When the 2022 Subaru BRZ debuted last year, our general impression was that the second-generation coupe didn’t appear all that different from the original. While excellent news for those seeking a well-balanced, lightweight sports car that can be driven aggressively on public roads or serve as a solid foundation for any number of track-focused build projects, the manufacturer decided against throwing out curveballs. The car’s purpose remains unchanged, it’s just been remade into a better version of itself. But the BRZ’s fraternal twin, the Toyota GR 86, had a few more weeks in development with President Akio Toyoda rumored to have been pushing for modifications that would help differentiate the two models — much like the automaker did with the similarly related Toyota Supra and BMW Z4.
While limited to the same hardware as the Subaru, Toyota is claiming the new GR 86 makes a tad more horsepower and is hinting it could be the more serious sporting machine. Both of those claims remain unverified and, if the duo is anything like their first-generation, deciding which is the faster 2+2 car will have almost everything to do with which rubber is on the wheels and who’s been placed into the driver’s seat. But the pilot will have an alleged advantage of 4 horsepower in the 86, forcing the BRZ to bring in Subaru Tecnica International (STI) aboard to offer some enhancements of its own.
Again, the vehicles are mechanically so similar that it’s almost not worth their having unique badges. Toyota just gave its performance arm (Gazoo Racing) carte blanche to do some tweaking. In addition to the obligatory GR badging, that meant a functional grille and presumably an opportunity to modify the 86’s software — resulting in an output of 232 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.
In the Subaru, the shared naturally aspirated 2.4-liter boxer makes 288 hp and 184 lb-ft. But the brand seems to have been prepared for Toyota’s power play. Not long after news was shared about the GR 86 boasting a few more ponies, there was a release explaining that the BRZ would be getting STI performance parts that customers could use to enhance their vehicle’s road-holding abilities. Subaru explained that the items currently under development included a performance exhaust system, carbon-fiber wing, 18-inch BBS wheels, a new strut bar, and some visual garnishes.
With both vehicles likely to be priced just a hair under $30,000, however, the final decision will almost assuredly come down to visual appeal and brand preference. Without side-by-side comparisons of the two vehicle’s power curves and some closed-course testing data, we don’t actually know if the extra horsepower offered by Toyota actually makes for a faster automobile. Each car should be able to blow through 60 mph after about 6 seconds and keep on going until the speedometer closes in on 145 mph.
Those who enjoyed the 2.0-liter first-generation Toyobaru twins will be pleased to learn that 2.4-liter offers peak torque much sooner (3,700 rpm) on the second-gen coupes. While that does make for a superior straight-line assault, both companies said it would be most useful when coming out of the corners (helped further by the sub-2,900-pound curb weight). The standard cars will be running six-speed manuals with all the power going directly to the rear wheels, though an automatic boasting the same number of forward gears will be available. Subaru’s Eye-Sight suite of driving aids will also be an option.
Frankly, both cars seem massive improvements over their predecessors and have been made more visually distinctive from each other. The Subaru BRZ has this scrappy and happy Mazda MX-5 look while the GR 86 looks quite similar to the upcoming Nissan 400Z (name allegedly TBD). But the latest in the Fairlady Z saga is rumored to start at around $35,000 and offer around 400 horsepower. If that estimate turns out to be true, just about everything from the BRZ/86 to the Supra is going to be in trouble.
While nobody expects Nissan to offer the base Z with all the bells and whistles of a modern car (including the manufacturer), the coupe is supposed to bring the fundamentals and physics necessary to embarrass almost anything hovering around its assumed MSRP and more than a few vehicles priced much higher. That doesn’t necessarily make the vastly improved 86 and BRZ worse sporting vehicles. But some prospective customers will undoubtedly be swayed if the fee to get into a 400 hp, FR-RWD Japanese coupe means shelling out a few (dozen) extra bucks per month to Nissan. We’ll have to see how the Z shapes up and whether or not the Toyobaru coupes are all they’re cracked up to be, however.
The twins are supposed to go on sale in Japan this fall with the U.S. launch happening in the following weeks. Expect a more comprehensive update on their specifications between now and then.