There’s a reason superchargers are mounted to the BRZs like extra cheese is added to pizza. Everyone wants more of the good stuff. More importantly, just about everyone agrees the Subaru BRZ needs more power.
So what happens when you find a Supercharged Subaru BRZ who’s build was already done? What about when the work was done by one of the most detailed Japanese car mechanics around? Well, you jump at the opportunity.
The folks at Subaru El Cajón have such car in their possession. It is a 2013 Subaru BRZ in Crystal Black Silica. It has around 5,500 miles or so and yes, it is supercharged.
The opportunity presented itself for me to test drive this car. I of course jumped at the opportunity. See, if you have read some of my other car reviews such as the Focus ST review from last year, I like to test cars that are close to new but have already been broken in. It allows for the best and most thorough test drive. Plus, like you may already know, my test drives are not around the block. I take the cars for a long drive of roughly 100 miles on city streets, canyon roads and some freeway.
I had briefly driven a stock Subaru BRZ a few months after the car first showed up in the states. I felt I compared it a lot to my old 2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata NC – The BRZ having a different throttle curve and less powerful brakes than the NC. Additionally, one of our RallyWays writers, Alfred Morales owns a BRZ and has written a Miata vs BRZ comparison and another article about the BRZ driving dynamics.
Since we already have content of the BRZ, or Scion FRS / Toyota GT86 – pick your flavor – I was pretty excited at the opportunity to drive a supercharged one.
A little more about this BRZ
Some research about this car revealed it was owned by a San Diego local car enthusiast. Yes, small world. Turns out I had met the original owner at Cbad Cars a few years ago. He bought the car new and after breaking it in started the modifications.
The car got an Innovate Motorsports supercharger, Exedy stage 1 clutch, Perrin exhaust and a long list of other performance and aesthetic enhancements. Here’s the situation with modified cars though. People don’t like to trust them because they figure the Fuji Heavy Industries factory workers who built the BRZ probably know how to tighten a bolt better.
Suspicions change as soon as you know who did the work. I dug a little deeper and found out most of the work on this BRZ build was done by Gavin Rennie of Infinite Motion – A very experienced and well respected Japanese car specialist based right here in North County San Diego. Turns out I know him as well. I was actually very pleased to find out it was he who had done the work on this car – which would explain the quality of the work.
For your enjoyment here’s a video of the assembly process of the BRZ / FRS drivetrain in Japan.
Apart from that HG Motorsports installed the supercharger pulley and tested the car on their dyno. The tuning was done by Delicious Tuning, another San Diego company who specializes on Subbies. They have worked on many well-known rally and rallycross cars. They even worked on Ken Block’s Gymkhana 1 Subaru STI. Legit.
So we have a genius build with lineage?
The answer is yes, this is quite the genius build. More importantly, I’m now fully focused and driving it on some of the best roads in SoCal. Sunday morning in Sunrise Highway, Julian and Mesa Grande. Clean roads, a beautiful sunny day and a supercharged BRZ. Not complaining. Well, it wasn’t just me. Our little group also had a Lexus RC-F which I was also driving that day. But that’s the subject of a whole other story.
This black Subbie BRZ is running a slightly tamer version of the tune this car can be set to – Something more all-around, if you may. Mainly, it was running a larger pulley on the Innovate Motorsports supercharger, thus spinning it slower and producing less boost. Secondly, the car has a tune for E85 available, but we were running 91 octane gasoline on a different tune. Those two things will make a big difference in power.
If you’d like to learn the difference between a turbo and a supercharger visit this story.
All this said, large pulley and 91 gas, the BRZ still pulls way more than a stock one. Just as importantly, as you get up the RPM range, the power increases linearly with no dip in the midrange. This is something that plagues the stock 86s.
To add to the fun there’s that awesome supercharger sound. It has a familiar supercharged whine, but not as loud as the typical roots supercharger whine we’re used to from say a Mustang supercharger. This is all good news. I’ve never felt the sound of this variety of Subaru Boxer to be that great sounding. However, add the supercharger and the Perrin exhaust and the engine note is authoritative and absolutely convincing. Hold the revs high through the corners and the sound of it all is actually quite pleasing and exciting. Of course, it’s no Italian orchestra but it’s a well-rehearsed military marching band.
The car has a Whiteline Positive Shift Kit. This can be felt. Generally, the Subaru BRZ has an excellent shifter. This one is at the end of the spectrum. It feels amazing. No, I don’t think it’s as good as the shifter in a Miata, but it’s really, really good. Actually, I take that back. It’s just as good, just different. Since rocking the gears is such an essential part of enjoying a BRZ (sorry to my friends who own automatic ones – I actually have a friend that drives an automatic yet dominates autocross at national level) having such a glorious shifter is reason to rejoice. Subaru should take note and make their other car’s shifters feel like this.
BRZs are notoriously easy to drive. This one is considerably easier. With more power on tap you don’t have to be as picky as to where you are on the power band to get enough out of the car. Certainly on a track you’d want to squeeze every bit of available power, but on a canyon road this is more than enough. Unlike driving a naturally aspirated BRZ, you don’t find yourself flooring the gas pedal after every corner. You sort of ride the tach between 5,000 and 7,000 RPM and find you have power to spare when needed. By the way, you get a very neat “beep” and a flash of a red dot when it’s time to shift.
One very important detail about this Supercharged Subaru BRZ is that it’s CARB-legal. The Innovate Supercharger is CARB-certified, the tune for it is legal and the Perrin exhaust is cat-back as the setup keeps the stock catalytic converter in place. You get the power this car should have had from factory and in 2019 it can pass smog in California.
Who said BRZ interiors feel cheap?
The interior of this car has been upgraded with real carbon fiber parts made custom for this car by OCarbon. This brings out the best in the interior. I personally hate faux-carbon – I’d rather not have any carbon if it’s not real. So, I’m happy with what’s going on here. The carbon is well-balanced as there’s not too much or too little. The entire interior is really enhanced by it.
I noticed a few other things that are part of the personality of the Subaru BRZ, stock or otherwise. Everybody raves about the sitting position. They are absolutely right, the sitting position in the BRZ is that of a proper sports car. However, and this is only a personal gripe, I feel the steering wheel should be able to go back towards the driver by at least 1 more inch. This is minor, but I did feel myself wanting the wheel closer to me. Again, this is just me, I like a more racing position when driving, but most people I’ve met actually like the wheel further away so most won’t even notice this.
The few downsides are actually upsides in performance. For example, the Exedy stage 1 clutch is amazing when you wind the car up. The downside is it’s a bit trickier to modulate at slow speeds and in stop and go traffic. The car also seems to have what I assume is a lightweight flywheel. This allows it to rev much faster than with the heavier stock unit. The downside is that all lightweight flywheels make a bit of a rattle noise at idle. It’s not really a rattle though. It’s actually the same gear-mesh noise all transmissions have. It’s just that a heavy stock flywheel tends to mask that noise down. A lightweight, faster-revving lightweight flywheel has less mass, so gear mesh noise makes it through more.
This combination makes the car easier to stall at low speeds. Right, it’s not like a race car that stalls every two seconds… but you will stall it a bit more often than a stock car. But, with a little practice and getting used to the car, it becomes almost second nature. I only stalled it twice. Haha.
These are small prices to pay for better performance, faster-revving and being able to handle the increase in power.
Apart from this, the visibility is quite amazing for this type of car. I’ve driven plenty of hatchbacks with blind spots as big as the moon and the BRZ has better visibility than them – and it’s a sports coupe. That’s a big deal. It makes it much easier to live with on a daily basis. True, some people have traded the car in because they now want a huge SUV – But I tend to like my cars lightweight and small.
The other thing worth mentioning is the pedal layout. The layout is perfect for heel-and-toe rev matching. When driving canyon roads I use a combination of heel and toeing and also plain rev-match downshifting when I don’t need to brake. The only other cars that I’ve found easier to heel and toe have been a few cars with floor-hinged gas pedals.
The car is a BRZ on steroids, but still a BRZ. This means it handles sublimely. It’s amazing to drive on curvy roads as you would expect. More important, it’s rewarding and rather easy to manage. The supercharger makes it so that the drive is not hard work. The joyful noises it makes then reward you for your efforts. The upgrade of Enkei Raijin wheels and BFG G-Force 235/35/R18 tires give the car sure-footedness and while it increases the limit, making the car more intense, they also help increase confidence.
That said, the car has the stock brakes. Anybody who has driven an NC Miata with stock brakes as well as an 86 with stock brakes knows full well this car is underbraked.
I dug up more info on the car and found out a few vey interesting details…
While I don’t have exact dyno figures for it [update, now I do, read on], I have pretty good estimates I got from asking the right people. I believe the near-stock baseline numbers with only exhaust were around 164 horsepower and 136 ft-lb of torque at the wheels.
With the supercharger and on 91 gas we’re looking at something like 220 hp at the wheels with 189 ft/lb of torque.
However, with a few tweaks to the already included gear riding in the car, with e85 we would be seeing over 225 hp / 190 ft/lb of torque – at the wheels.
Wait, it can go further than that. A smaller 70mm pulley for the supercharger on e85 should yield 245hp and 227 tq at the wheels. This would be closer to 300hp at the crank.
However, the supercharger and 91 gas are perfectly CARB-legal. Those two last options would not be, so take it with a grain of salt.
Update: Dyno Charts
I acquired the dyno sheets from the original owner of the car. The numbers on the charts actually match those posted above pretty closely, so that’s good. However, they tell more of the story. Note that the numbers are at the wheels. The first two charts are on one dyno, while the last one from HG is a different one, so keep in mind there is sometimes a discrepancy from one machine to the other. See each sheet below followed by the description of the setup.
Dyno Chart 1 – Baseline
This baseline dyno is not fully stock. At this point the car had Perrin 3” Cutback, Perrin 3″ Front Pipe (No longer in the car) and lighter flywheel (Exedy Stage 1 clutch and flywheel) all on 91 octane gasoline. Notice the famous dip in the midrange.
Max power: 164 HP – 136 FT/LB Torque
Dyno Chart 2 – Supercharged – Graph with 91 Octane and E85 Blend (E50 – E60 give or take)
At this point the car had the supercharger installed. The lower set of graphs are the numbers for the car with the supercharger and 91 octane gas. The second set of graphs showing more power and torque is the same setup with Ethanol (E85) added. The gas was blended so it wasn’t a full E85 setup. The original owner states that it was maybe 50% to 60% blend – Nowhere near the full 85%.
Max power: 220 HP – 189 FT/LB Torque
Dyno Chart 3 – Supercharged – Full Potential of Setup – 70mm SC Pulley and Full E85
The last chart in the puzzle is closer to the car’s true potential. Here, the car is running the Raceseng 70mm pulley on the supercharger and full E85 fuel with a custom tune when it did its max numbers. The line slightly lower was a run done without the 70mm pulley.
Max power: 245 HP – 227 FT / LB Torque
Should the Subaru BRZ have come with forced induction from the factory? Yes it should have. Does the car need this much horsepower? No, but it sure as heck is more fun with it. Can I get more power out of the car? Absolutely.
This unique supercharged Subaru BRZ might be a local car enthusiast’s interpretation but seeing that so many other GT86 fans are doing similar things suggests this is what the people want. Subaru and Toyota should give people what they want. However, that not being exactly the case, this is the solution. The only thing missing on this car is larger brakes. Everything else has been done by the best in the business so getting that bit taken care of would be easy.
This BRZ is as stunning as it is fierce. The looks are balanced perfectly between the outside, the interior and that engine bay holding the secret to the Subbie’s new-found-power. This Innovate Supercharger setup is a proven solution to the BRZ’s stock lack of power. Many a GT86 owner has been pushing this boost setup for tens of thousands of miles with little cause for concern.
This Subaru BRZ is one very powerful scalpel knife for our narrow canyon roads that did not leave me unsatisfied in a straight line from a stand still like the stock car. Plus, it has more hidden potential should you want it.
A big shoutout goes out to Crowley Car Company and Subaru El Cajon for letting us enjoy this amazing car.