Article by Ryan Randels. Photography by Ryan Randels, Corey Davis and Scion Stock Images.
Last week, we dove into the strengths and weaknesses of the performance components on the Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S platform. What we found out, in short, was that the platform is well balanced in its stock form, and designed and executed to work in mechanical harmony. Even with it as well balanced as it is, we're finding that the engineers have left much on the table–on purpose. Our goal here is to unwrap the platform to its most basic level, assessing and documenting what we find along the way. Then build upon the strengths of the platform so we can achieve our goals and deliver the information we uncover back to the enthusiasts.
Until we start swapping out parts and cursing bruised knuckles, we're going to take a less technical look at the platform's electronics, aesthetics and trim. But, we aren't going to inundate you with tons of electro mumbo-jumbo (just yet)–we'll be double fisting articles next week, finally introducing our build and, in a separate article, addressing the strengths and weaknesses of drivetrain electronics like the stock transmission control unit (TCU), engine control unit (ECU), vehicle traction control systems, vehicle monitoring systems, and other electronic goodies.
However, it isn't next week. It's still this week. And this week we are going to be whipping out the magnifying glass and looking at the electronics, aesthetics and trim of the BRZ / FR-S platform. We gathered our initial impressions of the interior in a previous post. Building upon that, we asked for some help from the experts at Elite Auto Salon (EAS), a high-end, custom car audio, fabrication and aesthetics shop located in Colorado Springs, CO. It is, easily, the best car audio and aesthetics shop in and around Colorado, so they're more than qualified to provide an in-depth analysis suitable for our audience.
Our talks with EAS owners Sam Teeters and Timothy Cochran, and shop manager Gary Turk, went long into the night over disarrayed wires and misplaced ohmmeters about the finer appointments of the BRZ / FR-S interior.
Sam Teeters said, "The designers and engineers at Toyota/Subaru did an exceedingly well job of nailing the function of this vehicle. Everything about it from the aesthetics/trim level all the way down to the creature-comforts screams track-car."
"The engineers undoubtedly designed with a theme for performance, track and racing by taking a light weight, minimalistic approach," said Gary Turk.
Timothy Cochran took a more mechanical look at the interior saying, "The Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S are without a doubt one of the easiest cars to disassemble." EAS takes apart cars every single day. This is their forte, so it's no surprise that Cochran would notice this.
The BRZ / FR-S is a do-it-yourselfer's dream car. EAS was able to remove the entire interior in just two hours, guided simply by their experience. As an example, standardized bolts throughout (10mm and Phillips head) make removing the interior a cinch. No special tools were needed. For things not bolted together, they snap together and are easy to undo. What sets the BRZ / FR-S apart from other cars at this price point is the use of soft, low-impact plastics. This helps in not destroying the clips and scratching the plastic trim pieces.
"At the $25,000 price point, the interior was very well done," said Teeters.
Ultimately, what makes the BRZ / FR-S so versatile is that it feels as if it?s been designed to be a performance/race/track car from the beginning.
Once we removed all the interior bits, including the dash, cluster, seats and general electronics, the car could still run, which is conducive for easy race prep. Even the over-abundance and placement of the airbags throughout the vehicle is characteristic of a daily-driven, track-prepped vehicle.
"Everything about this car's interior felt intentional. The BRZ / FR-S was built to be a track car, but with the styling and aesthetics of a passenger vehicle. Absolutely everything in the car was developed with a purpose. Whether that?s weight savings, serviceability, or race prep, the engineers thought about it," said Turk.
We found out that the car was designed around a strict diet of lightweight parts. The front seats scaled in around 40 pounds each (including the rails), and we tallied up the interior to weigh around 90 pounds total. We will actually weigh the interior components in order to give you an accurate weight in the near future. These lightweight pieces are just examples of how the BRZ / FR-S platform is squarely aimed at being a true sports car for those who have a greasy wrench and an itch for more performance.
While it is nearly perfect in its stock trim, adding performance means you will need to think about upgrading numerous components, like roll bars, interior bracing, safety harnesses, and seats that really hold you in place.
Being gripped by sport seats and a five-point harness may be the epitome of performance cars today, but not everyone likes a barebones race car. The BRZ / FR-S does offer some driving comforts that can be addressed and upgraded when upgrading other interior goodies.
Take for instance the sound system. While it is generally a decent stock setup, we experienced less-than-desirable quality as it produced hollow, high-pitched sound. With the windows rolled down and the stereo turned up, you could only make out scratchy peaks that faded in and out.
The front and rear speakers lacked sufficient wave separation, causing the cabin to fill with undue noise, which was further hindered by the intrusion of road noise from the lack of sound dampening (which was certainly intentional to reduce the weight of the vehicle).
The stock head-unit is more than capable of delivering high sound quality. However, upgrading to an aftermarket head unit or sound processor will not only increase audio performance, but will also add convenience features. Adding an aftermarket head-unit or sound processor will allow for proper time alignment, which is an absolute necessity if you're looking for quality sound imaging.
Replacing the stock speakers with a high-end, three-way set of components and subwoofer will increase the performance substantially from the stock system. "If you're looking for proper sound imaging, we never recommend back speakers. But if you're looking to really bump the output, then we recommend replacing both the front and rear speakers with supporting components," said Teeters.
For those interested in upgrading the system, EAS recommends three separate stages that can each address the stock's weak points. The first stage replaces all the speakers with high-performance components in conjunction with proper sound dampening. This is to substantially increase the performance of the system, while also drowning out the nuisance road noise. By using lightweight sound dampening materials utilizing foam and aluminum instead of simply adding mass, you can drastically increase sound quality, reduce road noise, and maintain the car's diet.
The second stage adds to the first, and includes a standalone signal amplifier, and subwoofer and enclosure. The amplifier allows for the increased output of undistorted signal, and the subwoofer brings up the bottom end to properly represent the entire audible spectrum.
The third stage builds upon the first two and includes the addition of a sound processor or aftermarket head-unit. As described earlier, this allows for proper sound alignment and imaging.
While audio quality may be a concern for some, almost everyone is concerned with security. These cars are more than a vehicle to get from place to place, but extensions of ourselves that we cherish. That's why we want to protect them by any means necessary. The stock security system is basic, and will prevent the vehicle from being stolen, but lacks shock sensors that would set the alarm off in the event of a broken window, leaving valuable contents vulnerable to theft.
For the paranoid set out there, EAS always recommends upgrading your security system to include a geo-tracking / geo-fencing option just to be safe. Geo-fencing allows an owner to receive an alert if their car leaves a virtual perimeter in a real-world geographic area. For example, say your car isn't supposed to travel past a certain point. If it does, you would get an alert. This is great if your car is being driven by someone else, like a mechanic, or is simply stolen. Geo-tracking allows an owner to track the car in real time regardless of where the car is. This lets the owner track down the car if it has been stolen.
One feature not found on the BRZ / FR-S is remote start. Adding a remote start system, which is now capable and fully functional on manual transmission equipped vehicles, can also double as a turbo timer, for those vehicles with forced-induction. This will be a nice addition, and one of the many things we?ll be looking at as our build progresses.
So far, we've covered quite a bit about the BRZ / FR-S platform. Take a look below at the Related Articles section if you haven't had a chance yet to review our previous articles–we're sure you won't regret it. In short, the prevailing theme is that the platform is good, but offers a great amount of improvements that can be capitalized on. Be sure to stop by next week as we introduce our build, and address the drivetrain electronics of the platform. Oh, and for those who like less words and more pictures, be sure to follow us on Instagram for daily updates on the build as it progresses.
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.
Visit them on the web @ https://www.heubergermotors.com/index.htm
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/Heubergermotors
The Performance Expertise Behind the BRZ / FRS Platform Series.
Visit them on the web @ https://www.scrperformance.com/
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/thescrperformance
Where Form meets Function.
Visit them on web @ https://http://www.slvastudio.com/
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/SLVAAutomotiveStudio
Our Audio and Aesthetics Partner aka the Architects of Fidelity.
Visit them on the web @ https://eas.tc/
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/ArchitectsOfFidelity
The Fabrication Masterminds Behind our Forced Induction Systems
Visit them on the web @ https://www.ardesign.info
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/ardesign.info
Our Sport-Compact Performance Parts Source. . . Never Compromising Quality or Customer Service.
Visit them on the web @ https://edgeautosport.com
Visit them on Facebook @ https://facebook.com/edgeautosport
The Progressive Behind the Build
Visit them on the web @ https://www.airliftperformance.com
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/AirLiftCompany
Maintaining Integrity & Strength through CUSCU Performance
Visit them on web @ https://www.cuscousainc.com
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/CuscoUSA
The Stopping Power
Visit them on the web @ https://www.wilwood.com
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/WilwoodDiscBrakes
Bringing Together Performance & Aesthetics
Visit them on the web @ https://www.mackin-ind.com
Visit them on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/mackinindustries