NAIAS 2019: Subaru Deems Americans Worthy of Limited-edition S209

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
naias 2019 subaru deems americans worthy of limited edition s209

Subaru has a history of keeping the good stuff in Japan. Eastward-looking rally enthusiasts clamored in the early ’90s for the turbocharged Impreza WRX. Subaru sent us the naturally-aspirated Impreza 2.5RS in 1998. Once the WRX hit our shores in 2000, we saw the more-powerful WRX STi as the forbidden fruit, not to grace our shores until 2004. Countless limited editions, starting with the widebody 22B (a killer on Gran Turismo) and proceeding through several iterations of the S-series, have too been withheld.

No longer.

Subaru finally heeded the call of World Rally Blue-blooded boxer geeks in North America when it revealed the limited-edition STI S209 on Monday. Tweaks, both subtle and not, refine the familiar formula into a more focused performance vehicle.

Yes, it has more power! 341 hp, versus 310 on the standard WRX STI. It’s still a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (EJ25 for the code geeks), with a larger turbocharger allowing for increased boost — 18.0 psi. A water-spray system, activated by paddles behind the steering wheel, help cool the intercooler to keep the boost up on hot days. The engine has a S209 serial number plate atop the intake plenum, seen here as 000/000 for what is likely a pre-production model destined for thrashing at the hands of a few lucky journalists.

Sharp-eyed readers will realize that those steering-wheel paddles are often used on automatic transmissions. That’s right, and this means the S209 is manual-only. The six-speed close-ratio manual is paired with front and rear limited-slip differentials, and Subaru’s Driver Controlled Center Differential.

The body of the S209 is 1.7 inches wider than the standard WRX STI; flared fenders are fitted to cover 19×9 BBS alloy wheels wrapped with exclusively-developed 265/35-19 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A summer-only tires.

The suspension has been tweaked via Bilstein dampers, firmer-rate springs, and a larger rear sway bar. Crossmember and subframe reinforcements further add rigidity to the structure, though a flexible front strut bar adds lateral stiffness for transitions while allowing movement fore-to-aft — which makes the suspension less harsh during daily driving. Additional spoilers front and rear, paired with a carbon-fiber rear wing, help reduce lift at speed. A carbon-fiber roof panel drops a few pounds up high.

Those 19-inch BBS wheels? They’ll be Subaru’s traditional gold when fitted to a S209 painted in this Crystal White Pearl. The other available color, World Rally Blue Pearl, is fitted with gray BBS wheels.

Only “around” 200 Subaru STI S209s will be produced, all exclusively for the United States. Pricing wasn’t available at press time — it’s expected closer to the model’s release date in late 2019.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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  • Jh26036 Jh26036 on Jan 15, 2019

    Subaru STI, follows the road of Mustang special editions...what's next?

    • See 1 previous
    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jan 15, 2019

      @scott25 I'm ok with that, probably the first good thing to happen as a result of gen I-live-in-mom's-basement.

  • Scott25 Scott25 on Jan 15, 2019

    Rumoured to surpass the $60k barrier. It’ll define “showroom queen” at that price Still admire the WRX/STI though. It and the Lexus RC are about the only classically and quintessentially Japanese performance cars left today.

    • Jatz Jatz on Jan 15, 2019

      I've got a couple high-income Millennials in the family who'd drop 60K+ on the right set of MtG cards. The money is out there if the Millennial psyche is triggered.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?