New Details Emerge for 86/BRZ Successor: More Power, Newish Name

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Thanks largely to its status as a niche product, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ have been on deathwatch for years. But their saving grace as stellar machines to drive has kept them from being abandoned. The Toyobaru Twins still receive quite a bit of love, even if the affection is not spread around all that liberally. Despite this, both models are expected to receive a successor.

While a quick glance at their sales record makes this seem like a losing strategy, Toyota remains obsessed with rebuilding its reputation within motorsport (often with help from another manufacturer). Toyota head Akio Toyoda has even expressed a personal dream of returning to an era where the company has revived — or replaced — its most iconic performance models. The Supra and 86 are already here, leaving room for the Celica and/or MR2. Ditching the 86 would be a step backwards, even if it only moved 3,398 units in the United States last year — its worst showing to date.

According to Autocar, the next BRZ/86 is in the midst of development and a few details can already be set in stone — soft stone, like alabaster — for its successor. The first big change involves some rebranding.

Originally dubbed the Scion FR-S for its North American launch in 2012, the model was renamed the 86 when that brand folded — bringing it closer to naming strategies used in other parts of the world while making better reference to the AE86. While that often included a FT or GT prefix, its successor will swap those for one that ties it in with Gazoo Racing.

Thus far, GR’s passenger cars have stayed primarily in Asia, with a few being shipped to Europe to promote brand awareness. Meanwhile, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has remained the division synonymous with performance here. But that could soon change. The Supra is sold globally as the “GR Supra” and Gazoo has created a global presence by entering into racing events around the world. It’s not a stretch to imagine the 2nd-generation coupe carrying the GR86 name everywhere its sold.

Autocar claims the next BRZ/86 will be built around Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA), which is already used by practically every model in its current lineup:

While Toyota underpinnings will be used, Subaru is expected to once again take the lead with powertrain development. Autocar understands the car is likely to retain a flat-four ‘Boxer’ engine, with reports in Japan suggesting that the existing 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit will be switched for the turbocharged 2.4-litre powerplant currently used in the Ascent, Legacy and Outback models.

That should provide fans suggesting the current Toyobaru is woefully underpowered with some much needed rest. The presumed engine makes 260 horsepower (at 5,600 rpm) and 277 lb-ft of torque (starting at 2,000 rpm) in the Subaru Legacy. By comparison, current BRZ/86s make 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque with the manual transmission and a bit less with the automatic.

The downside is that this will likely result in a higher price tag and greater curb weight. But Toyota, which seems to be leading the charge, won’t want to step on the Supra more than it has to. Japan already has a bargain-basement variant of its flagship coupe with under 200 hp, requiring the brand to be extra careful in how it handles the 86. Expect both of the twins adopt a few new creature comforts the current generation lacks, without trying to become truly plush. The 2+2 twins need a dash more mainstream appeal and refinement, without sacrificing the dynamics that makes them stand-out models. Rear-drive should be maintained, and we’ll just have to pray the same is true for there being a manual option.

We’re excited for the vehicles and the prospect of Toyota bringing Gazoo Racing westward. The 268 horsepower and 273 lb-ft Yaris GR is just begging to become a local legend. There’s even a petition ( you could sign) to bring it to North America. If not, the new Toyota GR86 should be sufficiently thrilling in its stead… unless you prefer the Subaru.

[Images: Toyota Motor Corp]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • AnalogMan AnalogMan on Jan 16, 2020

    Many of the interweb critics have probably never owned or driven a BRZ. The internet brings out a lot of armchair experts and bench racers. The issue with the BRZ is that people expect it to have Corvette power. It’s not that kind of car. Think of it as a hardtop Miata. Because that’s what it is. If you grew up with the classic sports cars of the 60’s and 70’s, MBG, Triumph, Opel GT, Fiat 124, Sunbeam Alpine, first generation RX-7, etc., then you’d see how the BRZ captures the soul and fun of those old-tyme sports cars. The BRZ is not a “numbers” car. If you want to brag about 0-60 or quarter mile times at the gym or after work at the bar, it’s not for you. It’s for people who care about sheer driving fun, about getting goose bumps from a car being hard-wired straight into your central nervous system, of feeling your hands directly connected to the road in a way that few other current production new cars can match. In other words, a Miata with a roof and more interior space. It would be nice to have another 50-ish hp and 50-ish ft-lb of torque. The 2.4 turbo from the Ascent, or the 2.0 turbo from the WRX, would be perfect. But the BRZ is already so much faster and vastly more capable than any of the 60’s/70’s sports cars ever were. Most of those ‘sports cars’ at the time had around 100 hp. 205 hp was an impossible dream that no one even talked about. A souped-up ‘race’ engine might put out 125-150 hp. 205 hp was unimaginable back then, even with the primitive turbochargers of the day. Yes, it doesn’t have a mountain of torque. So what? The Honda S2000, Miata, and Formula 1 cars aren’t known for being able to pull tree stumps out at idle either, and few people complain about them not being fun to drive. In the BRZ, you have to actually know how to use a clutch pedal and shift lever. It just feels special to drive. Mazda uses the phrase ‘jinba ittai’, ‘horse and rider as one’, to describe the Miata. The Miata is a great car, but I think it applies just as much to the BRZ. Instead of griping about how 'underpowered' the BRZ is, I would think true gearheads would recognize it for what it is - a gift from Subaru and Toyota. For the few thousand a year that they sell, they can't be making much money on it. So, to all those armchair experts out there who say they want a pure, simple, lightweight, naturally aspirated, RWD, manual transmission sports car that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, I suggest, go out and actually drive a BRZ or 86 while you can. Someone at Toyota might decide that there’s not enough of a business case to be made for a manual transmission with the next-generation BRZ/86 (like they did with the Supra). Otherwise, for those that don't buy a BRZ/86, maybe they should just stop complaining when there aren't any cars like it around.

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    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jan 16, 2020

      "It’s not that kind of car. Think of it as a hardtop Miata. Because that’s what it is." Lots of seat time in both to include owning multiple Miatas of all but the ND generation. It is fun in its own right, but is not a hardtop Miata by any stretch. Not that that is bad, but it is different.

  • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on Jan 16, 2020

    I'm skeptical they would use an engine from an SUV in a sports car. Its character is at odds with the goals for the car, the displacement is not tax friendly for markets where that matters, it would make it similar to the Supra, it might bump the price out of the "affordable" range. As almost everyone in this thread has noted, it needs an engine that is more fun, not necessarily with more power. The WRX engine would make more sense, but I'm not sure if Subaru has anything that would do the job. Toyota could do better with a small NA inline four; do they have anything that can be longitudinally mounted?

  • 2ACL Not as bad as some have quipped, but half the appeal of a sport compact is the car on which it's based. The Ion was one of the worst in segment, blunting the outreach of GMPD's work. More marginalization hit in the form of competitors evolving into some of their most compelling interations. $8.5k? KBB tells Joe Average to aim for half that. Within the context of those specifically interested in this model, the magic words for asking more than market seem to be 'Competition Package.' If the best the seller can do in a short ad is vaguely reference aftermarket audio, they don't deserve a premium.
  • The Oracle I can’t wait to see the UAW attempt to organize the Chinese plants when they come.
  • Redapple2 They strove to excel and improve in this era ( on the cheap? ). They gave us Saturnasty and Northstarubish and the F150 grew in dependability and features over the Silveradoffal. -gm- a legacy of utter garbage.
  • Tane94 Yes and yes to both questions. GM and Fird have long used built-in-China components in their vehicles -- the GM 3.4L engines used in past SUVs being just one example. Why is the US so scared of China's manufacturing prowess? Why is the US so scared of China's ascendency to world super-power? Look at China's high speed rail network, including mag-lev trains, and then US trains. I would buy a China-built vehicle with no trepidation.
  • Theflyersfan Adding to what Posky said (and for once, I kinda agree with what he wrote), and as an auto enthusiast it kills me to think this, but why should auto makers care about enthusiasts any longer? Hear me out... It can be argued that the first real enthusiasts were those coming home from WW2, having served in Europe, and fell in love with their cars. And Detroit responded. That carried over to the Boomers and Gen X. The WW2 generation for all sakes and purposes is no longer with us. The Boomers are decreasing in number. The first years of Gen X are nearing retirement. After us (Gen X), that's when we see the love of cars tail off. That was the generation that seemed to wait to get a license, grew up with smart phones and social media, got saddled with crippling home and student debt, and just didn't have the same love that we have. They for the most part are voting on do-all CUVs. Yes, automakers throw us a bone with special models, but they tend to be very expensive, saddled with markups, high insurance rates, and sometimes rare. Looking at you Audi and Lexus. Friends of mine who currently have or have just raised teens said their kids just don't care about cars. Their world is not out in the open and enjoying the moment with the roar of the engine. It's in the world they created for themselves at their fingertips. If they want bland and an appliance, that's what will be built.