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Nissan Z, Toyota GR 86, Subaru BRZ and WRX, and Civic Type R: 2022 is going to be a bumper year for Japanese performance cars

Nissan's new Z is one of a number of sporty models launching from Japanese brands this year.

If you’re a long-suffering fan of Japanese performance vehicles, you’re probably used to extraordinarily elongated product lifecycles and extended periods where it seems the Land Of The Rising Sun has simply forgotten about sporty vehicles altogether.

However, while Toyota’s Supra and GR Yaris have provided a trickle of new product in recent years – the latter of which has proved mightily popular with enthusiasts – 2022 is set to deliver a veritable flood of fast machinery from Japan. 

The drought has well and truly about to break, the only problem now is: which one should you buy?

Subaru BRZ 

Okay, so this one technically ‘arrived’ in September last year when Subaru Australia opened the order book ahead of local deliveries, and if you’re reading this wondering how you can place an order of your own, well, we’ve got bad news. It’s already sold out. 

All 500 of Subaru’s first BRZ allocation were snapped up before Christmas, and with local deliveries only just having commenced, that means every single one of those orders was made sight-unseen, with no test drive. A fair commitment considering the BRZ range starts at $38,990 before on-road costs.

What are those 500 lucky individuals receiving? Though it’s the second generation of the BRZ, it sits on a slightly evolved version of the rear-wheel drive chassis used by its predecessor. The form factor is generally familiar, with a 2+2 seating layout housed within a low-slung two-door coupe bodyshell, but the biggest change by far is under the bonnet. 

With a 2.4-litre engine generating 174kW of power and 250Nm, it boasts significantly more in raw outputs (+22kW and +38Nm for the manual, +27kW and +45Nm for the auto), than the first-gen BRZ.

Plus, with sleeker styling that adopts a more sophisticated, almost European flavour, merged with greater torsional rigidity, weight-reducing aluminium bodywork, and suspension tuned for road-hugging grip, the new BRZ should feel significantly more athletic than the one that came before it. If you didn’t already get your order in though, you’re probably going to have to wait a while to find out.

Subaru WRX and WRX Sportswagon

2022 will be a triple-whammy for Subaru Australia when it comes to hot cars, because joining the BRZ will be an all-new WRX AND its big-booted brother, the WRX Sportswagon. Both due in the second quarter, they mark an important step-change for Subaru’s long-running WRX nameplate.

Gone is the old 2.0-litre turbo flat-four, replaced with a beefier 2.4-litre turbo that makes 202kW and 350Nm. Hooked up to either a six-speed manual or a CVT auto with paddle shifters to row through eight predefined ratios, drive gets sent to all four wheels for maximum grip no matter what surface. 

Speaking of which, a new exterior concept for the sedan sees black plastic body armour grafted to each wheelarch, perhaps a suggestion to owners that the WRX will be just at home on gravel as it is on the blacktop.

The WRX Sportswagon will be a more sedate take on the WRX formula, eschewing the sedan’s arch flares and its manual transmission option, instead offering a big load capacity coupled to that muscular turbo 2.4. Does it feel familiar? It should, as it’s essentially a refreshed and rebranded Levorg STI

We’ve also got wind that the ultra-hot WRX STI should be getting its global reveal in the next couple of months, meaning that Subaru Oz might be able to drop FOUR performance cars in the same year… if the stars align.

Nissan Z

Speaking of long product cycles, the Nissan 370Z has had one of the longest. It’s been on sale in Australia since 2009, meaning its lifespan has stretched to more than double that of a regular car. However, change is on the way, with a new-generation Z due around the middle of this year.

And that’ll be the name: just one letter, Z. For the first time in the Z-car’s history, which stretches all the way back to 1969 with the original 240Z, the badge on the bootlid won’t tell you how big the engine is, and that’s probably because the new Z’s engine will actually be smaller. 

Downsized to 3.0 litres from the 370Z’s 3.7, the new Z will compensate for the trimmed displacement with a pair of turbochargers, producing a very stout 298kW and 475Nm and sending it all to the rear wheels via your choice of a six-speed manual or a nine-speed automatic. It should be a rapid thing.

Styled to mimic iconic Zs of the past like the 240Z and 300ZX, the new Z also boasts a very futuristic aesthetic that should serve it well into the 2020s… and if the last one is anything to go by, potentially deep into the 2030s as well. 

Price? We don’t know just yet, but expect that info to surface as we get closer to its mid-year local launch.

Toyota GR 86

As with the previous generation, the Subaru BRZ is twinned with a Toyota-badged counterpart – the GR 86 – and as before much of the mechanical hardware is shared between the two.

Toyota’s treatment will differ in its own way, though, and Toyota says the difference will be more pronounced than it was with the previous generation BRZ/86. The engine will be shared, but the real separation will come in the handling department, with Toyota claiming the GR 86 will have a stronger focus on racetrack dynamics. 

Styling will also set them apart, but the bigger question is how much of a price gap will exist between the BRZ and GR 86? 

The previous generation had the Toyota-badged option with a significantly more appealing entry price (it was sub-$30K at launch back in 2012), however depending on how Toyota Australia structures the range there might not be much of a price advantage this time around. We shall find out when it launches in the second half of 2022.

Honda Civic Type R

While the regular Civic’s single-variant offering and high retail price may have raised eyebrows, the Type R derivative that’s set to launch later this year will surely raise heartrates.

Already revealed in camouflaged form late last year, the new Type R will be an extensive evolution of the current model, which has been on sale since 2017. Concrete details are scant at this stage, however, with Honda staying tight-lipped on any mechanical details until the official reveal sometime in the middle of this year.

Until then, the rumour mill has attempted to fill in some of the information vacuum, positing that Honda may leverage its hybrid experience with the NSX to marry the existing Type R’s 2.0-litre turbo with a pair of electric motors – which potentially opens up the possibility of all-wheel drive if those motors are fitted to the rear axle.

Other theories speculate that Honda will boost performance by instead shedding weight, cleaving kilos from the new Type R’s body through exotic materials like carbon fibre and lightweight alloys to help tip the power-to-weight ratio more heavily toward the former. Another item on the rumour list is the addition of a six-speed automatic transmission option, which would be a first for the Civic Type R and one that could gift it a greater degree of commercial success.

Will any of the above come true? We’ll find out later in the year, and hopefully see it in local showrooms before the end of 2022.