Friday, January 18, 2013

The GT86 Dilemma: FR-S Or BRZ?

To anyone familiar with performance driving in the Northeast, Steve Hazard is a household name. He always speaks his mind and has strong opinions - all part of the package that comes with his passion for performance driving. And he has the cred to back it all up: Steve is a multiple time BMW Class A Solo 2 Autocross Champion, 2005-2006 SCCA Regional National Tour BSP Champion, 2005 NERSCCA BSP Champion, and 2004 Mazda “Rev it up” National Finalist (1 of only 15 and beating 2,200 drivers in the process!) He competes with a very well set up Evo X MR but what piqued our interest is that he recently picked up an FR-S as his daily driver. We wanted to find why he chose it over the BRZ and here's what Steve had to share with us.

by Steve Hazard

I drove both GT86 cars at Autocross events, as well as at dealerships last Summer. I've also read just about every review there is on the twins as well. They are gems, cars like this only come along every 20 years or so. The differences are minor, but they are there if you know what to look for.
For me, the decision was three-fold:

The BRZ understeers at post apex cornering, the FR-S OVERSTEERS! Why? It’s in the shock and spring settings. If I remember right the BRZ has stiffer springs and softer valved struts, the FR-S has softer springs and firmer dampers. We are talking a small difference and the BRZ can be  coaxed to overseer via the go pedal, or left-foot-brake, but it TLC to do that and the FR-S does not.

The FR-S reminds me of the old BMW 2002, and it's unfortunate that BMW missed the boat on this marketing niche. They blew it with the 1 series. I had high hopes that it was going to be a true lightweight platform like these F86 twins.

So the more experienced driver will appreciate the FR-S more and it can be a handful at the limit. It's nothing that quick hands and throttle input can’t correct! The Suburu version acts like a AWD Suburu: it plows! The understeer is light but it still plows at the limit.

Both of these cars can handle 9.5-10” rims under their wheel wells and I plan to run some D Force 18x9's with 255/35/18 RS3’s in class STX this year.

The 17x9 D Force wheels weigh just under 18 lbs 
and are a direct hubcentric fit on the FR-S and BRZ. 
For more info, contact Ace Performance.

The BRZ is about $2-$3K more expensive than the FR-S. Yes, it comes with HID lamps, fog lights, a horrible Nav system and leather seats, to name a few of its perks.

The decision was simple for me. Buy the FR-S, $25,000 out the door and then add the things you need. I installed a great Pioneer Double Din Nav unit for $510 bucks, and saved a few grand. The FR-S is a few pounds lighter as well.

I also like the front-end styling on the FR-S. The BRZ's spoiler is butt ugly.

And last, I'm no Subaru fan. The sound of the flat four in the WRX and the STi reminds me of a Singer sewing machine on PEDs! Thank god the new 2.0 in the twins is a 100% new pancake 2.0. Much better cylinder design, which has been a problem in their FI cars.

Being an HPDE instructor since 2002 and an Autocross instructor since 1995 means I've driven just about every sports car over the last 20+ years. This is the new benchmark car! It now takes the torch from the Mazda Miata and its going to run the next leg. I can't say enough about this car….

The seating position, its super low center of gravity, near perfect weight distribution, perfect shifter, steering feedback, and a chassis that screams for additional power and tire!

It is quite addicting even with only 200 HP on tap!

There are only two minor faults with the FR-S:
  1. The OEM tires stink. Michelin Primacy? Heck, those are on the Prius! I waited until the All Season Bridgestones were available (the FR-S is my daily driver after all). 
  2. It screams for about 50-75 more HP. There are all kinds of SC and Turbo kits popping up on the market. There will also be many more variants coming out in the years to come built on this platform. An STi, a TRD, maybe even a SUPRA.
If you like attention, this car get stares every day. People are attracted to it like magnets!

See you on the runway or the Speedway!