The 2022 model year marks the latest generation of Subaru and Toyota’s shared ZN8/ZD8 platform for the BRZ and GR86. Previously it was the ZN6/ZC6 platform which debuted in 2012 and came in the flavors of the Scion FR-S, Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. For the past 10 years, this platform has been dominated by pure sports car fun: rear-wheel drive, good suspension, low curb weight, a manual six-speed gearbox and a generally lively power source. The second generation takes all of these features and refines them into something bigger, though both remain great options. Whichever you choose, it doesn’t take much to improve them with mods to make them even more capable and fun on the track.
For those who prefer to take their rides outside of their standard shapes, there are four ways to prepare these cars for performance driving: minor cooling adjustments, stronger brakes, more grippy tires and better alignment. That’s right, I didn’t even bother to list suspension – this is certainly a valuable area of change too, but not an absolute must. Most enthusiasts and critics, including myselfI think these cars are pretty good out of the box.
Let’s discuss how all four of these areas can transform any GR86, FR-S, 86, or BRZ into a capable, grippy beast.
One potentially overlooked area of the Toyubaru is cooling. For normal riding it’s not much of a problem, but keeping the revs on the track for long periods of time, especially in warmer environments, takes some approach.
To get some insight into this, I spoke to Mike Kang of CounterSpace Garage, a shop that specializes in equipping these cars with aftermarket parts. He is also behind 86 Cupan amateur time attack challenge series that has become quite popular in recent years.
“The factory heat exchanger is great for controlling temperatures on the street, but not enough to keep oil temperatures on track,” Kang said via Facebook Messenger. “In warmer ambient temperatures, coolant temperatures don’t drop as quickly, meaning the coolant doesn’t draw as much heat from the oil compared to cold weather where the coolant is at thermostat temperature.”
This means aftermarket cooling, such as a aftermarket external oil cooler, are of utmost importance for regular driving on the track. While this was originally conceived for previous generation models, the new generation is almost guaranteed to require the same. Especially since more power is produced by a slightly larger engine. l took a good look on the new GR86 last winter and can confirm that it doesn’t look like much has been done from the factory to aid cooling, at least for track level riding.
Brakes and tires
Since the GR86/BRZ is inherently designed for solid lateral G performance, the wider wheels and tires and stronger brakes are better. However, it is not necessarily a requirement for a competent steed to turn laps.
Upgrading brake fluid to something worth the work, like Castrol SRF and switching to firmer pads is a solid move. These changes also give the car a firmer brake pedal, ironically.
Like all track-ready pads, there is an endless variety of recipes to choose from in the stock size, all with different characteristics related to 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 factory pads. On the more focused end, CounterSpace Garages options work well, as well as connections through Ferodo† endless† winmaxand project muc† There seems to be an unlimited number of options, so it’s best to do your research and scan forums and Facebook groups to determine what’s best for your driving style, amount of tracking, noise tolerance, and other specific driving details.
Assuming you’re cool with Toyota and Subaru’s OEM wheel designs, there are some good options for rubber. Any 200-300 tread tire in the very common 225/45/17 size fits OEM 17″ wheels, with similar sizing for optional 18s. On the stickier 200TW end, Falken’s Azenis RT660 is a popular option, as well as Yokohama’s Advan A052and my personal favorite cheaper option, the Federal 595RS-RR PRO† Do your research as it seems like every year there are more and more options in this category. Among tires with a slightly longer lifespan for their contact surfaces, the Yokohama ADVAN Apex V601GT radial Champiro SX2and Continental ExtremeContact Sport would work well.
Add negative camber
Alignment settings for the BRZ/GR86 are in line with what is fairly universal among the performance alignment technique.
“Factory [settings] are great for street riding,” Kang said. “Anyone who wants minimal tracking needs camber bolts for the front, as well as those looking for more front grip on a budget. Ideally, cornering enthusiasts will want camber plates and/or front lower wishbones.”
As for the settings, it’s actually quite easy and straight forward to optimize the front-end grip of these cars.
“Maximum off the camber on the bolts, [and add] slight toe-in for road cars,” Kang continued.
Overall, it seems like zero toe-in or slight toe-in or toe-out are 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 is good for the rear. This thinking is also not far from a performance-oriented rear-wheel drive alignment in general. It’s similar to what I have my BMW 128i on, and I absolutely love how it drives.
More performance, of course, means faster tire wear and shorter service intervals between revolutions, which is only accelerated by driving on the track. The same goes for the number of miles driven daily it sees. But the trade-off is better and more eager turn-in, better cornering grip, more stability and lighter steering in all driving scenarios, so it all depends on how much tire wear individuals are dealing with.
Getting the most out of a budget
The whole idea behind this approach is that you don’t necessarily have to invest in some hefty tweaks and repairs to get the most out of the first and second generation BRZ/FR-S/86/GR86. † It is well designed for the pleasure of the factory, which is evidenced by its role in track days† time attack† autocrossand professional racing (plus some neat future pro race plans).
But then tracking and autocross is not even an absolute necessity. Anyone can get more out of their car in any driving scenario following these basics, and not for a lot of money in the grand scheme of things either.