Does the Subaru BRZ live up its hype?

2013-Subaru-BRZ-2_10 When I was in college, I drove around in a used 1990 Nissan 240SX. It was a front-engined, rear-wheel drive coupe that also looked very good. It wasn’t particularly fast but handled very well, so it was fun to drive.

I miss that car even now and often look into getting a used one again, just to re-live the old days.

If you, like me, have a thing for front-engined, rear-wheel drive coupe’s, then the topic of today’s test will surely be of interest to you. I’m talking about the Subaru BRZ, which is the first sports coupe offered by its maker since the wonderful Giugaro designed SVX bowed out in 1997.

Where the SVX was a high-end luxury sports tourer, the BRZ is all about youth and enthusiasm. This is not the type of car you’d pull up to in if you were a senior executive for a major corporation, meeting new investors or clients (unless you work for Subaru). No, the BRZ is ideal for meeting up with your enthusiastic car loving friends at a track or an auto cross meet. This car is not for people who are always serious, so I’m guessing most accountants won’t like it that much.

It is also not likely to attract those among us that are a bit on the heavy side, since this is a very low car and climbing in and out of it will give anyone a workout (which is a good thing). I am much larger now than I used to be in my college days and hence I also struggled to get in and out, but once seated, I found the seats to be reasonably comfortable and the driving position to be spot on.

The interior fit and finish though does leave a lot to be desired. I don’t like the quality of the materials used and in my tester, a very large part didn’t quite fit (I’m just going to hope the blame here goes to the fact that this was a well worn out tester and not something that is a norm for these cars).

While the BRZ is labelled as a 2+2 coupe, the back seats are quite small and only really useful for carrying groceries (since the trunk is quite small also, the back seat will come in handy for your trips to the shops).

But, I can live with a low vehicle with not much practicality. What I cannot live with is the awful Pioneer touch screen infotainment system Subaru offers as an option (which was on my tester). This is by far and away the worst touch screen system I have ever come across and found fiddling with it so annoying, that I just gave up and threw in a CD to listen to. If you want to buy a BRZ, I’d advise you to stay clear from this option.

I’d also suggest to stay clear of the automatic gearbox. OK, to be fair, its not a bad gearbox and when you use the paddle shifters in Sport mode, it does blip the throttle on down shifts, but it is just the wrong type of gearbox for a car like this.

2013-Subaru-BRZ-2_8I have not driven the BRZ with a manual gearbox yet, but those that have say it really makes the engine shine. Speaking of the engine, under the low hood lies a normally-aspirated 2.0-liter, boxer four-cylinder motor that produces 200-hp and 151-lb/ft of torque. Power as mentioned before, goes to the rear wheels and with just 1,255-kg to push around, this motor does a very decent job of moving its mass along. Work this motor hard and you’ll see the sprint from 0-100 km/h will take just 6.5 seconds, and it’ll top out at about 240 km/h. So the performance is impressive, but I just wished the sounds the car made when being pushed were as pleasing as the numbers.

Where the BRZ absolutely shines is in the corners. Show it a twisty road and it will plant a smile on your face. Thanks to its fully-independent suspension set-up with MacPherson struts in the front and a double-wishbone set-up in the rear, the car exhibits minimal lean in the bends and the chassis and steering communicates well with you to let you know how much grip is left.

Since the standard car runs on eco-minded tires (same ones you’ll find on a Toyota Prius hybrid), there is not a lot of grip, but the fact you can slide this car around at lowish speeds adds to the thrills of this car. This car will be popular among the drifter crowd.

It will also be popular among anyone who is looking for an economical sports coupe, since it averaged just 7.6-liters/100km in my weeks test.

So it is not expensive to run, and as far as sportscars go, it is not expensive to buy either, prices start at $27,295.
2013-Subaru-BRZ-2_11Is the BRZ the best sportscar I’ve ever driven? No, but that might be due to the fact I have driven lots of very good, high-performance machines over the years. I love the looks, love the handling and love the fact that Subaru is offering a coupe again. For me, it needs more power (which I’m sure will eventually be offered with a turbo-charged motor) and needs more refinement (it is a bit too noisy on long drives). But if you’re looking for a fun car, or are just younger and fitter than I am, than the BRZ might just be the car for you.

There was a time, a car like this BRZ would have been ideal for me. Not anymore. Now, if I’m shopping at a Subaru showroom, I’d come home with an STi.

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