The Subaru BRZ lives on – as will the Toyota 86. There’s a new engine – but these twin sports cars haven’t changed as much as many predicted they would.
Subaru this week debuted the second-generation BRZ sports car in North America ahead of an on-sale date there in the second half of 2021.
Rumours that the next Subaru BRZ – and its twin, the Toyota 86 – would move to Toyota’s TNGA modular architecture have been put down with the confirmation that the 2022 BRZ and 86 represent a deep facelift and mechanical update. They’re not all-new.
While there’s no turbocharger on the new BRZ, the engine will be upgraded to Subaru’s 2.4-litre naturally aspirated flat four-cylinder, producing 170kW of power and 250Nm of torque. Those outputs represent increases of 18kW and 45Nm when compared to the outgoing vehicle’s two-litre four.
The new engine redlines at 7,000rpm – respectable, though down 400rpm on the outgoing motor – while the choice of a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed torque converter automatic will remain.
It is possible that a turbocharged version of the new generation will arrive later, in the form of a Toyota 86 GRMN or a Subaru BRZ STI – but we’ve basically been saying that for the last eight years, since the first 86 and BRZ were introduced.
Underneath modernised and slightly softer styling, the dimensions of the new BRZ have grown – though not in the way you might expect. It’s longer by 25mm at 4,264mm, with 5mm of that in the 2,575mm wheelbase. The new BRZ retains its slinky width so it will be wieldy on technical tarmac.
Subaru have dropped the overall height by 10mm, though it isn’t clear whether that’s from the suspension settings or new sheet metal. The updated BRZ styling has us divided here at Chasing Cars; it looks wicked from some angles, but awkward from others.
There are new bumpers, guards and a new double bubble roof, but the glass-house has had to remain the same – like the Nissan Z Proto – which has resulted in an awkwardly tall cabin. Also obvious is Subaru’s retention of the previous doors.
Subaru says that many of the styling decisions were made with aerodynamic efficiency in mind, including that fantastic new ducktail spoiler. We aren’t so sure about the gawky front end, but will wait until we can see the BRZ in the flesh for full comment. Hopefully the styling will grow on us.
Purists can relax a little knowing that the top-spec BRZ – badged as the Limited in North America – should tip the scales at 1,276kg with the six-speed manual. Still heavier than a Mazda MX-5, and up 24kg from the previous model, though that’s respectable considering the extra gear on board.
A common complaint about the existing engine related to its imperfect torque curve. It appears this characteristic will change. The original BRZ needed 6,000rpm on the clock to generate its 205Nm – and there was a notable ‘torque hole’ as it reached that point. The new 2.4-litre engine develops its peak of 250Nm at 3,700rpm, – and Subaru suggests that the torque dip is substantially reduced, if not completely eliminated.
More good news is a crisper tune for the automatic gearbox, with the six-speed manual likely to stay the default choice. A limited-slip differential will be fitted to every BRZ, too.
The BRZ/86 twins have never struggled with poise, and the new car looks to build on that with a 60 per cent increase in torsional rigidity up front. The Macpherson strut front suspension and double wishbone rear are retained, as is that ultra-low centre of gravity.
Subaru has made the choice to upsize wheels on the ‘Limited’, which will now use 18-alloys, though with the same cookie cutter 215mm wide tyres. Lower trim cars still get 17s. The stability control has been revised as well, with five selectable settings to better flatter the driver.
Aside from the torque dip, our biggest criticism of the BRZ was the interior. Inside the new car is a seven-inch digital driver’s display with the same performance info as before. There’s a larger, crisper eight-inch touchscreen that now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The layout is much the same – it’s clearly the same car underneath – and the material quality doesn’t look to have improved much, though we’ll comment when we’ve sat in one.
For the first time in a BRZ, the ‘Limited’ trim will be fitted with Subaru’s Eyesight safety suite in the US. Subaru has not confirmed what functionality will be included, but anything would be an improvement over the spartan first-gen car which lacked even autonomous emergency braking.
BRZs will start rolling out of the Gunma plant in Japan – not far from the venerable Gunsai Touge – with sales set to start in the seconds half of 2021 in North America. Australian information is yet to be confirmed.
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