Out of all the cliché professional-email euphemisms people like to use, "there seems to be a disconnect" has gotta be one of my favorites. And judging from some things that were said during Subaru's technical presentation for the new BRZ's media preview last week, there certainly seems to be a disconnect between Subaru and its business partner, Toyota, as to what Subaru's goals were when differentiating the BRZ from the GR86. We gave you a brief look at those differences earlier this year; now we're going far more in-depth.
Just like last time, the new Subaru and Toyota sports cars are a result of a joint venture between the two companies. With Subaru responsible for engineering and manufacturing while Toyota did the design, the BRZ and GR86 are mostly the same car other than different front clips, badges, and a handful of small tuning, suspension, and chassis tweaks that should make them feel different to drive, however slightly.
In a letter to all journalists who attended the GR86's launch event in Monticello, Toyota GR chief engineer Yasunori Suezawa explained, "...as a result of both companies thoroughly pursuing each other’s driving taste, hardware such as front knuckle, spring, stabilizer, bushing, and engine ECU software were changed. [The] overall difference is that Toyota focused on engine performance response, and BRZ focused more on comfort, [while] both focused on handling for better driving."
Before letting us out to go test the new BRZ at Lime Rock last week, however, Subaru car line planning manager Michael Redic told journalists, "I've heard some comments that Toyota said that we designed our vehicle for comfort. That is not the case. We designed our vehicle more for stability and precision. What we wanted to have was for the vehicle to react as the driver expects it."
According to Redic, engineering differences between the Toyobaru twins include different tunes for the engine, all four dampers and steering, and a Subaru front spring rate that's seven percent higher and 11 percent lower in the rear than the Toyota's. The BRZ uses aluminum front knuckles instead of the Toyota's steel for the benefit of unsprung weight. Additionally, Subaru stiffened the BRZ's rear trailing link bushing, whereas Toyota apparently stuck with the same carryover part from last year.
Subaru also spent resources shaving weight from its car's stabilizer bars, blessing the BRZ with a hollow 18.3-mm bar up front and a 14-mm bar out back, while the new 86 uses a solid 18-mm part in the front and a 15-mm bar in the rear. More significantly, perhaps, the BRZ's rear stabilizer bar has been mounted directly to the BRZ's body instead of onto the subframe like the previous-gen Toyobaru did and the GR86 still does—an enhancement that was apparently derived from learnings gleaned from Subaru's in-house global platform that underpins pretty much every other Subaru bar the outgoing WRX.
That said, bottom-line performance between the two cars should indeed still be the same, Redic said. "How the vehicles behave on their way to doing their thing is what's going to be different between them," he added.
Interestingly though, Redic later confirmed to The Drive that all of those enhancements—the aluminum knuckles, lighter stabilizer bars, bolting bars directly to bodies—do indeed make the BRZ a more expensive car to produce. As of this writing, Toyota has not announced GR86 pricing other than a pledge to have it start somewhere "under $30,000." And unless it undercuts the BRZ (which starts at $28,955) or provides more value in some other area, it sounds like the BRZ is the one to get.
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