Forget the 2020 Toyota Supra, this is the one you want for track days

The Detroit Auto Show is in full swing, but looking at the headlines, you’d think we were covering something like the Tokyo Auto Salon. That’s because Motor City is playing host to several major debuts from the Land of the Rising Sun, including the 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209. This is the first S model to head to the U.S., and it promises to be the most powerful, best braking, and best handling STI model that Subaru has ever produced. What’s more, it’s up against the 2019 Toyota Supra for supreme Japanese-performance fanfare, but honestly, the Six Stars seem to outshine the Toyota whopper this time around.

JDM Performance For The U.S.

The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Is the Tuner Special We've All Been Waiting For
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With a big sheet pull alongside an old-school peanut-eye 2004 WRX STI, the first STI to drop in the U.S., as well as the legendary 22B, the S209 is among rarified company. It follows in the same tradition as the S201 through S208 built between 2000 and 2018, and represents the best of the Subaru performance catalogue. Normally, these “S” models are exclusively a JDM special, but now, U.S. buyers will get a taste.

Tested at the Tsukuba race circuit, the Nürburgring, and Virginia International Raceway, the S209 has a long list of performance-building bullet points on its resume. The end result, at least according to Subaru, is the best braking, best handling, and fastest factory STI ever made.

It looks the part too.

Revealed in white paint with gold wheels and black trim, the S209 announces itself with a big carbon fiber wing on the trunk, new frontend canards, fender vents, larger intakes, and a carbon fiber roof, not to mention four exhaust tips in the rear fascia.

Buyers will have two color schemes to choose from, including WR Blue with grey wheels, or Crystal White Pearl with gold wheels.

The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Is the Tuner Special We've All Been Waiting For
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Unlike that crap you’d buy on eBay, the aero upgrades on the S209 actually do work, cooling the massive brake package, reducing turbulence around the rear tires, and feeding cold atmosphere into the powerplant. The wider fender and wheels also up grip levels, adding 1.7 inches to the overall width, now measuring in at 72.4 inches overall.

Speaking of the rollers, the S209 comes with BBS alloy wheels, measured at 19 inches in diameter and 9 inches in width.

Making the grip are Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A meats, a summer-only compound that also adds extra track front and back, with an extra 0.6 inches at both ends. The tires are sized at 265/35, and grip at a full lateral g in the corners.

Helping it put all that grip to good use are new Bilstein dampers, stiffer coil springs, a 20 mm rear stabilizer bar, pillow-type bushings for the front, and rear lateral links. There’s also more bracing for the front cross member and rear subframe, and the chassis gets a new strut tower bar and draw stiffeners.

The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Is the Tuner Special We've All Been Waiting For
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Providing the stop will be Brembo brakes, with cross-drilled steel rotors, 6-pot monoblock calipers up front, and 2-pot monoblock calipers in the rear. High-performance pads make the friction.

The carbon fiber roof and wing also cut weight, although how much exactly is cut from the standard STI’s 3,391 pounds remains to be seen.

Under the hood, the S209 uses the all-too-familiar turbo 2.5-liter flat-four EJ25 engine from the standard WRX STI. To this, the S209 adds a new intake, new turbo specs, and an upgraded exhaust to match. The intercooler gets a water spray system to keep the charge air as chilly as possible, and the internals were beefed up with new forged pistons and connecting rods (more boost from the aftermarket? Yes please!). Total output comes to 341 horsepower, which is a substantial 31-horsepower gain over the standard model. Mid-range torque is up 10 percent as well.

The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Is the Tuner Special We've All Been Waiting For
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Routing it all is a standard six-speed manual transmission and Driver Controlled Center Differential transmission, with Subaru’s iconic Symmetrical AWD system hitting the pavement.

The S209 will go on sale in late 2019. Production will be limited to 200 units. Pricing is so far unannounced.

But What About The Supra?

Toyota Supra Returns After 21 Years with BMW Engine; And it's Not Cheap
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We’ll most likely do a full comparison at a later date, but for now, let’s just do a quick overview.

The styling for both these models is questionable, and we’re sure plenty of folks will take issue with the Supra’s break from the previous concept car and Subaru’s wing-tastic, add-on heavy aesthetic.

So that’s a wash, more or less. Instead, let’s talk performance.

The Toyota Supra comes to battle with a turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder, which produces 335 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and active differential. Curb weight is set at 3,397 pounds.

Overall, that makes the specs pretty much on par with the Suby’s 3,391 pounds and 341 horsepower, although the S209’s carbon bits might shave a few pounds off that final number, and the Supra’s six definitely has more torque. Of course, the Subaru has more grip off the line thanks to its AWD.

Toyota Supra Returns After 21 Years with BMW Engine; And it's Not Cheap
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Toyota is also claiming a 60 mph time of 4.1 seconds, but that’s raising a few red flags for me.

It just seems too fast, to be honest, even with extremely short gearing and a trick limited-slip differential.

As for pricing, the Supra base model starts at around $50,000, while range-toppers are upwards of $60,000, which again makes the Toyota product on par with what we’re expecting from the S209 (granted, Subaru has yet to announce final pricing, and as a limited-run range-topping model, a premium charge added on top of the Scooby’s base MSRP is almost a sure thing).

That said, we expect the S209 to be far more focused and track friendly than the Supra.

While we’d probably pick the Toyota to get to and from the track, we’d pick the Subaru once we started clipping the apexes. The aero spec, the driveline, the suspension… all of it screams track car.

The Supra’s RWD would make for a more balanced handling dynamic, but if its lap times you’re after, the Subaru will almost certainly have the Toyota beat.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Further Reading

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.

Toyota Supra Returns After 21 Years with BMW Engine; And it's Not Cheap
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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 Exterior High Resolution
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Read our driven review on the2018 Subaru WRX STI.

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