doesn't fall into the boy-racer trap which afflicts so many modified WRXs. If that's not enough, there's also an optional Nurburgring package with a big rear wing and black BBS wheels.
Inside, both cars have been with exclusive Recaro bucket seats and lots of leather on the steering wheel, gearknob and door trim pieces. Trim pieces finished in a special shade of Subaru Technica International pink replace the fake carbon fiber you'd usually find on the dashboard.
The WRX S4 tS will cost JP¥4,968,000 (US$48,500) in regular trim, and ¥5,292,000 ($51,650) in Nurburgring spec. Both models will be on sale in Japan between the start of October and the March 12 2017.