By on April 5, 2021

When the 2022 Subaru BRZ debuted last year, our general impression was that the second-generation coupe didn’t appear all that different from the original. While excellent news for those seeking a well-balanced, lightweight sports car that can be driven aggressively on public roads or serve as a solid foundation for any number of track-focused build projects, the manufacturer decided against throwing out curveballs. The car’s purpose remains unchanged, it’s just been remade into a better version of itself. But the BRZ’s fraternal twin, the Toyota GR 86, had a few more weeks in development with President Akio Toyoda rumored to have been pushing for modifications that would help differentiate the two models — much like the automaker did with the similarly related Toyota Supra and BMW Z4.

While limited to the same hardware as the Subaru, Toyota is claiming the new GR 86 makes a tad more horsepower and is hinting it could be the more serious sporting machine. Both of those claims remain unverified and, if the duo is anything like their first-generation, deciding which is the faster 2+2 car will have almost everything to do with which rubber is on the wheels and who’s been placed into the driver’s seat. But the pilot will have an alleged advantage of 4 horsepower in the 86, forcing the BRZ to bring in Subaru Tecnica International (STI) aboard to offer some enhancements of its own.

Again, the vehicles are mechanically so similar that it’s almost not worth their having unique badges. Toyota just gave its performance arm (Gazoo Racing) carte blanche to do some tweaking. In addition to the obligatory GR badging, that meant a functional grille and presumably an opportunity to modify the 86’s software — resulting in an output of 232 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.

In the Subaru, the shared naturally aspirated 2.4-liter boxer makes 288 hp and 184 lb-ft. But the brand seems to have been prepared for Toyota’s power play. Not long after news was shared about the GR 86 boasting a few more ponies, there was a release explaining that the BRZ would be getting STI performance parts that customers could use to enhance their vehicle’s road-holding abilities. Subaru explained that the items currently under development included a performance exhaust system, carbon-fiber wing, 18-inch BBS wheels, a new strut bar, and some visual garnishes.

With both vehicles likely to be priced just a hair under $30,000, however, the final decision will almost assuredly come down to visual appeal and brand preference. Without side-by-side comparisons of the two vehicle’s power curves and some closed-course testing data, we don’t actually know if the extra horsepower offered by Toyota actually makes for a faster automobile. Each car should be able to blow through 60 mph after about 6 seconds and keep on going until the speedometer closes in on 145 mph.

Those who enjoyed the 2.0-liter first-generation Toyobaru twins will be pleased to learn that 2.4-liter offers peak torque much sooner (3,700 rpm) on the second-gen coupes. While that does make for a superior straight-line assault, both companies said it would be most useful when coming out of the corners (helped further by the sub-2,900-pound curb weight). The standard cars will be running six-speed manuals with all the power going directly to the rear wheels, though an automatic boasting the same number of forward gears will be available. Subaru’s Eye-Sight suite of driving aids will also be an option.

Frankly, both cars seem massive improvements over their predecessors and have been made more visually distinctive from each other. The Subaru BRZ has this scrappy and happy Mazda MX-5 look while the GR 86 looks quite similar to the upcoming Nissan 400Z (name allegedly TBD). But the latest in the Fairlady Z saga is rumored to start at around $35,000 and offer around 400 horsepower. If that estimate turns out to be true, just about everything from the BRZ/86 to the Supra is going to be in trouble.

While nobody expects Nissan to offer the base Z with all the bells and whistles of a modern car (including the manufacturer), the coupe is supposed to bring the fundamentals and physics necessary to embarrass almost anything hovering around its assumed MSRP and more than a few vehicles priced much higher. That doesn’t necessarily make the vastly improved 86 and BRZ worse sporting vehicles. But some prospective customers will undoubtedly be swayed if the fee to get into a 400 hp, FR-RWD Japanese coupe means shelling out a few (dozen) extra bucks per month to Nissan. We’ll have to see how the Z shapes up and whether or not the Toyobaru coupes are all they’re cracked up to be, however.

The twins are supposed to go on sale in Japan this fall with the U.S. launch happening in the following weeks. Expect a more comprehensive update on their specifications between now and then.

[Images: Toyota/Subaru]

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19 Comments on “Toyota Shows GR 86 With More Power, Subaru Vows Aftermarket Parts for BRZ...”

  • avatar

    Unless the Z can make similar weight as these (not to mention their LeMans-car-low COGs), it will be a very different car than these attempts at making proper “sports cars.”

    All roadcars are way too heavy for street-speed sports cars these days. All that weight invariably dulls the connection between man, machine and road which makes sports cars so engaging. Hence, weight reduction now trumps near everything else, when it comes to making new cars engaging to drive in a sporting fashion.

    Back in the day, power was more elusive, hence mattered. Nowadays, as far as sports cars are concerned, adding ever more power is little different from stuffing 3000hp in a dump truck. Netting you a real fast, and no doubt expensive and impressive, dump truck. And not much else.

    • 0 avatar

      If lived in Appalachia or coastal California I could see going for a Miata or BRZ. However even the scenic roads around where I live are flat and straight so it makes something like a Mustang more appealing.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally, I still think there’s a bit of space on the continuum between “Ariel Atom” and “3000 hp dump truck” for current cars that are fun to drive.

      Weight reduction is great and should be applauded when manufacturers attempt it, but it’s not the only way to a dynamic or engaging vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      So obvious that “Toyaburu” is more interested in the product stacks than making a good car. A 2.0T with 225 HP and the same torque would fix all of this. Rather, they want to not compete with the Supra 2.0, and the WRX, respectively. This 2.4 engine for the next gen BRZ/86 is a turbo engine in the other applications. Why should the Subaru Ascent make more power than this wannabe sports car? If anything in my mind, it makes a good argument for a Mustang with the 2.3T. A 400ZX would just convince folks more to not buy the BRZ/86.

  • avatar

    Difficult cars to get in and out of. Think sitting on the floor while also below a 2X4 at the 2.5′ mark. I am spry and getting in and out of these was a chore.

  • avatar

    The Toyota is better looking. Fight me.

  • avatar

    I do wish they got the output to more like 250hp/200lb-ft
    There’s nothing wrong with a naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder sporty car but they should swing for the fences.

  • avatar

    If you see these as Miata competitors, this is great. The power improvements actually get them close to the Miata with the advantage of having the vestigial backseat. fold everything down and you can get your track tires in there for your autocross weekend, or shove the kids in there long enough to drop them off at school.

    As Ajla said if you live somewhere with straight flat roads there is likely little appeal in these vehicles. However somewhere curvy somewhere that you can exploit their handling and light weight these would be fun.

    I could see it being great for loading up enough luggage for a weekend for two in Santa Fe at one of the spa/lodges. Anniversary weekend celebration.

    As long as it stays in production, after the wife has gotten the BIG A$$ SUV she thinks she needs, I’d seriously consider it as fun commuter.

  • avatar

    I wish the Subaru version had 288 HP.. Maybe 228 is the correct number!

  • avatar

    The 232 hp is just the fudge factor between SAE net hp and the German PS so-called equivalent. The GR86 was also announced today in Europe at 232 hp, which is what provided the clue. So 228 hp it is.

    None of it will make the slightest difference if Subaru hasn’t removed the midrange flat spot that blighted the original Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ. 200 hp is one thing at 7200 rpm, but wobbling between 40 and 50 and back again over a 1500 rpm range centered around 3500 made the car useless in the pleasure-to-drive department. I tried three over the space of a couple of years, and then the automatic when I was bored waiting in service. It was better as an actually useful car, right up there as a star two-seater Corolla tin box.

    There are winding roads galore around these parts, but a zizzy fitful power delivery in the midrange sucked the joy of life out of this thing in manual form. The throttle response at 55 to 60 mph in fifth or sixth gear was nonexistent, except as an increase in the bag of bolts in a washing machine soundtrack level. A Honda or Mazda motor it was not, and 90% of the time you’re not going around trying to emulate Michael Andretti. Too damned annoying to drive on an everyday basis was my conclusion, three times in a row.

    Subaru have never been master tuners in the drivability stakes, and I’ve owned three. This was the worst attempt at powertrain flexibility of any Subie barring my ’88 Warthog Wagon EFI Turbo, which bucked and hiccuped randomly, but especially after the one-two shift, and it was an auto. Expect better is my motto. Worse than what you already own don’t cut the mustard. My Legacy GT ate the BRZ for brekkie as but a mere odd cereal morsel. Really underwhelming it was. My ’59 Volvo was a more willing and personable companion although dog slow by today’s standards, because of its linear power response with revs. Almost everything is. If you’re not going to turbo the engine, it had better be a model of naturally aspirated decorum, linearity and mechanical harmony, or what in hell is the point?

  • avatar

    As long as the torque dip is gone, I expect I’ll absolutely love the new twins. I drove an early FR-S, and thought it was great, even though it had the automatic. I was shocked how well that transmission worked in such an old-school sporting machine, but I guess that’s good because I’d probably be forced into the automatic if I buy one of these. My wife is balking at another stick shift (as is my left knee), and, perhaps even more importantly, that Eye-Sight safety suite is only available with the automatic. (Subaru does the same with the WRX–no Eye-Sight with the manual.)

    And that’s really a bummer. I definitely want FCW and AEB in my next car, and it’s irritating that Subaru and Toyota can’t (or won’t) pair it with a manual transmission, as Honda, Ford, BMW, and others have done. Maybe Toyota could differentiate the GR86 by pairing 6MT with its safety suite instead of using Subaru’s.

  • avatar

    I like the evolution of the front fascia. I’ve been crunching the numbers on a used 1st-gen 86 + B58 engine swap for my next project car. That might be far enough off that I could wait for one of these 2nd-gens to hit the <$10k price point as well.

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