Klitschko, Brownlee, McRae, Dimbleby, Schleck, Chuckle – trying to choose between two brothers and decide which is the better is something of a sticky subject. You feel that even if it can be done – even
if it’s sometimes quite an
obvious decision – it probably shouldn’t be spoken about for the sake of some sort of familial harmony: ‘Each has his own strengths and is special in his own way, so let’s move on, nothing to see here.’ But only one of the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 can go into the group test (E30 M3 vs Integra Type-R and Clion 200) over the page. So we must decide.
In this case the two Japanese protagonists are more like twins than mere brothers, so splitting them is even trickier. Their 197bhp boxer-four engines, for example, are identical, as are their gearboxes (this manual BRZ being more enjoyable than the auto we tried previously). They’ve even got the same Michelin Primacy tyres. The interiors might have been kitted out differently in these two particular cars, but apart from the badges on the identically shaped and sized steering wheels, both could be dressed up to match.
So, what is distinguishing? The front grilles are clearly different – one appears to be upside down, although we’re not sure which one. The thick strip of plastic behind the Subaru’s number plate does make it look like it’s got a bit of a moustache, which could be good or bad depending on your thoughts on what Nigel Mansell would have looked like with a small registration plate accessorising his soup strainer. You can also have the BRZ in Mica Blue, which for some will mean that it is an instant winner, but if we were to choose on bodywork alone, it would have all the kudos of the NME deciding that one half of Jedward is better looking than the other.
No, it all comes down to the way they drive, and even this is initially tricky to distinguish. Drive at six-tenths in either car and it really doesn’t matter which you choose. There’s bundles of grip from both chassis and a nice neutral feeling to the way each car dissects a series of bends, with neither remotely ruffled when you get on the throttle. In the wet, as roll stiffness effectively increases to 100 per cent, both cars are a doddle to slide when you turn the stability control off. Both are a lot of fun.
The two cars only truly begin to diverge when you increase your commitment and really start to push them dynamically in the dry. The difference is in the set-up, with the Toyota having a slightly softer front end and a slightly stiffer rear (and therefore by deduction the Subaru being mildly stiffer at the front and faintly softer at the rear). This means that initially you get a little more positive feeling from the steering of the BRZ as its sharper nose dives into corners, with a bit more bite the moment you turn the wheel. This extra grip doesn’t seem to diminish either; the harder you push, the harder it grips because as the car turns, the softer rear leans and digs its tyres harder into the tarmac. Understeer simply never materialises.
By comparison, the Toyota has a marginally softer feeling to the steering and less positivity as you turn in to a corner fast. Carry yet more speed and the nose actually begins to leak away its grip, the steering lightening a little in your palms as it does so. This then requires you to back off the throttle a fraction, or unwind a bit of lock to restore grip to the front tyres. In short, it will understeer.
What I’m about to say next might surprise you. We prefer the Toyota. Yup, the understeering GT86 is our choice for the thrill of driving. That’s because when the front tyres start to scrub, it’s comforting; it signals where you are with grip levels and lets you adjust the weight balance more effectively. In short, it gives you something to work with, whereas the BRZ at its limit just seems to grip and resist your attempts to get it moving around.
Because the GT86 is stiffer at the back, it also unsticks into oversteer (with a combination of momentum and power) more easily and progressively than the Subaru, which will eventually oversteer but feels more snappy and less happy doing so, wanting to pivot around a point closer to the front wheels. It’s all stuff that happens right at the outer limits of the cars’ repertoires, and unless you’re on a dry trackday it won’t matter most of the time because those limits are surprisingly high.
But we need to separate the two somehow, because only one can meet the bona fide bunch of heroes waiting for it in the group test that follows. The Toyota gets the nod.