Collaborative ventures between automakers, like that of the Toyota and Subaru joint effort, are typically met with a noticeable amount of pushback from the enthusiast circle. The main argument is usually based on the assumption that each manufacturer fails to have the dollars or know-how to create a special model of their own and that neither cares enough to invest in the type of vehicles that we enjoy building.
Dollars Make Sense
From a business perspective, these sorts of programs make perfect sense. Leaning on one another to help minimize development costs and sharing the workload makes cars like the Supra, GR 86 and BRZ a reality. If sporty offerings like these sold in huge numbers, like the SUV and entry-level passenger cars of the world, these mashups wouldn't really need to be created, but taking a look around while cruising down the freeway should tell you what the majority of the population is looking for (here's a hint, it's not sporty, doesn't have a manual trans and probably seats 5-7 comfortably).
While the Toyota/Subie team didn't catch nearly as much flack as the hotly debated Toyota/BMW program, there are still plenty of naysayers that don't like the idea of mixing brands. It's always good to remind them that without the 2 working together, these wouldn't be a reality and the fact that a new generation is being produced, means enough of the low-volume units were sold to warrant a return.
Late last year, Subaru teased, then unveiled their 2022 BRZ, which featured an updated look with more aggressive angles and freshened front fascia and since then, everyone's been wondering when the 86 would show itself. Well, here it is, in bright red, which makes it easy to compare to the blue BRZ we talked about during its unveiling.
Not Getting a Boost
Some of you peeked into this article in hopes of reading about how Toyota broke free from the madness and stuffed a turbocharged version of the Boxer under the hood of the new GR 86 and I'd love to hand that info to you but unfortunately, that's just not the case. The 2.0L flat-four from the past will be upped to 2.4L status which should bring horsepower numbers up a bit but will most likely have a bigger impact on useable torque, especially in the midrange and even if the peak number doesn't go up dramatically. Toyota's promise of a full second advantage in the 0-60 department with the 2.4L lends itself to that assumption.
As expected, profiles are identical, with both versions getting bulging rear quarter panels that meet swooping side skirts that first aim down, then forward and along the flanks before meeting a vented front with a sharp line that helps define just how wide the fender is. The look is certainly more aggressive, though I feel like that defining fender line should have continued in some form along the door and toward the quarter panel to help with visual flow. Though the designers squeezed out a bit more attitude and what looks like increased girth, it should be noted that dimensionally, there's not a big departure from the previous generation model in both width and length. The same style mirror is used on both and even the wheels, at least with these 2 debut versions, are the same. The new aluminum roofline is a tad lower than before and shaves off a few pounds from the place you least want any sort of additional weight.
The front is where you'll be able to spot the difference between the 2 models if you're not close enough to zero-in on the badging. The BRZ uses a horizontal style grill that does away with its previous generation's highly visible solid black bar which took up the upper quarter of the grill opening and anchored the license plate. The new version still has that upper portion blocked thought it's a little more subtle and the plate now hangs off the painted portion of the front.
With the new GR 86, the main opening is simple and blunt, but looks purposeful and certainly has a more Japanese market feel as compared to its sibling. It uses a honeycomb style grill, and, like the BRZ, its upper portion is blocked off with subtlety. The openings on either side of both bumpers are technically the same, though shaped different, allowing the two groups to dictate the direction of their design and find some individuality. Which version you prefer probably says quite a bit about your overall style preference in modern vehicles. Where the BRZ takes a more refined approach up front, the GR 86 is a bit more on the cute and sporty side.
Back to Basics
The most surprising difference between the joint effort is that the rear of the chassis isn't different at all. The integrated decklid spoiler, taillights, bumper, and even the lower diffuser, which ovals atop dual exhaust exits (also identical on both cars) all look interchangeable.
The light pattern dispersed by the tails will most likely be unique to each automaker, but aside from that, you'll have to squint to distinguish them.
Step inside and if the badging is covered up, you won't know which version you've entered. From the red stitching to the short red stripe on the lower portion of the seats, and even the details of the instrument cluster - they're twins. I assumed they might look toward a slightly different gauge layout, cluster bezel, and even seat bolstering, but in the end, they remain in line with one another. It's almost lazy to mention, but the layout and materials used in the previous 86 were well-documented as being less than stellar. This time around, the look and feel of the surfaces, overall organization, and the general feel from a driver's perspective have thankfully been touched on. Look back at the last generation's cabin and it feels unusually dated, as well as a few notches below what we're seeing now. This might just be a case of natural progression, or it might be a nod to the legions of previous owners that were woefully uninspired by the cabin.
Is It Enough?
It's been a long time coming for the BRZ and GR 86, both of which have really pulled in a loyal following, especially in the enthusiast market. The very minor changes that took place throughout the first models' initial lifespan armed the naysayers with plenty of ammunition. The real question now, after all of these changes, is whether or not the updated version will convince first and second owners to sell old and buy new, or is the idea of a missed opportunity to introduce a turbo version of the BRZ and GR 86 enough to push them away, leaving the joint venture to rely on potential new buyers.