If someone taps on the badges of 2022 Toyota GR86 and 2022 Subaru BRZ, can you correctly identify which one? The front edges are different, but it’s not like one would say “Toyota!” And the other “Subaru!” If you exchange badges, will anyone notice? On the back, there’s a little extra spoiler bit grafted onto the trunkleed of the 86’s, but that’s it, and I can say best, the only other difference is the wheels: they’re exactly the same size and design, but the Toyota Black Subaru is dark gray. Obviously, not a lot of money was thrown into the design department here. I’m not even sure if Subaru took care of the weight.
But what about their driving? In the stroke of car-scheduling fate, my GR86 and BRZ loans will one day overlap, giving me the opportunity to drive backwards. Now, “back-to-back” is a relative term. Because I’m a lone wolf here in Oregon, I had no other editor available to drive in some places on a mountain road and to easily switch between cars as part of the possibility of making a difference. I have to shell out 30-minutes on each route between sampling both vehicles. I hoped it would be a problem, that it would be extremely difficult to identify the subtle nuances in a twin child without literally going in and out, inside and out. It’s like trying to distinguish two Pinot Noirs of a winery within an hour.
As it turns out, all I have to do is drive 20 yards from the front of my house and turn right onto the broken sidewalk on the sidewalk. It was immediately noticeable: the GR86 has a strong ride. I could feel every wave and push, especially at low speeds, and after three blocks, I found it tiring. BRZ is strong, sure, because it’s a sport coupe, but there’s enough consensus that I didn’t really notice those same obstacles – and for the record, I run Subaru first. Once on the hilly road mentioned above, Toyota was less loyal when it hit, which is not only a problem for your spine, it is also a problem for maintaining the chassis composer. A firm suspension could actually be worse if you weren’t on some glass-smooth ribbon of asphalt and in this case, the GR86 was. At the same time, if this suspension tuning speeds up Toyota around a track, I wouldn’t be surprised, but it’s not an advantage I can detect in this exercise. Maybe if I could literally go back, but as a matter of doubt, we’re talking about fine Pinot Noir differences in terms of handling here. Journey? As clear as going between a rose and a Merlot.
So what’s the deal? I double checked the wheel size, tire type and tire pressure – all the same. I drove on the same road in the same condition. The difference in infection will not affect it, either (more on that soon). This leaves the chassis tuning and they are actually different.
“The Subaru suspension has front springs and soft rear springs,” contributing editor Joe Lorio wrote in his BRZ First Drive review. “It has aluminum knuckles instead of cast iron, a hollow instead of a hard front anterol bar and a rear anterol bar mounted directly to the body instead of a subframe. Subaru claims that they have tweaked their version to make it more accurate, while Toyota has made responsiveness a priority. “
Shake that out. Considering that Subaru took the engineer lead for the twins, I think that’s what BRZ meant. This is definitely one I’d like to buy and recommend.
Yet this is not just a comparison of BRZ and GR86. The two cars had separate transmissions, both supplied by Toyota and both were available in each model. The BRZ test cart had a six-speed manual transmission, and I drove it first – both throughout Question Day and the week before. It would come as a shock, but this self-portrait journalist liked the car with a manual. It’s a simple enough clutch to module with a precise engagement and a paddle effort that won’t tire your puck too badly in traffic but it’s enough to make it feel suitable for a performance application. There is no automatic rev-match functionality, but the paddles are placed close enough to make it easier to move the healing-finger downwards. Also well calibrated for throttle task. Shifters are similarly precise, with mechanical sensations.
As an automaton, it is more suitable for a performance application than what you can get in Miata. This works much better when you aggressively return to the throttle or when you hit the brakes leading to a turn. Of course, in order to sharpen those reflections with increased throttle response, you need to set the car’s sport mode. This mode does not change the steering, nor is it offered or required with the manual.
Although I’m usually happy to let an automatic transmission do its job on mountain roads, I’ve seen myself use the pedals on the GR86. Not because of a lack of feedback, but because the car is even more exciting while at a higher RPM. Even in Sport mode, automatic straight bits would be upgraded when I was not in throttle, allowing engine speeds to be south of 3,000 rpm. In contrast, I usually walk in the 4,000 to 5,000 range with the manual, which sounds and feels more exciting and takes you closer to the surprisingly sweet-sounding top range of the new 228-horsepower 2.4-liter Boxer-Four. This is achieved by using automatic pedals.
And speaking of the new engine, it’s really a huge improvement. A mid-range torque dip in the old 2.0-liter is so obvious that it will forever serve as the ultimate example of a “mid-range torque dip.” In the same 3,000 to 5,000-rpm rev range I spent most of my drive with the new car the old Toabaru twins would be a real sage bag of salad. There’s also admirably more low-end torque (184 pound-feet vs. 156, and it comes in at 2,700 rpm faster), and no matter where you are, it sounds less gravel and, well, subarachnoid. Those who beg for a turbocharger will live forever, but don’t need it now – worst of all, it’s no more than a meter.
So, what did I learn? The manual is still the way to go, but the automatic is not so sad. Let’s not be the doormen of people buying fun cars. Most surprisingly, though, the Subaru BRZ is so obviously a good choice. Now, I leave open the possibility that a more solid-riding Toyota might be better on a glass-smooth track, but then again, the Subaru’s suspension differences also include elements that could theoretically benefit as well as manage. Guess I just have to stay close to that hilly road and drive it again sometime.