There’s something alluring about a “driver’s car,” and better still, one that is relatively inexpensive. Meet the Subaru BRZ.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Even though Subaru is best known for all-wheel-drive cars such as the Outback, Forester and Legacy, the Impreza WRX and Impreza WRX STI have well-earned reputations for being fast and agile. The BRZ maintains Subaru’s horizontally opposed, “boxer” engine design, but it has rear-wheel drive for a better handling.
This small coupe was engineered jointly with Toyota, which sells its version in the U.S. as the Scion FR-S.
With dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, the BRZ’s engine is a 2.0-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower at 7,000 rpm. Two hundred horsepower doesn’t seem like a lot these days, but the BRZ only weighs 2,762 pounds and that means it scoots along nicely. At low speeds, the engine feels and sounds coarse, but as the revs rise things seem to smooth out.
The fun comes when you squeeze all the power out of this engine by flicking the stubby gear lever of the close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox through its paces. As someone once said, it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
A six-speed automatic with shift paddles on the steering wheel is also offered, but hardcore enthusiasts won’t want anything less than the manual.
The newly designed engine sits 2.4 inches lower and, because of rear-wheel drive, 9.5 inches farther back compared to the Impreza. That gives the BRZ a very low center of gravity and nearly ideal front-rear weight balance. That, in turn, yields responsive handling and crisp cornering.
The BRZ is small, with a wheelbase that is only 101.2 inches long, and that contributes to its go-kart handling. It also means the back seat is good for pets, briefcases or small children. The trunk, too, is pretty small. This is a car meant for having fun more than hauling stuff.
The ride is firm to the point of being choppy on all but the smoothest of roads. That was tiring after a few days. It was very easy to slide the back wheels on wet pavement, so I can imagine the car would be real handful in the snow. Dedicated winter tires would be mandatory.
The front seats were excellent, with support in all the right places. The rest of the interior was underwhelming in terms of the choice of materials and appearance. The LCD screen for the audio system has tiny buttons and dull typography.
The base price of the test car, the Premium model, was $25,595. Standard equipment included high-intensity headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, satellite radio, keyless entry, power windows, power mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, stability control, anti-lock brakes and tilt steering wheel. The sticker price was $26,390.
The warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles. The powertrain warranty is for five years or 60,000 miles.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org