Cult car cachet Subaru BRZ & Toyota GT86
Fensport GT86 › Litchfield BRZ › JRM Racing GT86
ome cars take decades to reach cult status, unrecognized in their time. Others are instant star cars, even before their launch to the public. And this issue of Road Magazine features two cars that have sling-shotted straight into the cult car cachet – Toyota’s GT86 and Subaru’s BRZ. The reasons? The uncompromising focus on them both being a “driver’s car?” The low centre of gravity or feisty flat-four ‘Boxer’ engine? The focus not on out-and-out power, but the ‘right’ power level, aka the legendary MX-5? Or perhaps it’s the welcome return of a right-wheel-drive coupe? Whatever the reasons – which we will expand upon in this cult car issue of Road – the unique ‘Toybaru’ collaboration between Toyota & Subaru has created motoring (& marketing) magic in the GT86 & BRZ. We take the GT86 for an early morning road trip on some of the quietest back roads of East Anglia to see what the appeal is. And Road race ace & Travis drummer, Neil Primrose takes the BRZ on killer roads in the Trough of Bowland and southern Lake District – giving his insights en route. Quite rightly, the GT86 and BRZ have also attracted the attention of top tuners, with Greddy turbo & HKS supercharger kits in the pipeline. Meanwhile, we gather three of the best UK N/A tuned versions – JRM Racing’s GT4-style GT86, Litchfield’s BRZ tuning pack and the sprinting Fensport GT86. What do they offer over the standard package? Let’s see!
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The devilâ€™s in the detail
Travis drummer & Road Magazine race ace road tester, Neil Primrose takes Subaruâ€™s BRZ for a spin
s you’ll see from reading this cult car issue of Road magazine, our resident racer and member of Britpop Royalty, Travis’ Neil Primrose has just raced Toyota GB’s GT86 entry in the Britcar-24 – in between time spent recording the new Travis album in Norway and his growing racing commitments, like this year’s Nürburgring 24-hour. He’s a man in demand, for both his jaw-dropping drumming and motor racing skills. We are very proud to have him as a member of Team Road. Knowing Neil was a dedicated Subaru fan years before his Porsche, Lola and other racing passions took over, as a thanks for all his hard work with us, we arranged for him to spend a week with the latest – potentially greatest – Subaru from the Pleiades seven sisters stable, the alreadyiconic BRZ. This £24,995 rear-drive coupe is the car Subaru hope will put the brand
back on the performance car map. The car may have been developed with Toyota, but the heart is pure Subaru – powered by a two-litre, flat-four engine, famous for its low centre of gravity and horizontallyopposed ‘Boxer’ piston formula. It offers up 197bhp @ 7,000rpm and 151lb ft @ 6,400rpm, which is enough for a 7.6sec 0-62mph time and 143mph top speed – served up in a delicouslywrapped, light (1202Kg), sleek, modern coupe shell. The BRZ offers buyers a chance for something slightly different from the GT86 – with a smoother, cleaner, less aggressive front end design, the chance to own one in WR blue (one of six colours) and three years and 60,000 miles warranty, with Subaru’s three-year ETCo aftercare package included free (annual wheel alignment, scratch/alloy repair & even a monthly car wash). But perhaps the most significant change for us is Sub-
car and the interior is pretty good too. “The engine is very sweet, but it’s almost as if the (lovely) engine noise is piped into the car, rather than being generated. It’s very quite outside. But, in aru’s different suspension Sport mode, it certainly gets (& steering) set-up. And to the adrenalin flowing. test this, we sent Neil out “The first thing I noticed on the awesome roads of were the tyres, which are the Trough of Bowland and not as grippy as they could south Lakes, to put the BRZ or should be. I don’t see through its paces, properly. the logic in that. And the Neil said: “When the car dampers don’t return as turned up in classic Scooby fast as they should do. Goblue, I was smitten. I’d like ing fast on bumpy British to see the car on some gold B-roads, I started to notice Volk Racing rims and I’m a deficiencies there. In the bit skeptical as to the use of dry, where you know the the rear wing, but first imroads, you can get the tail pressions were good aesout and hang it there nicely thetically. It’s a nice, pretty and the steering is beauti-
â€œWhat is clear... this is a brilliant chassisâ€?
fully weighted, which makes things nice and easy. “But, under the trees where it’s damp, when it really lets go, it doesn’t have the grunt to pull out and you can easily get a see-saw pendulum effect going on. It’s exciting, but I suspect it’ll catch a lot of inexperienced drivers out. “My biggest problem is the car doesn’t fit in any price bracket. What I’d like to see is an STi (and Nismo GT86) version, with a better wheel and tyre package, optimised aero, better brake pad and disc combo, 50Kg less and extra power and torque... then it would be the complete package and
be a stonking car. I’d want more for my money now. “What is clear with the BRZ is that this is a brilliant chassis. It’s got a lot to offer. but if Subaru and Toyota want the most out of it, they need to toughen it up. There’s a lot of good feeling around the STi brand and that needs rolling out into this car, fast. I think they need to produce the killer version of the BRZ before all the tuners do it for them (oops, too late... see the rest of this issue, Ed). “It’s a very nice car and very useable and competent driving about when you’re not going mad – economical too – but when you’re
spending £25,000, you want something a little bit special and, as it is, it’s not quite up there, yet. Roll on the STi version I say.” We say Subaru’s BRZ offers a slightly sharper front end – in looks and turn-in dynamics – and an alternative warranty package compared with the GT86. It’s also got a more hardcore ride. Ultimately, it’s down to owners which badge they choose, as there’s little else to differentiate. We’re so glad the Subaru brand is back making cool performance cars – and can’t wait for the STi BRZ to break cover, ideally with 250+bhp please Subaru...
LITCHFIELD SUBARU BRZ
Litchfield Motors are expert performance car tuning enthusiasts and the Subaru BRZ is perfect fodder for their talents. Hereâ€™s their BRZ/GT86 demo car.
or 15 years now, Iain Litchfield has been consistently making some of the most desirable performance cars even more appealing – creating some of the best, all-encompassing tuning packages on the market for WRX STi, R35 GT-R and other cult cars. The family-run Gloucestershire business has backed up their road tuning performance packs, with a solid motorsport pedigree, including being crowned 2006 Time Attack Champions. And they can regularly be found testing at the best UK and European circuits – developing and fine-tuning their products to be the best they can be. Having ‘done’ WRX STi (their Spec-C pack was incredible) and an utterly superb R35 GT-R package, their focus has shifted to the next big thing – Toyota’s GT86 and Subaru’s BRZ. MD Iain says: “We have been excited about the release of the Toyota GT86 and its Subaru partner, the BRZ, from the moment it was announced. And, after months of testing and development, we are delighted to offer full servicing and upgrade options for these fantastic new performance cars. We have our Subaru BRZ available for test drives and it is currently having
a range of upgraded parts developed on it.” Unlike many other tuners working on the GT86 & BRZ, Litchfield first managed to extract some much-called-for grunt from the Boxer engine – an impressive 25bhp. There’s 14bhp from an ECU re-map (£600) – featuring three engine modes; economy, road & race, the latter offering full throttle gear changes, an adjustable launch control map and auto-blipping. They are also using the software to make the dash display 1/4-mile & 0-60 times and act as an air-fuel ratio. Cool. And 11bhp is on tap
from a Litchfield / Milltek exhaust system (£866). This is most likely to be sold as a package for £1450 fitted. There’s also an uprated air filter (£54) – further improving throttle response and performance. Away from the engine, Litchfield technicians have developed a superb, affordable chassis specifications, with their own 30mm lowered spring kit (just £245), optimised with a Litchfield fast road geometry setup (£78). And grip dynamics and aesthetics are further enhanced with their own “Nurburg” 18” lightweight alloy wheels (£TBC), shod
with 5mm wider, far grippier Michelin Supersport Tyres 225/40/18, for £580. Eibach anti-roll bars will also be added to the range along with new chassis bushes (increasing caster & camber), along with removing some rear sub-frame slack – for flatter handling and “a smoother transition to oversteer.” And braking is currently enhanced with Performance Friction fast road brake pads (£45), but there is also an Alcon track day big brake conversion under development. And a transmission upgrade. And so, another Litchfield winner is born. We love it! roadmagazine.co.uk
GT86: Is it really “The real deal?”
The TV advert says: “No gimmicks, just me, the car and the road.” So, we go solo on a road trip in the GT86 to find out if it really is “the real deal.”
f we believed what was said in TV ad campaigns, we’d think that yoghurt makes us better lovers and buying a sofa on HP will provide us with eternal salvation. And if we believe what Toyota’s marketing media moguls want us to believe about the new GT86, it’ll make us “feel alive for the first time,” which clearly sounds like balls, I think you’ll agree. But behind all the boardroom bravado, there’s an under-lying message in the GT86 TV ad that interests us – that here’s an analogue car with feeling, designed
for the simple pleasure of actually enjoying driving. Remember that? To put this to the test, we took the new GT86 on a very early morning, long blast around some of the UK’s quietest roads – carving through the East Anglian countryside. And whilst they might lack the drama of the roads I was brought up with in the Lakes, they are superbly empty, open, fast and fun: The perfect test of whether the GT86 is as advertised – capable of synchronising man with machine. On paper, the GT86 is
exciting. Really exciting. It’s rear-wheel-drive, light (by modern standards at least), fabulous looking, wellequipped, powered by an interesting motor, has good (if not spectacular) performance figures, has a killer chassis, low centre of gravity, great weight distribution and is refreshing simple. Hell, it’s even economical, offering 36.2mpg combined. And in the flesh, it doesn’t disappoint. It looks like a fun, sexy ride. And the interior is designed to match its exterior – funky, modern and cool. It’s well-loaded too, with, dual climate con-
trol, cruise control, pushstarter, smart entry and all the usual modern necessities. Our test car also came loaded with a brilliant 6.1inch touchscreen ‘Touch & Go’ nav/audio/reversing camera/settings unit (£750), the black leather/alcantara heated sports seats (£1,600) and metallic paint (£650), in Velocity Orange, a colour Subaru’s BRZ doesn’t have. And there are nice sporty touches inside too, with the central rev counter dominating the dash, lightweight ally pedals, tactile steering wheel and gear knob and easily-located (if overly con-
fusing to switch completely off) TCS-off buttons. The differences between the GT86 and BRZ are small – mostly just badges and trim differences, a slight alteration in wheel design and the GT86’s more angular, aggressive front bumper design. Toyota also offer a five-year/100,000 mile warranty against Subaru’s three year/60,000 mile with ECTo extras. That’s basically it. However, whilst the engine and transmission are identical, there’s a difference in set-up – giving both cars their own driving identity – the Toyota being slightly
“GT86 is addictive, fun & inspired”
softer, slightly favouring ride quality over ultimate handling prowess: That said, out on the empty back roads of North Norfolk – sun just coming up, roads blissfully vacant, tractors thankfully absent – I’d never say the GT86 wasn’t anything other than a great handling car, soaking it all up nicely. It’s blend of ride and handling is spot on, for it’s mar-
ketplace, and UK roads. And, much as the first-rate chassis could easily cope with half as much power again, and a heap more torque, does it need it? No. What Toyota have done is take a leaf out of the most popular-selling sports car ever – Mazda’s MX-5. They’ve equipped a car with a charmed chassis, reardrive, low friction rubber,
great steering and minimal gimmicks... allowing you to drive it uber-hard, everywhere, revving the nuts off the ace Boxer engine, sliding the tail into, through and out of bends and smiling while you’re at it. The GT86 is addictive, fun and inspired. It’s a welcome escape from the world we live in... just like the TV ad says then... genius!
Bravo Toyota GB – getting their GT86 straight into motorsport action, at the Britcar 24, with results
ats off to Toyota. First they build a fabulous road car and then they instantly enter it into the UK’s foremost, toughest endurance race – the Britcar 24 – and they get the result they deserve, with a podium finish, in a nigh-on bog stock standard car. Wow! They started on the 13th row of the grid and finished in an impressive
eighth place overall and third in class, after 512 laps and 1,874 miles of the Silverstone GP Circuit. Ace! The four-man driving team was led by veteran racer Chris Hodgetts, Toyota’s double BTCC champion of the 1980s, his son, Stefan, car hack Richard Meaden and our man, Travis drummer Neil Primrose. Neil said: “It was amazing –the most enjoyable and
easy-going endurance race I’ve ever done. Everyone had such a good time. It was not a pressurised experience. We just did what the car could in virtually production trim. “We were keeping pace with M3’s and the like in the corners. No one could believe how fast it was in the bends. We lacked power and therefore pace on the straights, but it didn’t matter. The car was fault-free, we kept lapping and got a great result. And we’ve proved just how absolutely fabulous that chassis is.” GT86: Instant road and race hit. Bravo Toyota!
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ne of the key signs of whether a car is a cult car or not is how quickly and with how much gusto tuning companies start fettling it. And, in the case of the GT86 & BRZ, it’s been bloody fast and with a great deal of gusto indeed. One of the first to get their hands on a GT86 to develop was JRM Racing (www.jrm-group.com), in conjunction with their sister brand, Sumo Power (www. sumopower.com). JRM Racing have built Gp.N rally winning Evos, LMP1 cars and R35 GT-R GT1 and GT3 racers. Sumo Power are responsible for creating some incredible drift, drag and street cars and are Europe’s largest Japanese performance
parts mail order gurus. It’s a brand match made in heaven for the GT86 & BRZ expanding aftermarket. And the two brands are busy developing track & street tuning packages for the GT86 and BRZ, using their pre-production JDM GT86 as an R&D test mule. We recently went to see this testing on track at Snetterton on a Club MSV day (www.clubmsv.co.uk), with racer Phil Glew giving the
ace beautifully stripped and caged GT86 what for – describing it as “a serious bit of kit.” Mechanical bits include huge AP Racing stoppers, JRM suspension and HKS engine parts. Aesthetics include a Damd bodykit, Team Dynamic rims, with Toyo R888 track day rubber. The final specs are undecided, but both kits should be finalised soon and on the market in January 2013, and we can’t wait. Wicked!
JRM Racing GT86/BRZ Kit
JRM Racing & Sumo Power are developing track & street tuning packs for the GT86 & BRZ. We caught up with the race aces doing some serious R&D at Snetterton circuit
fensport GT86 sprinter Toyota tuning experts, Fensport built a GT86 to take part in the Toyota Sprint Series this year, aiming for a full assault in 2013...
ensport have been tuning Toyotas to terrifying power levels for decades now from their Fenland HQ in Chatteris. MD, Adrian Smith has a real passion and deep, deep understanding of the brand and is an eternal modifier – responsible for some utterly insane cars over the years, including his infamous 818bhp Celica GT4X which went 4th at Goodwood
FOS in 2011 (now for sale via www.fensport.co.uk, if you’re brave enough...). And this GT86 is their latest pet project and plaything – built to compete in the Toyota Sprint Series, this year as R&D and next year for a full-on assault on the title. Watch out folks! Toyota GB supplied the car on July 12th – and it’s undergone a radical, constantly-developing transfor-
mation into a sorted sprint car since then – getting quicker and quicker in the sprint series all the time, taking on cars with a lot more power, and winning. The GT86 has been caged and seriously stripped, and is now down from 1,202Kg to just 1,090Kg. And it’s had a raft of Buddy Club, Whiteline and SuperPro suspension, K Sport brake, Helix transmission, Ultral-
ite & Toyo rims and rubber and Blitz engine parts fitted, which seem to be working, with Fensport fine-tuning. In the recent sprint series round at Croft, the Fensport GT86 ran 6.8 seconds faster than the standard car over just 1.7 miles, with the same pilots. And it came in third overall, against some big bhp bruisers: Deeply impressive stuff. And the boys have only just started really. Roll on 2013!
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Published on Oct 31, 2012
Road looks at the instant cult car cachet of Toyota's GT86 & Subaru's BRZ – standard & tuned – with Litchfield BRZ, JRM Racing GT86 & Fenspo...