By on January 31, 2019

January was peppered with claims that the Subaru BRZ And Toyota 86 aren’t long for this world. Rumors, which began spreading last year, stated the models weren’t selling well enough for either brand to rationalize continued sales, and those rumblings came to a head during the North American International Auto Show. There, seemingly every outlet asked engineers and executives what’s to become of them.

This week, outlets began reporting that Japanese automotive tabloid Best Car is preparing an article for its upcoming February issue explaining that Subaru and Toyota have “deviated on their development policies” and plan to break their collaboration on the Toyobaru twins.

It makes sense. Both models, each in production since 2012 (and largely unchanged since), have underperformed in terms of sales, especially lately. But things aren’t as simple as they might seem. Subaru has already said that Toyota pulling out wouldn’t mean an “immediate death sentence” for the BRZ. Toyota clarified a few things since then, too.

Image: Subaru

Hoping to debunk rumors of the 86 coupe’s demise, CarScoops reached out to Toyota’s U.S. spokesperson, Nancy Hubbell. “As [Toyota CEO] Akio Toyoda said at the reveal of the 2020 Supra, Toyota is committed to building exciting vehicles, including sports cars,” she explained. “The 86 has been in the Toyota family since 2013 and the plan is that it will continue to be a part of Toyota’s sports car line-up.”

It’s a very similar answer to what we’ve heard from Subaru — reassuring, without being terribly committal. But we’re inclined to believe both Toyobaru models will exist for at least another year.

Still, that doesn’t disprove the claim from Japanese Nostalgia Car, drawn from insider knowledge, that the February issue of Best Car will cite reliable sources who will ultimately verify the future cancellation of both sports cars.

Image: Subaru

There’s also growing speculation that the smaller engine offerings in the Japanese-spec Supra make the existence of the 86 problematic in Asia. Meanwhile, Automotive News reports that the older coupe had a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving into a second generation — despite claims that both automakers were working on developing a successor just last spring. Add in some confirmation from Toyota that it is considering bringing back the MR2, possibly as the 86’s replacement, and sketchy rumors that Subaru may have a mid-engined secret in the works, and you can see where all of this could be going.

Akio Toyoda has previously referred to the Supra, Celica, and MR2 as the “Three Brothers,” noting that he’d like to see them all return if a proper business case can be made. That’s a lot harder for Toyota to do with the 86 in its lineup. However, were the model to be replaced by something similarly lightweight and fun (cough, MR2), maybe Akio’s business acumen will be satisfied.

[Images: Toyota; Subaru]

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48 Comments on “Live or Die: What’s the Real Deal With the Toyobaru Twins?...”


  • avatar
    Dario Sycco

    I like Subota so much better than Toyobaru.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I just can’t believe Subaru can’t redesign the front subframe to work with the turbo engine. How is it that every family econobox has a turbo motor, but this does not?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      The Toyobarus were never intended for a T4. Its so much more than just a front sub-frame. The entire car is designed around a particular set of power numbers and weight distribution and once you start going out of that range it tends to become more one dimensional (look no further than a classic muscle car or more recently the pervious gen GT500 which peaked at 662 horsepower on a chassis designed for really no more than 450 horsepower).

      One of the features touted by Toyota and Subara are the little coupe’s balance – it doesnt overwhelm any particular facet of the car’s design so the car is more enjoyable to drive.

      Adding a T4 with all the required support would change that along with curb weight and weight distribution. It would accelerate quicker most likely but every other aspect would be diminished – especially if the new engine reuqired beefier drivetrain parts and bigger brakes begetting bigger tires and so on.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “It would accelerate quicker most likely but every other aspect would be diminished”

        And, it would probably sell much better as a result. Sporty cars aren’t a huge market in the first place, but the people desiring *solely* “Jinba Ittai” is minuscule.

        I really believe what people wanted is just a Mustang but with #1 reliability scores. For some reason Toyota doesn’t want to wade into that segment though. And, they’ve had the likes of BMW and Subaru to do the lion’s share of the engineering.

        • 0 avatar
          theBrandler

          Can confirm, I’m one customer-who-isn’t because of this things lack of power. I very much do want a muscle car with Toyota reliability. Just like 99% of everyone else who buys a car, I’ve no intention of taking it to a track, so I don’t give a damn if it’s not track worthy, just so long as it’s balanced well enough that non-professional drivers like myself can enjoy it on the road without concern of wrapping it around a tree or telephone pole like Mustangs are so fond of doing.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Yes. Everyone who drives the GT500 wishes it had less power.

        • 0 avatar
          MoDo

          Lol @ Raph. You’re kidding right? One of the last times I was at a street car road race one of the fastest cars there was one of these “things” but with a 2JZ turbo motor and upgraded brakes and suspension. I won’t even get into the BS you said about the GT500.

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            Correct. There is no way adding a turbo would upset the “balance” of this car. Nor would it require massive changes. The aftermarket has basically done all the work already.

            I’ve driven one of these on tracks and thus can compared directly to my previous 350Z and my current Z51 ‘Vette. The 86 is gutless. That is the only way to describe it. I’ve driven plenty of 4 bangers as an ex Honda owner so its not some knock on the lack of cylinders. The 86 lacks torque but also lacks high reving too. Its just not exciting. Given today’s market where I can get a 300 HP Civic the 86 is doomed. Wave bye-bye.

      • 0 avatar
        ahintofpepperjack

        The Dodge Charger/Challenger were designed when the 2.7L V6 made 190HP. Now they’re dropping 800HP Supercharged Hemis in it.

        All these cars need is more power, they should be competitive with the turbo 4 Camaro/Mustang.

      • 0 avatar
        nvinen

        I added 40% power over stock on my car (different brand) and with better tyres and diff it manages it fine. Handling is the same as it was before.

        Lots of people add aftermarket turbos or superchargers with no obvious problems. If they can do it then surely Toyota and Subaru can.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Toyoda nearly confirms it, the 86 is 86’d.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Give it decent displacement and it would be perfect, 2.5T and it would be a much better entry level sporty car. Current anemic setup can’t even get people through the door at dealers to test drive it.

    But I’m beating the same dead horse everyone else has been beating since this was released.

    • 0 avatar
      theBrandler

      Yup, I am currently leasing another Toyota, so I’m at the dealer every few months for complimentary maintenance. Was offered to take an 86 out for a test drive. I declined, and the salesman asked why. I said, I said the van I’m leasing is faster than this thing in a strait line, and so is my Accord. This will just disappoint me.

      Deal with it Toyota, Americans like powerful cars. Period. End of story. Figure that out please.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Doesn’t Toyota have a large stake in Mazda? I’m just saying they have plenty of power trains at their disposal that could make this car something special. I don’t expect a twin turbo inline 6 but a high displacement 4 with a turbo with 260-300HP would be the perfect powertrain in this.

        • 0 avatar
          scott25

          Subaru has not one, but two of those. The 2.5 in the STI and the new 2.4 in the Ascent. Plus they have the advantage over anything Mazda can offer of having THAT exhaust note. It’s really not that difficult. But now there’s no point since it would just step on the Supra’s toes

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            The 2.5 in the STI would be a perfect fit imo. That would actually be a very interesting car being that the BRZ is RWD only.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Does Toyota have a purpose built sports car powered by a Toyota sourced engine? There’s the 86 powered by Bu and the Supra powered by BMW. Bring back the Celica and it can be powered by Mazda. There you have triplets a la the Tortuga Twins.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    It’d be perfect with Toyota’s 3.5L V6. It fits.

  • avatar

    It reminds me situation with Fusion, also barely changed since 2013 and also still lives another year. The problem is that new Fusion was under development and then suddenly management canned it.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    “and sketchy rumors that Subaru may have a mid-engined secret in the works”

    Can this be accepted with any credence? It would be a low-volume car that requires a clean-sheet design. Besides requiring engineering and financial resources that would be a stretch for a smallish company, it would also be going in a totally different direction for them.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    This was always too much of a Subaru. Toyota fuel injection and transmissions did nothing to address rattley Subaru doors with frameless door glass, best-selling Subaru head gasket, or ephemeral Subaru wheel bearings and axles. Now that the Miata has 181 horsepower, there really isn’t any need for this car.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Grow up.

      Stop it with the head gasket canard.

      2- nothing wrong with frame less glass. Plenty of cars have it.
      3- A new pile of BS flung against the wall. Bad Bearings / Axles.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    The next generation will still be under powered(non turbo, non supercharged) and rough riding. No AWD option either. It a primitive sport car for ever!

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Everyone says “more displacement would save it!” Including me

    Let’s be honest, the market for loud, cramped, impractical $30K coupes is just not very big. 370Z is old but not much older, and has the power people want… that’s not doing well either. Subota twins had their time and now it’s over.

    • 0 avatar
      trackratmk1

      As an ex 370Z owner, a car I absolutely loved to drive, it was a highly compromised DD, as are most sports cars. 2 seaters (or tiny 2+2s) with RWD and limited cargo space are never going to be a volume car because only total driving purists will make the compromises for one (never having friends in it, not enough room for stuff, needing to switch to snow tires in winter, etc).

      They make GREAT second or third cars however, which is why the Miata has always done pretty well… convertible affordable livable roadster fits the bill better for most than low visibility track focused coupes for a weekend toy. It’s a real tight rope to find a market for cars like the 370 and Toyobaru. Not really DD material, and if you can afford a second car you often look further upmarket. 911s and Caymans sell well as 2nd or 3rd cars to folks in the next couple income brackets.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        For better or worse (worse for the car companies I guess) cars like this are best bought used.

        I kind of wish manufacturers could cut a lot of the regulatory costs out of these cars and cut the prices down. At $30K these things are nuts. At ~$15K with no airbags, minimal sound insulation etc… I’d consider it. Still much safer than a motorcycle for example. And “track rats” will probably put their own track relevant safety equipment in. I’m thinking at this point that’s the only market these kinds of cars are relevant to.

        • 0 avatar
          theBrandler

          I’ve seriously wondered about this. There are states where things like side-by-sides are street legal. I live in one of those states. I can’t see why a stripped down cheap car, even one with only a roll bar for a roof, wouldn’t be possible in the $10-12k range. Literally remove all creature comforts and make it a road worthy side-by-side. Way safer than a bike, way more fun than any sports car, even on regular roads.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Yea, a tarmac focused side by side is exactly what I’m thinking of. Something like an Exocet Miata shouldn’t cost more than $15-20K to make and would be so much more fun than a normal sports car and safer than a motorcycle.

            I rode on the street for years but the risk/reward equation broke after I popped my track day cherry and had my first kid. Bike’s been sitting with parts to be installed for nearly 2 years….

  • avatar
    Ryan

    Price, IMO price is the biggest hurdle for the twins. Simplify both models. Two trims levels for each. Entry level costs $25,000 – top spec costs $28,000. Anything over these price ranges takes them out of contention. Both vehicles are wonderful, but overpriced.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      The biggest hurdle is what’s sitting next to the BRZ on the Subaru lot. For a little more you can have a WRX, more power and more practicality. The number of people who are going to buy a BRZ for fun and a separate Impreza for dailying is less than the number of people who would rather just lump the two together into one car.

      • 0 avatar
        trackratmk1

        Ding ding ding! Nailed it

      • 0 avatar
        theBrandler

        A little more? Have you actually looked up the prices? Right now in my area, brand new 2019 WRXs are $24-25K. I’m looking at 6 them on the screen right now. The cheapest 2019 BRZ is $27k, and there is only one for that price, the rest are $29k and up.

        So you walk into a Subaru dealer, are you going to pay more for less and get a BRZ, or less for more and get a WRX?

  • avatar
    craiger

    95% of what annoys us about manufacturers is that 95% of car buyers don’t know anything about cars.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Well for what it’s worth statements like this demonstrate enthusiasts don’t know anything about normal people and real life. The list of reasons nobody wants a BRZ is long and legitimate. Loud, cramped, uncomfortable, impractical, slow, hard to get in and out of, only nice to drive in conditions 99% of people will never see (twisty roads and race tracks).

      Bear in mind I drove and absolutely adore these cars… my buddy’s 86 is one of the best cars I’ve ever driven, including a Ferrari 458 at the track…. but even I wouldn’t buy one. You give up 99.999% of everything for that 0.001% circumstance where conditions are perfect. No thanks, WRX please

  • avatar
    RSF

    These are great kid cars on the used market. They look cool enough and they are so slow that they can’t get into trouble with them.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      You make a fair point. I am certain they will suck in the snow without some serious tire help and weight in the back so junior won’t be driving all over in the inclement weather. Can’t carry a bunch of his friends with him either along with the final bonus of it can be had with a MT so his buddies won’t know how to drive it.

      Add in that it is most likely a safe car, viewed through the lens of my first car 83 mustang gt…equally as slow and a total POS, coupled with reasonable reliability. I like it.

  • avatar
    HelloWorld

    Toyota and Subaru had the right idea in 2012, but they ****** up the design of these things. They look like toys.

    Next time they go and try to come up with an exciting affordable sports car design, they oughtta ask Mazda’s designers or hire some Italian design company.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I think they look great. The sad reality is the form factor of these just doesn’t lend itself to big sales. These cars demand commitment that just isn’t feasible for many or necessary for driving enjoyment.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Really no “meaningful” update since 2012 (I didn’t say no updates, I said meaningful updates – don’t get hurt fanbois), and launch delayed as it was. It’s a nice platform but including development and launch delays it’s pushing a decade old. Toyota already declared it a flop…globally…including in mother Japan.

    Most automakers would have taken it out back and shot it by now. No way on earth Toyota/Subaru recovered their development costs.

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