After years of teasing and hoping and praying, it is finally happening: a Subaru BRZ STI. But don’t get too excited, friends. The BRZSTI may be a more serious sports coupe, but the likelihood of a turbo under that hood is slim—and the reasons are pretty obvious.
Ask anyone about the Subaru BRZ and its twin the Toyota 86 (the artist formally known as the Scion FR-S) and you will get two polarizing opinions. The first group of people, who likely don’t own one, will say the car needs more power. The second group of people, who are more likely to own one, will say the car is plenty quick and that the first group doesn’t understand because the BRZ is about “balance” and “handling,” or some such.
That first group of people has been clamoring for a turbocharged BRZ STI ever since the car launched. Now it seems they will get their badge, but it’s not likely they will get the boost. The main overarching problem with a turbo BRZ is cost. An automaker is not just going to slap a turbo on the motor and call it a day. For the BRZ to get forced induction the whole motor has to be reworked to reliably handle that power.
According to our man David Tracy, formerly an engineer for a major automaker, taking a naturally aspirated motor and making it a turbo is not going to be cheap.
To turbo that BRZ motor is probably going to require some significant tear-ups. Not only would they have to re-package the engine bay for the turbo/hoses/tubes, but the cooling module would need to find room for an intercooler. Plus they’d have to get oil lines to the turbo.
In addition to all that, they’ll have to add new stations at the assembly line for turbo vs. non turbo and have get the new car emissions certified. It’s going to cost a chunk of change.”
“Well, yeah,” you say, before adding “but the BRZ’s engine is just a non-turbo version of the WRX’s turbo flat-four! Why not use that?”
Again, easier said than done.
Popping the WRX motor might be a more likely option, but we’re dealing with two different underhood packaging environments in the BRZ versus the WRX. The BRZ’s underhood is already tight, now try adding a turbo, intercooler, all the piping, and oils lines. It’s doable (the aftermarket has done it plenty of times), but it’s likely going to take considerable engineering effort.
Even if Subaru decided to make the investment into turbocharging the BRZ, that cost is going to be passed on to the consumer. A fully loaded BRZ Limited with the Performance Package will set you back just under $30,000, but BRZ buyer on a budget can score a base model for around $26,000. Given that the WRX STI carries about a $4000 premium over a top-trim WRX, it’s probably safe to say that a BRZ STI would sticker four around $35,000.
At that price point, a turbo BRZ STI would be shopped against some serious competition and likely put it out of the budget range of the key demographic that would desire such a car to begin with. Which brings us to the next problem—no one is buying the regular BRZ anymore.
According to GoodCarBadCar.net, BRZ sales have been in a steady decline since 2013:
Granted, the BRZ is co-produced with Toyota’s 86, which outsells the BRZ, but still has been losing buyers at a predictable rate.
The last piece of evidence, which is probably the most damning, is the fact that the images you are seeing are awfully similar to a BRZ that came out back in 2013. It was called the BRZ tS and was sold in Japan and made by Subaru’s STI division. It had the same rear wing, upgraded wheels, suspension, but no forced induction under the hood.
Slapping on some fancy wheels, a cool racing spoiler, retuning the suspension, and jazzing up the exterior bits to make the BRZ look more serious would be a cheap and easy way for Subaru to pass a BRZ STI onto the American market with minimal investment.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Subaru will go rogue and make the BRZ STI an insane turbo coupe that can be a budget Porsche 911. But in the current climate of slowing auto sales, the numbers don’t add up.