Subaru BRZ (2012) - more on FT-86's shy sister

Subaru BRZ (2012) - more on FT-86's shy sister

By Mark Hamilton

Motor Industry

26 September 2011 09:42

Since the joint venture between Toyota and Subaru was announced in 2009, we've seen four concept cars from Toyota of its version, the FT-86/Scion FR-S. But barring some unfortunate-looking Impreza based engineering mules, we've yet to see the Subaru edition.

That situation didn't change at the recent 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, where Subaru once again exhibited the rear-drive platform of what we now know will be called the BRZ with a transparent bodyshell rather than production panels.

But Toshio Masuda, Subaru product planning senior general manager and the man in charge of developing the BRZ, gave CAR some extra details on the upcoming mystery coupe…

Is Toyota or Subaru leading development?

If you want to see mild-mannered Subaru executives frown, feel free to mention rumours that Toyota is taking the lead in  development work of the BRZ/FT-86. Masashi Uemura, Subaru's deputy general manager of corporate communications, emphatically denied that the upcoming sports cars were Toyota-led, pointing out that platform and drivetrain development, production engineering and final assembly of both cars was handled by Subaru at Subaru facilities.

To prove his point, he showed video footage of FHI boss Ikuo Mori attending a winter test session of BRZ prototypes at Subaru's Bifuka proving grounds in Hokkaido. In terms of motor show noise Subaru may well seem to be a silent partner to Toyota, but the firm insists it has played a major role in developing the BRZ/FT-86 twins.

Why isn't the BRZ all-wheel drive?

The initial concept for the FT-86 and BRZ came from Toyota, which wanted a rear-drive compact sports car. But although Subaru have a strong history of all-paw performance cars, it has no plans to build a four-wheel drive version of the BRZ. Instead, Masuda-san and his team have treated the BRZ as a challenge in vehicle dynamics. Developing optimum traction, power output and handling for the rear-drive BRZ provides lessons which Subaru's engineers can apply to its regular all-wheel drive models.

And before you ask, no, Masuda-san says Subaru have no plans to add a turbocharger to the BRZ's direct-injection FA20 2.0-litre flat-four engine.

Will the BRZ platform underpin other Subaru models?

The 'Boxer Sports Car Architecture' platform is bespoke for the BRZ and FT-86 and won't be shared with future Subaru models, officials tell CAR. However, lessons from developing the platform, with its super-low 450mm centre of gravity, could well appear in the next generation of Subaru vehicles.

Is the BRZ going to look like the FT-86?

For a company showing a see-through display model, Subaru representatives remained frustratingly opaque about what the BRZ will look like when it's unveiled at the Tokyo motor show in December 2011.

However, given the general shape of the 'BRZ Prologue' model and shared production of both the BRZ and FT-86 on Subaru's Gunma production plant in Japan, sensible money would be on a fairly similar glasshouse and central body for both models, with brand specific front and rear styling.

Does the BRZ mean we might see Subaru back in motorsports?

Subaru fans have been mourning the firm's withdrawal from the WRC in late-2008, and lamented the works rally link to roadgoing performance Subarus. Although the firm's customer teams have continued to wave the Subaru flag, most notably in the PWRC (which Subaru driver Hayden Paddon won in 2011), at the Nurburgring 24hr race (where a WRX STI finished 21st and won the SP3T class) and Japan's Super GT 300 class (where R&D Sport compete with a Super GT Legacy B4 saloon).

Earlier in his career, Masuda-san had worked in the UK with Prodrive on motorsport and performance projects such as the Impreza STI 22-B limited edition rally replica. Would we see the BRZ appearing in Super GT, FIA GT3, GT4 or a similar motorsports role?

'If you're interested in motorsports, you should definitely come and see us at the Tokyo motor show' was the grinning engineer's reply…

The Subaru BRZ is scheduled to be officially unveiled in production form at the 2011 Tokyo motor show on November 30, 2011, going on sale in spring 2012. We can only hope the late-blooming production BRZ is worth the wait.