Wednesday, September 18, 2019

APR Brake Cooling Kit for Subaru STI

As I venture futher into motorsports with my 2016 Subaru WRX STI, I try to find modifications that will help improve areas of performance to help reign in this car a little more.  Most of my modifications have been centered around improving engine performance and handling characteristics but I decided to tackle braking performance this time.  My car is still on stock STI Brembo 4-Piston Calipers with OEM brake pads but I decided to help those out with this APR Brake Cooking Kit for the 2015-2017 WRX STI.

The kit replaces the plastic fog light bezels in the front bumper with carbon fiber panels.  These special panels retain the stock Fog Light and Turn Signals in the bumper while adding a funnel that channels air through the bumper into a hose that redirects that air to the backing plate/dust guard on the back side of the brake rotors to cool them down while driving.  The idea is simple, but the execution is a little tricky.  Even with the supplied instructions, things weren't as cut-and-dry as I was expecting.

Fitment of the Carbon Fiber bezels was not perfect but, thanks to three bolts that anchor it in place, they were solid once they were fitted properly.  There are still a few minor gaps and areas that I had not expected, but they're not noticeable.  Also, the instructions and templates for trimming the bumper cover and crash bar were mostly correct, but additional trimming was needed to get things to fit properly.  No instructions were included to explain how the ducting should be routed or where to attach things beyond the Carbon Fiber inlets, so we had to get a little creative.  This was especially true for the drivers side as the windshield washer fluid reservoir was in the way.  Still, we managed to get around this on our own, though I would've preferred additional instructions to rely on.

Still, once everything was installed securely, things stayed in place and they've been working great so far.  No other fitment issues, rubbing, or quality issues have come up and the whole kit seems to be quite robust while still being lightweight thanks to the carbon fiber used for the inlet and outlet construction.  I'm quite happy with the end result and can't wait to push this car further!

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Return of the XT

The Subaru lineup used to offer a turbocharged option in nearly every model line at one point.  The Impreza had the WRX, the Legacy had the Legacy GT, even the Baja that only lasted for 4 model years had a turbocharged option.  But in the last decade, Subaru had seemingly watered down their more "performance oriented" options and left us with more economy-centered naturally aspirated options (with the exception of the WRX and WRX STI obviously).  The winds of change are in motion with Subaru, and we could be headed back to a the days when every Subaru has some turbocharged oomph offered under the hood.

The Return of the XT

Subaru has used the "XT" badge on several cars over the years.  From the XT Turbo Coupe in the 80s to the Forester XT offered from 2004-2018, this designation was usually a sign of a good time.  In 2019, Subaru said goodbye to the Forester XT option and I had wondered if this badge would be lost forever.  However, when the 2020 Outback and Legacy made their auto show debuts this year, both cars had replaced their 6-Cylinder Boxer engine options with a 2.4 liter turbocharged Boxer engine and, as such, brought the XT badge back with them.  In the Legacy, customers can opt for a XT model in the Limited and Touring.  In the Outback, the option for a turbo lies with the Limited, Touring, and the all-new Onyx level.  

At the heart of the new XT models lies a 2.4 liter twin-scroll turbocharged boxer engine with direct fuel injection making 260 horsepower and 277 for torque.  If those numbers sound familiar, that's because this is the same powerplant in the Subaru Ascent that came out last year.  This engine already delivers plenty of power in the Ascent, but with the lighter weight Outback and even lighter Legacy, that power is much more noticeable!  They deliver a much more invigorating punch than the previously offered 6-cylinder and can still use regular unleaded fuel.  On top of that, the new Outback and Legacy are built upon Subaru's new Global Platform design which improves safety, decreases noise and vibrations in the cabin, and sharpens handling.  When paired with the new turbocharged engine, this makes for a much more engaging driving experience that's especially fun in the Legacy.  

Subaru is taking strides towards making the Legacy and Outback more appealing to a younger audience, and these sporty engines could be the key to that.  While the Outback Onyx XT is geared more towards an adventurous audience, the "Legacy Sport" trim level in the lacks the XT geddup and go.  Customers can only get that turbo in the Limited and Touring levels for some reason.  Perhaps if the new turbocharged offerings from Subaru are well received, we could see the Legacy Sport earn it's badge. 

As with all of the 2020 Legacy and Outback models, these will feature an Auto Start/Stop system for the engine.  The 2.5 Liter Boxer Engine is the same as that in the 2019 Forester, which already has this system in place.  Tweaks have been made to the 2.4 Liter Turbocharged Boxer Engine to work with this system, as the Subaru Ascent did not have this feature.  The system can be disabled, but now that feature is tucked in the massive 11.6 Inch touchscreen on the new Legacy and Outback.  In fact, many features that were once physical buttons scattered throughout the interior before have now been organized within the new touchscreen.  That may be worrying news to those who have had issues with recent touchscreen glitches and software issues, but the new system has been completely redesigned and has much more processing power than the previous generation.  Subaru has worked with Denso to create the new radio and there are separate systems to handle infotainment and car features so they can run simultaneously without issues.

Probably the most unique of the XT offerings is the Onyx Edition.  Aimed at a younger more adventurous owner, the 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT features new "StarTex" upholstery with bright green stitched seams that’s water-repellent and hard-wearing to survive the adventures afoot.  There's also a front-facing camera to help with visibility in off-road conditions and a full-sized spare tire when things get gnarly.  While the Onyx XT lies between the Premium and Limited trim levels, the pricetag is no slouch, starting at $35,905, so it'll be interesting to see how many younger buyers will be able to afford such a rig. 

If you're a fan of turbocharged Subarus, there's a lot more options suddenly.  Of the models offered, the WRX, WRX STI, Legacy, Outback, and Ascent all have some power to lend their drivers, which accounts for over half of the models in Subaru's lineup of vehicles.  There's still hope for the Forester to be added to that lineup, but it'd likely be in the form of a STI-specific model if that does happen.  Whether you're just looking for more power in your next car or you're an enthusiast looking to make use of tuning and aftermarket parts in the pursuit of speed, there's a wider range of options to choose from in the Subaru stable.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Series.White WRX and WRX STI for 2020

On the one hand, fans expecting the 2020 WRX and WRX STI to be on the new Global Platform will have to wait one more year before that.  On the other hand, Subaru is releasing one more Special Edition for the 4th Generation platform before the switch is made next year.  This latest offering is a color variation, much like the Series.HyperBlue and Series.Gray special edition models released before.

The 2020 Subaru WRX Series.White and 2020 Subaru WRX STI Series.White will feature a new shade exclusive to this version: Ceramic White.  Unlike the Crystal White Pearl that has been offered since the 4th Generation WRX came out as a 2015 model, Ceramic White will be more of a pure color with no metallic or pearl in the paint.  Black details on badges, mirrors, wheels, and other accents will set off the Ceramic White exterior on both models.  Other details have not been confirmed yet, but it's safe to assume that Subaru will follow their formula used on the 2019 Series.Gray WRX and WRX STI models.  That would mean the WRX would be built around the "Performance Package" option with a few extras and the WRX STI would be built around the RECARO option package and, likely, have improved suspension.

2020 will also mark the release of the Subaru WRX STI S209, but that car has already been confirmed to wear the existing shade of white (pictured here).  The 2020 Model Year will mark the end of the 6-year-long run of the 4th Generation WRX platform, so the tried-and-true EJ257 under the hood of the WRX STI will hang on until the 5th Generation 2021 gives it a new FA-series-based engine.

The 2020 WRX and WRX STI will go on sale in the US in Fall of 2019, so expect the Series.White models to be available shortly after that.  Updated information will be shared here as it becomes available, so stay tuned!

Monday, January 14, 2019

So you want a STI S209?

In recent years, Subaru has been releasing more special edition cars in the US market.  From unique colors to heritage-laden badges, a noticeable increase in cars geared towards enthusiasts have been making their way across the pond.  Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Subaru WRX STI S209 is the latest of these to finally come to US shores for enthusiasts of STI to enjoy.

Released in limited quantities, the S209 will come in White with Gold wheels and World Rally Blue with Gray wheels.  At the very same auto show, the 2019 WRX STI Rally Car for Vermont Sportscar was unveiled showcasing World Rally Blue and Gold wheels, but the S209 likely skipped this to avoid confusion with the recently released 2018 WRX STI Type RA.

An extremely limited run of only 200 units are slated to be for sale, but no price was announced.  With even more features than the $50k Type RA released last year, don't be surprised to see a hefty pricetag for this monster.  However, the S209 is not all show and no go.  It packs 341 Horsepower into the final iteration of the classic EJ257 Turbocharged Boxer 4 Engine.  There's more changes under the hood to accomodate this power, including an upgraded turbocharger, forged pistons and connecting rods, and other intake and exhaust upgrades to make this the fastest STI to be unleashed on American soil.

The odd thing with the S209 is timing.  With many fans in the US expecting the 5th Generation WRX and WRX STI as a 2020 model to be released sometime this year, the S209 was announced to be released late in 2019.  It would be odd for dealers to be receiving 2019 WRX STI S209 Models potentially after the 2020 WRX and WRX STI start to arrive.

So how do you get one?

Normally you'd think you can just stroll up to the dealership and reserve one, but this won't be that simple.  In Japan, the S209 isn't just limited in production numbers.  Purchasing an "S" model is different, especially considering that it's technically not even a Subaru model.
"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."
Previous "S" models that had been sold in Japan were sold via a lottery to figure out who gets one, so don't be surprised if it takes more than just a willing enthusiast with a wad of cash to buy one.  Those lucky enough to afford one will need to be lucky enough to be selected to own a STI S209.

Stay tuned for more information on the S209!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Pastrana & Higgins RC Cars - 1:18 Scale

In February of 2018, there was a pre-order for a group buy of 1:18 Scale Remote Control WRX STI cars donning David Higgins' and Travis Pastrana's 2017 SRT USA Liveries.  These were originally offered to employees of Subaru of America and their retailers and were expected to arrive in August of 2018.  Being the massive rally fan that I am, I jumped at the opportunity and placed an order for both versions.  After a few delays through months of waiting, they finally arrived in December of 2018!

Produced by AeroPro Promotions LLC and distributed through Staples Promotional Products (who distribute most of the products for, these RC Cars are loaded with features.  A full assembly diagram and list of parts are included in the instructions.  Whether you get the red Travis Pastrana version or the blue David Higgins version, they come with their own 7.4V 1100 mAh rechargeable LiPo battery.  Included is a battery charger and a remote control dialed in to the specific car, so you could run both at the same time independently.  You'll need 4 AA batteries for the remote, but otherwise they're ready to go once you've charged up the included battery for them.  The cars have 4-wheel independent suspension and continuous All-Wheel Drive being fed power from the electric motor.  The specifications state that these cars can reach speeds up to 40kph, or about 25 mph.  They are admittedly quick and the rally-style tires they have seem to get grip on just about any surface.  It even states that these are Waterproof, though I don't know that I want to test this claim just yet!

The packaging and product look identical to the computer-generated images that were supplied during the pre-order period nearly a year ago, so I was impressed and surprised to see how accurate the initial projections were!  The Method Race Wheels, DirtFish, DMACK, and other logos are nice and crisp and they even have the correct Vermont license plates for each!  The only thing I find odd is the complete omission of any sort of names or numbers on the cars.  The boxes simply state that they're "Subaru Rally Team USA" and have accompanying photos of the cars on the boxes.  While the pictures on the boxes have their respective numbers on them, they have edited out any "Higgins" or "Pastrana" names that would've been on the cars.  Even in the Parts list, the shells are simply differentiated as "Red Car Shell" and "Blue Car Shell".  The omission of any names on them is really my only complaint, so it's not really the end of the world!

The only other thing to keep in mind with these is a slightly limited run time.  Under constant use, these cars will only last for about 10-15 minutes of use with about 4 hours needed to recharge the batteries.  The 7.4 battery is relatively small, so I'm not completely surprised by the limited running time, but it does leave you wanting more when they're spent.  They're a blast to drive around the house on carpet and flooring and even more fun when you can open up the throttle outdoors on pavement or dirt!  These things fly and they look fantastic!  Whether you're a diehard rally fan like me or just a RC car collector, these will certainly put a smile on your face.

As I mentioned earlier, these were a pre-order item only offered to Subaru employees when they were initially announced.  However, they have since been released to the general public through  Below are the links to both versions if you'd like to purchase them!

Red "Pastrana" RC Car
Blue "Higgins" RC Car

Saturday, December 1, 2018

RedFogo Racing: Nebraska Rally Team

A year or so ago I took my first step towards Stage Rally by attending a Co-Driving Course at DirtFish Rally School with Craig Drew.  All I needed then was an opportunity to race!  Turns out that it's tricky to find people in the Heartland of America to co-drive for... let alone find someone who knows what Stage Rally is in the first place!  Luckily, that has changed... and I'm getting ready for my first rally!

A friend of mine I know from NRSCCA Rallycross took the plunge and purchased a 2002 Subaru WRX that has been racing in Rally events for a few years now.  Known to some as "Bender", this car has changed hands a few times, but has ties to Nebraska.

Christy Carlson competed with this car in Regional and National level events for several years.  Everything from Sno*Drift to Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, Bender is a "Misbehaving piece of metal that bends the road to its will. And drinks a sh*t ton of gasoline. Smokes. All-around bad a** car."  It came into our hands in need of an engine and a willing team of newbies dumb enough to rally it again.  Luckily, Bender has found all of that with RedFogo Racing!

Under it's new ownership, Bender has undergone a bit of a facelift.  A 2006 Subaru WRX provided a new engine for us and, as it turns out, also provided a complete front and rear end to convert this car to "Bender 2.5".  To the untrained eye, this is a completely different car, but under that fancy Hawkeye body, Bender lives!

After a few successful test runs at local rallycross events, Bender was registered with the American Rally Association and is slated to compete at the 2019 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood!  Somehow, I've been entrusted to co-drive in this Franken-Subie... and I couldn't be more excited!

Stay tuned for more info as RedFogo Racing prepares for our first Stage Rally event next spring!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

ProClip Subaru WRX Mount

UntitledI've had my 2016 Subaru WRX STI tuned for awhile now, but I struggled to find a mount for my COBB AP Tuner that I liked.  Real Estate on the dashboard is already tough to come by in most cars and the mounting choices I had seen weren't really my thing.  I didn't wanna go the "tape it to the dashboard" route, nor did I like the idea of covering up an air vent to do it, and installing aftermarket gauges seemed like a hassle.  I wanted a simple solution that would look right, be sturdy, and put my COBB AP Tuner well within reach.  Then I found out about ProClip USA and saw a product that seemed like it would fit my criteria.  I thought I'd give it a shot!

UntitledIt's a pretty foolproof system for making just about any device easy to access and see.  ProClip USA's website lets you find a mounting plate that will work with your specific make and model car and then select the appropriate adapter plate to attach the device you want to use.  In my case, I got the ProClip Left Mount for my WRX STI along with the 2 Prong (Dual-T) Mounting Plate with Tilt Swivel to use with my COBB V3 Holster.   The ProClip mount comes with double-sided tape on the back side of each arm, but I didn't use it at first so that I could test-fit things and see what angle I wanted the mount to be at.  There were also four self-tapping screws included with the adapter plate that screw tightly into the mounting plate.  I found that attaching the adapter plate to the mounting plate was best when it wasn't attached to the car, so I was glad I hadn't used that double-sided tape to permanently install it just yet!

Things really fit like a glove when I installed everything.  The colors and textures on my STI's A-pillar matched up with the mounting plate great and the adapter plate connected with the COBB V3 Holster nice and tight.  There were no noticeable rattling or loose fitting parts, but it also was not so tight that you couldn't move things.  The swivel base on the adapter plate was easy to adjust and the 2 Prong mounts still let me detatch the COBB V3 Holster with minimal effort.  This was important to me, as I didn't want to struggle with making adjustments but I also wanted it to be secure.  The roads in my area are bumpy, uneven, and ridden with potholes so I was really pleased to see how well the ProClip stuff worked.

In the month that I've had the clip installed, I have yet to experience any issues with it.  October and November are transitional periods for weather here in the Midwest, and sometimes the back-and-forth mix of warm and cold days can cause creaks and rattles with the plastics used in Subaru interiors.  The ProClip Left Mount, Dual-T adapter plate, and the COBB V3 holster were steadfast all month long and continue to be.  In fact, the COBB Access Port accessories page even lists ProClip products like this one on their own website for the performance cars they tune with there.  Just recently I remembered that I still hadn't used the double-sided tape on the Pillar Mount, so I was even more surprised that it hadn't shifted or rattled at all for a month!  I went ahead and used the tape upon discovering this and, unsurprisingly, have still had no issues.


Based on my experience thus far I can easily recommend these products to friends after seeing how easily and seamlessly things have worked with mine.  There's a wide array of adapters and mounting plates available for a good numbe of vehicles.  Cell-phone holders, Navigation stands, really anything you want to put within reach in a secure fashion and the ProClip products should be able to achieve that with ease.