Earlier this week, a story by J.P. Vettraino of Automotive News announcing a rumored Subaru BRZ Turbo for the 2014 model year made quite a few waves (and led to much commentary and copy-and-paste reposts) throughout the Internet. All the buzz, in fact, even made our May 2012 story on the Subaru FA20 turbo engine our most popular story of the week by a significant margin.
For this author, the most eyebrow-raising aspect of the story is the reported 280 hp and 250-plus pounds-feet of torque for the BRZ Turbo, versus the 296 hp and 295 lb/ft of torque output of the first production application of the FA20 Turbo in the Japanese domestic market’s 2013 Subaru Legacy 2.0GT DIT. Why the drop in power? Myriad possibilities emerge, from that lower output being the most the chassis can handle without upsetting the BRZ’s meticulously tuned handling balance to Japan’s less stringent vehicle emissions standards to U.S. market engines being tuned for California’s 91 octane premium fuel, as opposed to the 93 octane elsewhere in the U.S. (not to mention slightly higher octane premium gas available outside the U.S., including in Japan).
Then we have the transmission issue. In our February 2012 analysis of the Aisin AZ6 transmision that evolved into the production Subaru BRZ’s TL70 unit, we noted that
A cursory glance at all the vehicles that have used the Aisin AZ6 reveals that the torquiest of the lot is the S15 Nissan Silvia Spec-R, producing 202 lb/ft. All other AZ6 users produced somewhere between 124 and 163 lb/ft of torque, with stock BRZ / FR-S / GT 86 rated at 151 lb/ft. Notably, when the North American market demanded a manual transmission option for the Lexus IS 300 and its 2JZ-GE 3-liter inline 6′s 218 lb/ft of torque, the Aisin AZ6 (or J160 in Toyotaspeak) was deemed to be too weak. Instead, a W55 variant of the W58 5-speed manual from the naturally-aspirated Toyota Supra and Lexus SC 300 was used.
In other words, the BRZ’s TL70 manual transmission can’t handle the torque produced by the FA20 turbo, and making a BRZ Turbo automatic-only would be a moronic oxymoron.
Lost amidst the excitement and hoopla is this sobering bit of information when Luke Vandezande of AutoGuide.com did the obvious and reached out to Subaru for commentary:
(Subaru of America’s National Manager of Product Communications) Dominick Infante flatly denied the rumor, saying “we have no plans to offer a turbocharged BRZ.” Instead, he said the engine, as previously reported, is the powerplant being developed for the next WRX.
For those of you disappointed by this denial, we bring you Vandezande’s astute observation:
Ramping the car’s power up by 80 hp could improve its straight line performance, but it may tamper with the car’s elegant handling.