A Subaru WRX STI S209 test mule flanked by Subaru’s 1998 WRC rally car at Fuji International Speedway.
Photo: Aaron Brown/Jalopnik

The recently-unveiled, track-slaying Subaru WRX STI S209 adopted the company’s top-level S-line branding, but it nearly went a step beyond that, with the almost-revival of a 22B-like name.

While getting pictures of a pre-production prototype version of the STI-built, 341 horsepower S209 model at the company’s 30th-anniversary event at Fuji Speedway in early March, myself and some other journalists noticed something peculiar on the car. There was a branded plaque on the center console below the shifter, just like normal, but instead of reading “S209,” the plaque on this test mule read “25B.”

Huh!
Image: Aaron Brown/Jalopnik

Yes, that’s right. 25B. You know... like the ultra-legendary, supercar-beating Subaru 22B from the late ‘90s.

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When I asked about the mismatch, Subaru explained that it considered giving the “25B” name to the new model, but felt it would be more appropriate to stick with the S-line naming scheme. Subaru North American business planner Yoshihide Yano seemed a bit frazzled when we noticed the strange plaque, but he explained the decision stemmed from higher-ups who were concerned about how the car would be sold in America.

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A Subaru WRX STI S209 on display next to an Impreza 22B at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2019.
Image: Justin Westbrook/Jalopnik

“[Subaru] executives discussed [what] this car should be called...because it’s the first U.S. car [from STI],” Subaru North American business planner Yano told Jalopnik.

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Yano wouldn’t explain deeper than that on why the company shied away from the “25B” branding, except for explaining that it was what Subaru used for internal development purposes.

Subaru spokesman Ron Kiino added some clarity in a followup email.

“Given the history of STI’s limited-edition models (22B followed by S201 through S208), it simply made sense to name the next car in sequence the S209 – especially since the car is US only and US-based STI fans have been clamoring for an S model for years,” Kiino told Jalopnik in an email.

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So does this all mean the S209 is the spiritual successor to the 22B—the one true Subaru god? Sure. Maybe. Subaru at least thinks so, or did, just not enough to tell it to Americans.