The Subaru Forester has had to make do in America with a single engine since the company discontinued the 250-hp turbocharged flat-four XT model for 2019. And that remaining powerplant is uninspiring, to put it mildly, being a 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated flat-four making 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft. It’s adequate, but no more than that. But in Japan, Subaru is gifting the Forester Sport a new 1.8-liter turbocharged engine that was first utilized in the Levorg, an Impreza-based station wagon. Could this engine come to America, and if so, would we want it?
Let’s dive into the details for a second. First of all, this engine is part of an entirely new engine family, called the CB18. It uses lean-burn technology to reduce fuel consumption while improving torque production, with its total output checking in at 175 horsepower and 221 lb-ft. Obviously, that horsepower number is lower than our 2.5-liter Forester’s, but the 1.8-liter does offer significantly more twist. In Japan, the CB18-powered Forester uses a CVT, as do all current global Foresters. The Forester Sport also gets specially tuned suspension, a black-painted grille, and wheels painted a dark metallic color. Inside, the seats are trimmed in microsuede and leather and feature extra bolstering. Non-Sport Foresters in Japan are powered by a mild hybrid powertrain the company calls e-Boxer.
While this engine is intriguing, it’s clearly not a direct replacement for the old XT, which was a real powerhouse using a performance-tuned, 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo engine. But the CB18 will probably provide a real-world drivability boost to the Forester, with the extra torque providing more low-end thrust, especially down low where turbo motors excel.
We haven’t heard any rumors about this engine making its way to the U.S. in any product so far. The Levorg isn’t sold here and the refreshed Forester Sport with the CB18 is thus far limited to Japan. While we see a few potential uses for an engine like this—a new BRZ, perhaps?—we can’t say for sure until Subaru tells us it’s committed to the expensive process of federalizing the CB18 for the American market. When contacted for this story, a spokesperson said the American arm of the company had “no comment on future product” and that its “next big news will be on November 17.” So, watch this space.