By William Maley
This year was to be the final Detroit Auto Show to take place in January before the big move to an indoor/outdoor festival of sorts next June. Despite a number of manufacturers announcing they would not be at the show, there was some hope for there be to a surprise. Something that would allow the current incarnation of the show to go out with a bang.
That did not happen.
It was thought that Chevrolet would roll out the long-awaited and rumored mid-engined Corvette. But those hopes would be dashed as rumors came out that the project would be delayed up to six months due to a problem with the electrical system. It also gave Toyota a sigh of relief as the Supra wouldn’t be overshadowed by the Corvette - see the Ford GT eating up the attention from the Acura NSX a few years back.
Even with the anticipation of the Supra coming to Detroit, there was nothing that could be described as being memorable. Most of the vehicles that were revealed seemed to be somewhat phoned in.
We knew a lot about the Supra including how it would look and what would power it before it arrived on stage. CEO Akio Toyoda actually mentioned in the press conference that it was “one of the industry’s worst kept secrets.” The refreshed Volkswagen Passat was eclipsed by news that a second plant and 1,000 jobs would be added at Chattanooga, along with becoming a sponsor for U.S. Women’s, Men’s, and Youth National teams. Infiniti’s QX Inspiration concept didn’t actually appear at the presentation. It was stuck in the lobby of Cobo Hall due to some sort of malfunction.
The announcement talking about Ford and Volkswagen’s new alliance? The stage appearance was canceled late on Monday. Instead, we got a conference call and press release providing the details. The big talking point at the show wasn’t about the show. Over the weekend, a water main broke which put most of Downtown Detroit under a boil water advisory. This caused a lot of headaches for visiting media and automotive executives as would have to use bottled water to brush their teeth or wash their hair (this was something I heard a few people mentioned on the show floor). Luckily, I saw this new before heading down to the show and brought a couple liters of water with me to use for tea and brushing my teeth.
But the water main break serves as a good metaphor for this year’s Detroit Auto Show. It felt a bit discombobulated with a number of manufacturers being MIA and organizers trying to figure out what to do. There was also a noticeable lack of energy surrounding the show. Going into the media center at Cobo, I was expecting to be filled with various journalists and other media. To my surprise, it looked and felt the second day of the show where there was a surprising amount of open space to sit down and begin working. Being on the show floor was the same story. I was amazed at how easily I was able to get photos of cars that had been unveiled only 20 to 30 minutes without having to fight a number of people to get a decent shot.
There is a lot riding on the move to June next year with organizers planning something like the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. There promises to be the ability to ride and drive various new vehicles, self-driving vehicles being demonstrated on public roads, “dynamic vehicle debuts,” and much more. A number of automakers and executives have praised this move.
"I always thought it made sense for Detroit to showcase itself when the weather's nice. All the international press comes here in perhaps our worst weather month of the year. I don't know how many rodeos we can have coming down the street in January,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford earlier this week.
I wished that shared the same enthusiasm as a number of people with the show moving to June. Call me skeptical or cynical, but I get the feeling that the move will not solve the issue that face a number of automakers; making the case to spend the money to attend another show. A recent piece in Wards Auto says it costs more than million dollars to hold a 25-minute press conference according to sources.
“…due to exorbitant rates for sound and video production, lighting, drayage, special effects, food, drink and union labor to set up chairs, lay carpet and build ramps for drive-on vehicle unveilings.”
The past few years have seen more and more automakers hold their own events off-site as they are not only cheaper but allows them to control the message.
“We can go and create an atmosphere on Sunday night at the Garden Theater for less money and for what we think is an equal or better return on our investment,” said Terry Rhadigan, executive director of communications at General Motors to Wards Auto.
I think back to a conversation I had last year on the show floor with a friend. I was mentioning how I was feeling somewhat bored and he asked how many Detroit Auto Shows I had attended.
“I think this is my fourth or fifth,” I said.
He paused for a moment before saying that was usually around the time someone begins to feel burnt out and wanting something exciting to happen. This popped into my head while walking around the show on Monday as nothing really grabbed my attention in terms of new debuts. There were some bright spots such as Kia Stinger GT police vehicle from Australia and the Toyota Yaris WRC on the show floor. But aside from these and few other vehicles, I felt a bit down. Maybe I had grown weary of the show itself and the noticeable departures of various automakers only compounded it. Or maybe this was the manifestation of a trend that the auto show I had come to know was coming to an end and was only beginning to realize it.
2020 will be an interesting year to say in the least as organizers begin a new chapter in the auto show’s legacy. Whether it works out or not remains to be seen.
Pic Credit: William Maley for Cheers & Gears
By William Maley
Subaru has been keeping their S-series of WRX STI vehicles in Japan since the first model (the S201) was launched in 2000. But today at the Detroit Auto Show, Subaru has decided to treat us by bringing over the S209 to the U.S.
Under the hood, STI has overhauled the EJ25 2.5L turbocharged boxer-four engine with an HKS turbocharger, revised intake system, forged pistons and con rods, and less-restrictive exhaust. Output has increased 310 to 341 horsepower. Torque remains at 290 pound-feet. In a nod to the 2004 to 2007 STI, Subaru has fitted an intercooler water spray system controlled via steering wheel paddles to cool down the intercooler. A six-speed manual routes power to all four wheels.
For the chassis, Subaru has widen the track by 0.6-inches, upgraded the Bilstein dampers and bushings; added 0.8-inch rear anti-roll bar, fitted a handful of stiffening braces and bars, and a set of 265/35 Dunlop GT600A summer tires wearing 19-inch BBS wheels. Subaru claims this gives the S209 more than 1.00 g of lateral grip.
The exterior is much more aggressive with wider fenders to allow for additional cooling, rear-fender vents to reduce drag, under spoilers all around the vehicle, and a large rear wing.
No mention on price, but we're expecting it to be near or above the $48,995 for the last special edition WRX STI to grace our shores - the Type RA. There will only 200 models built for the U.S., either wearing WR Blue Pearl with gray wheels or Crystal White Pearl with gold wheels.
Gallery: 2019 Subaru WRX STi S209
Subaru Tecnica International Unleashes Most Powerful Model Ever With Limited-Edition STI S209
Debuts at 2019 North American International Auto Show First-ever STI-crafted S-line performance vehicle sold in the United States Limited production run of around 200 units Available exclusively in the U.S. 341-horsepower (est.) 2.5-liter SUBARU BOXER engine Aggressive new look with wide fenders, front canards and rear wing Performance-focused chassis with flexible strut tower bar and draw stiffeners Exclusive 19 x 9-inch forged BBS® wheels with bespoke Dunlop® SP Sport Maxx® GT600A tires Brembo® brakes with new high-friction pads Available in two exterior colors: World Rally Blue Pearl and Crystal White Pearl January 14, 2019 , Camden, N.J. - Subaru Tecnica International (STI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Subaru Corporation, today introduced the limited-edition STI S209, the first-ever S-line STI product produced exclusively for the U.S. market. As an S-line product, the STI S209 encompasses upgrades in power, handling, aerodynamics and driver engagement, and undergoes final assembly in Kiryu, Japan, where it receives engine modifications and bodywork alterations that in total require it to be homologated for the U.S. by STI; thus, the S209 is considered the first “STI-built” Subaru sold in the U.S. The S209 carries on a high-performance tradition that dates to STI-built models that were exclusive to the Japanese domestic market – the 2000 S201 through the 2018 S208.
Designed with a focus on high-performance driving, the S209 draws inspiration and tech transfer from STI’s most formidable track machine: the WRX STI Nürburgring Challenge racecar, which won the SP3T class at the 2018 24 Hours of Nürburgring, marking the fifth time STI dominated the SP3T class at the grueling endurance race. The S209, like the Nürburgring Challenge racecar, wears an expanded wide-body exterior treatment, which extends the vehicle’s overall width to 72.4 inches, or 1.7 inches wider than a standard WRX STI. The bulging fenders accommodate wider front/rear tracks (+ 0.6 in front/rear) and 265/35 Dunlop® SP Sport Maxx® GT600A summer-only tires wrapped around lightweight 19 x 9-inch forged BBS alloy wheels. The all-new tires, developed exclusively for the S209 by Dunlop, are a significant contributor to the car’s tenacious maximum lateral grip of over 1.0 g. Vents on the front fenders provide additional engine cooling, while vents on the rear fenders rectify air turbulence to reduce drag. Brembo brakes, with cross-drilled steel rotors and 6-piston monoblock front calipers and 2-piston monoblock rear calipers, provide stout stopping force, thanks in part to upgraded high-friction pads that deliver improved fade-resistance.
Underneath the S209’s broader body are specially developed Bilstein® dampers, stiffened coil springs, a 20mm rear stabilizer bar and pillow-type bushings for the front/rear lateral links. The S209 incorporates reinforcements to the front crossmember and rear subframes and, a la the Nürburgring racecar, a flexible front-strut tower bar and flexible front/rear draw stiffeners. The flexible tower bar, unlike a conventional rigid 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. Meanwhile, the draw stiffeners apply tension between the body and cross member to optimize chassis flex, improving stability when cornering and delivering better ride, handling and steering response. Other Nürburgring racecar tech that trickles down to the S209: front, rear and side under spoilers; front bumper canards; and carbon-fiber roof panel and rear wing.
A thoroughly reworked version of the legendary EJ25 2.5-liter turbocharged BOXER engine propels the S209. Featuring an STI turbocharger manufactured by HKS®, the EJ25 serves up an estimated 341 horsepower, thanks in part to a larger turbine and compressor (up 6 and 8 percent, respectively, compared to WRX STI) as well as maximum boost pressure that has been increased to 18.0 psi (16.2 psi for WRX STI). Proudly displaying an S209 serial number plate, the enhanced BOXER engine utilizes forged pistons and connecting rods that are both lighter and stronger. Midrange torque, too, gets a notable bump, up 10 percent at 3,600 rpm, delivering higher corner exit speeds when driving on track.
For ultimate driver engagement, the S209 comes exclusively with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission that routes power to a full-time Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system with front/rear limited-slip differentials, a Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD), Active Torque Vectoring and Multi-Mode Vehicle Dynamics Control. A recalibrated SI-Drive system offers three modes: Intelligent (I) for improved fuel economy and smoother power control; Sport (S) for optimized power balance between response and control; and Sport Sharp (S#) for achieving the best acceleration times. STI engineers recommend Sport over Sport Sharp for circuit driving, as the less aggressive throttle map allows for greater driver control.
To feed more air to the EJ25, the S209 uses a high-flow intake system featuring a new intake duct, induction box with conical air filter, silicone turbo inlet duct and, a nod from the 2004-07 WRX STI, an intercooler water spray system that lowers intercooler temperature via manually operated steering-wheel paddles. More air demands more fuel, so the S209 receives a new high-flow fuel pump, larger fuel injectors and an STI-tuned engine control module. High-performance mufflers deliver 17-percent less airflow resistance while larger hand-polished stainless-steel exhaust tips – 101mm in diameter – deliver aggressive appearance and acoustics.
The S209 receives multiple tweaks to elevate it from other STI sedans. An STI badge replaces the traditional Subaru star cluster on the center of the D-shape steering wheel, which is wrapped in Ultrasuede® with silver stitching, a treatment that carries over to the lid of the center console storage box. An S209 serial number badge resides on the center console, and S209 badges adorn the passenger-side dash and the headrests of the Recaro® front bucket seats, which feature new silver-hued inserts. Outside, special S209 badges are affixed to the front grille and fenders as well as the rear decklid.
Only around 200 units of the STI S209 will be built, earmarked exclusively for the U.S. Available exterior color/BBS wheel combinations will be WR Blue Pearl/gray wheels and Crystal White Pearl/gold wheels. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date in late 2019.
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