autoevolution

2020 Subaru STI S209 Review

CAR SIZE: compact
BODY TYPE: Sedan
Back at the turn of the millennium, Japanese carmaker Subaru introduced one of its most coveted performance-oriented car lines, the STI, tuned by the Subaru Tecnica International division. The line received the shortened STI moniker and in the 2000s the first of the family was the S201. Since then the range has been continuously produced, in limited numbers, and exclusively for the Japanese market. 
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That changed in 2019, when Subaru opted to build this year’s variant, for the first time, for an outside market. And not just any market, but the American one. 

Limited to a production run of 209 units and based on a vehicle that won the SP3T class at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in 2018 - WRX STI Nürburgring Challenge race car - this new model is the top of the line when it comes to “power, handling, aerodynamics and driver engagement.”

And it is also the most powerful Subaru ever.

1Exterior design & features

Being based on the WRX STI Nürburgring Challenge race car means the S209 borrowed a lot of its design elements, for both special looks and increased performance. 

The exterior of the commercial vehicle is wider and more aggressive than that of the stock base car, with the body kit used making it 1.7 inches wider than a standard WRX STI, or a total of 72.4 inches. The car’s body, especially at the front and rear, is riddled with vents, meant to provide additional cooling for the engine and generate more downforce, respectively. 

Also new are the race car-borrowed front, rear and side under spoilers, front bumper canards, and carbon-fiber roof panel and rear wing.

The S209 rides on exclusive 19 x 9-inch forged BBS wheels shod in Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600A tires. The bulging of the fenders facilitated their deployment.

2Interior design, features
and passenger space

On the inside, STI went out of its way to give the driver and passengers the feel they are driving a car like no other. 

People are seated in Recaro bucket seats adorned with an STI logo embroidered on the seat backs, and new silver-hued inserts.

Special logos and badges are spread throughout. There is an STI badge on the D-shaped steering wheel, in the place where the Subaru star cluster is usually located. Ultrasuede was the material of choice for wrapping the steering wheel, enhanced by the same silver inserts used on the seats and the lid of the center console storage box. 

The center console sports an S209 serial number and the engine compartment, while the passenger side of the car proudly carries an S209 badge.

3Gadgets

Having treated this vehicle more as a race car than anything else, STI did not go out of its way to fit it with insanely large screens and the likes. The gadgetry level in the vehicle is kept to a minimum, and appears to be seen as secondary for the Japanese, as for now, they’ve released very little details on it. 

And perhaps they even don’t have to, as the real magic happens under the hood, as you can see below.

4Performance

Reworked, retuned, bettered. These were the guidelines the STI engineers followed in making the S209 the most powerful Subaru ever.

Under the hood of the car sits a new version of an engine Subaru calls EJ25. That is a 2.5-liter deployed elsewhere in the carmaker’s range as well. Only this time, using an HKS turbocharger, the unit pumps out 341 hp.

The engine is available together with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission that is to be found nowhere else in the Subaru range. It is also linked to the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system with front/rear limited-slip differentials.

There are three drive modes available for the STI S209. The Intelligent mode is used when trying to improve fuel economy (official consumption levels not available yet) and have smoother power control. The Sport mode is used to provide an optimized power balance between response and control, while the Sport Sharp mode unleashes all of the car’s power.

5Safety

Giving the S209 more power than all the other Subaru cars have meant some clever engineering had to be made to bring safety levels to the desired values. 

To help the car come to a stop after one or more high-speed runs, STI fitted Brembo brakes, comprising high-friction pads with 6-piston monoblock front calipers and 2-piston monoblock rear calipers. 

To handle the high-speed runnings on tracks and elsewhere, the S209 comes with Bilstein dampers, stiffened coil springs, a 20 mm rear stabilizer bar and pillow-type bushings for the front/rear lateral links. 

The car’s stiffness was increased by adding reinforcements to the front crossmember, rear subframes, and a flexible front-strut tower bar.

6Conclusion

Deliveries of the S209 are scheduled to begin in the U.S. by the end of the year. Given the limited production run and the family of cars it belongs to, the model is not here to earn the Japanese tons of money, but notoriety.

Already being viewed in specialized circles as a reliable builder of race cars, both for the street and for the track, Subaru has only to gain from the launch on an STI-branded model outside its home market.