GT 86 VS BRZ: WHO 'OWNS' THE TOYOBARU?
We've driven both now, prompting this question: is the BRZ really a rebadged Toyota or the GT 86 a Subaru in drag?
who 'owns' the Toyobaru? It's a thorny question and one not helped by the typically guarded Japanese corporate culture. At an interview with Toyota's GT 86 development boss Tetsuya Tada at the Geneva show earlier in themonth he showed us a very interesting flow chart explaining the design and development process from conception through to production and marketing. It credits Toyota with the product planning and design process, Fuji Heavy Industry's involvement only starting at the development stage, taking over completely for 'engineering design' and then both companies finalising the car to their preferred final spec at the evaluation stage. Slides of the Toyota Sports 800 (a tiny, boxer-engined coupe from the early 60s) and AE86 Corolla GT were also waved at us in an attempt to underline the GT 86's credentials as a true Toyota. Fine: Subaru was simply contracted in to develop and build the thing and given the right to sell a few of its own badged up as a BRZ.
The two brands have worked together for some time now, Subaru building the US-market Camry on its production line. But amid the presentations for the BRZ Subaru seemed to suggest the emotional heart of the project belongs to it, not Toyota. Certainly, images of an early test mule from 2007 built on a chopped down Legacy and a second using Impreza underpinnings would appear to suggest a bit more Subaru in the package than Toyota would care to admit. See the video below for Subaru's slightly provocative take on the story.
So what of future developments? Questions about STI's involvement in spicing the BRZ up are met with evasive smiles from Subaru execs but they don't deny that the STI concept shown lastyear at LA will, in some form, come to fruition. Will that include a turbo and a serious power hike? You can imagine that might be politically difficult if Toyota has different plans so, for the time being, the STI upgrades may be more aesthetic. But Subaru is running a turbocharged Super GT car, emblazoned with 'Proud of Boxer' and the execs confirmed that R&D work is under way on turbocharging the new 1.6-litre flat-four, suggesting a greener downsized turbo engine may eventually feature in the range. With Peugeot and Mini using the same 1.6 turbo in the RCZ and Coupe (both BRZ/GT 86 rivals) and the VW Group using smaller forced-induction engines in the Scirocco and TT, it's not a huge stretch to see this coming to fruition, if not in the immediate future.
As far as production goes there's no word yet on how many of the maximum 100,000 cars per year due to be built will wear Toyota badges and how many Subaru ones. Or who'll get priority if - as we'd like to hope - the car is a huge success and demand outstrips supply. Certainly Subaru needs the BRZ more than Toyota does, sales slipping to just 2,700 here in the UK as the age of the hot Impreza draws inexorably to a close.
But will Toyota be willing to let it have a greater allocation if struggling Subaru dealers get a potential lifeline with a flood of BRZ orders? That decision will have been made in a boardroom in Japan - Subaru UK being very much at the mercy of it and admitting that however many it gets "it won't be enough" with the overall number of cars coming to the UK "in the hundreds" when things are fully up to speed but somewhat less than that initially.
£24,995 it's confirmed for the GT 86.
And what of the Toyota side of the bargain? Will it be easier to get hold of the GT 86? At the moment dealers are sitting on nearly 300 orders but, as with Subaru, if you get in quickly you should be able to get a car for delivery by the summer. There's a bit of bet hedging going on given that Toyota hasn't sold a sports car for a while but, as our contact said, "we've had a lot of positive reviews and the expectation is very high." Ultimately Toyota could bring as many as 5,000 GT 86s a year into the UK, with half that number expected this year depending on how demand goes. Suffice to say, you'll be seeing more GT 86s than you will BRZs.
Whatever the truth and whichever badge you choose to have on the front of yours it remains a super-cool car. Evidence for which can be found buried on one of Subaru's hugely detailed tech boards shown at the press conference and reproduced below. Predictably the boot was designed to be big enough to carry golf clubs. Yawn. But look closer and you'll see, with the seats folded, the space is also configured for a set of track wheels, a couple of helmets and the rest of your trackday gear.
Which is much more like it.
Technical info boards displayed at the BRZ launch - click to enlarge...