DETROIT – Subaru chooses Detroit and its last winter-season auto show to unleash its first-ever high-performance “S” model for the U.S. market, the rally-bred ’19 WRX STI S209.
S models from the in-house tuner Subaru Tecnica International date back to the WRX STI S201 introduced in Japan in 2000; since then, the limited-edition top performance S models have been marketed and sold in Japan only.
The latest S arrives as a U.S.-only model, marking a significant change in direction for Subaru and STI. The decision comes in response to demand from U.S. customers, says Tom Doll, president and CEO-Subaru of America.
“An STI S model is finally available to U.S. enthusiasts,” Doll tells journalists attending the company’s North American International Auto Show premiere of the S209.
The S line is the pinnacle of Subaru performance, drawing the company’s involvement in rally and endurance events over the years, says Yoshio Hirakawa, president-STI. Building on the automaker’s basics – a boxer engine and all-wheel drive – STI modifies the car to empower the driver, he says.
Upgrades over a standard WRX STI start with the turbocharged 2.5L flat-four that produces 341 hp, up from 310 in standard STI models. The power increase comes mostly as a result of higher boost – 18.0 psi (1.25 bar) vs 16.2 psi (1.1 bar) – thanks to a larger turbine and compressor in the HKS turbo. Lighter and stronger forged pistons and connecting rods, high-flow induction and low-resistance exhaust are part of the improvements.
Torque isn’t specified, but Subaru says midrange torque is up 10% to help power the S209 through corners. All S209 models are equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Body and chassis upgrades include wide fenders to accommodate wider front and rear tracks, cooling vents in the front fenders and aerodynamic vents in the rear. Brembo brakes provide stopping power while Bilstein shocks and a series of race-inspired braces stiffen the car for better handling.
STI will build just 200 copies of the S209 for the U.S. market at its facility in Kiryu, Japan. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date late this year but look for a healthy premium over the WRS STI that retails for about $40,000.
A similarly tuned WRX STI likely will follow at some point in Japan, but probably carrying a different name, Subaru spokesman Dominick Infante says.