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It’s Official This Time: Subaru Reveals the Production BRZ

Is racing in the new sports car’s future?

by on Nov.30, 2011

Subaru's new sports car, the BRZ, gets its long-awaited introduction.

It may not have been the longest gestation in automotive history but it was beginning to feel like it, both Subaru and Toyota staging seemingly endless advance looks at the new sports car they’ve been jointly developing.

Now, the long wait has finally come to an end, the two Japanese makers staging separate news conferences at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show to reveal what their efforts have wrought.

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Despite some earlier indications, there’s relatively little difference between the Subaru BRZ and its step-sibling the Toyota 86 (which will be called the GT-86 in Europe and Scion FR-S in the States).  Stretch and you’ll spot some modest tweaks that offer slight distinctions between the two models.  But there isn’t much else to differentiate them – if that matters – beyond the Subaru’s bumpers and a side air intake that replaces an “86” badge on the Toyota.

The bumpers are different, but not much else.

The two makers are hoping it won’t to most potential customers and Subaru, which did the lion’s share of the engineering work, especially on powertrain components, believes this could deliver the shot the brand needs to come out of the shadow of its bigger partner-cum-rival.

Significantly, if there are those who are upset about the BRZ they’re griping that the new 2+2 sports car will be the only member of the Subaru product family to lack all-wheel-drive, something that has itself helped distinguish Subaru from the rest of its competitors.

Toyota's 86 - which will go on sale as the Scion FR-S in the States.

Here, the 197-horsepower 2.0-liter boxer-four engine drives the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential.  Subaru (and Toyota) will offer customers the choice of either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

(For a look at the Toyota 86/Scion FR-S, Click Here.)

By moving the engine back – and down – the development team delivered a vehicle with one of the lowest centers of gravity on the market and a 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution.  At about 2,600 pounds, those 197 horses and 151 pound-feet of torque should deliver some significant thrills.  There’s been talk of a more powerful turbo version but officials from both companies are playing that idea down – if not dismissing it outright.

A race car version of Subaru's new BRZ.

Performance numbers have yet to be released, though the Subaru BRZ apparently has a top speed of about 140 mph.

Taking aim at a segment now dominated by the Mazda Miata, Subaru clearly envisions the BRZ catching on among club racers.  The rear seats fold down and there’s apparently room for a set of racing tires to be stuffed into the back.

Prior to the car’s official Tokyo unveiling a Subaru official excitedly pointed out the race concept version of the BRZ at the back of the maker’s stand.

Will Subaru be able to overcome concerns about the lack of AWD with the BRZ – and then find a way to crawl out from under the weight of Toyota’s likely massive marketing efforts?  That remains to be seen – but if reaction to the Subaru BRZ’s road manners proves as positive as the response to its design this could be prove to be one very significant introduction.

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