Subaru is bringing a hotter version of its WRX STI to the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The automaker released a teaser video titled “From Japan with Love” that shows a camouflaged WRX STI lapping Virginia International Raceway. Subaru subsequently confirmed that the car will be the S209, the latest in a series of special editions previously sold only in Japan.
The video description promises that “something special from Subaru Tecnica International is coming to America for the first time ever.” Subaru Tecnica International (STI) is the automaker’s performance division. STI builds sportier versions of regular Subaru models — most of which don’t typically make it to the U.S.
Case in point are the S20(X) versions of the WRX STI. Starting in 2000 with the S201, these models have typically offered more power than a standard WRX STI, as well as chassis upgrades. The last model in the series, the S208, produced 329 horsepower and 319 pound-feet of torque, compared to 310 hp and 290 lb.-f.t for the U.S.-spec WRX STI. Japanese-spec STI models use a 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer-four engine, while U.S. models use Subaru’s older 2.5-liter motor.
After multiple media outlets reported that Subaru has trademarked the name “S209” for the U.S., Subaru confirmed in a press release that this is in fact the name of the car it will unveil in Detroit. But it’s unclear whether the S209 would try to make more power from the U.S.-spec 2.5-liter engine, or whether Subaru will try to import the 2.0-liter engine from Japan — which could entail a lot of red tape.
Subaru’s teaser video doesn’t provide many clues. The camouflaged car has the big rear spoiler from the recent WRX STI Type RA special edition, but also features front dive planes and fender flares. We’ll have to wait until the car’s Detroit debut to see if there are any changes under the skin as well.
A big part of the WRX STI’s appeal is that it is based on the Subaru Impreza, so you get a performance car that can also serve as practical everyday transportation. But the current WRX STI (and lower-level WRX) is based on the previous-generation Impreza, not the current model.
The 2019 Detroit Auto Show should be a good one for car enthusiasts. In addition to the Subaru WRX STI S209, the new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and Toyota Supra are scheduled to make their public debuts.
Updated on December 27, 2018: Added official confirmation of the S209 name.
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