2020 Toyota GR Supra

2020 GR Supra_Groups_003

“Number is one thing, feel is another.” Chief Engineer of Supra, Tetsuya Tada. He is the engineer of a sports car that’s different from others, something that is more than just numbers on a piece of paper. His previous work is a good example of that. The Toyota 86 is nothing on paper, there’s nothing impressive about it. No wow factor at all, until you drive it. All the numbers you read on paper don’t determine how fun and amazing the car is. Well, he has done it again. On paper, the new Supra is just an under powered BMW Z4 with an automatic transmission. However, it’s so much more than that. It’s unique and magnificent.

I was lucky enough to test drive the all new 2020 Toyota GR Supra. This is going to be a VERY long review, so grab some popcorn and get comfy.

(disclaimer: Toyota US invited me to the Supra event to write this review)

History of Supra:

There are countless articles, YouTube videos and posts about the history of the Supra, so I’ll skip this part.

BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra:

toyota bmw

Let’s get one important part out of the way, how this collaboration came about.

This project initially started in May 2012, Tada-san and his crew were in Barcelona for a Toyota 86 media event. While at the event, he received a call from his boss saying “First thing tomorrow morning, you’ll fly to Munich (Germany). Don’t tell anyone about this and you’ll go to BMW headquarter. There, you’ll have a representative greet you. Investigate all possibilities of making a car with them.” Tada-san was confused about what was happening. While on the plane, he had a feeling what this was all about, the return of the Supra. Ever since he was working on 86 project, every car enthusiast kept asking “When is the Supra coming back?”. Back in 2012, the only manufacturer who was producing an inline 6 engine was BMW. This confirmed his suspicions that they wanted to bring the Supra back. However, Toyota executives never stated that they were going to make a sports car. They just said “Go investigate the possibility.” After a lengthy discussion with BMW representatives, Tada-san reported back saying “They’re very friendly and there’s no problem.” That was the start of the disaster that soon ensued.

Toyota and BMW first had to examine their production processes, obviously they were going to be COMPLETELY different. Both companies couldn’t understand each other’s car making process at all. They couldn’t agree even on what kind of car to make. From the beginning Tada-san wanted to make the Supra. To BMW, that idea was absurd. Mr. Diess, BMW side team leader, thought that it wasn’t a good idea nor investment to make a sports car. Tada-san understood clearly, it was a very rational response. Tada-san stubbornly stated “Rationally speaking we need to make something else, but as far as Toyota is concerned, we need to build a pure sports car.” He wasn’t going to budge one single bit on the idea of bringing the Supra back.

Year and half later with no progress at all, Mr. Diess left BMW and became CEO of VW, so BMW replaced him with Mr. Froelich. Tada-san stated that he is a crazy passionate car enthusiast at heart. Mr. Froelich came and saw the situation and decided to transform the entire team representing BMW on this project. From there things changed dramatically and start moving quickly. “If you guys are crazy to make a sports car, maybe we should try.”

When talking to BMW engineers, Tada-san was told that they have never built a sports car. In disbelief, Tada-San’s responded, “What are you talking about? You’re crazy! You have all these magnificent vehicles. They’re fantastic!”. To their reply “No, no, no. We build fast cars and we just modify them. The only pure sports car we’ve made recently was the M1.”

After much debate, the two teams finally decided on what kind of car this collaboration was going to be, a sports car. The #1 question now was, what kind of sports car should we make? Thankfully, that process was pretty easily decided. They were looking at the current market of sports cars, such as Porsche. Porsche had Cayman and Boxster. They share the same platform, one is convertible, other was coupe and both perform amazingly. BMW wanted to make a convertible and Toyota had the intention of building a coupe. BMW wanted this new sports car to be comparable to the Boxster, while Toyota the Cayman. Both companies finally set rational expectations and had a target to meet.

Now, how were both companies going to achieve this goal? Both companies sat down to discuss more about the logistics of how they were going to make this happen. They first looked at the platform. Everyone agreed that the initial platform was obsolete. Therefore, they needed to create a new platform, from the ground up. If they didn’t, they knew that the goal they wanted to achieve wouldn’t be met. They decided to do an ultra short wheelbase with track width and a low center of gravity. They wanted to use a ratio of wheelbase and track width comparable to high performance cars. All the wonderful sports car in the world have a golden ratio of wheelbase and track width of 1.6 for 2 seaters (and 1.7 for 4 seaters). 1.6 is the ideal ratio and the team thought about making it 1.6, but they knew they needed to do better than that. As a result, both Supra and Z4 run a ratio of 1.55. Following the diagram of this car, it more closely resembles a racing car than a street car. Unfortunately, when any automotive makers try to make this golden ratio of wheelbase car into production, the car looses stability and ultimately never makes it to production. BMW and Toyota wanted to gear their development focus on stability.

They created an unique dimension with a unique ratio for this project at hand, but weren’t sure if it was feasible. They started by studying all other platforms in the market to see if this was truly possible. After running multiple situations and simulations, the result exceeded their expectations. They knew the possibility of this new sports car was achievable. Toyota headquarters halted this idea “Wait, wait, wait! I’ve never heard of car like this. Those dimensions won’t work on the street. Are you sure this car is going to drive?” To prove to Toyota, they took a 2 series from BMW and chopped it up to match the exact dimension, wheelbase, and even the weight of current Supra car to test drive it. They named this test car the “Fullrunner” (which you can find somewhere online). After test driving the Fullrunner to make sure it worked, they shipped it to Japan to get it tested by all the executives. Toyota executives were ecstatic and gave Tada-san the green light.

The collaboration between the two companies parted ways and split up into 2 teams: Team Z4 and Team Supra. Besides the initial platform, these two teams designed two completely individual designs in pursuit of accomplishing their repetitive goals of beating out the competitor, Porsche Boxster and Cayman. Other than relaying necessary information, the two teams did not interfere with each other. They did however exchange ideas from time to time. Team Z4 found a way to decrease the road noise inside the cabin, but Tada-san politely declined that idea because he wanted Supra owners to hear the roaring exhaust.

Exterior:

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I first saw the Supra at the Detroit International Auto Show. My first impressions were “Wow! It’s pretty small.” It has an overall length of 172.5 inches and is 73 inches wide. If you compare it to the previous Supra, it is 5 inches shorter and 2 inches wider. Noticeably the rear quarter panel shows the width very well with a very curvy line. It almost had the feeling of an aftermarket wide body. To achieve the impression of the car being wide, they put the taillights and headlights closer together. Supra MkIV (A80) uses the same style. Tada-san told us, in order to make this wide rear quarter panel, they couldn’t use a regular press machine. They had to use a special press machine to ensure the integrity of the steel used wouldn’t break. This is one of the reason why new Supra and Z4 are assembled by Magna Steyr in Austria.

wheelbase

Another surprising part of the new Supra is the wheelbase. Currently the Supra’s wheelbase sits at 97.2 inches, which is quite short. Compared to the Toyota 86, the Supra is a little bit longer. The wheelbase however, is 4 inches shorter than the 86. Those 4 inches can make a dramatic difference in performance and that is clearly shown.

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The overall design of the Supra came from the FT-1 Concept which came out in 2014. A lot of people admired this concept and it brought an abundance of attention to the possibility of the next Supra and I was one of them. The front of the car resembles the sharp angles found on the FT-1. The exterior exhibited wild curves that made people wonder “How are they able to make the car look like this?” This Supra kept some aspects from the FT-1, but with a twist. For example, the Supra has an extra hole in middle front, while FT-1 Concept didn’t. Senior Lead Designer Tom Matsumoto explained, FT-1 had small dual radiators versus new Supra needed bigger radiator to open up more space in the front to bring air in. He also knew that the production version needed to be smaller. Finding a way to keep the original design but still have the car be functional, resulted in the Supra being uniquely unique… in a VERY good way.

The photos surfacing online and other media outlets, do not do this car justice. It looks magnificent in person. They kept the dynamic curvature in the design, which in my opinion, they did a phenomenal job. No car is without a critic, some say the design is quite ugly.

roof

The double bubble roof showcased on the 86 is more extreme in the Supra. This provides extra head space for all the taller drivers and passengers. Tada-San explained these roofs aren’t only for head space. In fact, it helps direct the air flow to the back without having a big spoiler. With this design, it kept the Supra stable enough to achieve a top speed of 250kmh (155mph), even without a spoiler. In my opinion, not having a typical big spoiler on the back isn’t what I expected, but I do like this Supra with a more minimalistic design. It reminds me of the older Supras. MkII (A60) to be specific, with duckbill. If you want to add a big spoiler on the Supra, they made a reinforcement on the trunk to support aftermarket spoiler without having to worry about the trunk bending.

colors

There are total of 8 different exterior color options for Supra. In person, they all look great and are unique. Sadly, I wasn’t able to see Tungsten or Turbulence Grey. My personal preference would be Phantom with matte grey. The extra $1,500 isn’t easy on the wallet, but you have to see this color in person. If you have a chance to see it in person with outside lighting, it’s the best! I expected Nitro Yellow to be a little more vivid, however, it is still a lovely color on new Supra. If you ordered the 1 of 1,500 Launch Edition, you have 3 color options. Renaissance Red 2.0, Nocturnal and Absolute Zero. If you want other colors for the launch edition, sorry, you’re out of luck on that one. Overall, all the colors that I’ve seen weren’t anything crazy. They tried to go for more mature colors that fit nicely with a suit or plain t-shirt and jeans. If I had a say, I would’ve wished for a few colors to be more vivid to compete with Porsche and other brand’s eye catching colors.

Of course, we cannot please everyone. Some might feel like the front of the Supra looks too awkward and pointy. Others say there are way too many curves. When you see this car in person, this car is visually stunning and it will catch many people’s attention. To truly understand the passion that was poured in this car and beauty of it, nothing beats seeing it up close and personal. This is not a car that you will see everyday. I guarantee heads will turn when the Supra drives by.

Interior:

interior

Ever since we learned that this Supra was a collaborative project with BMW, all I have heard and read online was BMW this and that. They aren’t wrong, but they also aren’t correct. Yes, Supra used BMW parts, but again, the design and characteristics of this car are individual to Toyota. Entering the car requires a couple handy tricks, unless you enjoy hitting your head every time you get into this car. Some stated that the cockpit of the older Supra resembled that of a jet fighter. Unfortunately, that isn’t present in the new Supra, but it is still driver focused. Seats are one of those focus points. The leather feels very premium, but it can give you extra bolster support to hold you in when you need it. Infotainment screen isn’t bulky nor does it disrupt the drivers view. I could visualize the hood without the screen obstructing my view. JBL 12-sound system is loud and crisp to keep you entertained throughout your drive.

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By far, the best part of the interior was the seats. 14-way power sports way with adjustable side bolsters and driver’s memory was luxurious to say the least. For daily driving, you can keep the side bolsters low, so it’s easy to get in and out of the car. When you want to race around the track, you can up the bolsters to keep you tightly seated. Sadly, at the event, they didn’t provide the base model, so I cannot say how it compares. I assume it’s the same design with different materials, but it should still be nice.

seats

Speaking of seats. There are 3 options of seats. Base model only comes in Black Alcantara/Leather. Premium comes in Black Leather. Launch Edition comes in Red Leather, except if you order Renaissance Red 2.0, then you’ll get Black Leather interior.

I know someone will ask this question soon or later, so I’ll answer it right now:

Q: Can you wear helmet and go in the car?
A: Yes, you can. Just be aware of the roof or else, you’ll bang your head/helmet going in… Just like most of the journalists I saw.

Q: Can you wear a helmet inside the car?
A: Yes, you can. I had to do that few times and didn’t have an issue.

Q: Does it have turn signals?
A: Yes

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Designing the interior was one key focus for Tada-san. This interior is geared mainly towards the driver, therefore, the passenger kind of gets the short end of the stick. Let me explain, let’s say you’re a lucky passenger riding along with the Master Driver of Supra, Herwig Deanens. He’s zipping through the track to show you the potential of new Supra. Sounds like a fun time right? The only problem is that you’ll be thrown around like a rag doll every corner he takes. No knee pads, no handle on the roof, basically no support at all for the passenger. The extra bolsters on the seats are supportive to an extent, but nothing compared to bucket seats that hold you into the seat. Surprisingly, the storage bins located on either door are crazy small. You’d be lucky if you could fit your phone or wallet there. Another interesting featured in the new Supra is the Qi compatible wireless charger. Only issue is that there is a USB port directly in front of it. Good luck if you are planning on using both the USB and the wireless charger at the same time.

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I’ll be lying if I said the quality of the interior was the best I’ve seen. People have been complaining that the Supra has an interior similar to that of BMW. Honestly, is that a bad thing? BMW is known for having top quality interior. Sadly that top quality interior isn’t present in the current Supra. The center console uses real carbon fiber. The remaining of the parts are made of rubber and plastic. Since the seats are made of premium leather, I would’ve expected them to use the same materials to help make the interior match a little more. Personally, I’d rather have extra suede and leather all throughout the interior as opposed to a single piece of carbon fiber in the center with rubber and plastic on the remaining parts. Also, the infotainment system isn’t located directly in eye line. On several occasions I felt like I had to tilt my head slightly to see it.

Few Random Facts about the Supra:

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Tada-san left a few Easter eggs under the hood. One of those being omitting the front tower brace. Toyota didn’t just forget about them nor did Tada-san want aftermarket companies to make it (despite what some car journalist claim). During the initial testing of a Supra that contained braces and other reinforcements, they found that the chassis was too stiff. The additional rigidity in the front along with suspension and tire set up were causing the car to understeer. They corrected this by removing the front tower brace. Tada-san knew that owners of this car would want to modify it to have more power. Therefore, he mindfully left the mounting spots open and ensured there was space available for further modifications.

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I know many of you are complaining about the abundance of fake vents on this car. It has been a huge discussion among enthusiast. I asked that burning question to Tada-san during the Detroit International Auto Show. He explained that all those vents can become functional by taking them off and adding custom parts to the car. For your convenience, below is the interview with Tada-san about this topic.

2000gt

This is something I didn’t know, the rear quarter window design follows the same design from the legendary Toyota 2000GT. Interestingly, the Toyota 86 has the same design as well.

Suspension/Wheels/Tires:

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Comparing the base and premium models, they both sport front brakes that are 4 piston calipers with 13.7 inch rotors. On the premium, these brakes are painted red as opposed to the grey painted calipers on the base model. In person, the base models calipers have a rougher finish as well. Both models have brakes made by Brembo, despite missing the iconic lettering. Tada-san wanted to keep the clean look to the car. I prefer the clean look, but those wanting to be flashy with their brand names might not like this look. Also, the premium rear rotors are 13.6 inches while the base model measure at 13 inches. These are just some things to keep in mind when deciding which model to purchase.

wheel options

All models come with 19 inch forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport. Premium and base models comes with two toned wheels while the Launch Edition comes in all matte black wheels. I enjoyed the matte black finish wheels on the Launch Edition. It contrasted well on a Renaissance Red 2.0 painted Supra.

Driving Impression:

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“Screw exterior and interior or whatever impressions, Ichi. Give me the driving impression already!” I hear you. As for the driving, Tada-san and his team did a wonderful job. When you think of a typical sports car, it drives amazingly on track, but is lackluster on the road. This Supra is unlike anything you have ever seen. Due to the very short wheelbase and wide track, I was expecting a peaky driving car. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, which surprised me in so many ways. On normal mode, suspension absorbs bumps and dips well… too well. I would purposely drive over bumps and dips on the road. Never was there a single moment when my back, kidney or any other part of my body endured pain. Honestly, there were a few occasions where I questioned if I actual went over the bumps and dips. Cornering was smooth yet firm. The high chassis rigidity reduced the chassis flex and allowed the suspension and tires to do what they’re meant to do. Active Independent Suspension (AIS) and Active Limited-Slip Differential (ALSD) worked together to keep the tires on the ground the entire time. I didn’t feel like I was losing traction coming out of corner. If you’re planning on doing long distances with the Supra, that’s nothing it can’t handle. Put it into Sports mode and watch the magic. It goes without saying that this car is a tremendous amount of fun going down winding roads. The suspension worked flawlessly ensuring my tires were glued to the road. The steering felt sharp and responsive. Want a little extra fun? Push the pedal a little and watch it go sideways.

No car is without it quirks. With this car, it’s the roof. Due to the sheer height of the car in general, add a bubble roof to that and you feel like you’re under an umbrella. This cuts the top portion of your vision. The A-pillar creates a front blind spot as well. Window sills are pretty huge for this type of sports car and during a rainy day, getting in and out of the car without getting your jeans/pants wet will require a special trick.

Now for the stuff that I didn’t like. The steering felt too light, even in Sports mode. When I was in Sports mode, the steering weight felt like it should be Normal mode. I wished the steering weight was heavier in sports mode. This would’ve complimented the sporty chassis and suspension.

I understand that this is a sports car so blind spots are inevitable, but I felt like there were so many blind spots. For example, C-pillars… I’m not even sure if it’s a pillar anymore. This is partly why they added, Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) and other safety features to this car.

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At the track, I was worried the suspension would be too soft… I was wrong. Chassis rigidity is very firm. That allows the suspension and tires to work properly. The above average driver might get some understeer and oversteer, but the steering wheel it responsive and it’ll go where you aim it. I tested drove it in Normal mode to see if the character of the car would change. Overall, I noticed a very minimal amount of body roll.

My main issue with the test drive on a track was the headrest on the seats. On the road, the seats are nice and keep you tightly seated. However, during a track session the headrest gets in the way when wearing a helmet. Similar to the 86, this requires the driver to tilt the seat back a little. This disrupted the drivers optimal driving position and can leave the driver feeling a little awkward. 86/BRZ owner might know what I’m talking about.

Another concern I have is with the Supra’s weight. It weighs just under 3,400 pounds, which is very light compare to M2 Competition, Mustang and GTR. It honestly doesn’t feel like a heavy car because the chassis rigidity and suspension work so well together. Then you drive the 86. The Toyota 86 is a lightweight albeit slow car and you can really notice that in a straight line. Driving the 86 back to back between the Supra, you can feel the weight difference dramatically. The 86 is over 600 pound lighter than the Supra.

Now let’s discuss the elephant in the room, the automatic transmission. If you are thinking they used a typical automatic transmission especially 4 speed automatic transmission that came in previous Supra (A340E), you are severely mistaken. ZF 8HP compliments so well with the toque curve on this car. In Normal mode, the transmission will shift up quickly to get you the best MPG (City:24/Hwy:31). It shifts effortlessly, but it still doesn’t compare to the PDK or DCT. ZF 8HP will leave you pleasantly surprised and wanting more. Just like it has done to numerous amounts of other journalists and owners around the world that have experienced this transmission in a variety of other vehicles.

Q&A with Tada-san:

front

Q: Why did you close those vents?
A: Like I’ve explained in the presentation, keeping it open would over cool the engine bay. Additionally, in bad weather conditions, water and mud can enter the engine bay and create more problems. Not everyone tracks their car every single day. Please use this space for your desire, use it for downforce, use it for cooler, use your imagination to make it fit your wants and needs. Even keeping it close, it’s still functional. Front teardrop vent can be use as canard to put extra downforce in the front. We’ve tested them to make sure whether you choose to use them or not, they’re still functional.

Q: Have you driven the new Z4?
A: Yes, I drove the final prototype Z4. When I drove the prototype Z4, I was very impressed. New Z4 was completely different from previous generations. For convertible car in this class, there was only 1 choice, which was Boxster. Result, enthusiast only had a chance of which year model of Boxster to choose from. Now enthusiast have finally 2 worthy car to choose from.

Q: What did you/have you learned from this project?
A: A lot of things. As you may know, 86 and BRZ was collaboration with Toyota and Subaru. Fundamental process is different for 86 and BRZ versus Supra and Z4. 86 and BRZ our mission was to use as many common part as possible and may only see limited difference. When start doing collaboration with BMW, we thought to use that same mentality, but BMW had different ideas. “If you’re talking like that, there’s no way we can make a pure sports car that we want. Your priority are opposite of ours. You need to know what kind of car you want to make, then from there we can look at what is available to use. That’s the norm. That’s what you should be thinking.” When they told me that, I thought “Oh~ you’re right.”

Q: Driving difference between Supra and Z4?
A: First, I do not know the concept, theory or principle applied to the Z4 project, so you won’t find merit in comparing them. But biggest difference between Supra and Z4 is when we split the development team into 2, both had different tuning drivers. For us Toyota, we had Herwig. Not only for suspension tuning, but engine, transmission, steering feel, chassis rigidity, all of those were exclusively discussed between Herwig and I. Herwig’s feedback was used as the ultimate reference. Even the contract stated “We will build the Supra on Herwig’s feedback.” Of course, BMW had excellent driver who had same role as Herwig on their side. I truly believe that, those 2 spearheads are the main difference between the Supra and the Z4.

Q: What was the #1 priority in the making of the Supra?
A: Stability is the main one. We extensively tested the Supra in the Nurburgring track. When you enter the corner, we want to enter the corner at a high speed. But we’re not prodriver, so we cannot enter the corner same speed and angle every time. Most cars, we’ll get understeer, so we will try to correct that and get oversteer. Result, amateur drivers gets scared diving into the corner, but Supra is different. You can dive in and the steering wheel will guide you to the right direction. That’s the kind of car we wanted to make and that’s something I’ve discussed with Herwig. So every state of the corner, diving into the corner, apex and out of corner, vehicle should be in nurtural position. I hope you had a chance to experience that today.

Q: Is that why Supra have lower power than Z4?
A: To repeat, it’s pointless to compare Supra and Z4. Instead of comparing Supra and Z4, it’s better to compare Supra and Cayman, Z4 and Boxster. That’s what team Supra and team Z4 want the most.

Q: Are you looking into more power?
A: Sport car need to evolve every year. Even Porsche, they evolve their car, engine, suspension, chassis and everything to anything to improve their car. Some might think, those minor changes aren’t a big deal, but every year they’re evolving. Before you know it, it has evolved into an amazing car. So Supra you drove is brand new, it’s our first step and we hope to improve and evolve every year. We hope and would love to see different variations of the Supra to come and down the road, people will say “Yeah, this Supra is good.”

Q: Is there a something we should look into other than we’ve discussed?
A: If you have a chance, check under the car. We’ve worked extensively under the car. Not only the floor is flat, but suspension arms have “wings” to help reduce the drag. You’ll be surprised, when you see it.

Conclusion:

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2020 Toyota GR Supra might not be the sports car everyone was expecting. For Supra enthusiasts, it might not be considered a “true” Supra. After driving this car, that’s not the case, at least for me. There are very few negative things I can say about this car. Those words are coming out from a guy who is a boxer engine fan and who thinks Porsche makes one of the best cars in the world.

With that said, if having a BMW engine with an automatic transmission in a Toyota car is a hard pill for you to swallow, look somewhere else. In the back of your mind, every time you step into that car, you’ll always think that and you will never be satisfied with it. If that doesn’t effect you and you desire to have a sports car that has the best chassis rigidity you can get for the money, outstanding engine performance, an exhaust tone that makes adrenaline run through your body and brake performance that you can stop with confidence on the road or at the track in any condition, then look no further. Supra is the way to go.

“Number is one thing, feeling is another.” Don’t just believe my words. I encourage you to test drive this magnificent machine to determine if what I’m saying is true or not. You can decide if the Supra is truly back or it’s just a gimmick Toyota is saying.

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Porsche Cayman GT4

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Look at this amazing Cayman. This is Porsche Cayman GT4. 3.8 liter Boxer mid-engine pushing 385hp to rear wheels going all the way to 183MPH!!!

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If you were into PDK, sorry, this beast only comes in manual.

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Looks from the press release, they have shown blue & yellow. Which one do you like? I’m leaning towards yellow, but blue looks nice too.

TAS

Happy New Year!

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At home of Toyota 86, they’re having TAS. This year, they made interesting announcement. They’re official making Toyota 86 x Style Cb. If you’re wondering what they are, this is it.

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Now, this isn’t for everyone. They made this design more towards for lady. If you watch this commercial, kinda see that, they’re aiming for ladies.

They also have teased us with vert 86 again. This time, they changed a bit. I must say, I do like the color… but I’m still questioning the front bumper.

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Photo credit to: Moto Miwa (founder & owner of Club4AG)

Break down of FA20/4U-GSE

Very good article of FA20/4U-GSE break down. If you got time, worth read.

Reference: Revolution.com

Article by Brian Hannon. Photography by Nathan Leach-Proffer and Ryan Randels.
Every week this build gets more and more interesting as we dive deeper into the inner workings o the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S platform. Last week we took a look at the first step in our build process: reinforcing the chassis by seam welding the structural body components. For this installment, we peel back the layers of the engine to understand what we have to work with, and where it can be improved in relation to our initial build objectives. As with any good build, you define an objective based on what you have to work with. In order to properly understand what we had to work with first hand, it was necessary that we dive into the platform’s heart. This time, we turned to SCR Performance because of their intimate knowledge of Subaru drivetrains, as well as their reputation as top engine builders. We knew they would give an accurate assessment of what areas we’d need to address as the build progresses.
While Project BRZ was off getting work done on various other components (seam welding, suspension assessment, etc.), our donor engine arrived at SCR for teardown and assessment. SCR requested we source a used engine so they could properly analyze and assess the stock platform’s weaknesses and wear points. We liked this idea, as a used engine would show any potential weak points since it has been exposed to the wear and tear of every day abuse, and can tell expert builders what they need to look out for when adding more power.
Once the donor engine, with 18,000 miles on the clock, arrived, SCR immediately started tearing it down and documenting what they found. All of the information provided in this article came from SCR’s direct assessment, as well as several conversations with other key industry personalities. We’ve broken down the assessments into the following major component groups: bottom end, top end, fuel, ignition, oil and cooling.

FA20 / 4U-GSE ENGINE SPECS

Before we tear it apart, let’s have a quick refresher on the stock motor we’re dealing with.
• Engine Code: Subaru – FA20/Toyota – 4U-GSE
• Developed from the FB engine (Subaru Forrester)
• Developed with goals of weight reduction, while maintaining durability
• Horizontally opposed (boxer) 4-cylinder dual overhead cam engine
• 1998cc, square 86mm bore and 86mm stroke
• Toyota’s D4-S injection system (port and direct injection)
• AVCS (Active Valve Control System)
• Compression Ratio: 12.5:1—very high value rarely found on production engines
• Redline – 7,450 rpm
• Power Output – 197hp @ 7,000 rpm, 151 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm
Subaru did an impressive job of cramming a lot of technology and capability into a potent little package. This gives us a lot to work with as we get ready to wring out a lot more power from our FA20!

INITIAL TEARDOWN

As SCR tore down the engine, they gave us their thoughts on what they found. Though it did have just 18,000 miles, there was no sign of excessive wear on bearings, sides of the pistons, cylinder bores and crank journals. Not too surprising, but if any areas of concern were rearing their heads that would be a focal point for us to address during the build.

FA20 / 4U-GSE BOTTOM END AND ROTATING ASSEMBLY

The heart of the powerplant is the block, which is unique to the FA/FB series of engines, and features an open deck design. On other motors, they will cast the block out of solid billet or similar material and then drill out the ports and passageways into it, forming what is called a “closed deck.” On the FA, they cast all these voids in for the oil and coolant as it’s a more cost-effective process, and keeps the weight down, though the tradeoff is reduced cylinder pressure support you would require for high-performance applications. When the air fuel mixture ignites, you have a huge pressure spike in the cylinder and combustion chamber, and the forces are pushing at all angles. Something is going to give eventually if enough pressure is applied. Since we plan to add forced induction, you can certainly understand why this is an area of concern for us.
Fortunately, there are some options available. Though this is a bit low-tech, some drag race motors have the coolant passages filled with concrete to make a solid block. This adds strength to the cylinder walls, but obviously isn’t realistic for a performance application that runs further than a quarter mile at a time. We aren’t doing that. The other, more refined and accepted option is to employ sleeve inserts. The stock FA20 has thin iron liners that act as a friction surface (similar to a bearing) to keep the piston rings from wearing directly on the aluminum cylinder walls.
For our build, SCR doesn’t feel it’s necessary to re-sleeve the block based on the objectives we developed. They are basing that assessment on what others builders have accomplished so far. Case in point, Full Blown is already claiming 700hp on the stock bottom end. Not too shabby.
These motors seem to be making serious power, but the longevity is what’s in question. What’s the failure point? What’s going to eventually fail at those bigger power levels? We are still waiting to see as there are several companies pushing the envelope. Fortunately, the FA20 is proving to be pretty strong, even when laying down some pretty big power numbers.
SCR didn’t find too many surprises with the crankshaft, but did find one item of note. Compared with the EJ-series cranks, the FA has thinner rod and main bearings because the engine wasn’t designed to produce the power levels of the EJ. The engine was designed to be high-revving and efficient, which the thinner bearings help with. Keep in mind that, anytime you reduce friction surface area, you reduce drag, leading to more efficiency of the rotating assembly.
Subaru has done a good job of producing a very high-quality bearing used on the crankshaft and rods. SCR doesn’t see any reason to put a different bearing material or change the tolerances.
The rods have a fairly unique feature found in boxer-style engines. While most rod caps are cut at a straight angle, the FA20’s rod caps are angled, which allows you to remove the rods and pistons without splitting the case halvesvery handy for limiting time during maintenance and upgrades.
Another key point is that Subaru cast the rod as a full assembly, scored the rod, then used an impact to break apart the cap from the rest of the rod (this maintains the natural grain of the metal, stronger design). This process not only yields a stronger design, but also reduces production cost; best of both worlds for the manufacturer. Be sure that you don’t mix the rods and caps up in any way when reassembling the bottom end as they fit together like a puzzle!
The piston ring gaps are pretty small at the top and the lower ring gap is quite a bit wider than what SCR is used to seeing (compared to the EJ-series). The thought is the small gap up top prevents compression loss and the larger gap at the bottom allows for gasses to escape into the crankcase, and not build up between the rings.
When it comes to the pistons, we’re actually going to rely on our partners at Crawford to help us out with that information. They’ve already done the R&D and have designed a custom set of pistons that are different than all the other off-the-shelf products. They’ve gone above and beyond to redesign the part, having changed pin locations and rod lengths to get better rod ratios, and reduce piston side loading on cylinder walls to help the engine work more efficiently and rev up quicker to perform the way they want it to. It’s important that we address the ring gaps specifically for our application, as it will certainly change due to the fact that the engine will now be turbocharged.
One thing SCR noticed during disassembly was the excessive use of sealant–Subaru used an absolute ton of it. While Subaru did their best to make sure the engine wasn’t going to leak any oil, it certainly made it difficult to disassemble. SCR had to cut the sealant, working all the way around the perimeter of the part just to separate it. This proved VERY time intensive to separate and clean the components of all the sealant.
SCR speculated Subaru didn’t want to use a composite gasket as it becomes a failure point. Subaru has a fairly good track record to support their decision, though, as all EJ-series Subaru motors have sealant in between the block halves, and you hardly ever hear about leaking there. It’s basically two machined surfaces with sealant: so there’s no way it can develop a leak unless there’s been excessive force or improperly applied.

FA20 / 4U-GSE TOP END AND VALVETRAIN

As SCR learned, cylinder head removal has a few extra steps with the FA20. To get the cylinder heads off the engine, you actually have to pull the cam bridges off since they block all access to the head bolts. Common sense will tell you that you can’t physically remove the head until you have access to the bolts. There is some silver lining, though, as the cam bridges are actually a modular setup that keeps the cams in their cam bearing journals when you remove the bridges.
Subaru has transitioned to a roller rocker-style, cam lifter design, which helps reduce a friction point in the valve train. Since it’s still a solid lifter design, it’s something that, over time, will need adjustment to keep within spec. Unfortunately, the cam bridges rear their ugly heads again as you have to remove them if you want to adjust the valve clearances.
The intake ports look generally large when compared to the normal EJ-series, but we won’t know for sure until we run the heads on a flow bench to obtain the necessary data. As we mentioned in a previous article, the factory intake manifold no longer has a pesky TGV like the old EJ-series and FB motors, since a premium was placed on smooth airflow to support the higher-revving nature of the FA20.
Continuing upstream, the high-pressure fuel injector is pretty similar in design to the rest of the industry, so nothing earth-shattering there. Between the multi-port and direct injection, they can get a better mixture of the fuel and air based on driving situations, giving more of a complete burn. Each of the different fuel systems has their own benefits and weaknesses allowing Subaru to exploit the best of both worlds. The direct-injection provides better fuel atomization under heavier loads, while the port injection helps to manage carbon build-up at lighter loads and idle.
Direct-injection systems require a high-pressure fuel feed (in the thousands of PSI), and generally you need mechanical assistance to elevate pressure to those levels. The FA20s pump is mechanically driven off the camshaft via three-lobes, so in one revolution it strokes the fuel pump three times. This takes fuel pressure from the electric in-tank pump from about 60 PSI to the needed thousands of PSI.
An oil-actuated system (ACVS for Active Control Valve System) allows for near continuous camshaft adjustment to offer the most power for a given throttle position and rpm. Both the intake and exhaust cams can alter their relation to the crankshaft, and the whole show is monitored by the ECU.
Speaking of the camshafts, SCR noted they have nice big fat lobes, so they may not be something we need to worry about swapping out. Couple that with the near infinite adjustability of the cam timing, and there may not be much need to put big aftermarket cam shafts in to get the power.
As SCR stepped into the combustion chamber, they noticed there is not a whole lot of clearance between the valves and the pistons. If you’re trying to go with cams that have higher lift and/or duration, you could potentially have interference issues.
The valve stems are pretty small on these motors to help out with air flow as the smaller diameter takes up less space in the intake and exhaust ports.
In the name of efficiency, lightweight valve springs are employed so the engine isn’t fighting against its own components to operate. However, because the springs are so light, they could have issues closing the intake valves when they are fighting against 30lbs of boost trying to cram into the combustion chamber. This is an area we are looking to address.

FA20 / 4U-GSE IGNITION SYSTEM

As with most newer performance vehicles, coil packs are used on each cylinder to control spark. This is a big advantage for tuning as ECU’s are so fast they can really utilize the independent coil packs, and direct injection, to essentially tune each cylinder independently.
Stock spark plugs are a heat-range 9, so they’re extremely cold plugs to begin with, and extremely detonation resistantsomething we’ll battle with forced induction.
If we have issues with blowing out the spark, we can always hook up an amplifier to boost the signal, but the kits are designed for a hot, heavy spark, so right now we don’t see the need to upgrade.

FA20 / 4U-GSE OIL & COOLING SYSTEMS

Since additional oil pressure is required for the variable cam timing system, the standard oil pump was designed with plenty of flow and is actually a fairly robust unit. We don’t see ourselves upgrading to a larger pump for our build.

FA20 / 4U-GSE OIL PAN

The FA utilizes an upper and lower oil pan where the upper is actually a functional component of the bottom of the block. On the EJ-series, it’s not a two-part component. The “upper oil pan” completes the bottom part of the block, while the “lower oil pan” is generally small if looked at by itself. However, the upper oil pan will also contain a considerable amount of the oil capacity. The small lower oil pan also acts as a funnel since the pickup point is very precise. Encountering g-forces commonly found on race tracks will begin to cause issues with this design. A larger oil pan with baffling will allow you to not worry as much about waiting for the oil to drain from the heads while pulling some serious g’s.
If you are looking to turbocharge your FA20 like we are, you need to consider how you will get oil to the turbocharger. If you are working on a budget, you will need to add a port to the oil pan for a turbo oil drain line. Sounds easy, but placement can be very important (especially on a small volume pan like the FAs), and they can be more prone to leaks. It may be best to source an aftermarket pan that was designed specifically for turbocharged applications that have increased volume and careful consideration of return line placement.
Last but not least, SCR evaluated the radiator and associated cooling components. While the stock radiator seemed up to the task of keeping a stock, or mildly tuned engine, at a safe operating temperature, we’re ditching it in favor of one with more capacity. It may not necessarily need a larger unit, but with the power we expect the engine to make, along with mounting an intercooler in front of it, we want to ensure we won’t encounter any cooling problems whether we’re on the track or sitting in line to get into a show.
Fortunately, the rest of the cooling system was deemed OK as the water pump can flow plenty of fluid, and the stock heat-range thermostat will most likely be fine. There are companies that can provide a lower-temp thermostat, but typically you want to have the engine running at the right temp as it will help with proper atomization of the fuel.
That surely was a mouthful, but we feel this was one of the most important articles in our entire BRZ / FR-S Performance series. Now that we understand the strengths and weaknesses of the platform’s powerplant, we can start to address those items with upgrades. Next week we’re postponing our documentary article to the following week as the team will be in Houston for TX2K14. In that installation, we will take a look at our new Air Lift Performance suspension with an overview, unpacking, and analysis (visual inspection and comparison)! Since we got our hands on it, and are able to measure clearances and adjustability, we’ve developed a specific build plan that we know you’re going to love!

My Review of Winmax Brake Pads

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I drove over 10,000 miles in the hot weather as high as 110 degrees to cold as low as  -1 degrees freezing condition, along with several autocross events on the weekend with these brake pads.
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These brake pads work as a double duty pad for daily driving and autocross and have exceed well over my expectation.
They work reliably well for everyday street driving, with added confidence in pedal feel, and resulting in better control.
The W2 provides excellent stopping power for street tires and with significantly less dust than most performance pads of this type.
The pads don’t fade much in most casual sporting activities, and they lack any of the associated noises or dusting of other typical performance oriented pads.
While it isn’t a fully geared competition brake pads for road racing circuits, what you get in exchange is all of the better characters of street car pads in terms of life expectancy, wear, reliability and huge operating range.
I’ve tested them in variety of climates and conditions, and the W2 pads kept evenly, excellent feel and modulation, to delicately tread snow, or hard brake in the dry.

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I would recommend to anyone seeking casual performance pads, which can retain the clean and quiet nature of OEM pads while seeking extended braking control and resistance to fade under mild sporting driving.
Winmax USA does make a very good product according to my needs

86Fest III

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This year, we had lovely 86Fest! This one was at Irwindale Speedway. Started out in cool temperature, but that changed quickly. I learn by lesson from day before (SubieFest) and wore a tshirt!

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A lot of vendors came to this event. Washington to Florida, all over the US to show cool parts for the twin. I gotta say, I saw some pretty cool ones, like these FR-S from Scion Racing & GReddy

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Of course, OEM showing off new Scion FR-S RS1.0 at their booth. I still have mix feeling about this, but let’s not go there.

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& some of you guys might seen this FR-S. Any guesser?

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It was awesome event… but some of us were there for both SubieFest & 86Fest, back to back isn’t easy for some of us… like this guy lol I almost did the same, but all the goodies all the vendor had on their table kept me walking around talking and take pics.

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Now, instead of showing off all the cool twins & how you guys missed the awesome event, I thought to share some cool parts I saw at the event. Just making sure anyone thinks that I get paid to showing off these parts, just remember this I DON’T GET PAID! I don’t get penny from any of these brands sell more from members buying it.. I’m just sharing some goodies with you guys. THAT’S ALL

AVO Turboworld Oil Cooling Duct

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AVO Turboworld finished cooling duct just in time to show off this parts at the event. It’s kinda hard to see from the front, so here’s the side pics.

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At first, I thought it was going into where BRZ’s foglight goes… but Paul from AVO Turboworld corrected me wrong. It goes next to intercooler and it can fit on both FRS or BRZ… I was still confused, so he show me on his car & it made total sense. I took some pics, instead of explaining it.

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It’s kinda hard to see it, but can you see it on the left corner? Here’s a closer pic.

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As you can see, it works for both NA or FI. He told me that, it should work on most of intercooler (please double check with them if it works on your intercooler).

Beatsonic Blaid Antenna

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I don’t think, I need to explain bout this. It’s literally an antenna. Now, how does it look on the car? Here’s Beatsonic’s demo car with this antenna.

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I so love Eric’s FR-S, looks sweet… anyways. I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s not for everyone. Some will say too big or looks ugly, some will like the look or like to be different from others… or couldn’t resist the words like “Limited Edition”. For me? I think, this pic will answer the question.

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I’m a sucker for a words like “Limited Edition” or “Special Edition”, can’t help it. This antenna was only sold this year’s 86 / BRZ Style Fest in Fuji Japan. I had a option to go with ver 2 or this, but I had to go with this. If you’re like me, it is limited edition, so when it’s gone, it’s GONE~

I’ll do small review later, but for now, I’m kinda tempted to wrap it or plastidip my whole car red and make it look like this… or any BRZ owner that have Lightning Red that have this antenna please post here with that pic, thanks

Chars-zaku-morishita

FT-86 SpeedFactory UEL Header

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When I say these guys are popular, I’m not joking. There are always someone coming over checking their goodies they brought with him. I should of went there in the morning when people were still parking (that’s when I took this pic).

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Of course, they brought Jeremy’s newly design FRS with them (which btw won last year’s 86EXPO Autox). I must say, white, black & dark pink combo is pretty cool.

With all the goodies they brought, this part of the table caught my attention, look this all the headers!

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Within all the shiny header, I saw something that everyone is talking bout in Engine, Exhaust, Transmission section of the forum.

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Some of you waiting few/several months, yes, it’s not a dream, it’s actually do exist. Yo himself grab that FT86SF’s UEL header to show it to me. I was pretty surprised on the quality. Yes, true that, it’s not shiny as Tomei or other headers… but how often you buff your header shiny? They have dyno’ed it and other have dyno’ed it to prove this header is AWESOME! Inside was very clean to make sure the smooth flow out.

Again, thanks Yo for his time, even though it was extremely busy and HOT!

Cusco USA Touring A Shock Absorbers

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Of course, Cusco USA was there (both days) to show some cool parts for the twins. One of the new release parts was this.

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Cusco USA always had Touring A Shocks. They have them for all the Subaru cars: Impreza, Forester, Legacy, WRX, STI, you name it, they have it. This time around, they brought it to the twins. You don’t want to go with coils, but want some damper control or just want something bit more sporty feel from stock? This is way to go.

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Thanks ModBargains for taking their time to talk with me and it was pleasure to talk with you guys.

There were so many other vendors: Rays, GReddy, Borla, Cosworth, Apexi, Seibon, Winmax, Injen, Works, FRSports and list goes on and on. If you guys didn’t go or was debating on going, this is something to look into.

Also special thanks to Hachiroku for taking his busy time to have a dinner with me.