- Subaru WRX STI S209 - Photos by Subaru ©

This JDM-spec WRX STI is Quicker than a BMW M3

9w ago


A Subaru WRX STI is a very familiar car by now. Partially because it's very successful and capable, but partially because its engine and hp has been more or less unchanged for about 15 years in North America. It came out in 2004 with a 4 cylinder 2.5 litre turbocharged boxer engine making 300 hp. Today, the standard issue WRX STI is still powered by a version of that same engine making all of 305 hp, a measly 5 hp increase in two redesigns over 15 years. People have been complaining and, it turns out, Subaru has been listening.

Enter the S209. It is based on the Japanese market only S208 developed with Subaru Tecnica International (STI). It still uses the same North American EJ25 2.5 litre engine, but it's all grown up now with forged rods and pistons, and a bigger turbo (bigger turbos make everything better). In this case, it seems like the housing is the same, but HKS increases the compressor wheel by 5 mm to 65 mm and turbine by 3 mm to 56 mm. That has allowed Subaru to turn the boost up to 11.. err 18 psi, rather, which is a 3.3 psi increase over the standard STI.

That has had a profound effect on power, going from 305 hp to 341 hp - an increase of 36 hp - and torque goes up from 290 lb-ft to 315 lb-ft - an increase of 25 lb-ft. Both are very healthy upgrades, although those are just estimates. Subaru hasn't confirmed the final numbers but I suspect "estimated" is as good as "it will make at least that much, maybe a little bit more." That should allow a 0-60 mph time in the low to mid 4 second range. To help keep things cool, a water-cooling system that sprays water on the intercooler can help keep max temperatures down. The system is operated manually with paddles behind the steering wheel and gives you a 2-second spray that's supposedly worth about 5 hp (presumably at peak temperatures).

Of course, more horsepower is no good unless you can use it. Thankfully, there's a bunch more goodies.

More than just stiffer springs, Subaru is stiffening the S209 chassis with additional bracing. There are two diagonal braces up front and another brace connecting the rear strut towers. The rear isn't just a piece of metal, though, it also includes springs to preload the chassis that should stiffen the rear suspension without upsetting ride quality that much. Lateral suspension links also lose bushings and get ball/spherical joints to tighten response and reduce deflection. But of course, a stiffer suspension is here too, with Bilstein dampers, stiffer springs, and a stiffer rear anti-roll bar.

To take advantage of the upgraded suspension and engine, there're bigger (and better) tires. The tires are bespoke Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600A tires measuring 265 wide all around, up front 245 on the standard car. The tires are wrapped around new forged 19" BBS wheels with more offset to widen the suspension track by 0.6" (approx. 15 mm). The wider wheels and tires require a wider body so wide-body front fenders and rear fender flares are present to widen the body by 1.7" (approx. 43 mm) along with side skirts to complete the wide-body look.

All the chassis and suspension upgrades allow the car to pull more than lateral 1.0 g on a skidpad. All of this should also work at high speeds, thanks to a larger rear spoiler and front dive plans/cunards. Better still, all the extra power and corner speed should be no problem to erase if need be, thanks to upgraded brake pads and brake calipers. The standard WRX STI comes with four-piston Brembo calipers in the front and 2-piston Brembo calipers in the back. In the S209, you get six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears, all made by Brembo

Subaru wanted to find out how well it worked on track so it handed a pre-production STI S209 to Car and Driver (C&D) to test at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) where C&D has been holding an annual track battle between the newest performance cars for over 10 years. That means there's a wealth of track data and lap times to compare to. The target was a lap time of 2:59.8, the same time a Cadillac ATS-V laid down - allowing it to handily beat the BMW M4 (which was nearly a second slower at 3:00.7).

C&D wouldn't release their best time. They'll do that later in the year. But they did give a "sneak peak". They were running only a tenth or two behind that target lap time of 2:59.8, meaning they easily beat a BMW M4 (with the dual clutch automatic and carbon ceramic brakes, no less). That also put it about 5 seconds ahead of the current most extreme WRX STI in North America; the WRX STI Type RA (RA stands for Record Attempt). Want to watch the S209 terrorize a race track? We'll have to wait until later. But, for now, you can look at the next best thing - the Type RA - hot lap at VIR.

Pricing hasn't been announced, but the Type RA cost nearly $50,000. All those upgrades, combined with Subaru's plan to sell "around 200", will likely jack the price up to near BMW M3 levels. Do you think it's worth it? It's hugely desirable, but I'm not sure if the value is there to anyone who isn't a die-hard Subaru WRX fan.

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