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Auto Show:  2011 Tokyo Auto Show

Subaru BRZ - Tokyo Auto Show

author photo by Jeffrey Archer November 2011

After months of waiting and no less than three concept versions, Subaru's sporty BRZ is finally here. The automaker unveiled the rear-wheel drive coupe at this year's Tokyo Auto Show, announcing engine specs, dimensions and a host of other details ahead of its US launch next summer.

Co-developed with Toyota, who also premiered its mechanically identical GT-86 coupe in Tokyo, the BRZ features a high-revving 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder under the hood. Producing 197 horsepower at 7,700 RPM and peaking at around 150 pound-feet of torque, the powerplant is identical to the one found in the GT-86 and features the same standard 6-speed manual and optional 6-speed automatic transmissions.

But the two cars share more than just an engine. Revealed in two striking colors - a metallic blue and a stylish flat white - the BRZ bears a clear resemblance to the GT-86, from its long, distinctive hood to sculpted character lines down both sides. Exterior differences between the two cars are subtle, and amount to tweaks rather than radical variations.

The similarities continue inside, where the BRZ features the same upright dashboard, supportive seats and thick three-spoke steering wheel as its Toyota twin. It also includes the same heavy use of red accent stitching, though the BRZ features lighter-colored dashboard materials on its passenger side.

Regardless of the similarities, the BRZ is an important car for Subaru. It represents a sporty new rear-wheel drive experiment for the automaker, typically known for conservative family cars featuring standard all-wheel drive. It also puts the brand on the map for a youthful segment of the population who may have otherwise purchased a Scion tC, Hyundai Genesis coupe, or Honda Civic Si.

While those models will certainly compete with the BRZ, the coupe's biggest rival may be its twin, which will likely reach American shores as the Scion FR-S. Both cars are expected to start in the low- to mid-$20,000 range, meaning trim differences and brand preference may dictate which one finds more buyers.

To help draw interest in its version, Subaru will take the BRZ racing with a high-performance track-only version called the BRZ 300GT. Designed to compete in Japan's SuperGT series, the purpose-built race car was also unveiled at Tokyo and should begin racing early next year. The automaker may also differentiate its version from Toyota's with a high-performance version dubbed the BRZ STI. A concept version, shown earlier this year at the LA Auto Show, featured a series of go-fast parts, chassis improvements and sporty exterior revisions.

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Subaru BRZ - Tokyo Auto Show - Autotrader