Car of the Week 228: COTY GTS Finale

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Did an 08.05.354 with it on the Nords stock with SH tyres, no TCS or any other diving aids.

Verdict: About 3 seconds faster than the S2000 and about 5 seconds slower than the 22B. Interesting. Basically there, where I expected it to be. It is slightly faster in a straight line, than the S2000, which gives it its slight edge. Well it definatly is very nice to drive (as all Imprezas are), because it is quite planted but can still be thrown around a little. I also like its looks very much. Nice drive.


Nords rivals:

Tsukuba rivals:

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Life's hard when you're a GC Impreza. After all, when asked to picture a first generation performance Impreza, every enthusiast will no doubt conjure up dreamy images of the unicorn of all Imprezas, the 22B, limited to just 400 built and sold exclusively in Japan. Really then, the only things that the... uh... let me make sure I get this exactly right here—the Impreza Coupe WRX Type R STi Version VI '99—has over the 22B is a much more complicated name, comes in colours other than blue, was sold and actually survived in export markets, and its potential to have two more doors and a lot more storage space.

In yet another dazzling display of PDLogic™, the second GC Impreza in this game is also a coupé, slinking it further into the shadow of its 22B brother. Really, sometimes I'm made to think that, instead of listening to what the fans want, or what would make the most sense to have in a game, PD includes cars solely out of convenience. "Oh, what is this, a factory fresh, well preserved Imp VI is being offered to us by Subaru themselves? Screw the Hawkeye, GET THIS IN!!!" I mean, if you've any other theories as to why we have 2 coupé GC8s in this game, no sedans, no wagons, no base Imprezas, no base WRXes, no GDs, no GEs, or any of the very many special editions of the cars, I'd love to hear it.

So, what does this week's Car of the Week have to offer that the 22B can't? Why, even more understeer, of course!

With soggy 1.7Hz springs propped up on miserable Comfort Soft tyres by default, there is nothing at all that screams "sporty" when the Imp VI is driven hard on a racetrack; only screams of the tyres and the frustrated driver going, "TURN GODDAMNIT WHY WON'T YOU?!" The patented Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system of Subaru's may boast a low cg, but that symmetry unfortunately means that the entirety of its flat four engine is overhung outside its wheelbase, resulting in a car that is as lopsided on the scales as a RR 911, with an eye popping, brain melting 62/38 F/R weight distribution. It should come as no surprise then, that an Imp VI asks of its driver to tiptoe cautiously into a corner as much as an air–cooled 911, only instead of death by oversteer, it punishes ham–fisted maneuvers with understeer in equal measure. Trail brake into a corner, and the car will lean immensely with the tiniest of steering angles, instantly overwhelming the outside tyres into smoking and screaming away any momentum and dignity you might have attempted to bring into said corner.

The longitudinally mounted 1,994cc EJ20 Boxer may rev to the cosmos at a Rotary–shaming 8,200rpm, but unfortunately, there isn't much of a reason to bring it past 7, with peak power of exactly 276HP (205kW) happening at 6,5. As with any tiny, rev happy engine, it really doesn't have any torque with which to hold a slide despite its stiletto–thin 205mm tyres, even with the most rearward torque split the OE centre differential can manage: a rather safe still 35:65. The gear ratios are similarly unintuitive, with the first four gears so short that you can't even hit Japan's Jishu–Kisei speed limiter set at 180km/h (112mph) in fourth, requiring the moonshot overdrive 5th for that, causing the car to completely fall over itself and die past said speed.

After just two races with the Imp, I had completely given up on it and began looking for alternatives. A 1999 Evo VI of some sort would be the most obvious candidate, but that's locked behind GT7, and so the next closest thing I had in GTS was a '96 Evo IV. The Evo IV, despite being 90 kilos (198lbs) heavier and packing 3 less horses, felt so much more nimble and lairy than the Imp with its breakthrough AYC system, though I couldn't translate any of it into tangible results at Tsukuba. In my frustration, I let something slip from my lips that I probably shouldn't have on race day: "Can I just destroy you all in my RX-7?"

"Can you?", was Vic's coy answer, and so I set about crippling the output of my 2002 Spirit R down to its advertised power of 276HP while leaving everything else as–is, including its mass. As I lined up among the field of Imprezas, I have to admit I felt more than a tinge of nervousness and doubt. The "grass is always greener on the other side syndrome", if there hasn't already been a clinical term coined for it. After all, at an unbelievably scant 1,260kg (2,778lbs), not only is the four seater AWD car somehow 10kg (22lbs) lighter than my mere 2 seater RWD car, but the sedan turned coupé also has a smaller and more nimble body than my bona fide sports car!

I uh... wound up utterly destroying the Imprezas in spite of all the deficits on paper. The FD is a car that I had complained was much too soft for my liking, but even that felt like a Gr.4 racing car after having jumped from the rally bred machines. It braked better, it cornered better, and past 180km/h, it went better than the Imprezas. The only advantage the Imps might have had was on corner exits, and even then, not by much from what I can tell glancing in my mirrors. I didn't win the race because nerves got the better of me, but I think I proved my point: the Impreza simply isn't set up for track use. I was even going to bring an R34 GT-R for an All Nippon AWD shootout, but that I think would be well overkill for the poor Subaru.

I had a really torrid time with the Impreza this week, and I would have written it off entirely had we not ran it on Bathurst, my favourite track in the world. There, the Impreza clung onto the racing lines like shrink wrap, displayed rock solid stability, and trivialised any of the many imperfections the public mountain roads presented. On a nefariously narrow and torturously twisty roads, the Impreza showed great "point and shoot" capabilities, biting into apexes with great initial turn–in before its understeer could rear its head, and its short gearing means it has torque and engine braking for any situation the varied mountain throws at it. And it's there that I really found where the Impreza felt most at home.

"Drift King" Tsuchiya Keiichi said it best in his modern impression of a GC8 Impreza: Subaru designs from the time all feel cheap, like they're made by country bumpkins. But, following that, he also comments on how it's such a nostalgic feeling for him to step into the car, and how it has a distinct "Subaru flavour" to it. That is something that I feel is not only distinctly absent in modern cars as Japanese manufacturers set their sights more and more on the global market, but also indicative of where and how an Imp VI shines: not on a wide, neatly paved track, but on a narrow, countryside road, where its unshakable AWD stability, compliant and absorbent suspension, and tiny Class 5 body is exactly what one would need to conquer country roads no matter rain, shine, snow, or anything in between. The fact that it can seat four in a body that's lighter and smaller than an FD RX-7's is something that still boggles my mind every time I see it. Even in the context of a video game, I can very clearly see why so many in real life have sworn by the Imprezas, and how it has arguably given Subaru its identity of rock solid, stable, and dependable workhorses worldwide. It somehow feels really personal simply to look at, akin to seeing pictures of a childhood friend from decades past.

To drive though? Oof, these early examples of AWD performance cars are rough! They serve as a stark reminder of a time when car manufacturers struggled to get an AWD car to simply turn like a car. Nowadays, we have AWD SUVs that can corner on par with supercars. The Imp VI then, is not only a veritable time capsule, but I think is also the closest thing we will ever get in a modern Gran Turismo game to the driving experience of an offroad SUV. It's an intriguing to experience because of that, but ooh boy is it not for me. I'd rather shorten my lifespan with a proper RWD sports car, or just buy an R34 if I have to. Hell, there's no reason at all for me to not just take a 22B over the VI.

(muffled screaming in the distance: "WHAT DO YOU MEEEEAN THE 22B COSTS 180K in GT7?!")
There are not many games that think about putting in trucks in a circuit base game compared to an open world game but Gran Turismo has been doing it since the Daihatsu Midget II, if you consider it a truck. There are only two trucks in GTS and one of which we have already tested. This week we are taking a look at the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro '19. This weeks car is chosen by @Vic Reign93

Did an 08.26.505 with it on the Nords stock with SH tyres, no TCS or any other driving aids.

Interesting drive. The weight obviously slows it down significantly.
Fun fact: I did the EXACT same time with it, like with the Citroen DS3, to the thousandth of a second :P

Verdict: neutral

Tsukuba rivals:
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Suffers the same fate as the other Gr.1s in that in the factory specs it absolutely demolishes the modern LMPs around Sarthe, but in BoP...good luck getting anywhere. The Group C cars all have the same weakness, which is outdated/inadequate aero to keep up in the lower speed twisty bits and no hybrid/KERS to catch the modern cars out in corner exits.

At least you're racing with some style?
I really enjoyed this car. When I fired up the thread and saw the 962, I was thinking, what awesome member chose this weeks car?!?
Then I remembered, it was me!! Crap, could have spent a week practicing, but totally forgot about picking it.
I jumped in it about a half hour before we got the lobby up and instantly loved it. Just the right amout of grip, the gap between the shifts just sounds awesome and reminds me of the good old days of missed shifts, battery free horsepower and the smell of the race tracks of my youth.
This was THE non F1 machine to me. I will always think of it when I think of Le Mans.
On a side note, my mom smoked Rothmans blue because of this car, and my dad and I built a Tamiya model of it together. Loved this car before we drove it and love it even more now.
Did a 05.51.615 on the Nords with RH tyres stock with it. No driving aids except abs. The best driving/best handling/most behaved Gr.1 car, but also by far the slowest around this track. I absolutely love it.
Verdict: neutral?
Did a 07.40.937 on the Nords with SH tyres stock with it (it can do much better). No driving aids except abs.
Wow now this is a handfull. Really likes to slide. Once you get the hang out of it though, it becomes a really enjoyable driving experience. You can easely throttle-drift this thing around corners, so fun! Also you can take corners with very high speeds and the thing is very very speedy. Great and exciting drive!

Nordschleife rivals:

Tsukuba rivals:

Verdict: a sleeper I guess. Definatly a very special car overall.
I'll admit, my car choice this week was picked solely out of laziness: I've been wanting to test the braking difference between GTS and GT7 for a while now, but aside from COTW, I never ever touch my 2 month old PS5. I got the test done and made a thread about it, but the price to pay for that has been utter chaos and anarchy in our weekly races suffered by everyone, and I sincerely apologise for not picking the RCZ Gr.3 Road Car instead. Maybe if I had picked the Pug, McClarenDesign would've found a ball or two in his purse and joined us after he used up all the balls he had to hold my family at gunpoint demanding to know early what this week's pick is.

Long hood, short deck, big NA engine up front sending power exclusively to the rear via a manual stick and offering drivers absolutely zero aids, I'm tempted to describe the Tuscan as a British Viper. In fact, before I get to my usual thing and tell you about how the car drives, I feel it's imperative to really take a moment to look closely at the two cars and just appreciate how awfully similar they are.

In addition to the classic long hood, short deck FR body style, both cars are primarily built as open top cars, and I find the door shapes and side windows so eerily similar between the two, with a highly raked curve stabbing into the engine compartment up front, a cleaner, flatter curve at the back, and a curvaceous windshield to give excellent visibility from the cockpits.

Where the Tuscan differs from the Viper is that the Tuscan is so insane in its design, it almost makes the Viper's lunacy feel more like a by product of its performance, like Dodge wasn't even trying to make the Viper the poster child for insanity, and TVR were coveting that title I just made up on the spot. The rev counter is digital and dead centre in the dash, with an analogue speedo forming a dome above it, when you would think that it would be the other way around. The brake lights are too low, the turn signals are roof mounted for reasons known perhaps only to Peter Wheeler and his psychotherapists, and the door release button is mounted under the side mirrors for some reason. About the only area in insanity that TVR hasn't tried to upstage the Viper is not having side exit exhausts running through the door sills to cook the occupants of the car alive, because the extra heat might actually be appreciated in chilly Britain.

So then, it's less a British Viper and more like a bastard love child of one, trying its best to upstage and overshadow its father in every area and respect. Who might the mother be in this metaphorical scenario, you might ask? Well, given that the damn thing weighs in at an unbelievably scant 1,100kg (2,425lbs) thanks to a lightweight fibreglass body and the complete absence of any safety equipment, I'd have to say, maybe an Englishwoman by the name of Elise?

The car's brochure leads me to believe that Tuscans with the 3996cc Speed Six engine ought to have come equipped with larger 18 inch wheels and 255mm tyres, but the Tuscan in the game, while having the 4L engine, comes with the standard 16 inch aluminium alloys and slimmer 225mm tyres. Whichever wheel and tyre set you end up with, it seems that the Tuscan doesn't stagger its tyre sizes at all in any event, which serves as yet another slap across the face of common sense and another nudge towards you careening off into the safe, gentle caress of the trackside barrier with every corner you attempt with the car.

Take advantage of all the grip the front end has to offer turning into a corner like a sane tool, and the rear end will be more than happy to swing out, with its sloppy suspension taking all weight off the rear of this perfectly balanced car. Even though the game claims that the Tuscan has rather adequate sounding 1.8Hz springs, the car itself feels like it has a ND Roadster–esque 1.3Hz in practice—the car will exhibit horrendous pitch and roll in any situation other than cruising and standing still. The sloppy suspension makes everything you attempt with the car a precarious exercise, from corner entry, exits, transitions, and everything in between, forcing drivers to be cognizant of where weight is at all times on the car and deliberately conscious of how they treat it every time they approach a corner. In my AE86 review, I said that the 86 deeply romanticises the process of weight transfer; the Tuscan necessitates it by holding the lives of you and those around you prisoner, with the ransom of being treated in a very exacting way that it likes.

Perhaps because of the soft suspension taking all weight off the rear tyres, the car stops as though it were a 1.5 tonne car rather than the 1.1 that it is, with freakishly long braking distances that constantly caught out myself and my peers during race day, ABS on or off. Once you've shaved off enough speed to turn into a corner, you have to carefully nurse the car in, lest you lean the car with slinkies for suspension too much and it overloads the outside tyres into making all grip disappear into a puff of smoke, wherein you will find your perspective of the racetrack magically turned 180° around once the smoke clears. On corner exits, the soggy springs mean that you'll have to watch for both power oversteer and understeer, with the NA Inline 6 having gobs or torque to break grip on the default Sport Hard tyres from low rpm. If the power is put down cleanly through a therapeutic massage of the right pedal, the explosive power simply lifts the front end of the car horrendously, sending the car torpedoing into the outside barrier with understeer and leaving a curvaceous indentation in the wall far higher than the car's ride height of 102mm (4.02in). And if you thought it was scary in low and mid speed corners, wait till you attempt to tackle high speed corners like Suzuka's 130R with a car that has the aerodynamic properties and stiffness of a velvet bra.

Oh, and watch out for kerbs and rumble strips too—they're an instant death sentence without ABS and absent any tactile feedback from the car lost in the digital divide. Avoiding them on certain tracks, such as the braking zone into Laguna Seca's Corkscrew for example, not only requires very hard reprogramming of one's head to actively avoid the shortest, straightest path if it includes rumble strips, but the extra weaving in avoidance just upsets the softly sprung car and causes it to roll, elongating the braking distances which means you have to brake earlier and ARGH, you get the point. It is not fun. Driving the car is as much physical exercise as it is mental. If your grannies ever complain that they got sick of Wii Sports, hook up Gran Turismo Sport and a wheel, and have the try the Tuscan.

So intense is the driving experience of the Tuscan that, during race day, I felt constantly stressed from behind the wheel, and always grateful to have survived any corner without contact. I was soaked in sweat for that whole two hours, and not even just the "my skin's kinda sticky because there's a thin layer of sweat on it" kind of sweat, but the "entire beads of sweat are rolling down my body as though I'm outside running" kind of sweat. The only time I recall being this thoroughly terrified of a car was back in Week 165 when we tested the CHC Nova, and that needed more than more than twice the power of the Speed 6 to scare me like that!

Ahh, but I did say that the Tuscan was akin to being the kid of a Viper instead of a clone. Surely it has some traits from its other parent as well in my atrocious anthropomorphic analogy, the Lotus Elise, beyond simply being lightweight (and having no protection), right?

For starters, the 4L Speed Six engine is a delight thorough and through. So ample is the power from the Inline 6 that I never even noticed how the 2000MY sports car is saddled with a five speed gearbox still until I took my spec sheet screenshots! Despite what common sense might dictate, its power saves me from messes more than it gets me into them, as it helps me salvage a corner entry slide by letting me translate it into a drift, making it look intentional (and it totally was... most of the time... maybe). It has copious amounts of torque from any rpm range above "stall" to break grip on even the uprated Sport Medium tyres we were running on race day, letting drivers hold onto a long gear for an uninterrupted slide. For a car that I've complained to be precarious and imprecise like a slinky, it oddly feels more consistent when going sideways than straight, almost like it wants to. The soft suspension setup does at least let drivers put weight on any corner of the car as they intuit it, and the perfect mass distribution of 50:50 only enables and encourages said smoky shenanigans all the more once all hell has broken loose. It really does feel set up from the factory to drift!

And speaking of balance, I get the feeling that the car has been immaculately and purposefully set up from the factory to be a driver's car; the brake balance has been set from the factory to have just enough to lock up the front under full braking on a level road, and just enough to get the rear tyres to be at their absolute limits, skittish without actually skidding. Under full braking then, you get a car that is just right on that precipice of a knife edge, ready to stop, ready to turn, ready to spin, ready to lock up, ready for all hell to break loose at your command. The Tuscan offers a nigh inimitable driving experience with how raw it is, how it holds nothing back from you, and because of that, how much you can learn about driving from it if you survive the experience.

Nigh inimitable? What else can offer a similar experience to a Speed Six then? Why, funny you should ask!

A Viper, of course! Alongside a TVR Griffith, a second generation Dodge Viper is the other "final boss" of Gran Turismo 1, with the game's eight final licence tests alternating between the two. Okay fine, my Viper isn't red and my TVR isn't a Griffith, but you know what they say about lemons and life. Or blueberries, because my cars are blu- okay this metaphor is going nowhere.

Fittingly, the Viper is also similarly terrifying to drive, sharing so many similarities to the Tuscan as I noted earlier. The snake may weigh in at a hefty chunk more than the British featherweight, at 1,569kg (3,459lbs), but it also has four more cylinders to give 88 more horsepower over the TVR at 448HP (334kW). And so this on track comparison quite simply boils down to a classic David vs. Goliath scenario, of power versus lightness, which the British seem oddly enamoured by for some reason. But what I'm about to say might make them spill their tea in horror and call me a sodding nitwit or whatever culturally rich and charming insult they'll invent next.

I think the Viper drives better than the Tuscan.

The Viper is feels stiffer sprung despite it not being so in terms of natural frequency. It certainly corners flatter and squirms about less in the bends. It has much stronger brakes, readily locking up its chunkier tyres that are perpetually pressed into the road more by the Viper's increased mass. Despite the biased, tyrannical British governing body of our lobbies crippling my Viper down to 99% power, the 2002 Viper readily kept close with the lighter Tuscan around Tsukuba, one of the tightest and most technical courses in the game. How close? Well, rather than tell you, why don't I show you instead?

The bigger tyres. The stronger brakes. The flatter cornering. The 83 extra horsepower. All of that just to even out its massive 460kg (1,014lbs) handicap to the Tuscan, and the end result is that the Viper runs very closely to the Tuscan on Tsukuba. Anywhere else, I think the Viper will have a clear, pronounced edge in hot lap times over the Tuscan. As an American car, it has its characteristic cost advantage over the Tuscan as well, with the Michigan Menace being some 4.5k cheaper than the Blackpool Bruiser in GTS. Not to mention, the Viper is just easier to drive as a whole in my opinion. Never thought you'd read that previous sentence in your life? I didn't think I was going to write that ever in my life, either.

That all being said, all is not lost for the Tuscan. There's a certain sensation, a certain pocket in its handling envelope I think that gives something intangible the Viper cannot. It's a lairy car that lets you know it wants to play all the time. It will break grip on any of its tyres and give you all the tools to slide it around with controlled precision after it obtains your consent... by taking it from you. Its better balanced body makes weight transfer much more intuitive, its narrower tyres let go more linearly, and it simply feels like it's a car that has had much more thought put into not only playing with the driver, but surprisingly, also in allowing the driver to play with it. The Tuscan's playfulness puts some emphasis on enjoying the drive, imploring drivers to go slow enough to smell the roses and tyre smoke while being fairly and intensely engaging at any speed. That is just something I have never felt an inkling of in a Viper, which won't hesitate to break bones if you break its grip, and hopefully not your own :sly:. That the Tuscan can run sidewall to sidewall with a much more focused feeling Viper then, is in itself, a testament and compliment to how capable the it is, even without the upsized wheels and tyres. It just isn't my cup of tea, so to speak.

But then of course, such performance and perilous playfulness is something one should expect from a TVR.

A baby TVR.