Strengths and weaknesses:
- road noise
- no room in back seat
Subaru powers into new realm with BRZ
"Subaru handled BRZ engineering, development and production while Toyota supplied design and product planning."
HOOD RIVER, Oregon - The 2013 BRZ is taking Subaru where the company has never gone before – the realm of rear-wheel-drive sports cars.
Known globally for all-wheel-drive vehicles like WRX and STi, Subaru has teamed up with Toyota to produce this stunning rear-wheel-drive sport coupe.
It’s light, it’s agile and it’s a ton of fun to drive.
The last time the company had a two-wheel-drive of any kind was in 1994 and it’s never offered a rear-wheel-drive car in North America.
Subaru handled the BRZ engineering, development and production while Toyota supplied the interior and exterior design and product planning.
It’s an unusual alliance, but the result, at least from the Subaru end (I have not driven the Scion version) is a home run.
There are two models of BRZ—base and Sport-tech – each with a Subaru four-cylinder Boxer engine turning out 200 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. In either BRZ model, a smooth, ultra slick six-speed manual transmission handles the shift work. You can opt for a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters if you prefer electronic gear choices.
The exterior is terrific, maybe even sexy. The purposeful profile starts from a BRZ-specific face and stretches over an aluminum hood and low cabin to a short deck (with a BRZ-specific spoiler in Sport-tech versions). The 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels fill the wheel wells nicely.
Inside it has all the power convenience features, terrific seats, navigation if you want it, and an excellent audio system. Switches and knobs are kept to a bare minimum. To get what you want, you turn a knob or flip a switch – no electronic gimmicks to work through. Everything quickly becomes instinctive.
The car is billed as a 2x2 sports coupe, but there’s no way you’re going to get people into the back seat. And to install a child seat requires some agility on the part of the parent.
To give you some idea where the Subaru folks see this car going, if you fold the one-piece rear seatback and passenger seat down, you expand the already-impressive trunk space to handle four racing tires and a tool bag.
We’re in this area east of Portland to run BRZ around the freeways and narrow, twisting back roads and on the challenging road course at Oregon Raceway Park.
The route to the race track offers no guard rails to stop a long fall if the driver screws up. The BRZ has the usual stability control and traction nannies, but it’s the superb balance that allows the car to keep on the chosen course without body roll or lean.
The electronic power steering gives an excellent feel of the road and only requires gentle input to produce those road-hugging turns.
The independent suspension is surprisingly compliant for a sports car and road imperfections are easily handled without jarring occupants.
Downsides? There aren’t many. In fact the only thing I really dislike is the excessive road noise on an aggregate surface.
At the track, the real fun begins. It’s a technical track requiring the driver to pay strict attention to the business at hand. I prefer the automatic transmission in this situation. It is quicker to shift than I am with the manual. It is more precise and if I brake hard before a corner, it will downshift two gears – on its own – setting me up in exactly the right gear to exit the corner.
BRZ is a refined kind of sports car. It doesn’t have the brute power of WRX or STi, but it is beautifully balanced, rides nicely and handles like a dream. It may only have 200 horses under the hood, but it makes full use of those ponies and it’s set up to provide a terrific track experience and super road manners.