2019 Subaru STI S209 first drive: Elusive and exclusive

Palmer Motorsports Park is hidden away in southwest Massachusetts, three hours from both Boston and New York, a short jaunt from its more famous New England brethren, Lime Rock Park. When we were children, we no doubt created roadways through sandboxes with the palms of our hands; the park’s Whiskey Hill Raceway was apparently designed in the same carefree way. You climb the mountain across unsettling chicanes, wind your way uphill past tumbled cliffs of beige granite, and on your way back down stretches the hills of the Berkshires before your windshield, sparks of autumn poking through the foliage. Nearly every corner is blind, cresting a hill, or both. The apexes are so distant they might be located in Quebec. The racetrack has a Gran Turismo fantasyland feel to it, an appropriate setting for a car once considered “forbidden fruit.”
With 341 hp, the S209 is Subaru’s most powerful production car to date. The bigger turbocharger is made by HKS, with a 65 mm compressor wheel and maximum boost of 18.9 psi. Originally, the S209 was supposed to have forged pistons and connecting rods, a first for the EJ25 engine, but durability problems emerged during testing. Upgraded fuel injectors, intake, fuel pump and ECU allow the S209’s huge turbo to inhale prodigiously. The free-flowing exhaust ends with tips hand-polished in Tsubame-Sanjo, where craftsmen have been making knives for centuries. 
At Palmer, the STI development team often emphasized how the S209 was STI’s biggest project to date. Much of that thought was put into the S209’s chassis. To wit: in the trunk is a delicate linkage known as a draw stiffener, protected by a beefy crash bar painted STI’s signature red. There is one up front, too. Both Nurburgring-derived features for some S-models now, they apply moderate tension to the chassis to get the car to stick. The S209 boasts shocks by Bilstein and wheels by BBS — though the signature World Rally Blue comes with matte silver wheels instead of the de rigueur gold, surely a point of contention. Dunlop developed its 265-width SP Sport Maxx tires exclusively for the S209. The carbon-fiber roof not only saves 8 pounds but lowers the center of gravity by 2 millimeters. The wing has two adjustment positions. All the vents and canards work. Official numbers are 60 miles in 4.94 seconds, lateral grip at 1.08 gs.