Leaked photos of an aggressively modified Subaru BRZ circulating on the Internet led to some serious speculation that Subaru had some serious cards up its sleeve. While leaked photos leading up to something like an auto show may come as no surprise, these were especially notable because Subaru had already pitched a BRZ STI prototype at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2011. In theory, this would be the production version of that. But you’d be wrong.
Since then, we have salivated and waited for its triumphant emergence into the American market. But it never arrived, and we were left wondering if as sports car fans we were doomed to have nothing more than a 200-horsepower weekend warrior that requires extensive aftermarket alterations to reach anything close to STI echelon status.
But with a potentially power-packed Subie sitting smugly on the showroom floor in New York City, our hopes have been instantly rekindled, and the forums are on fire with speculation as to what tricks Subaru has this time around.
Does it look sharp? Why, yes, it certainly does, especially with those angular LED running lights, fat fenders, bulging bonnet, dual-port center mounted exhaust, and carbon fiber rear wing. Other snazzy offerings were the covertly hidden flush door handles (complete with STI branding, of course), heavily bolstered Recaro seats, toggle switches that make the cockpit feel more like a cockpit, and taillights that don’t induce a gag reflex every time we see them.
The suspension, which is a Bilstein-supplied shock supported by a stiff STI spring, and the rubber wrapping those 19-inch BBS rims is a Z-rated Dunlop compound. In true STI fashion, the car gets massive Brembo brakes, along with a blue paint job that has become synonymous with STIs the world over. So what about the power department? Surely there has to be some “go” to go with all this “show.”
According to a report by Automobile Magazine, “The car is powered by the EJ20 turbocharged flat-four from Subaru’s BRZ GT300, which competes in Super GT, a Japan-based racing series.” So when channeled through the car’s six-speed gearbox, it is safe to say that this little blue demon probably puts down around 300 horses to the rear wheels.
Which is not bad, considering the car only weighs 2,750 pounds and has fantastic weight distribution courtesy of the engine’s lower center of gravity. So it looks like Subaru is really off to a good start with all of these clean external and internal styling cues, performance handling upgrades, and equally impressive engine modifications.
Now all we have to do is wait to hear how much the car will cost, and hopefully Subaru will agree to drop this gem on the market sooner than later — at which point we will pencil in a test drive and thoroughly thrash the vehicle with great vigor and unrestrained glee. Which leads us to one key problem: we probably won’t be getting this car. Ever.
Subaru put all of that hype and brilliant engineering in front of us, like a 300-horsepower carrot, and just waited for us to bite. Which we did with great gusto, and now all we can do is sit back and wonder why they would be so cruel. For the sake of space, let’s just say that Subaru wanted to take the time to showcase what they were capable of, and this car will not be put into production.
While it may be a fun and reliable little rocket ship right out of the box, the BRZ has seen less-than-stellar sales over the past few years, and it continues to wane as the initial hype surrounding the BRZ slowly fades away. Sure, both the BRZ and its Scion twin, the FR-S, have a very devout fan base, and while the car has won over many critics in recent years, there is no getting around the fact that being a compact, rear-wheel drive sports car with a noticeably underpowered engine limits the type of consumer who would cough up $25,000 to $30,000 to own one.
A spike in competition could be another reason why Subaru needs to seriously consider rolling out an STI-equipped BRZ. With Mazda bringing the MX-5 back to its roots and Honda threatening to turbocharge damn near every engine in its arsenal (including the ever-impressive Civic Si and the recently confirmed Civic Type R), the folks over at Subaru had to come up with a contender of their own in a timely fashion.
As these Japanese auto manufacturers began to hint at reclaiming the compact sports car market, Subaru must have suddenly felt the heat and opted to throw its own contender in the ring. But this really isn’t a contender at all — it is just an onlooker that will forever be remembered as the BRZ STI we were teased with twice, but never allowed to touch.
Follow Autos Cheat Sheet’s coverage of the New York Auto Show here.