The highly anticipated rear-drive sports coupe has the right stuff for great handling.
For an automaker that has made its name building all-wheel-drive cars, Subaru has caused a lot of buzz at the 2011 Tokyo Auto Showwith a rear-drive model. It helps that it’s the long-awaited sports car jointly developed with Toyota, which will sell it as the Scion FR-S. Subaru claims credit for the engineering of the car, with each company doing its own fine tuning and, of course, exterior and interior design.
Subaru engineers begin by emphasizing how they have created a sports car with a eye toward getting the center of gravity as low as possible and minimizing the polar moment of inertia. This is not a sports-car version of the Impreza, though that car was used as a reference point for the BRZ. Engineers were also going for light weight, the target some 2770 lb.
Let’s start with the engine, which is similar but not identical to the 2.0-liter flat-4 in the Impreza. Some might remember when developing 100 horsepower/liter was race car stuff, but Subaru does it with the BRZ, 200 bhp at 7000 rpm and 151 lb.-ft. of torque between 6400–6600 rpm, though with strong torque numbers lower down the rev range. Inside the direct-injected engine are square 86-mm dimensions for bore and stroke, chain-driven camshafts and a compression ratio set at 12.5:1. The exhaust system has been designed to amplify the good noises when needed, but quiet down for cruising.
As part of the engine design, some of its external pieces were created so the powerplant could be located well rearward and low, part of that low center of gravity exercise. The transmissions were also reworked to minimize size and maximize placement and, thankfully, the BRZ gets a real transmission instead of the Impreza’s CVT. Asked if there was any way to adapt the expected Subaru all-wheel drive to the BRZ, we were told it’s not possible as the lower, more rearward engine placement would mean the front driveshafts would have to sprout from the engine’s sides. Then again, we were told the engine’s position makes it difficult to do a turbocharged version, but we’d bet good money there will be one.
Power spins to a Torsen limited-slip differential, backed with a double wishbone suspension that has some Impreza roots. At the front are MacPherson struts, while the steering has electric assist, a ratio of 13.0:1 and a tilt and telescope wheel. The disc brakes are inside 17-in. wheels with 215/45R-17 tires.
Subaru proudly points out the BRZ’s center of gravity is lower than aFerrari 458 Italia’s, and its polar moment of inertia is lower than that of a Porsche Cayman S, achieved with the help of short body overhangs front and rear, and a radiator tilted rearward to minimize height. That 2770-lb. weight target was also a concern, leading to an aluminum hood and high-strength steel in the roof.
It’s a spiffy-looking car, with good fender muscles and a Zagato-ish double-bubble roof profile, which adds interior height and body stiffness. Naturally, the shape has been optimized for downforce and low drag. European versions will have a drag coefficient of 0.27, while ours will be a bit higher.
Inside is a rather simple (not plain) interior, the 3-gauge cluster with a tachometer at its center (there’s also a digital speedometer in that central dial). The seats’ H-point was also set lower than usual and those seats will be covered with cloth or leather/Alcantara. The BRZ is billed as a 2+2 and we can’t wait to try the back seats. Honest.
Wanting to encourage their owners to use their BRZ for more than commuting—and likely taking note of the Mazda Miata culture—Subaru has designed the BRZ so that with the rear seats folded it can carry four tires, a helmet and a few tools for gymkhana fans. You can even install a rollcage without major modifications. Or, for the less adventuresome, a pair of golf bags.
We can expect to see BRZs in the U.S. around May with prices starting roughly in the neighborhood of $25,000, including a nav system with a 6.1-in. display.
|Fuel system||direct injection|
|Horsepower (SAE) rpm||est 200 bhp @ 7000|
|Torque||est 170 lb-ft @ 6400-6600 rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd manual, 6-spd auto|
|Curb weight||2770 lb|
|Steering type||power rack & pinion|
|Suspension, f/r||MacPherson strut/double wishbone|
|Tire size||P215/45R-18 f, P225/45R-18 r|