No sniggering at the back! STI stands for Subaru Tecnica International, thank you, and is the internationally respected tuning arm of the Subaru factory. All of the great Subaru models over the years – well, the fastest and most flickable, at least – have worn the pink STI badge of pride at a couple of points on their generally more aggressive bodywork, and now it looks like it’s the turn of the Subaru BRZ coupe to get a tickle and a fettle by the STI crew. Oh good.
While details and indeed images are a little scant at the moment, the Japanese STI website is teasing the few images we have here, and at the same time whetting international appetites for a faster, more focused BRZ. The BRZ has had its fair share of praise since launch, although some have said that the engine lacks low-end torque for early acceleration punch. But, perhaps not for long.
Word on the Subaru street is that STI plan to supercharge the 2-litre, flat-four-cylinder engine under the BRZ’s hood, a tuning move that will surely give the mean-looking coupe the bite it needs to match its stance and styling bark.
Turbocharging the engine was another option open to the STI crew – and their usual route to pokey performance – but this was dropped due to issues of packaging under the bonnet. Seems a little odd to me, and perhaps it was just a cover up excuse to keep the hardcore, turbo-loving STI fans at bay. However, I must say that the standard BRZ engine bay does look a little busy.
A supercharger may bring the torque characteristics that STI are looking for, to keep the BRZ friendly and everyday usable, thanks to a less steep torque delivery curve than that of a turbocharger. Even with modern, low-inertia turbos doing away with pretty much all of the lag you can think of, a supercharger still brings its power-boost smoothly and surely through every point in the rev-range, making it entirely predictable to drive on-boost.
A turbo, with its more punchy nature, might light up the eyes of the experienced performance car driver, but with a more spiky boost performance, they can be a little daunting to the uninitiated. Subaru clearly want to sell as many BRZ STI models as possible, so they must keep it user friendly, and, if they really want slamming boost, the petrol-heads out there could always jack up the supercharger intake pressure in the aftermarket.
With, say, 300bhp from the freshly supercharged motor, and a stiffen and beef up around the BRZ’s handsome body, the BRZ STI now starts to sound like the kind of coupe that could be long-term entertaining. My personal issue with a 200bhp, naturally-aspirated car with about as much torque as a sleepy kitten, is that I’ll get bored with the performance. It’s not enough, in my opinion, to rely on the standard car’s skinny tyres and nicely oversteery rear-driving chassis to provide the thrills, as this means you’ll be constantly sideways; screeching around like a teenager in a supermarket car park, at night, in his mum’s Corsa. Not cool.
But, with a supercharger bringing the twist, happily rock-hard suspension and biting brakes, an STI-badged BRZ pumping at least 300bhp sounds to me like a pretty exciting deal. As long as the price is right, or I’ll just buy a used, standard car and bolt on an aftermarket turbo kit!
Standard BRZ has the stance, but needs more shove
No room for a turbo in here? But maybe a supercharger…
By Dan Anslow