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1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STI brings JDM to Detroit Auto Show

The S209 is Subaru’s next best STI model, but the 22B is its most iconic.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

The new 341-horsepower 2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 debuted at the Detroit Auto Show flanked by a couple of cars from STI's past. To one side of the new special-edition Subie sat the first STI to be sold in the US, a 2004 Impreza WRX STI. And on the other was a 1998 Impreza 22B STI, which arguably is the most noteworthy production STI model built to date.

Subaru produced the 22B in 1998 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Subaru and celebrate the company's third consecutive World Rally Championship constructor's title. The model name's "22" came from the 2.2-liter displacement of the heavily massaged engine under the hood and "B" from the company's internal designation for turbo.

The 22B is no slouch with 280 horses.

Steven Pham/Roadshow

Compared to the 2.0-liter engines found in other Imprezas from the period, the 22B's engine not only got a bump in displacement, but a closed deck, upgraded heads, forged pistons and increased boost. Output punched in at 280 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque and worked with a five-speed manual gearbox with an improved dual-plate clutch and driveshafts. The suspension sports Bilstein shock absorbers, Eibach springs and aluminum control arms.

Visually, the 22B's color scheme mimics the iconic 555 livery found on the WRC rally cars with a WR Blue paint job, gold BBS wheels and red STI logo.

Like many Japanese vehicles of the era, the 22B was forbidden fruit to car enthusiasts in the US and sold exclusively in Japan. Two of the 400 produced somehow did find their way to the US with the example on display in Detroit owned by Subaru of America.    

With the arrival of the STI S209, Subaru's first STI "S-Line" car to be officially sold to the US, any other potentially really special models like the 22B in the future hopefully will be available in showrooms here, too. That's not to say the States has been totally deprived of limited-run STIs. Below are the most recent ones that we've been able to enjoy here.

2018 Subaru WRX STI Type RA

Until the S209, the Type RA was the most substantial of the limited-edition STIs to land in showrooms here. Compared the regular 2018 STI, the RA's engine got a 5-horsepower bump to 310 thanks to a remapped ECU, a new intake, pistons, sodium-filled valves and a freer-flowing exhaust system. Sharpened handling comes courtesy of a specific set of Bilstein dampers.

A carbon fiber roof and wing set the Type RA apart from standard STIs.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

To save weight and change up styling, it got a carbon fiber-reinforced plastic roof, carbon-fiber adjustable rear wing, restyled rear bumper and lightweight BBS wheels. The interior got standard Recaro sport seats and red seatbelts.

Only 500 Type RAs were produced.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Series Gray

Throughout the years, Subaru has been good about bringing special STI models that wore some special visual changes, but void of performance enhancements. The latest is the Series Gray rocking a gray khaki paint job, gloss-black badges, black wheels and silver brake calipers. Recaro seats and a push-button starter complete the upgrades on the inside.

Like all 2019 STIs, the Series Gray's engine is tweaked to produce 310 horses like the Type RA. That was up from the previous 305 rating.