The Subaru WRX STI goes full super saiyan!

When Subaru first released the WRX to the U.S. market back in the early 2000’s, performance enthusiasts went nuts. Finally, after a decade left out in the cold, America was getting a taste of the turbocharged, rally-bred good life. Now we’re getting the full-fat experience thanks to the 2020 Subaru WRX STI S209, a series of numbers and letters that add up to the most extreme Six Star experience available without a roll cage. Usually reserved as a JDM-only delicacy, the limited edition S209 is the first “S” line model offered exclusively for the U.S. market, and it’s nothing less than the best-performing STI ever made thanks to an upgraded engine package, functional aero, a wider stance, and trick suspension upgrades.

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior Styling

  • Takes after fourth-gen VA body style
  • Three-box profile
  • 1.7 inches wider overall
  • Unique 19-inch BBS wheels
  • Aero inspired by Nürburgring racer
  • New underspoilers, front canards, rear carbon wing
  • Two color schemes: World Rally Blue Pearl on grey wheels, Crystal White Pearl on gold wheels
  • S209 badging front to back
2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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Subaru fans should immediately recognize the S209’s body, which takes after the current STI in terms of overarching styling cues. Despite the standard Impreza’s move to a fresh fifth-generation platform in 2016, the standard STI keeps its older fourth-gen VA post-facelift aesthetic intact, and the S209 model is no different. That means it gets the same sharp headlight housings and C-shaped daytime running lights, LED Steering Responsive lighting elements, a three-box sedan profile, and squared-off rear end.

However, to this highly recognizable shape, the S209 adds a host of upgrades to enhance both the visual aggression and tangible performance.

Let’s start with the S209’s stance, which is considerably wider than the standard STI thanks to four hugely flared fender arches. These effectively add an extra 1.7 inches to the four-door’s overall width, bringing the final measurement to 72.4 inches total.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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Under the new muscle-bound arches, the S209 comes rocking with new 19 by 9-inch forged wheels from BBS, offering up a unique multi-spoke design compared to the standard STI’s 19-inch Y-spoke rollers.

The extra-wide look helps with width, as we’ll explain in a later section, but STI’s engineers didn’t stop there. Aerodynamics were also a major consideration when building the S209, with inspiration taken from Subaru’s winning Nürburgring endurance racer.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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As such, the S209 gets a fresh set of under spoiler elements for the front, rear, and side.

You’ll also notice that lower in the front fascia the S209 gets a quartet of bumper canards just behind the side intake indents in the bumper, which should help it grip a bit harder at speed and reduce understeer.

Up top, the S209 gets a new carbon fiber roof to help cut weight where it matters most, while in the rear, there’s a large GT-style carbon fiber rear wing to keep the rear end firmly planted. Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of these types of wings on a street car, but when it comes to the STI, oversized rear aero is pretty much the norm anyway.

Final touches include new vents in the front fenders to help cool the engine, as well as new vents in the rear fenders to reduce turbulence and drag.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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We would have loved it if Subaru provided some numbers on how effective this new aero was in making the S209 stick to the pavement, but to no avail. We’ll keep an eye out for testing in this regard to get to the bottom of it.

Interested customers have two color schemes to choose from, including World Rally Blue Pearl on grey wheels, and Crystal White Pearl on gold wheels. Final touches include a bevy of S209 badging added to the front grille intake, the fenders, and the rear deck.

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (Inches) 104.3
Length (Inches) 180.9
Width (Inches) 70.7
Height (Inches) 58.1

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 Interior Design

  • New wrap for D-shaped steering wheel, complete with STI badge
  • New silver upholstery for Recaro seats
  • S209 serial badges throughout the cabin
  • Double-decker infotainment screens
  • Rubber-studded aluminum pedals
  • Rear seat and trunk space unchanged
2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Interior
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Like the exterior spec, the S209’s interior is quite similar to the standard STI, but the new model still comes with a selection of upgrades to assist in the business of driving fast.

Those lucky enough to find themselves strapped into the hot seat will get to grips with a familiar D-shaped steering wheel, but this time, it comes covered in a grippy Ultrasuede upholstery material that should help when executing some quick counter steer action. The steering wheel also gets an STI badge in the center of it, as opposed to the usual six-star badge.

The seats get a fresh treatment as well. Once again, we find highly bolstered buckets from Recaro, but inside the S209, the sitters use silver inserts along the outer edge of the bolsters. There’s also silver stitching for the upholstery, and the treatment is carried over to the center console storage as well.

Final touches include a unique S209 serial number badge on the center console, plus complementary S209 badges on the headrests and on the dash towards the passenger side.

The rest of the interior looks like you’d expect it to. Double decker infotainment screens occupy the center console and top of the dash, while square air vents provide extra comfort. Round rotary knobs make for the controls for the HVAC system, and rubber-studded aluminum pedals provide grip for fancy footwork.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Interior
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Also worth noting is that the S209 keeps the rear bench completely intact, which means you can actually use the 2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 like a “normal” four-door sedan.

You can still load it up with friends or family and go from A to B without too much fuss, or fill the trunk with 12 cubic feet of whatever the hell you want. And that’s important, as it helps the Subaru stand out from other track-built performance cars out on the road right now, including those listed in the Competition section below.

We also like that Subaru didn’t sink too much investment into making the S209’s interior totally blinged out. After all, we aren’t gonna buy this thing for interior goodies. No, the S209 is 100 percent about performance and fun. And speaking of which…

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 Interior Dimensions

Headroom front/rear (Inches) 39.8/37.1
Legroom front/rear (Inches) 44.3/35.4
Shoulder Room front/rear (Inches) 55.6/54.2
Cargo Volume (cu. ft.) 12.0
Passenger volume (cu. ft.) 96.6

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 Drivetrain And Performance

  • EJ257 engine, turbo 2.5-liter flat-four
  • Upgraded HKS turbocharger
  • 1.8 psi more boost
  • Forged internals
  • New intake and exhaust
  • Water spray kit for intercooler
  • New fueling, retuned ECM
  • 31 more horsepower, 10-percent torque bump
  • Likely a few tenths quicker to 60 mph ( 4.4 seconds)
  • Six-speed manual transmission, Symmetrical AWD
  • Retuned driving modes
  • New Bilstein dampers, stiffer coil springs, 20 mm rear stabilizer bar
  • Draw stiffeners and chassis bracing
  • Flexible strut tower bar
  • Wider Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A tires
  • New Brembo brakes, new cross-drilled steel rotors, six-pot calipers in front, 2-pot calipers in back
2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Drivetrain
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Lurking under the 2020 Subaru WRX STI S209’s iconic hood scoop is a turbocharged 2.5-liter flat boxer four-cylinder gas engine.

Also known as the EJ257, it’s the same engine Subaru has used since the first U.S.-bound STI was sold back in 2003.

So yeah, it’s definitely an older platform. However, the S209 breathes new life into it thanks to a number of critical improvements, starting with the boost-maker.

To stuff the four-cylinder with extra air, the S209 comes equipped with an upgraded HKS turbocharger spinning a new turbine that’s 6 percent larger than the standard STI, as well as a new compressor that’s 8 percent larger. This helps to increase boost pressure increases to 18 psi, a 1.8-psi (11.1 percent) increase over the standard model’s 16.2 psi.

To help handle the newfound pressure, the S209’s EJ is backed by new forged pistons and connecting rods, which offer both a lighter construction and stronger durability.

The intake was also upgraded, and now comes with a new high-flow design, new intake ducting, a new induction box with a conical air filter, and a silicone turbocharger inlet duct.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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The S209 keeps the standard top-mount intercooler design as the STI and base model WRX, but this time around, the chiller is made more effective thanks to a new intercooler water spray system.

Subaru fans may remember something similar from the 2004 to 2007 WRX STI, and with the S209, the concept is identical - spray water on the intercooler to keep it is cold as possible through evaporative cooling, thereby lowering the overall intake temperatures and making for denser charge air, thus creating more power.

The S209’s system is manually operated via paddles on the steering wheel. And who doesn’t love paddles that make more power? Granted, the intercooler water spray system won’t make a ton of extra ponies, but we like it all the same. If you agree, Engineering Explained did a really interesting video on it that you can check out here.

Finishing touches for the S209’s engine spec include a new high-flow fuel pump, larger injectors, and a retuned ECM. The breathing is also made easier thanks to new exhaust pipes, which help evacuate spent gasses with 17 percent lower airflow resistance compared to the standard STI. The new exhaust terminates in hand-polished stainless steel tips measured at 101 mm (3.98 inches) in diameter.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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So what’s the final result of all this tuning and tweaking?

Subaru says the S209 creates upwards of 341 horsepower at an unspecified rpm. That’s a 31-horsepower increase over the standard model’s 310 horsepower, which on the base model STI is created at 6,000 rpm.

The S209 also makes more torque than before, with Subaru disclosing a 10-percent bump somewhere in the midrange. Unfortunately, that’s all we know form the official press release, but as speculated in the above-linked Engineering Explained video, a bump to 315 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm over the standard model’s 290 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm (an increase of 8.6 percent overall) feels about right.

To christen the new engine, Subaru added a unique S209 serial number in the engine bay. Gotta love special editions, right?

As for acceleration figures, Subaru failed to disclose how much faster the S209 is compared to the standard STI, but again, it isn’t difficult to speculate. Considering the base mode can hit 60 mph in about 4.8 to 4.6 seconds (getting a perfect launch can be tricky), we’d expect the leaner, meaner S209 to complete the run in about 4.5 to 4.4 seconds.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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Top speed for the standard model is around 160 mph, and the S209 will probably max out around there as well.

Because even with the extra power and torque, the S209’s aero upgrades will likely create enough drag to keep it from besting the current model, at least in the top end.

All that aside, we were a little disappointed by the S209’s peak output numbers considering all the upgrades it got under the hood. An extra 31 ponies isn’t terrible, but with new fueling, new breathing, and a new turbo spec, plus new connecting rods and pistons, an extra 40 or 50 ponies would make a helluva lot more sense. Of course, the tuning potential for this particular EJ275 should be far greater than that of the standard STI, especially with the new internal components. Did someone say boost controller? (Of course, it has to be said, modifying an S209 is absolute sacrilege.)

Regardless, the S209 is far more concerned with corners rather than straightaways, as we’ll examine shortly.

But before we do, let’s check out the rest of the S209’s drivetrain. Handling the cog swaps is a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission, while Subaru’s famous full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system puts it to the ground.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Interior
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Making the most of the grip is a pair of front and rear limited-slip differentials, as well as a Driver Controlled Center Differential (more commonly known as a DCCD) and Active Torque Vectoring. There’s also Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control, while the onboard SI-Drive system (basically customizable driving modes) was reworked to handle the car’s various upgrades. The S209’s still offers the same three driving modes as the standard STI, including Intelligent (for fuel economy and cruising), Sport (basically normal), and Sport Sharp (a.k.a. S#, the most aggressive of the three).

Interestingly, Subaru says that the “STI engineers recommend Sport over Sport Sharp for circuit driving, as the less aggressive throttle map allows for greater driver control.”

Now lets get to the handling goods. The S209 comes with a completely reworked handling package, including new suspension and a thoroughly modified chassis.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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The S209 still offers double wishbones front and back, but replaces the STI’s standard dampers with customized units from Bilstein, which are then paired with stiffer coil springs.

There’s also a 20 mm rear stabilizer bar to keep understeer at bay, plus pillow-type bushings for the front and rear lateral links. Additional reinforcements are added to the crossmember and rear subframe.

The S209 also comes with a flexible front strut tower bar and flexible front and rear draw stiffeners, both of which are similar to the setup Subaru uses with its endurance racer that took victory at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in 2018.

For those of you who may be unaware, draw stiffeners basically connect the body and cross member, thus reducing overall chassis flex and improving steering feel on turn-in, but without compromising ride comfort.

Subaru also gives the low-down on how the flexible tower bar works, saying “unlike a conventional rigid bar, [a flexible tower bar] is split and joined with a pillow ball joint in the center to be longitudinally mobile while helping laterally stiffen the body of the car. The result is optimum tire grip during lateral moments combined with compliant ride during longitudinal moments.”

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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To make the most of this impressive array of suspension and chassis upgrades, the S209 also comes with a considerably wider stance, complete with both a wider body and wider wheels.

The rollers are 9 inches in width at all four corners (the standard STI’s wheels are 8.5 inches wide), while super-sticky Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A tires make the traction. Subaru says these tires were specially developed for the S209, and are measured at 265/35R19, which is an increase to the front and rear track of 0.6 inches (the standard STI’s tires are measured at 245/35R19).

Put it all together, and the S209 will generate an impressive 1 G in lateral acceleration. The suspension and chassis upgrades should also help to make it handle much more neutrally, as opposed to the terminal understeer typically created by high-horsepower AWD sports cars.

The final piece of the handling puzzle are the brakes, which get a plus-sized refit from Brembo. Extra equipment include new cross-drilled steel rotors, which get pinched by six-pot monoblock calipers in front and 2-pot monoblock calipers in the rear, plus new high-friction brake pads with extra fade resistance.

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 drivetrain specifications

Engine turbo 2.5-liter flat-four
Horsepower 341 HP
Torque 315 LB-FT @ 4,000 RPM
0 to 60 mph 4.4 seconds
Top Speed 160 mph
Transmission 6-speed manual

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 Prices

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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The 2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 made its first public debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

Subaru will build just 200 units total, all of which will head exclusively to the U.S. market.

Exact pricing information will be announced closer to the S209’s on-sale date later this year, but it will likely slot in around $55,000 to $65,000, besting the $50,000 tag attached to the 2018 WRX STI Type RA and the $36,595 tag attached to the standard WRX STI.

And that’s also before the inevitable dealer markup for this special edition performance machine, which could add an extra $20,000 to the bottom line (remember what they were charging for the Dodge Challenger Hellcat Demon?).

Yep, we could very well see a $85,000 Subaru in our lifetime, folks. Yikes.

2020 Subaru WRX STI S209 Competition

Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

Ford Infuses the 2019 Mustang Shelby GT350 with Racing and GT500 DNA Exterior Wallpaper quality
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At this price level, the Subaru WRX STI S209 will face off against some pretty scary competition, including this absolute beast of a pony car from Ford. Heavily upgraded for track duty, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 draws motivation from a front-mounted 5.2-liter V-8 powerplant laying down a burly 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque, all of which is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. Properly motivated the GT350 will hit 60 mph in the low four-second range. If you’re going for ultimate track-ready performance, than you’r gonna want the R Package, which adds in new aero pieces, extra suspension and chassis upgrades, a weight-saving interior strip-down, and carbon fiber wheels. Pricing starts at $60,000 for the standard GT350 and $65,000 for the GT350R.

Read our full review on the 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.

Porsche 718 Cayman

2017 Porsche 718 Cayman High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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At the other end of the spectrum of the performance philosophy spectrum, we have the lightweight Porsche 718 Cayman. Like the Subaru, the 718 is powered by a turbocharged flat four-cylinder engine, but unlike the Subaru, the 718 mounts it in the middle, rather than the nose. Output comes to 300 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque for the base model, while the 718 Cayman S tosses in a 2.5-liter upgrade that ups peak output to 350 ponies. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 4.9 seconds in the standard model (4.5 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package) and 4.4 seconds in the S (4.0 seconds with the Sport Chrono Package). Both a manual and a PDK automatic are on the list of transmission options, with power arriving exclusively at the rear wheels. Pricing starts at $56,900 for the standard 718 and $69,300 for the S.

Read our full review on the 2017 Porsche 718 Cayman.

Final Thoughts

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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While casual observers may find the proposal of a max-attack track Subaru to be a bit odd, fans will surely appreciate the work that led up to the S209’s release.

This thing takes after Subaru’s many motorsports projects executed over the years, including the recent WRX STI Nürburgring Challenge racer that snagged victory at the 2018 24 Hours of Nürburgring endurance event in the SP3T class. Then, of course, you have Subaru’s various rally, time attack, and road racing efforts.

What’s more, the S209 carries after the tradition of a long line of S models, including the S201 through S208 built between 2000 and 2018. This is factory-built speed from the boffins at Subaru Tecnica International, known more popularly as STI, and it shows.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Exterior
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That said, there are a few problems, starting with the price.

The S209 is gonna be very expensive, and when it comes to competition at this price level, buyers will need to consider some very tempting alternatives.

Power levels are also a bit brow-furrowing. With just 341 horses, the S209 is seriously outgunned by rivals like the Mustang GT350, and although AWD helps make up the difference, it’s still a pretty big gulf to bridge.

Still, throw in some dirt, or rain, or uneven surfaces, or real-world roads, and the S209 is a mighty foe to contend with. Plus, with just 200 units, Subaru should have no problem selling out on the S209. There’s surely enough Scooby fans out there salivating at the thought of having the S209 in their garage as we speak, and that’s enough to label it a success.

  • Leave it
    • Just 31 extra ponies?
    • Absurdly expensive, especially with dealer markup
    • Competition offers more power, better handling

Further Reading

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
- image 722056

Read our driven review on the2018 Subaru WRX STI.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA-R Exterior
- image 788005

Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA-R.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Final Edition Wallpaper quality Exterior
- image 741977
295 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque

Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru WRX STI Final Edition.

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