If you ask armchair enthusiasts what the worst thing is about the first-generation BRZ/86, most of them will tell you it’s horsepower — either the peak number of 205, or the infamous torque dip. But BRZ and 86 owners, who regularly take their cars to the track, will tell you something completely different: These cars can’t handle prolonged track use, because oil issues will kill the engine after enough time spent at high RPMs.
The BRZ/86 chassis is designed to be track-ready, crafted and honed by the mind of Tada-san for balance and poise. The FA20 engine, however, wasn’t quite so meticulously built. First there was the valve spring recall, then came reports of oil pressure drops that led to failed bearings at high RPMs.
The FA20 engine is shared between multiple vehicles, but it spins fastest in the naturally aspirated BRZ/86 chassis — and it seems the oil system just can’t keep up. Owners have experimented with different oil weights, oil coolers, or throwing out the FA20 all together just to fix the issue. Now, for the second-generation car, Subaru seems to have implemented a fix.
See that? Right under the oil filter? That’s a factory oil cooler, now standard on the upcoming BRZ. I spotted it while limping through the floor at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and immediately stopped to ask questions. Representatives from Subaru at the event confirmed that it’s an oil-to-water cooler, using coolant passages in the FA-series block. This is an incredibly popular modification for owners of the first-generation car, who use parts cobbled together from the Forester XT and their local hardware store to build a similar setup, but seeing it implemented from the factory shows that Subaru is actually listening to their buyers.
Oil-to-water coolers are a bit of a middle ground for cooling. They aren’t as effective as hanging a radiator off your front bumper, but they have the added benefit of helping the car’s oil reach operating temperature more quickly on cold days. When temperatures get too high, the coolant flow will help bring them back down more slowly than a dedicated oil-to-air cooler, but faster than a closed system would. It’s imperfect, but it’s better than nothing.
What remains to be seen is how well this system will actually work for owners. Dedicated track cars may still want a dedicated oil-to-air cooler, but people just looking to take their daily driver BRZ to a track day or two may not need to worry about running out of oil pressure before they can make it home. For a vehicle meant to be a 101-level course in car control, it seems like a good middle ground — but I’ll keep my eyes on the forums for confirmation.