Subaru BRZ revealed with 228hp – and no turbo

Naturally aspirated boxer, six-speed manual and stiffer platform bodes well for 2021 Toyota GT86

By Sam Sheehan / Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Subaru has unveiled its 2021 BRZ with a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre boxer engine and a body structure said to be 50 per cent stiffer. That means 228hp and a likely improved handling from the second generation 2+2 sports car, which, unlike its predecessor, isn’t headed to Britain. The American reveal is a sign of what’s to come with Toyota’s second generation GT86, though – and from what we’re told in the US release, there’s plenty to get excited about.

For starters, the engine's lack of a turbocharger is a surprise. It pretty much confirms what we previously assumed – that Subaru’s decision not to bring the BRZ to Europe relates to its need to keep fleet emissions down here. It doesn’t have hundreds of thousands of hybrid sales to soak up the CO2 of a sporting model in this region – unlike Toyota. It means the four-cylinder is a revvy alloy lump, producing its 228hp at 7,000rpm, while 184lb ft comes at 3,700rpm.

Clearly, this is to remain a sports car in the traditional sense, prioritising handling balance over outright performance. It’s affirmed by Subaru’s decision to mount the 2.4-litre unit even lower in the bay than the old 2.0-litre motor, bringing the car’s centre of gravity closer to the ground. That, along with the more rigid structure of the two-door body, points to an enhancement of the original formula. No complaints there, obviously. Same goes with the gearbox choices; as standard the BRZ comes with a six-speed manual, while a six-speed auto is an option.

The rear-drive car gains a standard limited-slip differential, while the traction control now has variable levels of assistance. The standard size wheel is 17 inches, but the higher-grade Limited model gets 18s. In its entry trim, the BRZ weighs 1,277kg, which is barely 20kg more than the old car, and the wheelbase is 2575mm, just 5mm more than the Mk1. It’s exactly the same width at 1,775mm, and runs on MacPherson-type struts up front with double wishbone rear suspension, said to provide “outstanding bump absorption”.

The looks are similarly evolutionary, with a familiar silhouette bearing new lights and bumpers with somewhat racier features. Inside is where the biggest gain have been made, with a much more cohesive dash design sporting a larger infotainment screen (of course) and a digital instrument cluster. Most importantly, the sports seats look to be mounted nice and low in the new structure (driving position was already a strong suit) and the enthusiastic launch pictures suggest no change in the car's intent.

Everything looks pretty much spot on from where we’re sitting. And while it's disappointing that the Subaru version will not be sold on these shores, it means Toyota's half of the equation will be something well worth looking forward to. It’s due next year – and means that the manufacturer will be able to offer a faster and better handling GT86 alongside the GR Supra and new all-wheel-drive GR Yaris. We can't think of anyone doing it better.

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