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Posts filed under ‘Subaru’

Turbo Subaru BRZ in the Works

October 24, 2012 by Matt

Subaru BRZ Silver

Via Left Lane and Autoblog, it appears a turbocharged version of the well-received Subaru BRZ sports coupe is under development. Concerning the engine, Left Lane reports:

The boxer engine will feature a single twin-scroll turbocharger to help reduce lag and a direct fuel injection system that Subaru is developing on its own. Thanks to these and other internal modifications, the flat-four will make up to 280 horsepower and 250 lb-ft. of torque, a big bump over the normally-aspirated BRZ’s 200 ponies and 151 lb-ft. of twist.

So, assuming a roughly 200-lb weight gain for the turbo, associated plumbing and drivetrain and suspension reinforcement, 280 hp in a 3,000-lb car is still a recipe for a mighty tasty power-to-weight ratio. If the stock car can sprint to 60 mph in the mid-6-second range, I’d estimate the mid/low 5s for the turbocharged variant.

Turbo Turbocharged Subaru Engine Motor EJ20 WRX STI

The big question is whether Toyota/Subaru can retain the car’s delightful balance and sublime driving qualities in spite of the numbing effect of additional power. We’ll have to wait on the road tests for the answer, but my hunch is they can, given that it’s “only” an 80-hp bump. And if the turbo BRZ ventures too far into pony car territory, we’ll always have the excellent naturally-aspirated variant to fall back on.

Editor’s note: The image above does not depict the upcoming turbo Subaru BRZ’s engine, but the force-fed flat-4 under the hood of the automaker’s WRX STI high-performance sedan.

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Earthbound Spaceship: The Subaru SVX

September 5, 2012 by Matt

Subaru Alcyone SVX Blue

Let’s talk some more about the Subaru SVX. Why? Because I want to.

Yes, it’s already been featured as part of the “Underrated Lookers” series, but I think the car is interesting enough for more than just one post.

Subaru Alcyone SVX Red Rear Back

I remain fascinated by its appearance. For all Subaru’s studied weirdness, for me, the ’92-’97 SVX is the one point of intersection between actual attractiveness and the automaker’s deliberate aesthetic nonconformity. In other words, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and the SVX represents one of those times for Subaru. The proportions are good, the slight fender flares a nice touch, and the whole car radiates a kind of pitch-perfect fighter-jet aggressiveness. Not only that, as pointed out in my earlier post, I challenge anyone to name a more spaceship-like car. Honestly—close up the wheel arches, graft on a pair of ion engines, strap in, engage the hyperdrive and you’re good to go. It’s nerd-tacular, and I love it.

Subaru Alcyone SVX Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

The interior is subdued compared to the extroverted bodywork, but it still has a couple of odd touches, most prominently the decorative “door” for the stereo controls in the center console, as well as the handle-like, horizontal handbrake lever. Beyond that, it sports a nice bank of clear gauges and all secondary controls are laid out in a sensible manner.

Subaru Alcyone SVX Engine Motor EG33

The EG33 engine was Subaru’s first flat-6 fitted to a production car. A 3.3l, 230-hp mill, its basic design is very sound, but at the time of its release, Subaru had no manual transmission capable of handling its 228 ft-lbs of torque. So there was sadly no stickshift option available from the factory, even in Japan, which limited the car’s appeal among enthusiasts. Fortunately, for we shadetree mechanics, many later Subaru manuals (from the WRX, Legacy, etc) will bolt up, albeit with some modification needed to the shift rods and driveshaft. A swap isn’t an unattainable ambition, and kits even exist to facilitate the process.

Dynamically, the car is a bit of a mixed bag. Its permanent AWD system gives it sure-footed handling, but the front weight bias compromises the car’s balance, and its admittedly hefty 3,500 lb girth dampens the fun as well. That said, any prospective buyers hopefully aren’t expecting a light and lively sports car, but a larger, stylish, comfortable, competent-handling GT, and in the latter capacity the car excels. I have a penchant for cars with those attributes; add a dash of the SVX’s weirdness, and I’m sold.

13 Comments on Earthbound Spaceship: The Subaru SVX

Underrated Lookers: The ’93-’01 Subaru Impreza

March 23, 2012 by Matt

Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Blue

A discussion of the Subaru Impreza could have fit into a couple categories: The one it’s featured under, Underrated Lookers; or another one, Sophomore Slumps. The grounds for its inclusion under the latter would been the atrocious, bug-eyed styling visited upon the second-generation car; however, apart from its looks, the 2nd gen is actually a brilliant machine: relatively lightweight, tossable, simple, rugged and easy to tune for power. It certainly isn’t slumping as far as its dynamics. So, by process of elimination, the first-generation ’93-’01 Impreza slots into the category you see; and I might add, one that it fits very well.

Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Blue

It’s one of Subaru’s most cohesive designs. Even with the addition in later years of rally-racing-themed scoops, vents, spoilers and lighting, the basic shape still looks understated, handsome and capable. Chiefly responsible for the ’93-’01 Impreza’s visual impact are its simple-yet-aggressive grille treatment, its athletic stance and especially its subtly-flared fenders, which give the car an ever-so-slight waisted look. The effect emphasizes Subaru’s characteristic AWD system and the fact that tractive power can be transmitted through the tires’ contact patches at all four corners. The fender flares also make the car look lithe, agile, nimble and playful. It’s a car that invites a drive, in other words.

Subaru Impreza 4 Four Door Silver

Even the four-door form looks fresh, as the automaker wisely decided to retain all the key styling features from the coupe version. Both body styles shared all underpinnings, in the same way that BMW 3 Series coupes and sedans are mechanically identical, and to this day I (and most enthusiasts) lament the fact that Subaru declined to market the very fast, turbocharged variants of the Impreza—the WRX and WRX STI—in North America (the rest of the world got them). No, we had to make do with a naturally-aspirated, 165-hp 2.5l flat-4 and wait until the arrival of the 2nd generation car for forced induction and real speed. So we American enthusiasts are placed in the awkward position of having to decide between looks (1st gen) or factory speed (2nd gen). Unless, that is, one was willing to undertake an engine swap and combine the best of both, which in this case might be the way to go for the Subaru buff who wants to construct a modern classic.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring cars whose design I find appealing, in contrast to mainstream opinion. Read the other installments here:

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Has Subaru Ever Made an Attractive Car?

December 22, 2011 by Matt

Subaru Tribeca WRX Baja

Grant me a bit of hyperbolic license for the post’s title—they have, at least, made cars that were bearable to behold—but I challenge anyone to name a truly beautiful Subaru.

Inspired by a description in a recent Car and Driver review of the new 2012 Subaru Impreza as “no longer ugly, but not yet pretty,” I tried to recall any actually pretty Subarus. In fairness, most automakers have had a handful of shapes they’d disown, given the chance, but in the history of almost every manufacturer, there’s at least one beautiful shape to counterbalance the bad. Subaru has definitely had their share of nausea-inducing designs (BRAT, Baja, Tribeca, bugeye WRX, etc), but I can’t think of a single really attractive design on the other side of the ledger. They’ve had designs that were memorable (SVX) and handsome (Impreza 2.5RS, ’03-’09 Legacy), but nothing truly arresting, in a positive sense.

Not only that, I don’t know of another car company that’s searched so hard without success for a defining design element. What do I mean? Taking just the WRX as an example, from ’00 to ’03, they seemed to completely commit to a circular headlight treatment, then hastily adopted a more conventional nose from ’04-’05. Next, from ’06 to ’07, the WRX sported an Edsel-like “puckered” grille shape, only to abandon that even more quickly in a cloud of ridicule in favor of a more “sweeping” treatment from ’08 on. And to this day, where most marques are more-or-less readily identifiable, Subaru seems to have swung the pendulum back the other direction of being completely anonymous. Where other automakers show a styling progression, sometimes significant, as model cycles come and go, Subaru takes it to the next level, lurching wildly from one theme to the next. Their design turmoil is somewhat unique in the automotive world, and notable.

4 Comments on Has Subaru Ever Made an Attractive Car?

Scion FR-S Returns Toyota to the Driver’s Seat

December 1, 2011 by Matt

Scion FR-S FRS Toyota GT-86 GT86 Subaru BRZ Red

Another bit of large-ish news from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show: After months of photos and tentative specs, Toyota and Subaru officially unveiled their jointly-developed trifecta of badge-engineered RWD coupes.

Scion FR-S FRS Toyota GT-86 GT86 Subaru BRZ Interior Inside Cockpit Dashboard Gauges

As reported previously, the common ground between the Subaru BRZ, US-only Scion FR-S and rest-of-world Toyota GT-86 is their 2.0l, 200 hp flat-four engine, overall shape, light-ish 2800 lb weight and RWD architecture. The brand- or sub-brand-specific fine-tuning is up to the individual automakers, and so far it looks like Subaru’s going to give their BRZ a harder performance edge in contrast to Toyota’s selection of a more docile feel for their coupes. Either way, expect a myriad of further trim lines and variations on the basic theme, both from the automakers and from the legion of aftermarket tuning outfits chomping at the bit to get their hands on the cars.

I can hardly blame them; we’ve been waiting since ’05, when the Toyota MR2 Spyder left our shores, for a real enthusiast-oriented car from the Japanese automaker. For a time, they redirected their efforts toward dominating the market for hybrid cars with their Prius, neglecting the performance legacy established by the aforementioned MR2, Celica, AE86 Corolla and almighty Supra. I think I speak for many enthusiasts out there when I say, “Welcome home, Toyota.”

Scion FR-S FRS Toyota GT-86 GT86 Subaru BRZ Engine Bay Motor

A quick glance at the engine bay reveals some positive and some disappointing features for those of us in the do-it-yourself set, professional or otherwise. It seems the shock towers are already braced to the firewall, eliminating, or at least rendering irrelevant, the presence of an aftermarket shock tower brace, a favorite engine bay ornament of the Fast & Furious crowd. Speaking of the shock towers, I guarantee you their location relative to the wide, flat engine is going to make changing spark plugs a complete nightmare. Fortunately, most cars having a 100K mile tuneup interval, that’s probably not a procedure that will have to be attempted often. The airbox is situated prominently, right up front in the bay, providing a nice location for the inevitable aftermarket cone filter to draw warm air from under the hood, giving the supposedly performance-minded owner a couple horsepower debit over the OEM piece, which is an actual cold-air intake.

At the very least, the FR-S and its cousins may give wannabe racers a showroom-fresh, balanced, RWD alternative to their aging Nissan 240SXs, FC RX-7s and brawny Mustangs. I’ll drink to that.

9 Comments on Scion FR-S Returns Toyota to the Driver’s Seat

Uncharted Territory

September 6, 2011 by Matt

Subaru BRZ Cutaway

New photos surfaced today showing a heavily-camouflaged prototype of Subaru’s upcoming RWD, flat-4 sports car, the BRZ.

The diversification of the automotive landscape (SUVs, hybrids, crossovers, etc) means sports cars have become something of a riskier venture than they used to be, so the BRZ is a joint venture with Toyota, who will release a badge-engineered version under their Scion brand.

Toyota, at least, provides the car with at least a little pedigree: Their mid-’80s, 4-cylinder, RWD AE86 Corolla has a cult following among the Japanese tuner crowd, and the upcoming offering looks to be in the same vein, even if the engine supplied by Subaru has a different cylinder configuration. For Subaru itself, though, there’s no clear precedent. The two pillars of their claim to uniqueness have always been their boxer engines and AWD architecture, even in their performance cars like the WRX. The BRZ will be powered by one of their classic flat-4s, but its placement in the chassis makes an AWD version all but impossible. And they’ve made 2-door sports coupes before (the late-’90s Impreza 2.5RS was the best we ever got), but nothing that wasn’t based on sedan underpinnings. The BRZ is a dedicated, fresh design.

Maybe it’s a little much to hope for, but if the teamed-up automakers get this one right, might we be witnessing the birth of a new sports car dynasty?

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Underrated Lookers: The Subaru SVX

August 29, 2011 by Matt

Subaru SVX

This one taps into my inner nerd.

Was there ever a more spaceship-looking car? The strip of lights on the front, the fighter canopy, the Battlestar Galactica rear end… Just add a pair of S-foils in attack position and a few photon torpedo launchers, and you’re set to defend the galaxy or something. Of course, the element that grabs everyone’s attention is the “window-within-a-window” side glass treatment, carried over whole hog from the concept car the SVX was based on.

Subaru SVX Rear

Ironically, in spite of the obvious (and possibly intentional) sci-fi styling overtones, it’s actually a very handsome car. The proportions are nicely done, with just a hint of wedge in profile, entirely appropriate for a GT. And for all the derision heaped upon the exterior, it’s not nearly as gimmicky or chintzy as the 3000GT/Stealth twins, with their bumps, fins, side strakes and spoilers halfway up the rear glass. The SVX’s styling is actually cohesive and unique; it’s not an otherwise normal-looking car with half a dozen tacked-on geegaws—everything has a context, and I admire that about it.

Even if it does look like the spaceship car from The Last Starfighter. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring cars whose design I find appealing, in contrast to mainstream opinion. Read the other installments here:

2 Comments on Underrated Lookers: The Subaru SVX