Subaru Australia has confirmed that the brand-new BRZ rear-wheel-drive coupe will go on sale in Australia, and it will be here around the middle of next year.
Many have been holding onto hope of a local launch since the BRZ's existence was first rumoured a few years ago, but few would have expected the brand's Australian arm to ease up on its all-wheel-drive-only position.
"We have been an exclusively all-wheel-drive car company since 1997, so the decision to import the Subaru BRZ was not taken lightly," Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior said.
He said that "several factors" had swayed the decision on the 147kW coupe, pointing to the passion and persuasion efforts of the brand's top brass.
Unlike Australia, the Japanese market offers a number of front-wheel-drive models, with the all-wheel-drive-only angle (and the "All 4 The Driver" slogan) being more of a Western-market philosophy for the brand.
“They have poured their DNA into this car, so it drives like a Subaru. And because it is built in our spiritual home in Gunma prefecture, it has to be a Subaru. It’s a driver’s car, so is in keeping with our fun to drive philosophy," Mr Senior said.
“Secondly, the testing and development we have undertaken for the Australian market has left me in no doubt that this is a Subaru specifically for our unique Australian conditions."
“Thirdly, we have been overwhelmed by the response to the BRZ since its unveiling in Tokyo. People have been pleading for us to bring the BRZ into the country."
Mr Senior said that Australian dealers have been "astonished at the level of interest," and one dealer has already taken an order in Adelaide, despite the absence of local picing or specification details.
Speaking with TMR today, Subaru Australia's David Rowley said that the company's local management doesn't expect any image issues by introducing a rear-wheel-drive model into its previously all-wheel-drive-focused line-up.
"There won't be any change there. The "All 4 The Driver" slogan is more about communicating our commitment to the driver and the driving experience, and the majority of our cars are still all-wheel-drive," Mr Rowley said.
In Australia, the BRZ will face off against its co-developed Toyota twin, the 86 coupe. Both will arrive around the middle of next year, but pricing and local specifications for either model have yet to be revealed.
The arrival of the BRZ is expected to have minimal impact on WRX sales, despite the fact that there is no new model expected for some time.
"No, they're very different cars, and the fact that the WRX is a turbo-charged, all-wheel-drive four-door sedan means it has a very different buyer to those who'll be looking at the BRZ," Mr Rowley said.
Whether the BRZ's price will sway dedicated fans of the $39,990 WRX to the rear-wheel-drive world remains to be seen, although the difference is unlikely to be more than a few thousand dollars.
As for the reported plans of a turbocharged BRZ in the future, he added, "I've seen the reports, but we haven't heard anything that suggests a turbo will appear in the BRZ."
Watch for pricing and specifications to be revealed closer to the BRZ's mid-2012 launch.