The Subaru STI Performance Concept made its debut at the New York auto show on Wednesday. The concept is the beginning of a U.S. expansion of the STI brand in aftermarket parts, STI-tuned cars and motorsports.

To car enthusiasts in the U.S., STI is synonymous with Subaru as the company’s flagship WRX performance model. In reality STI -- short for Subaru Tecnica International -- is much more than a trim level and is its own division within Subaru’s parent company Fuji Heavy Industries. The group of roughly 80 employees is based in Mitaka, Japan where they are responsible for Subaru’s motorsports activities, engineering performance parts and developing partially- and fully-tuned versions of Subaru street cars. In other words, STI does the fun stuff and now has its sights set on expanding into the U.S. market.

To help showcase the group’s capabilities, they rolled out the STI Performance Concept at the New York auto show. The concept is powered by a STI-developed turbocharged boxer four-cylinder making well north of 300 hp from the BRZ Super GT racer that competes in Japan.

The STI Performance Concept gets race apps to log lap times, g forces and more.

While we’re not likely to see a racecar engine nestled in under the hood of a street car, we will get suspension, chassis, brake and aerodynamic technologies that appear on the concept utilized on future STI-prepped road cars. This, according to STI president Yoshio Hirakawa, is the initial plan to provide vehicles tuned to offer superb controllability that can be pushed comfortably to the limit.

Exclusive technologies like flexible tower bars, flexible draw stiffeners and flexible sub frame supports are exclusive to STI that help improve lateral stiffness. However, pillowballs implemented into tower bars still allow some chassis flexibility to better maximize tire contact patches for improved handling without wrecking ride quality. The parts were originally introduced by STI 6 years ago and have been employed with great results on the Nurburgring 24 Hour Challenge race cars that claimed class titles in 2011 and 2012.

 

 

 

The first stage of STI’s U.S. expansion has already begun with STI-engineered performances parts replacing the Subaru Performance Tuning (SPT) parts in U.S. dealers as well as a growing support of motorsports in Global RallyCross and Rally America.

Subaru unveils STI Performance Concept at New York auto show.PHOTO BY SUBARU

As far as complete cars, a Subaru of America spokesman says a vehicle similar to the BRZ tS sold in Japan should arrive here in dealers in roughly 18 months. The BRZ tS feature an upgraded suspension, flexible tower bar, flexible draw stiffeners, Brembo brakes, 18-inch Enkei wheels wrapped with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, larger diameter drive shaft, stiffer steering box and optional intake and cat back exhaust. No power upgrades to the engine itself are performed. What the STI-modified BRZ will exactly be called here in the U.S. hasn’t been decided yet.

That’s not to say Hirakawa is saying no to bring more powerful STI-developed vehicles to the states with limited edition WRX STI models packing more muscle already running around Japan. But first the focus will be to offer vehicles that handle well here. And if Hirakawa has his way, the STI treatment won’t exclusively be for WRXs and BRZs with a Forester tS also being offered in its home market.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll see STI-tuned Outbacks on American soil one day, which isn’t something Hirakawa has ruled out. Either way, the next few years will be interesting to see just how big STI can be here in the U.S.

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