While the whole world was fixated on the all-new Toyota Supra, Subaru wheeled out its own special creation for the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This is the WRX STI S209, a limited production S-line performance model that Americans will finally be able to buy.
Subaru of America is making a big deal of the S209 because it is considered the first “STI-built” Subaru to be sold in the United States, with final assembly taking place in Kiryu, Japan, where it receives engine modifications and bodywork alterations that in total require it to be homologated for the target market.
Only 200 units will be offered, and like previous S-line cars that were exclusive to Japan, each one comes with a good number of modifications to improve power, handling, aerodynamics and driver engagement. Subaru says the S209 draws inspiration and tech from the WRX STI Nürburgring Challenge racer, which recently won the SP3T class at last year’s 24 Hours of Nürburgring.
Under the bonnet, the EJ25 2.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine gets a through reworking, with a HKS turbocharger boosted to 18 psi (16.2 psi on a stock WRX STI), forged pistons and connecting rods, a high-flow air intake system, new high-flow fuel pump, larger fuel injectors, intercooler water spray system, high-performance exhaust system, and a specially-tuned engine control module.
The end result is 341 hp (up to 8% more than stock), with all of it being routed through a close-ration six-speed manual transmission and full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. Supporting items include front/rear limited-slip differentials, a Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD), Active Torque Vectoring and Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control.
Drivers will get to adjust the powertrain’s response with a recalibrated SI Drive system with three modes – Intelligent (I), Sport (S) and Sport Sharp (S#). Interestingly, STI engineers recommend Sport over Sport Sharp for circuit driving, as the less aggressive throttle map allows for greater driver control.
Beyond the power bump, the S209 also gets a set of 19-inch forged BBS alloy wheels that are wrapped with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A tyres, which are capable of generating a maximum lateral grip of over 1 g. Stopping power comes courtesy of Brembo brakes, with cross-drilled steel rotors and six-piston monoblock front calipers and two-piston monoblock rear calipers.
The suspension also gets its fair share of revisions, starting with stiffer coil springs, Bilstein dampers, a 20 mm rear stabiliser bar and pillow-type bushings for the front/rear lateral links. Elsewhere, the front crossmember and rear subframes have been reinforced; a flexible tower bar helps laterally stiffen the body of the car; and draw stiffeners optimise chassis flex.
Due to the new wheels, which measure 9 inches in width each, the S209 gets a wide-body kit to make it 43 mm wider than a regular WRX STI. Aerodynamic and non-mechanical add-ons derived from the above-mentioned race car are also present, including under spoilers, canards, a rear wing, additional vents and a carbon-fibre roof.
Inside, there’s a D-shaped steering wheel wrapped in Ultrasuede with silver stitching and an STI badge in place of the traditional Subaru star cluster. A dedicated serial number badge on the centre console points out the model’s exclusivity along with other S209 badges, including on the Recaro seats.
Pricing will be announced later in 2019, and Subaru of America offers two exterior colours to choose from. The first is World Rally Blue Pearl, which is paired to grey wheels, while the other option is Crystal White Pearl with gold wheels.