A recent CarBuzz interview with Todd Hill, Subaru’s Car Line Planning Manager of America, revealed that there are, and never will be, any plans to build a factory turbo version of the BRZ. Despite a BRZ STi concept car and an April Fool’s joke that I played, a boosted BRZ is not in our future.
My very first article on RFD was about why I think the BRZ already has plenty of power. Subaru seems to agree with me. The thing is, many people disagree. Most auto journalists feel the
FR-S/BRZ/86 is massively underpowered. Most auto journalists also aren’t happy unless they have at least 400hp to smoke the tires for awesome photo shoots. But they do influence public opinion, and many would-be customers are also underwhelmed by the relative lack of horsepower. According to GoodCarBadCar.net, Subaru sold just 353 BRZs in the entire US last month. 353! The only comparable months are the past two winters, when a rear wheel drive sports car with summer tires isn’t exactly a hot seller in the snow belt.
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the drop in sales happened at the same time the 2017 BRZ was revealed at Wicked Big Meet in June. People who want a BRZ are holding out for the new one, with new styling, new features, and an available $1,195 performance package with improved brakes, wheels, and suspension. Notice what isn’t improved – power. OK, that’s not entirely true – there’s a whopping 5hp and 5lb/ft of torque increase. Time will tell if this is an improvement you can actually feel, and if they’ve managed to tune out the dreaded midrange torque dip.
Adding a turbo, according to Hill, “will add weight and price… (and that) it was never intended to be a straight-line car,” like the Mustang and Camaro.
That’s a fair statement. The BRZ has always been about handling rather than horsepower. Sure, the Mustangs and Camaros will blast by me on the straightaways, but once we get into the corners, I’ll hang with them. The current versions of both actually handle rather well. They’re bigger and heavier than the BRZ, but unlike previous incarnations of the pony cars, they don’t trip over their own feet like my dumb old cat the minute they get to a corner. I was extremely impressed with the handling of the EcoBoost Mustang I drove as the course opening car at Black River Stages last year, even with performance tires designed strictly for pavement taken way out of their element on gravel roads. That control is what enabled me to keep the car on the gravel and out of the trees.
I think Todd Hill and Subaru are missing that point. Power and handling are not mutually exclusive. You can have both. I haven’t driven the latest Camaro (keep your scanners peeled for Will Byrd’s review of the convertible he recently had), but I’ve heard reports that it handles even better than the Mustang – and the Mustang is quite good. What kind of opposite world are we living in these days, talking about turbocharged pony cars that go around corners well?
But that’s the world we live in, and people expect better than 205hp from the BRZ. It’s an adequate amount of power – I still stand by that statement. But sports cars aren’t supposed to be merely adequate. They’re supposed to be better than the average car. My wife’s Ford Flex will absolutely trounce me in a drag race while taking her kids to sportsball practice. Not really – street racing is bad, m’kay? – but hypothetically she could, with a Miata’s horsepower above and beyond my BRZ’s. You don’t look cool getting smoked by a mommymobile.
The other major objection Subaru raises about forced induction is with the packaging.
A turbo, at least the way Subaru would do it, simply “doesn’t fit and packaging it in there would be a pretty big undertaking. I’m always in favor of more power but it [a turbo] would simply change the car so much,” Hill explained.
This is partly true. The motor sits extremely low in the BRZ’s engine bay, right about at my knee level. That’s partly why the BRZ’s center of gravity is among the lowest of any car out there today, on par with some supercars costing several times as much. As a result, the motor sits too low for the tried and true turbo system from the WRX to fit in this car.
But a turbo isn’t the only way to achieve boost. This is a BRZ with an aftermarket supercharger I saw at an 86 Owners of New England meet. The blower sits where the air box used to be. It’s like that space was designed for a supercharger. While turbo lag has become a thing of the past in many modern applications, I’ve always liked the instant boost of a supercharger – no lines, no waiting. You may not get quite as much power out of a supercharger as you would out of a big turbo, but the BRZ is light enough that a little power goes a long way. Most people who want more power don’t necessarily want much more, and 250hp would be easy to achieve within the engine’s design limits. Consider that the WRX already makes 268hp. Aftermarket upgrades have already proven that the BRZ can handle more power.
I disagree that it would change the car too much. The stock suspension and brakes are excellent. Sure, there’s always room for improvement. But I doubt the average BRZ driver has taken their car to 110mph on the track like I have. With nothing more than upgraded wheels, street tires, and brake pads, the car handled beautifully – and kept up with the more powerful cars in the turns. Why not enable it to keep up with them on the straightaways as well? Thanks to its lighter weight, a 250hp BRZ should be able to hang with a 275hp turbo-4 Camaro or a 310hp Mustang EcoBoost – maybe even a 335hp V6 Camaro. It doesn’t have to beat them in a drag race, because the BRZ is all about the corners, and that’s where it would gain its overall advantage over the pony-cars-turned-genuine-sports-cars, if only it could stay with them on the straightaways.
Maybe that’s why BRZ sales have tanked over the last couple of years. Pretty much everyone who wants one, in its current form, already has one. A more powerful version would sell many more cars not only to all those people who have been complaining about the lack of power all along, but many current owners who want the upgrade. Sure, it would also tank the resale value on my 2014 BRZ, but at least it would be cheaper for people to turn “old” BRZs into dedicated track cars. The BRZ may have enough power for me, but I also think Subaru should give the people what they want.