Subaru BRZ: How low can you go?

By Alastair Sloane

Subaru BRZ Sports Coupe. Photo / Supplied
Subaru BRZ Sports Coupe. Photo / Supplied

The BRZ will forever be a rear-drive, two-door flyer, writes Alastair Sloane

Don't expect an all-wheel-drive version of Subaru's BRZ sports coupe - the low-slung design means there is no room up front for the carmaker's trademark symmetrical all-paw set-up.

The 2-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine has been pushed so low and as far back as possible behind the front axle to improve the car's centre of gravity that a front differential simply won't fit.

The BRZ will forever remain a rear-drive two-door, sitting apart from the carmaker's all-wheel-drive mission statement. That's one of the reasons why Subaru in New Zealand and Australia haven't yet decided if the BRZ will appear Downunder.

Subaru Australia says it will make a decision later this month. Subaru NZ chief Wallis Dumper is in Japan and is likely to rule on the BRZ on his return next week.

What is clear, however, is that the coupe will almost certainly be available as a soft top.

A Subaru product-planning chief told reporters at the Tokyo Motor Show: "Everyone who sees this coupe wants a convertible. If demand is enough, they can have it."

But there won't be a turbocharged version of the flat-four engine. A Subaru engineer admitted a booster would be "difficult because of the [engine] packaging".

"It was not wanted, anyway," he said, adding that the development team preferred an engine with a "a rev-happy nature".

The BRZ was developed jointly with the Toyota GT 86, also unveiled at Tokyo. Toyota Australia is expected to launch the GT 86 in mid-2012 but there is no word from Toyota NZ.

The BRZ and GT 86 four-seaters were designed to have one of the lowest centres of gravity. The engine in the BRZ was positioned even lower than other Subaru models. The engine and the driver's hip point in the GT 86 are the lowest of any current Toyota production model.

Subaru supplied the 2-litre flat-four boxer unit, but Toyota equipped it with its direct-injection system. The engine is identical, right down to the joint Toyota-Subaru engine cover in both models.

It delivers 147kW at 7000rpm and 205Nm at 6600rpm and drives the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and a limited-slip differential.

The BRZ's dimensions are also identical to the Toyota 86, at 4240mm long, 1775mm wide and 1285mm high, with all major metal panels - including the lightweight aluminium bonnet - a match. The BRZ's kerbweight is 1220kg, against 1180kg for the GT 86. Both coupes have a 53:47 front-to-rear weight distribution.

The joint project began in 2008 in a meeting between product chiefs of Toyota, Subaru and Daihatsu. Toyota wanted a sports coupe to inject excitement back into its product range and Subaru was looking at adding to its go-fast Impreza-based line-up. The chiefs agreed: Toyota would manage the product planning and styling of the proposed coupe - codenamed 086A - while Subaru would be responsible for the engineering and production.

The major differences between the Toyota and Subaru variants are in the plastic bits - the bumpers, grille and side-skirts - and the lights front and rear.

- NZ Herald

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