I had the good fortune of driving the Subaru BRZ last week in Singapore, making me (to the best of my knowledge) the first Filipino to have done so. Okay, I was technically second, but only because our car-design critic (and The Manila Times motoring editor) Brian Afuang jumped into the driver's seat ahead of me.
Anyway, here are 10 things I learned about the BRZ that I wish to share with you.
1. The name "BRZ" actually stands for "Bragging Rights Zone." Those who will buy this car obviously want to turn heads and look good among their peers. This coupe will successfully cater to that not-so-profitable market of men who either need to compensate for something or are looking for an antidote to midlife crisis. That includes me (unfortunately, I can't afford the car). Seriously, BRZ officially means "Boxer engine, Rear-wheel drive, Zenith." I think the one I concocted is far more awesome.
2. The BRZ is essentially just the second RWD car that Subaru has built, the first being the 1500 (the very first Subaru car) in 1954. And no, there are no plans for an AWD version at the moment, at least according to Motor Image chief executive Glenn Tan. (Motor Image is the exclusive distributor of Subaru vehicles in Asian markets outside Japan.)
3. The BRZ, as you know, is the twin model of the Toyota 86. The BRZ and the 86 were jointly developed by Fuji Heavy Industries (the company that owns Subaru) and Toyota Motor Corporation (which currently owns nearly 17 percent of FHI). The division of labor? Toyota took care of the product-planning and the design, while Subaru was responsible for the engineering and the production.
4. Yes, Subaru is in charge of the production of both the BRZ and the 86. All units will be manufactured in Subaru's main plant in Ota-city in Gunma Prefecture. Which also means all BRZ and 86 units will be Japan-made.
5. The engine represents the only part of the BRZ and the 86 upon which Subaru and Toyota collaborated. The naturally aspirated FA engine features Subaru's renowned horizontally opposed (boxer) configuration and Toyota's direct-injection technology. It has a displacement of 2.0 liters, a maximum output of 200hp and a maximum torque of 205Nm. The engine under the BRZ's hood will be the exact same copy of the one in the 86, no tweaking whatsoever. In fact, the engine cover bears the names of both carmakers--with Toyota's name on top of Subaru's, as if to remind everyone who the boss in this partnership is. An interesting piece of trivia? This engine, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic gearbox, has a square bore and stroke of 86mm by 86mm. Coincidence?
6. There are currently no plans to turbocharge this engine, again according to Glenn Tan. Indeed, Tan added, there are no plans for an actual STI model, although Subaru has already shown off a BRZ STI concept. If it's any consolation, STI bodykit will be made available.
7. While the engines of the BRZ and the 86 are exactly the same, the suspension setups are different. Subaru says its car's suspension is tuned more for sporty handling. And the Subaru will be positioned (and priced) higher than the Toyota. As such, the BRZ has been anointed by its maker as a "premium sports coupe."
8. The BRZ and the 86 each have seven body colors. The World Rally Blue is exclusive to the BRZ, while the Orange Metallic is unique to the 86. The two cars share six common colors: white, silver, gray, black, blue and red.
9. When the BRZ finally arrives, expect Subaru to highlight the car's main selling point in its marketing campaign: a very low center of gravity. With the boxer engine sitting close to the ground, the car's C of G is at an incredible 460mm. That's below your knees, unless you're a midget. This should translate to a more stable ride, better weight transfer and improved handling. I sampled the car on a slalom course and was impressed by its agility and controllability. This has the makings of a really fun sports car. And speaking of fun sports cars, Subaru cites the Mazda Miata (not the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, mind you) as a rival for the BRZ.
10. Now, for the most important question: When is the BRZ arriving in the Philippines? According to Motor Image Pilipinas marketing manager Saul Babas, the BRZ will be officially launched in our market in the first quarter of 2013. That means you have ample time to save up for the selling price, which, according to Babas, might be around P2.1 to 2.2 million. I hope your midlife crisis is still manageable.
Photos by Vernon B. Sarne (manufacturing plant photo by Subaru)