Subaru BRZ 2014 Review
Subaru launched sales of the BRZ here solely online, but improved supply from the Japanese factory means the sports coupe is now being retailed through dealers.
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It's what an eager enthusiast demands -- and a supercharging perfectly fulfils the performance potential of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. The bolt-on kit - one of a handful of performance upgrades from global aftermarket suppliers - comes out of WA under the Bullet label and lifts rear-wheel torque up about 60 per cent and power by 40 per cent.
From birth, the 86 promised exotic-car poise and balance for $10 shy of $30,000 and guaranteed smiles - but its 147kW/205Nm 2-litre aspirated engine remains a weak link for owners wanting to match image with grunt.
Specifically, it is designed to eradicate the inconsistent torque curve of the standard engine that includes weakness at low revs and a "black hole'' from 3500-4500rpm. Flattening out that rollercoaster shape of the torque curve is the supercharger's prime role. Bullet manufacturer Sprintex claims the dyno shows peak outputs of 175kW/245Nm compared with the standard engine's wheel output of 120kW/190Nm.
But more power is just a new exhaust system away, says Sprintex managing director Steve Apedaile, who loaned the test car that is identical to a stock 86 GT manual except for the bolt-on blower and its integrated wafter-like intercooler. He says the new exhaust should add another 10 per cent to the power and torque gains.
The blower is one of the latest add-ons to the blank-canvas appeal of the 86 GT and is priced at $4990 - a few thousand dollars less than the populous performance-void body kits - plus installation. But that is unlikely to be the only additional cost. Apedaile admits the supercharger will demand more powerful brakes - which need larger wheels to make room for the bigger brake rotors - and tuned suspension.
The 10psi blower, which even despite the Swedish-made Laminova water-to-air intercooler within the plenum sits neatly on top of the Subaru flat-four engine and doesn't foul the bonnet line, is a new product from Sprintex. Its installation is more than mechanical, involving a reflash of the engine's CPU using an EcuTek program.
The S5 supercharger is one of four products - including one for the 660cc Japanese Kei cars - now made by a joint-venture business in Malaysia with company AutoV Corporation.
Apedaile says the supercharger kit is sold to Sprintex's US distributor under the Innovate Motorsports name and in Japan as Cusco.
Australia gets only the intercooled version of the supercharger while parts of the US and some other cool-climate markets have the option of buying it without the intercooler. However, the intercooler can be added later. A similar system is being developed for the Chrysler-Jeep 3.6-litre Pentastar V6.
No off-the-mark gasp and no need to feather the clutch to maintain momentum and prevent stalling - that alone irons out the low-speed annoyances of the 86, especially in traffic. The dyno graph prepares you for the drive. It shows the torque start at about 150Nm at 2000rpm (the standard engine is 135Nm at the same revs) and curve to 210Nm by 2600rpm, shadowed by the normally-aspirated engine that climbs to 190Nm at the same revs.
But by 4000rpm the standard engine has exhaled, dropping to 155Nm while the supercharged engine is continuing upwards to 240Nm. The blown engine then holds a flat curse to 7250rpm while the standard engine dips and peaks, tailing off to 155Nm at the top of the tacho dial.
The graph translates almost exactly into the driving feel, with strong off-the-mark strength from the engine that is in stark contrast to the strangled feeling - and occasional stall - of the production car. The supercharger, its activity aurally introduced by a muted whine, simply transforms the 86's acceleration and makes it a less technical exercise. For the driver, that means less concentration in getting the power smoothly to the ground.
The extra oomph is the bonus. But there's no immediacy to the power flow, rather it's linear from idle through to the 7400rpm cut-off. There is notably increase in the mid-range - as demonstrated by the dyno graph - that pours on strongly when overtaking. However, though the supercharged version spins to the red line, the stronger low-end torque made exceeding 5500rpm a bit excessive.
Carsguide will return to Sprintex in a couple of weeks and I can run a video test on the car with its new, free-flow exhaust. Apedaile says the standard exhaust is one of the reasons why the engine suffocates in the mid range. The new system may make the previous paragraph obsolete.
I was searching for the handling impact of the extra 30kg that's stacked over the front axle. It wasn't noticed on the test route's winding country roads but may show up later on the track. The test car had a space-saver spare in the boot which may offset the supercharger's weight and nullify any handling discrepancy.
As for the rest of the car - it's an 86. Surprisingly good ride despite the rough bitumen roads in Perth's north-eastern hills, the same 86/BRZ tight cogs and short shifter (but the gearbox oil still needs to be warmed up), accurate steering feel and nicely bolstered driver's seat.
Bigger wheels with low-profile rubber will take the soft edge off the ride but tighten handling and there's fears that going further with a Pedder's suspension kit may make it less compliant for the road. That's yet to be tested.
Power with glory. An ideal kit for those seeking more stick but a warning that it's only the start of what may becomes an expensive journey of modification.