What is it?
The Litchfield BRZ Spec S is a tuned up Subaru BRZ. On paper it should turn the BRZ into the hero car we all expected to start with. The BRZ Spec S benefits from a supercharger to realise 280bhp and 210lb ft, and at £29,477, the package is less than £5000 up on a standard Subaru or Toyota GT86.
So this is it, a Subaru BRZ with enough firepower to do the chassis justice and with tyres that put a premium on response and progressive breakaway behaviour instead of rolling resistance and low grip. Litchfield has developed this Spec S with very clear goals in mind and ultimate lap time wasn’t really in the script. Instead the idea was to significantly improve the performance without altering the car’s inherent balance or character and to broaden its operating window. As Iain Litchfield says, it’s all very well falling into oversteer in third gear but if the engine can’t then manage the slide effectively, it can all get a bit messy.
The package is appealingly simple and relatively affordable. The Rotrex supercharger kit costs £3500 plus fitting and the handling kit – consisting of Eibach springs and new anti-roll bars – is just £530 plus fitting. Power is up to 280bhp at 7300rpm (from 197bhp) and torque to 210lb ft at 6700rpm (from 151lb ft). This car also benefits from 18-inch wheels with sportier 225/40 tyres (up from 215s) and an Alcon brake kit for both axles.
What’s it like to drive?
On the track it lives up to the promise that drips from its spec sheet. Body control is significantly ramped up, an effect magnified by the stiff sidewalls and general responsiveness of the new tyres. However, the biggest change is in power delivery. A standard BRZ needs to be absolutely wrung out to really deliver on road or track, but the Spec S has really useable torque while retaining the rewards at the very top end. The engine still sounds rather strained and the whine of the supercharger adds to the racket, but it’s finally providing you with the power to work the chassis hard just at the time when you want to.
The Subaru takes part in evo Track Car of the Year 2013
The result is that the Spec S oversteers everywhere: either a little bit when you’re on a timed lap or a lot when you’re just driving for fun. With the predictable torque curve and the excellent turn-in response, the BRZ enters into a slide with real progression. You need to be quick to catch it comfortably, but once you’re on top of the car everything happens in slow-motion. To use a cliche, you genuinely steer the car on the throttle more often than not. Perhaps it lacked the edge of the Mini GP it battled during our 2013 Track Car of the Year feature, but it’s equally engaging because you’re always working the balance of the car. The Alcon brakes are also absolutely superb.
It’s a well-judged package of upgrades and delivers on the promise of a chassis that’s been crying out for more power. We love it.
How does it compare?
This is the Subaru BRZ as we always imagined it would be, and the all-round improvement shows, as it knocked a cool 5.3sec from our best lap in a standard Toyota GT86, navigating Lincolnshire’s Blyton Park race circuit in 1m07.5sec.
At around £30,000 (depending on how much you want your Subaru upgraded), it marches into Audi TTS and entry-level Porsche Cayman territory, but this is oodles of fun, and with a scant number of BRZs sold in the UK, it’s sure to be a more individual choice than its German rivals.
Anything else I need to know?
Thanks to the BRZ’s shared mechanicals with the Toyota GT86, both cars can be given the Litchfield Spec S treatment, allowing you to pick the one whose styling and spec you prefer. Our full 2013 Track Car of the Year test is in evo issue 189, on sale now.