Subaru imports some entertaining performance cars to the United States, but it usually saves some of the best stuff for its home market of Japan. At the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, Subaru gave U.S. enthusiasts a taste of what they’ve been missing with the WRX STI S209 — the latest in a line of special-edition models that have never been sold here before.
Subaru has offered S20(X) series cars in Japan since the S201 of 2001. These upgraded versions of the WRX STI typically feature more power and other performance upgrades, and the S209 is no different. The 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer-four engine produces 341 horsepower, compared to 310 hp for a standard U.S.-spec WRX STI. Subaru didn’t supply a torque figure for the S209, but said the special edition is its most powerful production model ever.
The extra power comes courtesy of a larger turbocharger, lighter and stronger forged pistons and connecting rods, a higher-flow fuel pump working with larger fuel injectors, and a less-restrictive exhaust system. Subaru also brought back a cult-classic feature from the 2004-2007 STI (the first version sold in the U.S.): a driver-controllable system that sprays water on the intercooler. This lowers the temperature of air going into the engine, which helps make more power. The only available transmission is a six-speed manual transmission and, naturally for a Subaru, all-wheel drive is standard.
Subaru also claims that the S209 will handle better than a standard STI, thanks to upgraded suspension and structural reinforcements. The S209 also rides on model-specific Dunlop GT600A summer tires, which are wider than the standard STI tires. Brembo brakes with cross-drilled rotors complete the mechanical package.
The S209 looks more aggressive thanks to fender flares that widen the body by 1.7 inches (helping accommodate the wider tires), and aerodynamic aids like a big rear spoiler and front dive planes. Vents in the front fenders aid cooling, while vents in the rear fenders help decrease aerodynamic drag, according to Subaru. The S209 rides on 19.0-inch BBS alloy wheels.
On the inside, the S209 gets a D-shaped steering wheel and Recaro seats. S209 badges throughout the interior and exterior attest to the car’s special nature, as does a serial number badge on the center console.
The Subaru WRX STI S209 goes on sale in the U.S. later this year, with pricing to be revealed closer to that time. Subaru only plans to build “around” 200 cars, which is substantially less than the automaker’s last special-edition STI, the Type RA. The S209 shares the Detroit spotlight with the new Toyota Supra, making this a vintage year for Japanese performance cars.
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