DUNCAN, British Colombia – Yielding not an inch to the hordes of enthusiasts and auto journalists who have clamored for more horsepower since the launch of its light and agile BRZ sports coupe in 2014, Subaru has done the right thing, albeit in a limited-edition model of which only 100 copies will be available for all of Canada in 2018.
Developed with the expert help of engineers at the famed STI (Subaru Tecnica International) performance division, the BRZ tS is only the second STI model to reach our shores. Yet it does not carry that famous acronym because it does not get the requisite power hike. Under the hood is the same 2.0-litre, flat-four ‘boxer’ engine that delivers 205 horsepower at a merry 7,000 rpm and 156 lb-ft of torque at an equally lofty 6,400 rpm.
The numerous changes and upgrades applied to the BRZ tS are aimed, instead, at improving its driving feel, handling precision and overall performance. The tS stands for “tuned by STI,” and has been used by Subaru since 2005 for special models created with this specific aim and sold only in Japan. Until now.
Good looks always help
Fresh off the boat from Japan, our test car was the only BRZ tS in the land will soon be unveiled and displayed at the Montreal Auto Show. It looked great up close, in Crystal White Pearl, but you can also get one in World Rally Blue Pearl or Crystal Black Silica.
Amidst a series of rather subtle changes, the tall, STI carbon fibre rear spoiler stands out, quite literally. It can be adjusted to either one of two settings, for the desired level of downforce. A thin, black lower lip in front and “underspoilers,” mounted low on the sides and at the rear, improve aerodynamics further.
The BRZ tS also gets red accents around the grille, on a special front fascia, and on the rear bumper, with a tS badge just above. There are plenty of red stitches and accents inside the cabin, with red leather bolsters for the excellent front seats. The belts are a tasteful shade of red and the tS also gets big and clear, white-on-black, analog STI speedometer and tachometer gauges.
In the wheel wells are the first 18-inch wheels on a BRZ, their wider, black alloy rims carrying Michelin Pilot Sport 4 performance tires in size 215/40 R18, with Brembo brakes all around. The tS also sports Sachs dampers and coil springs that are stiffer by 9% in front and 6% at the rear. Intriguing “flexible V-bars” mounted above the engine, and “draw stiffeners” affixed to the chassis and subframe below are said to sharpen steering response without affecting ride comfort.
More fully composed
Most importantly, all these bits have been tied together and carefully tuned by the wizards at STI. Compatibility and refinement come standard, just like performance models from the M GmbH division at BMW or the relentless AMG group within Mercedes-Benz.
This quickly became obvious after comparing the BRZ tS with a regular BRZ on a short, pylon-speckled autocross course laid out next to the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit. The standard BRZ, agile and balanced as always, was great fun to boot around the short, twisty course. The white tS was simply better, in every respect. It had more grip, less body roll, better steering feel and sharper turn-in, throughout.
Things got substantially better when we got to chase an instructor driving a turbocharged, 268-hp, all-wheel drive WRX around the twisty, hilly and marvelous 19-turn road course for two separate sessions. While it was a genuine hoot to push as hard as possible in the rally blue regular BRZ, trying to keep up with the leading pair, the white BRZ tS delivered driving fun of a different order.
Next level attained
The lighter, more agile tS was essentially glued to the WRX’s bumper throughout, shadowing its every move. The meters gained by the more muscular car were quickly regained at the braking point and through the long sweeper that followed. The tS was more precise, more effective, more stable and just plain quicker, everywhere, than its sibling. Its brakes were also stronger and less prone to fade at the end of the session. Proof unquestionably positive that the BRZ tS is a better, quicker sports car.
It’s also nice to see that Subaru Canada has priced this limited-edition model at $37,395, just a few grand more than the BRZ Inazuma Edition offered last year. That carbon-fibre wing, by itself, could be worth $2,000, and the special STI parts would quickly add up. And there is plenty more, including a genuinely improved ‘infotainment’ system with a larger screen, standard climate control, and a brace of other BRZ upgrades for 2018.
Now, let’s see Subaru and STI come up with a 2.2-litre version of that sweet, free-revving, boxer engine that could easily belt out, let’s say 240 horsepower and a nice layer of extra midrange torque. This BRZ tS certainly has the legs for it.
Model: 2018 Subaru BRZ tS
Engine: 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder
Peak output: 205 hp
Peak torque: 156 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Length: 4,235 mm
Wheelbase: 2,570 mm
Width: 1,775 mm
Height: 1,320 mm