Monday, 3 June 2013

REVIEW - Subaru BRZ

Ask anybody what the recipe is for a good sports car, and they will most likely tell you the same thing. It needs to have the a manual gearbox, rear wheel drive, no rear legroom and preferably more than 12PS under the bonnet. These kind of cars are getting rarer now, with more and more manufacturers opting for double-clutch paddle gearboxes, front wheel drive systems with trick-differentials and making cars bigger and more spacious. Not to worry though, because there is a car that can fulfill your desire for the 'traditional' sports car. And it arrived at my house sporting a Subaru badge- things looked promising from the off. Say hello then- to the BRZ

Looks - 10/10

In case you were wondering from looking at the pictures, I haven't posted the wrong car name. This is a Subaru BRZ. Whilst you might all be thinking me mad, I should explain that this is a joint venture with Toyota who also have the GT86 in their model line-up. They are one and the same. Bar a front bumper and some badges, they are the same car. And what a good looking car they are. Finished in the infamous 'World Rally' blue, the BRZ that arrived for me to test looked jaw-droppingly good. From every angle there is a line or a feature that catches your eye and appreciate the design.

The 17" wheels look perfectly sized for the body. The large twin pipes at the rear sit nicely in the diffuser, and by being as low as it is gives the BRZ a wide stance as you look at it. The rear end seems rather wide too, but in a good way. The spoiler suits the car perfectly, and the rather long bonnet gives an imposing look to the front end.

On the inside there is a lot of leather, alcantara and red stitching. Not to mention the large start button and a few sport buttons thrown in for good measure. The steering wheel is near-vertical, and the pedals far away in the footwell- you really get the sporty driving position from the BRZ. All the materials in the cabin are aesthetically pleasing, and feel good to touch. It's a nice place to be, and contributes enormously to the sports car experience that this car offers.

Handling/Performance - 10/10


The best thing about the BRZ is the way it drives. Under the bonnet lies a boxer engine. This allows for the engine to sit very low, improving the centre of gravity. It's by no means a monster though. The 2.0-litre normally-aspirated flat four offers a very modest 200PS and 205Nm of torque. This is enough to propel the BRZ from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph. Whilst this isn't warp-speed performance by any stretch of the imagination, it's hardly a tortoise-pace either. And being so low to the ground makes the BRZ feel a lot faster. The engine is connected to a 6-speed manual gearbox (a 5-speed auto is available as an option, but please don't pick it!) which has a chunky, mechanical feel to it.

The redline on the engine is at 7,400rpm, and so you can really get the BRZ motoring through the gears. Whilst it's not the smoothest engine in the world, it feels solid and like it really wants to be driven hard to get the full benefit. I found that when driving higher up the rev band the car drove better, and even sounded like it was enjoying itself. As mentioned earlier, the BRZ feels a lot faster than the paper figures suggest. You can really work the gears to get the car shifting, and yet there is cruise control too- meaning you can relax and happily cruise on a motorway.

As for the handling- well that's in a league of its own. The low centre of gravity and brilliant weight distribution make this car corner like a dream. Given that it sits on rather narrower tyres than you would expect, the grip-when you want it to be- is faultless. When you don't want grip, then the rear-wheel-drive brings a lot of fun to the table. There are two sport modes, one which allows for a bit of a loose rear end, and one which puts the car in full drift mode. The BRZ is perfectly predictable with the handling; you know when the back is about to let go and can catch it perfectly. Couple a twisty road with some high-revving boxer noise and racing through the 6 speeds of the gearbox make for the perfect driving experience.

Economy - 10/10

The most uncharacteristic feature of the BRZ as a 'traditional' sports car. The road tax is as you would expect- CO2 emissions are 181g/km on the manual. This puts the BRZ in VED band I with road tax of £210 for 12 months. The first year rate on this band is a more pricey sum of £335. The fuel consumption is where this car surprises and wins your heart over, because on a combined cycle the BRZ offers 36.2mpg. And it can achieve this in the real world too, I will vouch for that. In fact, this is one of the rare cars where I was able to beat the quoted figure whilst on test. Extremely impressive for a car of this nature, and thoroughly deserving of a perfect score here; mostly for the surprise value.

Practicality - 8/10

Now a score of 8 may come as a bit of a shock here, but I shall explain. The front of the cabin is rather spacious. You can stretch your legs out, there's plenty of headroom and it's all rather comfortable. The back seats would be suitable for small children or amputees, and that's about it really. See the pictures and you'll see what I mean. This doesn't mean that the BRZ is an impractical car though. You see if you were to ask anyone- before they had actually seen- what they thought the rear legroom would be like in the BRZ, they will all expect there to be none at all. So that means there's no shock and most people buying the car will not need more than two seats so they will be more than happy with the BRZ.

Also worth a note is that the Subaru is a piece of cake to drive. The cruise control makes life easy on the motorway, and the engine is quiet when not being pushed. Visibility is good, and I had no problems parking thanks to being able to see out of all four corners. There's iPod connectivity, a sat-nav, bluetooth, heated seats and keyless entry. What more do you really need?

Fun - 10/10

Every single second I spent driving the BRZ, I spent grinning from ear to ear. People were seen to stop and point as I drove past. I even experienced the law of sod, because on my first venture out into town, I passed another BRZ- in silver in case you're interested. The driver seemed as surprised as me, as I saw him point and say to his passenger "Look- A blue one!". You would have thought I was driving a supercar the way people reacted to the BRZ. And as a feel-good factor this was pretty incredible. Then there's the way the BRZ drives, because on the right road you will struggle to find a better driving experience than the pure and simple formula offered by this Subaru.

Concluding Remarks

So, how do I sum up my thoughts on the BRZ? Easy- I loved it! You really could use this car every day, or could keep it for the weekend and go for a blast up your favourite road. Whichever you choose to do you will not be disappointed. Front-engined, through a manual box to the rear wheels. Such a simple formula but one that's getting less common these days; making the BRZ that little bit more special. If you have a little voice in your head telling you to buy a sports car, then I urge you to consider a Subaru BRZ. Visit the Subaru website or pop in to a local dealer if you have one. Signing off then, it has become apparent that you don't need a million horsepower to have a hoot. What you need is a Subaru BRZ.

Total Score - 48/50

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