What started as an ordinary day turned into one of the more memorable moments at Turbo magazine. Recently, our offices had a surprise visitor. Ali Afshar sat calmly in the waiting room, browsing through an old issue of the magazine.
For those who don't know, Afshar is the owner of Easy Street Motorsports in Valley Village, Calif. This man has built a number of high-performance vehicles and currently campaigns the quickest Subaru WRX (9-second e.t.) street car in the world. Afshar came down to show the editors of Turbo his latest project car, which he and his techs completed in only a month and a half. "You won't believe it if I told you, so let's go outside and check it out!" he said.
These guys at Easy Street Motorsports are the same crazy guys who built the 500-hp Subaru Baja, accomplished 9-second runs in a WRX and supercharged a Jaguar XKR. While we were sure this car we were about to witness would top them all, we were in for a pleasant surprise.
Once in the parking lot, our eyes scanned for a fully decked out 800-hp beast, but there was none to be found. Instead, Afshar unarmed what looked like an SUV. "Here it is, our latest creation!" said Afshar. It was a 2004 Subaru Forester XT. We were stupefied. Laughing, Afshar climbed into the driver seat and pulled the hood release with a smirk on his face, exposing the EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer engine.
"We teamed up with Subaru of America (SPT-Subaru Performance Tuning) and managed to extract 344 hp to the wheels on what I like to call a stealth sleeper street weapon. This car has some of our basic bolt-ons," explained Afshar. Again, we were astounded. This "soccer mom" car put out more horsepower than one Turbo staffer's WRX.
How? Subaru borrowed the powerplant in the Forester from the highly popular WRX. What Subaru learned over the past three years enabled it to create the Forester XT, which is dubbed the world's quickest compact sport utility vehicle to date. The upgraded engine consists of all products within the Easy Street ESX package.
Starting with an Injen cold-air intake system, the modified and polished VF22 IHI turbo once again came to life, as the Forester powerplant is viewed as the de-tuned version of the STi engine. Utilizing an ESX/Injen 3-inch turbo-back exhaust system, Performance up-pipe, and 3.5-inch ESX downpipe, spent gases are efficiently routed to the rear tailpipe with a romp of the gas pedal. Addressing the increase in horsepower, an ESX top-mount intercooler in conjunction with silicone hoses enable the Forester's 11.6-psi wick to be turned up to 18.5 psi with the aid of a Turbosmart boost controller.
Weighing 3,210 pounds, the Forester has a towing capacity of 2,400 pounds and can carry 200 pounds on standard roof rails. With power and speed, the brakes on the factory Forester have more to be desired. Easy Street performed a full brake upgrade with its ESX GT Brembo kit. The kit consists of a two-piece 12.9-inch rotor with four-piston calipers, topped off with a set of Goodridge steel braided brake lines.
Next came the car's looks. "I wanted to combine performance and luxury," stated Afshar, proudly standing next to the Forester's 20-inch Arceo rims wrapped in BFGoodrich KDW 255 tires. The all-wheel-drive pocket rocket retains its factory suspension components at Subaru's request, as this vehicle will be campaigned in the Al-Can Rally in 2005 and a 5,000-mile race through Alaska and Canada, both which specify stock suspensions in their rulebooks.
ESX took out the factory cloth interior and did a complete makeover, from seats to armrest. A full suede headliner combines both A and B pillars in matching material. The combination of door panels and seats are accented in luxurious suede and charcoal leather with a finishing touch of silver trim. Completing the interior upgrade is a leather-wrapped armrest, custom SPT-embroidered steering wheel, headrests, and for aesthetics, a complete carbon-fiber SPT badge kit, complements of Subaru.
The audio system was also altered within the month-and-a-half stint. A Kenwood KV911 DVD pop-up head unit controls a massive Boston Acoustic GT50 amplifier. Voltage is equally distributed through six Boston Acoustic speakers, while a 10-inch Boston subwoofer supplies the bass.
Need to check your e-mail during rush hour traffic? Not a problem. This SUV boasts an Octanium Electronics full onboard computer and Internet accessible system. The unit consists of a wireless keyboard, touch-screen audible navigation, DVD player and more. A 13-inch drop-down screen for those rear seat passengers who feel the need to watch movies or pursue the occasional street battle on the Xbox game console.
The Subaru was originally built to rally and it competed in the 2004 Alcan Winter Rally. Driven and navigated by the team of Paul Eklund, Kala Rounds and Gary Reid the Forester won Class III and was third overall. Class III is a SOP (Seat of the Pants) class with no high-tech rally computers allowed. So to place third overall without a navigation computer is quite impressive.
Laughing at the Forester when we first laid eyes on it was wrong. What looks like a mom-mobile with some added bling bling in the fenderwells is actually a rally-proven sleeper with a big blast of power waiting beneath the loud pedal.
Special thanks goes out to: Subaru of America, Brent Gunderson, John Hubach, Edgar Ford, Tom Doll, Robert LaBossiere, Bruce Barker, Jay Gelletley and Gary Palanjian, Injen Technologies' Ron Delgado and Ryan Takashima, BFGoodrich's Todd Steen, Arceo Wheels' Joe Arceo, Boston Acoustics, Leif Blackmon, Brembo, Torco Oils' Jamie Montesalvo, Octanium System and Scott at Radio Active.