Home » Austin Cars and Coffee Dec. 2012: FR-S/BRZ modifications

Austin Cars and Coffee Dec. 2012: FR-S/BRZ modifications

by DrivingEnthusiast

We’ve said many times that we see the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ, and Toyota 86 as the renaissance of the JDM performance movement. The cars are light, dynamic, quick, and affordable, and are therefore prime material for performance modifications. At last weekend’s Cars and Coffee event in Austin Texans, we encountered three local enthusiasts who have started their first rounds of modifications.

One thing in common between these two cars: neither was lowered and that makes sense to us. Lowering them would run the suspension geometry, increase bump steer, hurt handling (on a car that already has one of the lowest CGs on the market), and run the use of the car for back-roads drives. And the cars don’t have the capability of camber adjustment by design.

This black Scion FR-s was first up, featuring an Injen cold air system.

Scion FR-S

MSRP on this system is $420 USD, and typical street price is $299. With a gain of around 8 HP over the stock system, this is probably the most efficient aftermarket intake that you’ll find to get a noticeably improvement over the already-efficient factory intake.

Scion FR-S

Better yet, it includes a filter box to shield the air filter element from engine heat. That is a very important feature: leaving the filter element unprotected would mean that engine will be breathing hot air at slower speeds and making less horsepower. This particular intake has the option of a polished intake tube for the sake of appearance. Note that it doe snot support the factory sound tube, which is blocked off. We’re not a fan of these anyway: on our Miata we call it “the moaner” and of course our S2000 (being a far more serious driver’s car than the Miata) never wasted time on artificial sounds or sensations.

Scion FR-S

Here’s a telling image of a major restriction point in the FR-S/BRZ/86 engine compartment. This is the exhaust crossover pipe from the right side bank to the left and the first catalytic converter. Note the O2 sensor to measure the exhaust gas before treatment. This is the typical Subaru design element for their flat engines, and it opens up room behind the engine for an AWD system. But we have to wonder why the car was designed like this since it’s been stated that it will remain rear wheel drive only. Why not simply exit the exhaust out the back of the engine and join the two sides together after the transmission? It might be just the force of habit, or it might be that this front crossover system makes it easier to plumb a single turbocharger into the system. Which is what we know Subaru is preparing for with a future engine option for the BRZ. It also leaves room behind the engine for a sandwiched electric motor, which we know Toyota is planning. Incidentally, the front/rear weight balance of the platform is not good – the engine is forward of the front suspension centerline. Tuning the suspension for a little weight transfer to the rear would be a good idea for handling.

Scion FR-S

The stock wheels and tires of these cars from the factory are, shall we say, modest. In this example, the wheels have already been replaced, but not the tires. We can only assume that the tires are next on the list.

Scion FR-S

The tires are still the stock Michelin Primacy tires, which are hard-rubber low-rolling resistance economy car tires (identical in those offered on the optional Prius 17″ wheels). While we didn’t notice the wheel width, hopefully it is wider because tire tests have shown that this suspension works very well with 225s or 235s all around on a 17″ (not 18″) wheel.

Scion FR-S

This sharp white BRZ has already added a front lip, in addition to a strut tower brace and intake tube. The wheel and tires are stock at this point.

Subaru BRZ

The intake tube is a simple rigid rubber replacement, replacing the flexible rubber stock piece and gaining a modest 1-2 HP at best on its own. The stock air filter has been replaced with a K&N piece in the stock intake box. Note that unlike the FR-S above, the stock sound tube has been retained… piping intake noises into the passenger compartment.

Subaru BRZ

A Cusco strut tower brace is a pretty and popular standard modification for Japanese cars. The street price for this part is around $269 USD and it is a very straightforward bolt-on. This one leaves the stock firewall braces in place.

An interesting and much stronger alternative would be the new Hotchkis brace which also replaces the two firewall braces with a single 4-point triangulated brace. MSRP for that is only $258, with a street price of $225. The extra strength makes sense.

Note, too, the upper strut mounts. We were unable to determine the manufacturer of these, but there are all kinds of choices with street pricing ranging from a couple to several hundred dollars depending on quality and adjustability. Important: when choosing a strut mount, you will have a choice of metal bearings, solid metal bushings, or rubber bushings (listed in the reverse order of less harshness, vibration, and longevity). Make the right choice here based on what you plan to do with the car: race, autocross, or street use. Bearings will need to be replaced after some point, metal bushings will wear as well.

Subaru BRZ

We’re looking forward to seeing these two cars again at future shows, and in seeing what the next rounds of modifications bring to them.

And we’re looking forward to seeing what the factory brings to market in 2013. It’s understood that Toyota will bring a convertible to market, and we’ve seen the spy pictures of the BRZ STI lapping the Nurburgring, featuring big wheels and tires along with big multi-piston brakes front and rear. And savvy readers will note that Subaru recently introduced a turbocharged version of this same engine in an SUV, with 250 HP and Subaru’s own direct injection replacing the more expensive Toyotas D4S port/direct system. Now that a drop-in engine is available for use, how long will it take to bring it to market in the BRZ and what horsepower will it have? We’ll guess the Fall of 2013, and 280 HP.

Then there are North American aftermarket firms such as Cobb Tuning. We noticed that a member of Cobb’s staff took delivery of a blue BRZ earlier this year. Cobb won’t say whether it’s a company car for parts design or not… but we also believe that the masters of tuning the WRX and STI would be hard-pressed to leave it alone.

Only time will tell what comes next. But it is very clear that these cars already have great potential, that many owners are capitalizing on that, and that the factory will bring us even more in the future.


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