Palmer Motorsports Park will not be for the faint of coronary heart. Over its 2.three miles, this 14-turn monitor options 190 toes of elevation change and, should you’re operating it within the clockwise configuration, difficult late apexes that take without end to point out up. It could actually make mincemeat out of a automotive that is not ready to combat for each mote of grip.
Fortunately, I’ve simply the machine: The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209.
Ninth time’s a allure
STI’s “S” vehicles reside atop the hierarchy, a tier above the standard STI we’re used to in america. The primary of those vehicles, the S201, arrived in Japan in 2000. The seven vehicles that adopted it have all been Japan-only specials, too, due to the way in which they’re constructed. The “donor” vehicles are nonetheless constructed at Subaru’s normal facility, however then they’re plucked from the road and despatched to STI’s personal in-house specialists for extra modifications above and past the mass-market autos.
It is that modification course of that has sometimes relegated these vehicles to Japan alone. Within the course of of adjusting components right here and there, the autos are not eligible for US import underneath our nation’s homologation guidelines, that are among the many strictest. Given the groundswell of fanatic assist right here, although, Subaru lastly noticed match to take the time to get its newest “S” automotive to the US.
In response to the automaker, this required lots of of checks and an equal variety of paperwork — emissions checks, crash checks, sturdiness checks, the entire 9 yards.
A radical remodeling
It does not take a lot to find that STI closely modifies its “S” autos, even compared to a few of its hotter variants just like the WRX STI Kind RA.
“S” vehicles promise the strongest connection between the motive force and the street, and lots of the modifications on the S209 are in pursuit of that aim. The physique wears wider fenders, one of many best mods to notice at a fast look, which permits the S209 to suit fatter wheels and tires, rising the contact patch and, by proxy, mechanical grip. Canards on the entrance bumper and the adjustable wing out again assist push the physique towards terra firma, whereas an almost obscene variety of vents and inlets search to channel air extra effectively, aiding cooling.
Lots of the S209’s most vital components cannot be seen with out digging somewhat deeper. Up entrance, there’s this particular bit referred to as a versatile draw stiffener, which makes use of a bar and spring mixture to laterally agency up the chassis, decreasing the time between turning the wheel and turning the automotive itself — this intelligent little piece of chassis tech is borrowed from STI’s Nurburgring 24 Hours race automotive. There is a second versatile draw stiffener within the trunk, too, protected by a pink bar in order that homeowners do not by accident smack the factor when loading up the trunk.
The pink bar itself does not do something aside from defend the precise draw stiffener behind it. Higher secure than sorry.
That is simply the beginning. Out again, STI changed among the suspension’s rubber bushings with onerous hyperlinks containing spherical joints, which the corporate says will scale back friction and enhance the contact between the rear tires and the asphalt. Shifting again to the entrance, STI took its entrance stabilizer bushings and eliminated the slit that makes them a lot simpler to put in, decreasing deformation underneath load at the price of set up complexity. The carbon fiber roof sheds eight kilos of weight and ever so barely lowers the middle of gravity whereas, once more, stiffening up the physique. Mixed with sticky Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600A summer season tires, the S209 guarantees a most lateral G of 1.08, which is mighty grippy.
And I have not even talked concerning the powertrain but! The S209 makes use of Subaru’s 2.5-liter EJ25 flat-four engine, chosen over the standard 2.Zero-liter present in newer “S” vehicles as a result of the EJ’s low-end torque is healthier suited to American roads. Like every part else on the automotive, the engine has been gifted with a complete bunch of latest package, together with many components from the S208 just like the exhaust valve springs, flywheel and clutch meeting. A brand new consumption improves the sound and reduces stress loss. A bigger HKS turbo is tucked away in there, too, elevating most increase to about 19 psi, and bigger injectors and a beefier gas pump guarantee there’s loads of gas to go along with that air. Whereas Subaru promised cast pistons when the automotive made its auto present debut, it determined to stay with solid pistons, which vastly enhance sturdiness based on inner checks.
The result’s an output of 341 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. The dyno curves are fairly totally different, with the S209’s torque coming on-line later within the revs because of the turbo’s bigger measurement. STI was thorough.
On the street
My first expertise with the S209 comes on the drive from our lodge within the Berkshires to Palmer Motorsports Park. From the primary time I flip the steering wheel, it is apparent that STI’s severe chassis mods have dramatically improved the steering, eliminating practically each millimeter of the wheel’s “lifeless zone.” Even probably the most gossamer of touches on the steering wheel lead to lateral motion. Mixed with the hydraulic steering’s honest-to-goodness suggestions, it is among the finest steering techniques I’ve ever skilled.
Naturally, the super-stiff physique does imply that the S209 is somewhat harsh over sure sorts of pavement, and the large ol’ tire contact patches switch a wholesome quantity of street noise into the cabin on rougher streets. But, every part settles down properly when the S209 reaches clean pavement, appearing not a lot totally different than a regular STI.
The S209’s seats have respectable facet bolstering, however the thigh assist does not exist for skinnier people, resulting in some sliding round throughout sprightly maneuvers.
The inside is, in conventional Subaru vogue, principally fantastic. There’s loads of visibility on all sides, and the honkin’ wing out again does not obscure total autos, which is a pleasant contact. Plastics abound, however STI threw in some leather-wrapped components on the dashboard and heart console for a barely extra premium contact, reflecting the leather-trimmed seats. The seats are most likely the weakest level of the entire automotive, missing the decrease bolstering wanted for high-speed antics — Subaru instructed me that Japan-spec “S” vehicles have far tighter seats, however because the S209 was constructed for America, the automaker needed to sacrifice a few of that bolstering to accommodate Yankee badonkadonks. The seats are additionally mounted surprisingly excessive, they usually’re unable to get as low to the ground as I would like.
STI’s powertrain prowess is on show within the S209. The changes are instantly felt, with the facility approaching robust, accompanied by a meaner exhaust word because of a revised exhaust system. The sedan hustles with confidence via visitors and round curves, and its six-speed guide gearbox has 10% shorter throws that add a pleasant feeling to the stick. The clutch pedal’s chunk level is relatively excessive, which takes some getting used to, nevertheless it’s nothing that point and expertise cannot clean out. I like to recommend the softest automobile mode, Clever, when driving round city, as a result of the throttle is way too sensitive for clean driving within the default Sport or hardcore Sport Sharp modes.
On the monitor
Palmer Motorsports Park is a wonderful place to check out the S209, particularly in its clockwise configuration. Difficult double-apex turns and a complete lot of uphill driving means the automotive’s all-wheel-drive system is incomes its hold, clawing on the floor via the tires to tug the automotive out of some difficult conditions.
Earlier than I set out, one among STI’s Japanese engineers offers me a advice for set the automotive up. Sport Sharp mode is usually acceleration-oriented, so it is best left within the default Sport mode, the place the throttle is sensitive however not an on-off swap like it’s in Sport Sharp. He additionally recommends altering the locking heart differential’s automated mode to supply further rear bias, decreasing among the automotive’s understeer in favor of a better proclivity for rotation. It is undoubtedly a very good advice, because it permits me and my co-driver to tilt the S209’s nostril towards an apex with a slight raise off the throttle.
Grip all over the place.
All these aerodynamic upgrades may give the S209 a little bit of a Quick & Livid look, however scorching rattling, are they helpful on the monitor. The canards and the broader rubber make for a prodigious quantity of grip — each time I believe I am reaching the restrict of adhesion, I will give it somewhat extra throttle and discover the tires are nowhere close to maxed out. Chris Atkinson, an Australian rally driver who Subaru dropped at the occasion, backs up my assertions together with his personal reward for simply how planted the S209 feels when it is hustling. The immediacy of the steering combines with this grip to make the automotive really feel rattling close to invincible in a approach that the common STI and even the Kind RA don’t.
When it comes time to cease, physics as soon as once more takes a backseat to STI’s engineering competence. Whereas the S209 makes use of the identical Brembo brake system as the bottom STI and Kind RA, it options heavier-duty pads that intention to scale back fade. There are tradeoffs, naturally, coming within the type of extra mud and noise, however them’s the breaks. Each cease begs me to attend somewhat longer and push somewhat more durable. Together with the tires, it is among the sharpest, most assured braking I’ve skilled in a passenger automotive. After 12 severely fast laps between me and my co-driver, the S209’s brake pedal feels solely marginally totally different than after we began the day. Backup pads are all the time a good suggestion to carry to a monitor day, simply in case, however the Subaru’s stoppers are greater than able to deal with a pair hours of abuse with room to spare.
All the way down to brass tacks
Subaru is bringing simply 209 examples of the S209 to the US, its sole market. Deliveries are anticipated to start round November, however the automaker continues to be sussing out the small print of which sellers will obtain them. Pricing can also be TBD, nevertheless it ought to arrive inside the subsequent couple of weeks, and given the actual fact the Kind RA prices round $50,000, I am not anticipating the S209 to be low cost. Whereas Subaru mentioned it discourages seller markups, dealerships are impartial companies which have loads of leeway to tack on a “market adjustment” or two, so these 209 fortunate consumers may find yourself paying way over what Subaru places on the window sticker.
The 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 will not be right here to half-ass something. It is a devoted efficiency automotive that exhibits off each inch of what STI’s engineers can do. Should you by no means go to the monitor, you would be doing this automotive a disservice by proudly owning it.
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