Twin peaks: GT86 is already terrific, but new Subaru version just shades it
Engine: 2,0 litres, four cylinders
Top speed: 140mph
Power: 197bhp at 7000rpm
Fuel/CO2: 36 2mpg, 181g/km
Outside the Toyota firm I would humbly submit that its GT86 coupe has few bigger fans than me. I first drove it on a soaking test track in Japan and enjoyed it so much I feared it was too good to be true. Was this some crazed Japanese-specification car set up to provide headlines for a drift-obsessed nation? And if not, would its relative lack of power turn it into a busted flush when shifted from a wet Japanese track to a dry British road? No, and no. The GT86 is the biggest blast of fresh air to blow through the sports car market since the Mazda MX-5, well over 20 years ago.
Which is why it’s such a surprise to discover it’s already met its match. You may know already that the GT86 was a joint venture with Subaru, which has produced its own version. Many dismiss this as a clone, but it isn’t. There are small cosmetic changes including a more discreet interior for the Subaru and a less aggressive front bumper. Subaru also aims to sell just one BRZ for every 10 GT865 sold, despite identical prices.
But the big difference and I know this only because someone in a position to help ferreted the information out of an internal Subaru document is that the BRZ’s suspension is 20 per cent stiffer at the front and eight per cent softer at the rear. And this alone makes the cars very different to drive.
Having driven both models back to back on road and Silverstone GP circuit, I can report the Subaru is a far better balanced car than the Toyota, replacing the laffer’s insistent oversteer when the electronics are disabled with a much more neutral stance. It still doesn’t understeer much but it’s an easier car to guide to the apex and quicker away thanks to superior traction. On the road its ride seems a little firmer but no more harsh.
This can be seen two ways. The BRZ is less extrovert and, yes, less fun too. You could argue the GT86 is better because when you don’t want to do skids you can just leave the traction control engaged and when you do you can hit the button and drift for Europe. But I still slightly preferred the BRZ’s less frenetic character. Put it this way, as an only car I’d take the Subaru over the Toyota. But for pure recreation, the GT86 is preferable.