I will admit some personal bias on this topic. The previous-generation Subaru Forester was, in my estimation, the embodiment of the “do anything” mentality when it came to automobiles. Especially in 2.5XT (Turbo) trim with a 5-speed, it hit pretty much all the bases. It was fast (Car & Driver clocked one at 5.3 seconds to sixty, which was considerably faster than a V8 Cayenne S), had huge aftermarket support, it was fun on the road, decent off road, great in bad weather, and combined SUV utility with car-like handling. It was a characterful, likeable vehicle. So when Subaru replaced the old-style Forester with a new, bigger, softer one in 2008, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.

It was taller, heavier, slower, more boring to look at, and most importantly the 5-speed manual was limited to the base-model non-turbo variants. No fun. The new 2.5XT is a great SUV – but it’s not the old quasi-WRX it used to be, more of a turbocharged CR-V. Bleh. So I look on with no small amount of jealousy at Subaru of Australia’s latest model, the Forester S.

Biggest changes for the S-edition are under the hood. The new model receives the WRX’s EJ25ET powerplant, which raises power output from 224 in the XT to 258, along with a small increase in torque. Bigger news: the 2.5XT’s ancient 4-speed automatic (people still make those?) is replaced with a new five-speed STI paddleshift automatic transmission. Subaru doesn’t claim any performance figures, but considering how much faster the WRX became after it received the new motor, it’s not hard to imagine with an extra (almost) 40bhp and another gear, the difference will be noteable in the Forester as well.

Other changes for the S-Edition are largely aesthetic. There’s a set of nice-looking white painted 17″ STI alloys, a black/chrome grille, silver roof rails, Alcantara/leather seating, and an assortment of special badges and stickers.

Equally important but not quite as exciting: the 2011 Forester is getting the new FB-series flat-four engine, which will be replacing the EJ that’s been around since (can you believe this?) 1989. It promises quieter NVH levels, better fuel economy, lower emissions, and increased torque – which is all good. The question is, when will be be seeing a WRX-engined Forester Turbo in the US? And with some manufacturers moving from “old-school” six-speed automatics on to 8-speed automatics (hell, ZF’s working on a 9-speed automatic), will Subaru be getting rid of the ancient Nissan-derived 4-EAT auto any time soon? I hope so. But maybe FHI can skip the WRX engine, and go ahead and give us a full-on Forester STI. Go ahead, Subaru. Just drop the whole drivetrain from the USDM STI in there. We’ll buy ‘em. Here’s hoping.