The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ look the same because, wait for it… they’re the same.
The 2 + 2 sports cars are the result of the joint corporation of Toyota and Subaru.
The latter company did most of the heavy lifting and its fingerprints can be seen all over both cars.
If you’re in the market for an affordable sports car, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are two of the most exciting options to drive.
Since their introduction in 2012, they’ve matured at the same rate.
Join us as we explore more similarities (and differences) between the first-generation post Scion demise of these sports cars.
Owing to their book ends quality is the fact that the cars were primarily developed by the same company that brought you the legendary WRX – Subaru.
This is not the first-time auto manufacturers have hooked up to bring a new car to market.
Most notable to me is Mitsubishi’s partnership with Dodge to develop the 3000GT and Stealth, respectively.
Toyota and Subaru’s partnership served to offer consumers a new sports car from Toyota, which the company was not in a position to do on their own.
And it helped Subaru deliver the brand’s first rear-wheel drive car.
In the sports car segment, the BRZ and 86 are newcomers that compete against the better known and more established Mazda Miata.
Ever since the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ were launched in 2012, they’ve been an enticing option for enthusiasts hungry for an affordable rear-wheel drive sports car built for driving enjoyment.
There haven’t been any major exterior changes to the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ since they were first introduced.
In fact, there are only a few design elements that distinguish the 86 from the BRZ from an aesthetic perspective.
But trying to describe them is like listening to Vanilla Ice trying to describe how his track for Ice, Ice Baby differs from Queen’s Under Pressure.
If you squint, you can perhaps make out some styling differences in the front fascia.
While the 86 features honeycomb plastic for the air intake with a trapezoidal front side.
The BRZ has a U-shaped grille with a thick black plastic section to hang your license plate, below which are horizontal cross bars.
As a driver’s car, the front seats offer the most amount of legroom in the 86 and BRZ.
Back seat passengers will have a cramped experience.
For 2017, both cars received some luxury upgrades that include soft materials as opposed to scratchy items.
The twins also received HD and satellite radios; Bluetooth; a rear-view camera and an eight-speaker sound system.
But BRZ interiors go one step further in the luxury department offering amenities like seats with leather sides and suede inserts.
Another distinguishing element between the BRZ and 86 is the Toyota’s seven-inch touchscreen compared to the BRZ’s 6.2 inches.
The way Mitsubishi shared the 24-valve, 3.0-liter V6 engine with the Dodge Stealth.
Under the hood, the Subaru shares its 2.0-liter boxer engine with the Toyota 86.
It’s a flat four-cylinder motor producing 200 horsepower and 151-pound feet of torque.
This design helps the engine sit lower helping both cars achieve a balanced driving experience – It’s become a beloved platform for tuners due to its simplicity.
The story continues when it comes to transmission choices. There’s nothing here to distinguish one car from another.
The only difference is that you can get 205 horsepower and 156-pound feet of torque when the four-cylinder engine is paired to the six-speed manual gear box.
And only 200 horsepower when the boxer engine is hooked up to the automatic transmission.
In my humble opinion, since this is a driver’s sports car. Like the Honda S2000, it shouldn’t be offered with anything but a manual transmission.
Since Subaru did most of the work in terms of engineering in this partnership.
No matter which car you choose, you’re going to feel a Subaru signature driving experience rather than Toyota.
But the Subaru has a slight edge.
Beneath the skin, there are differences in performance resulting from suspension tuning. Both cars go fast.
The difference here is that while Toyota offers an upgrade package to enhance handling through TRD (Toyota Racing Development).
Subaru gives the BRZ a pretty good suspension setup right from factory. Which affects other performance factors, like fuel consumption.
You would think that being similarly speced would mean that the fuel economy of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ would be the same.
But whereas a manual BRZ has a 21 MPG (miles per gallon) city and 29 MPG highway rating.
A manual 86 has a 21 MPG city and a slightly less 28 MPG highway rating.
Numbers reflect similarly when talking about automatic examples: a Toyota 86 with an automatic transmission gets 24/32 MPG.
And an automatic Subaru BRZ gets a slightly better 24/33 MPG. This is likely because of the BRZ’s superior suspension setup.
All though the mile per gallon difference is nominal on paper.
These numbers can make a big difference in the long run in real world driving conditions.
With first generation Toyota 86s and Subaru BRZs almost out of warranty. We turn our attention to the second generation.
If you’re in the market for the latest versions, both models come with 3-year, 36,000-mile basic and 5-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranties.
Roadside assistance coverage is where things differ. The GR86 provides two years, unlimited miles. While the latest BRZ gives you three years, 36,000.
Even today the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ remain two of the most competitively priced vehicles in the sports car arena.
It’s questionable whether either company would have been able to pull this off without this dual partnership.
Prices for the 86 and BRZ are virtually identical starting at around $30,000. As the trim goes up so does the price.
BRZs tend to be more expensive, but only marginally.
Although the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are very near identical twins. For our money, we would choose the Subaru BRZ.
We don’t like the fact that you have to pay extra to get suspension performance that comes standard with the BRZ.
The BRZ’s enhanced suspension also accounts for its albeit marginally better fuel economy, allowing us to conclude the BRZ an altogether bargain in the long run.