First Impressions - Performance

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS Platform - Track Fountain, Colorado PPIR Image

Article by Brian Hannon. Photography by Corey Davis, Joel Chan and Ryan Randels.

Now that we’ve introduced the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S platform and procured a brand-new BRZ of our own to build up, we thought what better way to finish breaking it in than at the track! We practically rolled the odometer past 1,000 miles as we pulled through the gate at Pikes Peak International Raceway (PPIR) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. With temperatures in the upper 50s, not a cloud in the sky, and the track practically to ourselves, we knew we’d have a great opportunity to push the limits of the BRZ and get an idea of what makes this car so great.

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS / Toyota FT86 Modification Platform Series - Tachometer

When you first sit in the car, you know it was designed as a driver’s car. The tachometer is the focal point of the gauge cluster, which is inlaid with a digital speed readout so that you can keep your focus on shift points instead of speed, as you should in a true track car. Continuing the focus on driving is the lack of stereo and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel, which leads to a very uncluttered and focused cockpit. The driver’s seat is well bolstered and keeps you planted while slicing through the turns and though the driver’s compartment is cozy, it doesn’t feel overly cramped.

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS / Toyota FT86 Modification Platform Series - Interior Cockpit Steering Wheel Gauge Cluster

The most important connection between the driver and the car is the steering wheel, and the engineers at Subaru and Toyota absolutely nailed it! An electronic power-assisted unit is weighted perfectly and quickly communicates input to the front wheels. Dan Hurwitz, owner of Mach V Motorsports, agreed when asked about his first impressions. "I was delighted. The car had such a feeling of directness and lightness. It was everything I had hoped for in terms of handling feel.”

Push a little in a turn and you can instantly dial out the understeer. Slide the back a bit and you feel confident to throw on some opposite lock and head where you want to go. At times, it almost felt telepathic; you think about turning right and the car is already heading in that direction.

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS Platform - Track Fountain, Colorado PPIR Pan Shot

On the 1.3-mile road course at PPIR, we finally learned why this platform is so popular. Yes, it’s a sharp-looking package; yes, it’s priced well; and, yes, it has great aftermarket support, but to really understand it, you need to get behind the wheel and drive on in anger. Like a bigger Miata, it was very easy to drive at speed, thanks to a tight chassis and a suspension that while compliant on the street felt tuned for the track. Professional racer and Bondurant instructor Tommy Boileau told us, "Much like driving a Miata, you cannot afford to lose ANY momentum. Focus on the exit speed. Overcharging the corner on entry will force you to delay throttle application, which will be devastating at the end of the straight, where sliding the car too much will scrub speed once again, so keep it clean and hit your marks.” It gobbled up the gators when cutting through the S-turns, and we never experienced any drama going through a notorious bump in the middle of turn two on the oval part of the track. The black tire marks that lead straight to the wall after the bump were a constant reminder of what could happen if we screwed up!

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS / Toyota FT86 Modification Platform Series - Front Wheel Shot

As we watched each other take turns with hot laps, we couldn’t help but notice how composed the car was at all times. Under hard braking, we observed very little nosedive, and the BRZ remained relatively flat when navigating the turns. When asked about his thoughts on the chassis, Formula Drift driver and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb veteran Toshiki Yoshioka said, "The balance is good, slightly front heavy but not bad.”

Revvolution Subaru BRZ Project

The feeling was the same behind the wheel, as the car’s behavior was very predictable. Dan said, "The low center of gravity—one of the lowest of any car—is a huge plus. It feels so planted. It is very eager to change directions too. Credit light weight and a nicely judged suspension.”

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS / Toyota FT86 Modification Platform Series - VSC Variable Stability Control

When we left the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TC) on, you could feel it interfering and cutting a bit of power with the car favoring a bit of understeer. With the VSC off, the experience was exactly what we were expecting: extremely neutral handling, allowing for controllable slides and a bit more steering with the throttle. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that much like other VSC and TC systems, you can never truly switch it off (well, this is certainly open to discussion). The computer lets lets you have more some fun but are kicks in at the last minutestill there if you really dork things up behind the wheel. Trust us, we found that limit.

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS Platform - Track Fountain, Colorado PPIR Cornering Image

Speaking of the throttle, the 2-liter boxer didn’t skip a beat all day. Although it was a bit choked by the thinner air of the track’s elevation of 5,365 ft., it still had plenty of power to get the back end out as well as build up a good head of steam before diving into the banked curves. For the best engine performance, we had to keep RPMs above 4,500 and try our best to keep our momentum through the turns. While we always want more power, we understand how it is part of a balanced package from the engineers. Everything on the car has been developed to work as a cohesive unit.

That being said, the response we received from Dan, Tommy, and Toshiki when asked about what the FR-S/BRZ lacked was consistent across the board.

Dan: "You can’t really talk about this car without mentioning the lack of power, especially down low, under about 4,000 RPM. Just from how the car looks, you expect more grunt the first time you drive it.”

Toshiki: "Engine power.”

Tommy: "Without a doubt, this car needs more power. The car is so capable! If you can improve engine performance, this most definitely will become the ultimate track day car.”

Fortunately, for our BRZ, we have a cure in mind for that issue.

Subaru BRZ / Scion FRS / Toyota FT86 Modification Platform Series - Tire Sidewall Image

Rounding out the package were the brakes and transmission, where again we could find little fault. While we kept our sessions short because of the stock brake pads, we experienced very little fade, and the pedal remained firm throughout the day. We actually got to the limit of the tires under heavy braking, so we know the stock system is up to the task of some abuse. We really liked the direct feeling of the shift lever as it produced smooth gear changes all day and never caused any issues with missed gears.

We understand this platform now. We thought we did before, but after having the chance to really put it through its paces, we really get it. It’s perfectly balanced. It inspires confidence. It does everything. Toshiki Yoshioka sums it up perfectly in saying, "Overall, I like this platform because I built this car for both drifting and time attack. Some parts are weak, but I think any other high-performance vehicle has a weak point. It handles well as I said, and at same time, it is a good challenge to modify for what you want. This car is good for the garage life I guess! It reminds me of the AE86 I had in my garage back in my old life!”

Revvolution Subaru BRZ Project

Stay tuned for the next installment, where we take a look at the aesthetics and electronics from the driver’s seat. We’re going to assess everything from trim and finish levels to system functions (think locks, windows, etc.) as well as a more in-depth analysis of the dash and display units. And with that . . . it’s off to the shops to take these awesome features to the next level!

The Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S Platform Series Partners

Please take a moment to check out our partners, whom without, none of this would be possible:

The world's most enthusiast-friendly Subaru dealership.
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SCR Performance
The Performance Expertise Behind the BRZ / FRS Platform Series.
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SLVA Automotive Studio
Where Form meets Function.
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Our Audio and Aesthetics Partner aka the Architects of Fidelity.
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AR Design
The Fabrication Masterminds Behind our Forced Induction Systems
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Our Sport-Compact Performance Parts Source. . . Never Compromising Quality or Customer Service.
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Air Lift Performance
The Progressive Behind the Build
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Maintaining Integrity & Strength through CUSCU Performance
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Wilwood Engineering
The Stopping Power
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Advan Racing
Bringing Together Performance & Aesthetics
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Bhrp's Profile Image

Brian Hannon (BHRP)

Grew up around cars and racing, a passion fueled by my whole family. Participated in numerous track days with cars and motorcycles as well as covered the NASA East Coast Honda Challenge for Grassroots Motorsports. Now that I'm in Colorado I'm enamored with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb... borderline obsessive...
Brian Hannon on Google+

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Drxlcarfreak's Profile Image

Awesome car and article!