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Next-gen Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ on the way with more power

14 January 2020 - autocar

Next-gen Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ on the way with more power

New sports car could have 255bhp+ generated by a Subaru 'Boxer' engine and will be built on Toyota’s TNGA platform

Toyota and Subaru are ramping up development of a successor to the GT86 and BRZ sports cars – and Autocar has learned that the Toyota version will be rebranded as the GR86.

The GT86 and BRZ were launched in 2012, and their future had been in doubt because of relatively low sales. But both companies have committed to developing a replacement, with the Toyota version a key part of the brand's growing performance car line-up.

Toyota boss Akio Toyoda is a major proponent of using performance models to boost the brand's image under the Gazoo Racing division, which also includes Toyota's various motorsport programmes.

The original GT86 pre-dated the creation of that brand, which started with the GR Supra and will also include the GR Yaris, the first model developed purely by Gazoo Racing. The next GT86 is set to be rebranded to bring it in line with that nomenclature.

The next-gen sports car will feature some substantial changes from the existing model. While the original was built on a Subaru platform, the firm's current architectures are not suited to rear-drive cars, so Autocar understands the new model is set to be built on Toyota's TNGA platform.

While Toyota underpinnings will be used, Subaru is expected to once again take the lead with powertrain development. Autocar understands the car is likely to retain a flat-four 'Boxer' engine, with reports in Japan suggesting that the existing 2.0-litre naturally aspirated unit will be switched for the turbocharged 2.4-litre powerplant currently used in the Ascent, Legacy and Outback models.

That engine produces 255bhp in the Ascent, a figure that would represent a significant upgrade on the outgoing model's output. Forced induction would also provide a substantial torque upgrade over the old car, too, providing a draw for those who weren't satisfied with the performance of the outgoing GT86 and BRZ. Both brands may wish to retain the drivability and character of a naturally aspirated unit, but this needs to be balanced with what buyers are demanding – and that appears to be the on-tap grunt of a turbocharged unit.

Toyota and Subaru will also want to improve the aesthetic appeal of the new car, both inside and out. The old GT86 and BRZ were widely criticised for their low-rent cabin, so expect improvements in technology, material usage and fit and finish. Whether or not the model becomes more of a true four-seater in order to really help it stand up against more practical rivals remains to be seen.

Such changes – particularly the power upgrade – would be likely to see the price of both cars increase. However, both brands will be conscious of the close proximity of more premium models, such as the Audi TT and BMW Z4. Toyota won't want to tread on the toes of its own Supra, either, particularly in Japan where a four-cylinder version of the reborn sports car is offered.

The second-generation BRZ and GT86 will build on expanding links between Subaru and Toyota. As well as the sports car, the two firms are teaming up to develop a new EV platform and electric SUV.

Toyota weighs up sports hybrids

Toyota is considering hybrid versions of future performance car models – but only once the weight of the systems are reduced.

The Japanese firm is in the process of electrifying all of its models, with a heavy focus on hybrid systems. But the new GR Yaris will only be offered with a three-cylinder, 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, despite 80% of Yaris sales expected to be hybrid.

Naohiko Sato, chief engineer of the GR Yaris, said that while a hybrid system would fit in the car and was under evaluation, Toyota didn't believe it was currently suitable for performance cars.

"Right now, if we chose an electrified powertrain for a sports car, it would be heavier," said Sato. "We decided it's not the right way to go right now. Maybe when the technology gets better and we have new technology allowing lighter powertrains, it could be good.

"Right now, the Prius and RAV4 plug-in hybrids can have big batteries because they're not sports cars, but it is best not to have a big battery for a sports car."

Toyota GR Super Sports - arriving in 2021: Road-legal version of forthcoming Le Mans racer will serve as range-topping 'halo' model, built in very small numbers.

GR Yaris - arriving in late 2020: Four-wheel-drive, 247bhp-plus hot hatch brings World Rally Championship learnings to Yaris range.

GR Supra - on sale now: Famed two-seat grand tourer has been reborn through partnership with BMW.

GR86 - arriving in 2021 (estimate): Second generation of rear-wheel-drive coupé will be brought in line with new GR branding.

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