Pioneer UK‘s commitment to modified demo motors seemingly knows no bounds, as this epic Subaru BRZ Audio Car proves.

First featured in 2019. Words by Jamie Arkle, Photography by Chris Wallbank.

There’s a well-known saying in the music industry concerning an artist’s releases, namely that the third offering will invariably be a trickier thing to pull off than the first and second, or to give it its correct title, ‘difficult third album syndrome.’ The thinking behind it being that, despite their best efforts and intentions, bands, singers and artists have generally run out of inspiration or talent, or just plain can’t stand the sight of one another by the time it comes to record a third album.

Why are we commencing a car feature by banging on about the music industry? Well, partly because the maker of this modified Subaru BRZ audio car is none other than Pioneer UK, a company with more than a little first-hand experience when it comes to music, and partly because it’s actually the firm’s third take on the BRZ platform.

The front end of a Pioneer Subaru BRZ modified audio car

Pioneer’s History with the Subaru BRZ

“We’ve come to appreciate everything about the BRZ these last few years,” explains Toby Norton of Pioneer. “Partly it’s down to the fact that it’s such a multi-talented little car, perfectly at home on a grindingly dull Monday morning commute, able to put a smile on your face on the way back from even the most challenging of days.”

The firm’s last BRZ-shaped undertaking was far from a shrinking violet, you might remember. It sported a retro-looking livery, one directly inspired by the Pioneer-sponsored Datsuns of Paul Newman in the mid ’70s, and could call upon a veritable arsenal of boot-based audio hardware. The bar was already pretty high then, which presented Toby and the rest of the Pioneer crew something of a challenge when it came to topping it.

The side profile of the Pioneer Subaru BRZ modified audio car

Freshening Things Up

“From the onset we were adamant that we wanted the third BRZ to look completely different from the previous iterations. That’s nothing against the older cars of course, rather we realized that the retro livery had had its moment in the sun and that it was time to try something totally new.”

Pioneer’s quest to differentiate its latest automotive undertaking has no doubt been aided by Subaru itself, the firm having clubbed together with Toyota once more to give the BRZ something of a mid-life refresh. The automotive world has been generally positive in its reaction to the tweaks, with the front end perhaps the biggest beneficiary. It’s very much a less is more affair, with the subtle nip ‘n’ tuck having served to make the BRZ’s nose a far better proportioned beast.

Said changes have been rendered that bit more effective by Pioneer’s own efforts. The audio gurus having gone to great lengths to polish the handling poise of this, an already highly capable car in this regard.

The rear end of the Pioneer Subaru BRZ modified audio car

Handling Upgrades

“We’d already altered the suspension on the old car so obviously couldn’t go back to stock, it would’ve just been too much of a backwards step,” explains Toby. “We’ve instead opted for a subtly overhauled aftermarket spring and damper arrangement, one which has brought about notable improvements overall.”

Said suspension actually comes from ST, an arm of KW – makers of some of the most impressively capable coilovers money can buy. The ST kit in question is one of the firm’s XTA packages, meaning Pioneer now has full scope for accurate control of ride height, damping rate and, perhaps most impressively of all, adjustable top-mounts. It also means that finessing the cornering ability of the BRZ has become that much simpler, not least as Pioneer has had plenty of experience from its previous cars.

Those of you with longer memories might well recall that Pioneer’s last project also sported a set of Rota Grids, in fact the very same set of 18-inch Rota Grids, but then it’s hard to argue that they don’t both suit the car and fill its arches very well indeed. It’s a classic case of ‘if it ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

The Pioneer Subaru BRZ modified audio car's head unit.

Head Unit Conversion

One of the most obvious changes, certainly when you jump behind the wheel, concerns the BRZ’s OEM audio suite. With the best will in the world, the previous gen car’s standard audio assortment fell short of the mark, certainly as far as its integration and ability to work with smart devices is concerned. The ‘Toyobaru’ top brass evidently listened to public opinion and noted the direction the way the wind was blowing, and the result is a far more advanced audio suite ‘right out of the box.’ This can be seen in the new car’s complete audio integration functionality, with a battery of wheel-mounted buttons allowing for easy adjustment of audio parameters, and all without moving your hands from the wheel.

It probably won’t be all that surprising to learn that Pioneer has enhanced the BRZ’s audio capability with its current range of products. The car’s new head unit, the ‘mecha-free’ SPH-DA230DAB to give it its full title, is a good example of this. Based around a firm commitment to connectivity, the SPH-DA230DAB can seamlessly sync with an array of different apps and smartphones, including both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This enables both Apple and Android devotees to have their cake and eat it, making utilizing the unit’s suite of features both simple and straightforward.

The Pioneer Subaru BRZ modified audio car's boot build.

Speakers, Amps & Subwoofers

It goes without saying that the SPH-DA230DAB can handle music from a wide variety of sources, and also that Pioneer has raided its 2017/2018 catalogue to pair it with a smattering of suitably capable speakers, amps and subs.

“Pioneer actually began life as a dedicated speaker manufacturer a full 80 years ago this year, so we thought it only right and proper that we make the speaker install something rather special,” muses Toby. “We’ve constructed custom pods for both the driver and passenger doors, and these are now come to a TS-D65C 6.5” 2way component and a TS-Z65CH 6.5” 2way component. The former puts out 270w max, the latter a hefty 330w max.”

Making the most of its audio clout is something of a Pioneer specialty, which is why you’ll also find a pair of boot-mounted amps, a GM-D8604 for the TS-D65C and a PRS-D800 for the TS-Z65CH. There’s also a duo of GM-D8601 amps, one for each of the TS-D12D4 dual 4ohm voice coil subs, both rated at a not inconsiderable 2000w max each.

A portrait shot of the Pioneer Subaru BRZ modified audio car

In Conclusion…

The impact this massed assortment of cutting edge hardware has on music, any kind of music we might add, is nothing short of dramatic. Rich, deep bass is an ever-present reminder of Pioneer’s mastery of the dark art of in car audio, while the array of speakers and amps bring much needed tonal clarity, not to mention the SPH-DA230DAB’s myriad features and functions.

So once again we’re back to our starting point, the tricky third album – one which we’d argue Pioneer has managed to pull off with aplomb. The Pioneer boys have managed to avoid making changes for changes sake (hence why the Rotas have been given a stay of execution), only adding in what’s required to make this BRZ easily the most capable of the trio. Will they be back with a fourth attempt in a few years time? We wouldn’t bet against it.

TECH SPEC: Pioneer Subaru BRZ Audio Car

Engine: 1998cc DOHC 16v Subaru FA20 ‘boxer,’ 86x86mm bore x stroke, 63.5mm Milltek Sport stainless steel exhaust system, x2 4.5in stainless steel tail pipes.

Chassis: 18-inch Rota Grid in satin black, 225/40/18 Toyo Proxes Tyres, ST –XTA height and damping rate adjustable coilovers, OEM brake setup .

Styling: Custom Pioneer Motorsport wrap designed to ape Paul Newman Nissan race car.

Audio: Pioneer SPH-DA230DAB Headunit, TS-D65C 6.5” 2way components (270w max) & TS-Z65CH 6.5” 2way component (330w max) speakers in custom door pods, 1 x GM-D8604 amp for TS-D65C, 1x PRS-D800 amp for TS-Z65CH, 2x GM-D8601 amps (1 per subwoofer), 2x TS-D12D4 dual 4ohm voice coil (2000w max each) subwoofers.