Subaru STI S209 sates US S-line hunger with 341hp of AWD joy

Subaru knows what its people want, and they want the most powerful STI ever on US shores. They'll be pleased, then, at the news that the first-ever 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 will indeed be coming to the United States, and it just so happens to be the most powerful STI ever, too.

It's been designed to satisfy that long-standing envy among American Subaru fans when looking across the Pacific to the S-line cars. From the 2000 S201, though to last year's S208, they've been out of reach of US drivers.

All good things come to those who wait, however. This 2019 STI S209 will in fact be exclusive to the US, with power, handling, aero, and other changes in Kiryu, Japan. The goal, unsurprisingly, is high-performance driving excellence.

So, Subaru starts out with a reworked version of the EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged Boxer engine. An HKS turbocharger with a larger turbine and compressor than the regular WRX STI helps pump out an estimated 341 horsepower. Forged pistons and connecting rods that are both lighter in weight but stronger than usual are used. Midrange torque has climbed 10-percent at 3,600 rpm, which pays dividends when exiting corners.

A close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission is standard, along with full-time Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system with front/rear limited-slip differentials, a Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD), Active Torque Vectoring, and Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control. The SI-Drive drive mode system has been recalibrated so that its Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp modes better suit the S209's hardware.

On the outside, it's 1.7-inches wider – at 72.4-inches – than the regular WRX STI, courtesy of a wide-body kit. Bigger fenders cover wider tires, with the 265/35 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A summer-only rubber 0.6-inches wider than the normal tires. They're on 19 x 9-inch forged BBS alloy wheels.

Front fender vents deliver more cooling to the engine, while their rear counterparts cut drag by finessing the air turbulence. Brembo brakes with 6-piston monoblock front calipers and 2-piston monoblock rear calipers clamp onto cross-drilled steel rotors.

Specially-designed Bilstein dampers along with stiffened coil springs, a 20mm rear stabilizer bar, and pillow-type bushings for the front/rear lateral links have been installed. There's also a flexible front-strut tower bar and flexible front/rear draw stiffeners, borrowing tech from the WRX STI Nürburgring Challenge racecar. That also donates front, rear, and side under-spoilers, front bumper canards, and a carbon-fiber roof panel and sizable rear wing.

The path to the US for this particular car has not been easy. So changed is it in Japan from the regular car, it actually requires homologation for the US by STI. That makes the S209 the first "STI-built" Subaru sold in the US.

As a result, inside the Subaru badge on the wheel has been replaced by an STI badge. The wheel itself is D-shaped, with Ultrasuede wrapping with silver stitching. S209 badging is liberally applied, along with a serial number on the center console. Recaro bucket seats are standard.

That's the good news – now for the bad. Only around 200 of the 2019 STI S209 will be built, Subaru says. Buyers will be able to choose between WR Blue Pearl paint with gray wheels, and Crystal White Pearl paint with gold wheels. No word on pricing yet, but we'll know that closer to the car's release later in the year.