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The BRZ and the GT86 are two peas from the same pod, but we find out if the Subaru moniker makes it a different beast to the superb Toyota?

This is the Subaru BRZ, which is perhaps best, if contentiously, described as Subaru’s take on the Toyota GT86  itself the long-awaited lightweight, front-engined, rear-drive sports coupé that has enjoyed what some would see as protracted pre-launch overexposure. 

The contention would appear to be over just who is responsible for what in the two cars’ conception, design and development. In 2008, Toyota chairman Katsuaki Watanabe decided he wanted an affordable 2+2 coupé, but his company was already at full production capacity and its development engineers were flat-out working on other projects. As a result, the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ are, in fact, mostly a Subaru production. 

Subaru's BRZ was benchmarked against the Porsche Cayman R

Subaru’s BRZ project leader Yoshio Hirakawa refers to the car as "ours" and confirms that Subaru was responsible for its development, testing and production, with Toyota – a 16.5 percent share holder in Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries – taking the lead on project planning and design. To this end, Subaru has also built a new production facility for the car, near its main facility in Oizumi in Japan.

Hirakawa promotes Subaru’s version of the car as more focused at the enthusiast than the better-equipped (but pricier) Toyota. However, he admits that the differences between the cars are limited to wheel design, badges and interior trim.

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Subaru BRZ feels agile and light-footed. Turn in to a fast corner and it understeers only very slightly, but trail the brakes or lift mid-corner and that quickly turns into controllable oversteer. And at high speeds it feels very stable, thanks in no small part to a relatively long 2570mm wheelbase.

The engine can be linked to manual or automatic six-speed gearboxes. The automatic box, which image-wise probably fits better to the Toyota version, comes with the three modes – Auto, Manual and Temporary Manual, the latter allowing downshifting via paddles behind the steering wheel. Both work well, but the manual is fitting for such a back-to-basics concept.

Subaru BRZ First drives