• Here’s Why Subaru Is Limiting the 2020 WRX STI S209 in the U.S.

This special edition model will fly off the shelves the second they become available

After a lot prodding and, presumably, more incessant begging, Subaru has finally gifted American customers with their own special edition Subie, called the STI S209. Limited to “around 200” units, the STI S209 is the first-ever S-series vehicle to come to the U.S. In truth, the S209 isn’t actually a Subaru, in large part because of the extensive mechanical work the model received to make it legal in America. Hence, Subaru homologated it as an STI model instead so it’s official name is “STI S209.” Name discrepancies aside, the S209 comes with a heavily modified body and an overhauled version of Subaru’s EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces around 341 horsepower. The S209 will go on sale later this year at a price that will be announced closer to launch. Considering all the work that was done on the car and its super limited status, it’s almost a certainty that all allocated units in the U.S. will sell out faster than it took me to finish writing this paragraph.

Subaru wants the free publicity

Here's Why Subaru Is Limiting the 2020 WRX STI S209 in the U.S.
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Subaru didn’t announce the exact number of STI S209s that are coming to the U.S., but it did say that it will be limited to around 200 units. Either way, the model has a more limited production run than the Subaru WRX STI 208 that the automaker released last year in Japan. We all know where this is going.

Limited stocks of an item in high demand often leads to a mad scramble to get one by any means necessary.

The STI S209 will sell out quickly. But that’s not really the point. It’s all about how fast it sells out and what kind of news-generating material comes out of it. Subaru thinks like most automakers in this regard. When it’s in the news because one of its models sell out quickly, it’s going to milk that for all it’s worth. It’s the kind of publicity that Subaru doesn’t have to pay for. All it needs to do is sit back, relax, and let the rest of us generate the buzz and hype surrounding the S209s. Lord knows, a lot of people these days have become all too willing to be part of that hype train, as long as they get theirs in the end. But Subaru’s already there by virtue of announcing the launch of this limited edition STI S209; it’s just waiting for all of us to catch up.

It’s not an easy car to build

Here's Why Subaru Is Limiting the 2020 WRX STI S209 in the U.S.
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You’d be wrong if you thought that Subaru only needed to tune the engine and slap on an STI badge to create the S209. The truth is that a lot of hard and complicated work happened just to turn it a vehicle that justifies its billing as a limited edition model. First, STI overhauled the EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to push its output to around 341 horsepower.

That required replacing the stock turbocharger with an HKS turbo, as well as installing a larger turbine and compressor.

The new setup allows for a maximum boost of 18 psi, a dramatic increase from the normal 16.2 psi that the engine is capable of releasing. Stronger forged pistons and connecting rods were also installed to cut rotating mass. The intake system was revised, too, with improved ducting. STI also addressed the tuned engine’s need for fuel by installing a high-flow fuel pump and replacing the stock injectors with larger versions.

Here's Why Subaru Is Limiting the 2020 WRX STI S209 in the U.S.
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Even the standard exhaust found its way into the bin in favor of a more sophisticated exhaust that has 17 percent less resistance and weighs just 4.1 pounds.

All these modifications to the powertrain were done with the objective of turning the S209 into Subaru’s most powerful model. On the suspension front, the S209 received a set of Bilstein dampers, to go along with stiffer springs and a 20-mm rear stabilizer bar. A flexible front strut tower bar and front/rear draw stiffeners were also installed to improve the sedan’s rigidity. If these modifications look easy to you, then, by all means, don’t think of the S209 as an easy car to build. But it’s really not. There are only so many models of the S209 that Subaru and STI can build.

It has the potential to be a future collectible piece

Here's Why Subaru Is Limiting the 2020 WRX STI S209 in the U.S.
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The first two points on this list give way to the third point: Subaru’s probably going to deny it or at least be indifferent to it, but, make no mistake, it wants to turn the STI S209 into a true collectible piece in the future.

The STI S209 has a few things going for it that could potentially lead to that kind of future.

First, it’s literally the first S variant of STI to be sold exclusively in the U.S. market. We can even take that a step further by saying that it’s literally the first STI S model to come stateside. Past S variant STIs were available in other markets as exclusives, most recently the S209’s predecessor, the S208, which was offered in Japan last year as a 450-unit limited edition piece. All this is to say that the STI S209 has the potential to be a future collectible piece in the U.S. market, especially with the rabid Subie fanbase that we have in this country. It’s not a foregone conclusion that the STI S209 is headed there — it has to perform first — but if it’s as good as the hype says it is, then it’s going to be tough to find these models in the second-hand market. And if one of the 209 units somehow ends up there, you can bet your life savings that people will trip over themselves and try to trip others for the chance to scoop it up.

Take the first bite and you’ll ask for more

Here's Why Subaru Is Limiting the 2020 WRX STI S209 in the U.S.
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That first bite is always the best, right? You don’t expect what you’re putting in your mouth, and if it ends up being as good as you thought it’d be, you’re going to want more bites out of it. The first bite is the STI S209.

Once it hit hits our shores, we’re getting our first taste of what an S-series model is all about.

I haven’t actually driven one of these before so I’m like most of you. I’m looking forward to see what the STI S209 is all about. I do know that Subaru, together with STI, is one of the best automakers when it comes to producing technically sound performance cars. STI models didn’t earn that reputation by accident. It earned it by producing some of the finest road-going performance cars in the industry. That reputation earned it its share of STI fanboys, too. Now that we’re getting our first bite of an STI S-series model, there’s a better than great chance that we’re going to be asking for more once the STI S209 arrives. Whether Subaru acquiesces or not remains to be seen, but that’s part of why it’s limiting production of the S209 to around 200 units. Subaru’s basically forcing us to want more.

The STI S209 could be a sign of things to come

Here's Why Subaru Is Limiting the 2020 WRX STI S209 in the U.S.
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I’m not going to raise anyone’s expectations or get you all excited on something that isn’t there yet, but what if Subaru’s decision to offer the STI S209 is just the first step of a bigger plan that it has for the U.S. market?

What if Subaru’s plan also includes an STI version of the next-generation BRZ sports coupe?

What if that car is also headed to the U.S., if it does get made in the first place? I know this is conjecture and probably needless speculation on my part, but I’m probably not the only one who’s looking ahead into what future projects Subaru and STI have in store for us here in America, right? Or am I overthinking this? Either way, I’m convinced the arrival of the S209 isn’t the only time we’ll get an S-series STI model, even if those things are hard to build. Subaru knows that there’s a healthy and oftentimes rabid STI fanbase here in the U.S. Is it really giving that fanbase one bite of that apple and withholding the rest? That’d just be mean. You’re not mean, are you, Subaru?

Further Reading

The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Is the Tuner Special We've All Been Waiting For Exterior
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The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Is the Tuner Special We’ve All Been Waiting For

Here's Your First Look at the 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 that Will Debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show
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Here’s Your First Look At The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 That Will Debut At the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

2020 Toyota Supra Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota Supra.

2018 Subaru WRX STI S208 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Subaru S208 WRX STI Limited Edition.

2018 Subaru WRX STI – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Read our driven review on the2018 Subaru WRX STI.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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