The Subaru BRZ sports car has been unveiled in production form at the 2011 Tokyo motor show, though the Japanese brand’s local subsidiary has still to decide whether it will import the coupe to Australia.
Subaru’s new BRZ is part two of the so-called ‘Toyobaru’ compact sports car project shared with Toyota, and its reveal follows just a couple of days after the virtually identical Toyota 86 made its public debut at Japan’s Fuji Speedway.
Subaru Australia says it will make its call before Christmas, but says the decision is in no way influenced by the pricing for the Toyota 86 that is expected to start below $40,000 when it arrives in mid 2012.
“It’s irreleveant what [Toyota] does,” says Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior. “It’s more of a philosophical consideration [for us].
“All-wheel drive 100 per cent has been a hugely successful for us since 1996, 1997. To move away from that is not something you do lightly.”
If the company turns the BRZ down it means Australia will miss out on a car that it admits is more of a Subaru than a Toyota.
“I think it’s a Subaru,” says Senior. “It uses a Boxer engine, our engineers did all the engineering work, and we did the fine-tuning [of the suspension] in Australia.”
Senior says the BRZ wouldn’t even have been a consideration if it had been front-wheel drive, and provides some hope for driving enthusiasts who want to see the rear-wheel-drive coupe on local roads.
“Rear-wheel drive is in keeping with our brand; it delivers driver confidence,” says Senior. “It’s a driver’s car – and Subarus have always been a driver’s car.”
He says the company also sees it as a different offering for enthusiasts that wouldn’t tread on the toes of its WRX cult car that would be in a similar price bracket to the BRZ.
“They [BRZ and WRX] are very separate markets,” says Senior. “One is a two-door coupe, one is a five-door hatch or four-door sedan. The WRX is an older, more family-oriented market.
“[The BRZ] delivers a low cost, lightweight entry sports car designed to bring a younger audience into the brand.
“The key is the domestic [Japanese] market – where the young generation are playing PlayStation. They don’t have the same passion for cars that they had 20 years ago.
“[Subaru and Toyota] are trying to rekindle that excitement in the youth market in particular.”
To keep insurance and other running costs down, as well as maintaining the purity of the car, Subaru suggests buyers shouldn’t expect high-performance versions of either the Subaru BRZ or Toyota 86.
“If you start to add bits and pieces to this the car gets more expensive and it gets heavier. If you put a turbo on it you have extra weight for more brakes, more suspension. We enjoy the raw enthusiasm and raw passion of this car and not a two-door coupe we have seen in the past.”
Senior also defends the styling of the two cars, which while always expected to be identical under the skin mechanically were also expected to be more distinguished visually.
“From day one it has been a collaboration [with Toyota]. We were always going to be similar.”
The two cars share virtually identical suspension - front struts and double-A-arm rear - and engine, a 2.0-litre direct injection "boxer" four-cylinder, though the exterior styling wasn't expected to be mirrored so closely.
The Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 both produce 147kW from their naturally aspirated engine, with peak torque measured at 205Nm.