The 2022 model year marks the latest generation of Subaru and Toyota’s joint ZN8/ZD8 platform for the BRZ and GR86. Previously it was the ZN6/ZC6 platform, debuting in 2012 and available in Scion FR-S, Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ flavors. For the past 10 years, this platform has been all about pure sports car fun: rear-wheel drive, good suspension, low curb weight, a basic six-speed manual and a generally lively powerplant. The second generation takes all of those traits and refines them into something greater, although both remain great options. Whichever one you choose, it doesn’t take much to upgrade them with mods to make them even more powerful and fun on the track.
For those who prefer to take their rides beyond their stock forms, there are four main ways to prepare these cars for performance driving: Minor cooling modifications, more powerful brakes, grippier tires, and better alignment. That’s right, I didn’t even bother to list the suspension – that’s certainly a worthwhile conversion area too, but not an absolute must. Most enthusiasts and reviewers, myself included, find that these cars work well out of the box.
Let’s discuss how all four of these areas can turn any GR86, FR-S, 86 or BRZ into a capable, grippy beast.
One area of the Toyubaru that may be overlooked is the cool down. For normal driving it’s not really an issue, but to keep the revs on the track for any length of time, especially in warmer environments, something needs to be addressed.
To get some insight, I spoke to Mike Kang of CounterSpace Garage, a shop that specializes in outfitting these cars with aftermarket parts. He is also behind 86 Cup, an amateur time attack challenge series that has become very popular in recent years.
“The factory heat exchanger is great for controlling the temperature on the road, but not enough to keep the oil temperature on track,” Kang said via Facebook Messenger. “In warmer ambient temperatures, coolant temperatures don’t drop as quickly, which means the coolant isn’t extracting as much heat from the oil as it is in cold weather when the coolant is at thermostat temperature.”
This means that aftermarket cooling, such as An aftermarket external oil cooler for which regular track driving is paramount. While this was originally figured out for previous generation models, it’s almost guaranteed that the new generation will require the same. Mainly because a slightly larger engine produces more power. Having had a close look at the new GR86 this past winter, I can confirm that it doesn’t seem like much has been done from the factory to aid in cooling, at least for track-level riding.
brakes and tires
Because the GR86/BRZ is inherently designed for solid lateral G performance, the wider wheels and tires and more powerful brakes make it all the better. That said, getting your hard-earned scratch on expensive and massive lightweight wheels, super-wide tires, and expensive big brake kits isn’t necessarily a requirement for a competent steed to do laps on.
Upgrading the brake fluid to something more work-worthy, like Castrol SRF, and switching to sturdier pads is a solid move. These changes often give the car a more solid brake pedal feel as well.
As with all track-ready pads, within the standard size there is an endless variety of recipes to choose from, all with different characteristics in terms of dusting, grip, endurance, pedal feel and modulation. On the mild side of the braking spectrum, Hawk’s HPS 5.0 pad is a good upgrade over the factory pads. On the more focused side, CounterSpace Garage’s options work well, as do connections from Ferodo, Endless, Winmax, and Project Mu. There seems to be an unlimited number of options, so it’s best to do your research and forums and Facebook groups to browse to determine what’s best for your riding, amount of tracking, noise tolerance, and other specific riding details.
Assuming you’re happy with the Toyota and Subaru OEM wheel designs, there are some good options for rubber. Any 200-300 Treadwear tire in the very common 225/45/17 size will fit OEM 17″ wheels, with similarly sized optional 18s. On the stickier 200TW end, Falken’s Azenis RT660 is a popular option, as is Yokohama’s Advan A052 and my personal favorite of the less expensive options, the Federal 595RS-RR PRO. Do your research because it seems like there are more options in this category every year. Among the tires with slightly longer contact patch life, the Yokohama ADVAN Apex V601, GT Radial Champiro SX2 and Continental ExtremeContact Sport would work well.
Add negative camber
The alignment settings for the BRZ/GR86 are consistent with what is fairly universal in power alignment technology.
“Factory [settings] are great for road riding,” said Kang. “Anyone working with a minimum of tracking needs front camber pins, as do people looking for more front grip on a budget. Ideally, corner lovers want crash guards and/or front lower arms.”
As far as settings go, it’s actually pretty easy and straightforward to tweak the front grip on these cars.
“Just maximize camber at the bolts, [and add] slight toe-in for street cars,” Kang continued.
In general, it seems that zero toe or slight toe-in or toe-out is great, as is adding at least two degrees of negative camber and a little bit of positive caster. Then a little toe-in for stability and factory camber are good for the rear triangle. Again, this mindset isn’t too far removed from a performance-oriented rear-drive orientation in general. It’s similar to what I tuned my BMW 128i to and I absolutely love the way it drives.
Of course, more power means faster tire wear and shorter service intervals between revolutions, which is only accelerated by track driving. The same applies to the number of kilometers driven daily. But the trade-off is better and more eager turning, better cornering grip, more stability and lighter steering in all driving scenarios, so it all depends on how much tire wear the individual is dealing with.
Make the most of a budget
The whole idea behind this approach is that to get a lot out of the first and second generation BRZ/FR-S/86/GR86 you don’t necessarily need to immediately invest in some performance enhancing mods and handling fixes. It’s built for fun from the factory, as evidenced by its role in track days, time attack, autocross, and pro racing (plus some nice plans for future pro racing).
But tracking and autocross aren’t even an absolute necessity. With these basic principles, anyone can get more out of their car in any driving scenario, and by and large, for not a lot of money.
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