2013 Subaru BRZ Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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There's only one car on the road today that's as hot as the new Scion FR-S, Subaru's near identical BRZ. I've driven both and they're equally brilliant!

Yah, I know what you might be thinking. We used to beat up automakers like GM, Ford and Chrysler for badge-engineering cars, and now we're lauding Toyota's Scion division and Subaru for doing the same thing. But believe me, this BRZ is no Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky. The BRZ takes the mainstream sports car to an entirely new level, and for that reason we're all celebrating its creation.

I experienced this celebratory attitude way back on August 6 last year. It was a gathering of new FR-S and BRZ owners in a local shopping centre parking lot that I couldn't help but notice while leaving the drug store. I found out the date was chosen out of respect for the classic AE86 that inspired Toyota's version of this car, a vehicle that in turn helped to bring about Subaru's BRZ. Subaru wouldn't have done the BRZ on its own, but then again Toyota's version probably wouldn't have been as good without Subaru's hand in it. After all, Toyota doesn't make a horizontally opposed boxer engine, important for laying low in the BRZ's engine compartment and reducing the car's centre of gravity. At 151 lb-ft of torque the engine produces impressive thrust for a 2.0-litre four-cylinder too, albeit between a finite 6,400 to 6,600 rpm, yet output is really aggressive at 200-horsepower, considerable for its small displacement. It's Subaru's newest, with all the latest tech like electronic throttle control and dual active valve control, not to mention direct injection, and while some are calling for a turbocharged option due to what they say is a lack of power, with talk of a 280-horsepower version hitting the streets sometime this year, I never once felt a need for more boost.

It's a question of balance, and the BRZ has plenty of that. Take it into a set of tight switchbacks and it remains flat and true to its line. Even when needing to make a sudden correction due to something unforeseen on the road it remains composed and stable thanks to independent struts up front and a double-wishbone setup in back, the 17-inch rear wheels tracking right behind those in front, sliding out a bit if provoked, but in a totally predictable and wonderfully enjoyable fashion. Driving the BRZ fast is how it was designed to go, although tooling around town isn't so bad either. Certainly city driving might be easier in an Impreza or one of the brand's cool new XV Crosstreks, but the BRZ's driving position is comfortable due in part to tilt and telescopic steering and all controls fall easily within reach. The driver's seat is totally supportive, not to mention great looking with black Alcantara with anthracite leather upholstery stitched together with bright red thread, a pattern that continues onto the red-stitched and leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob boot and handbrake lever.

The nice red stitching comes as part of the Sport-tech package upgrade, which also includes silver accent trim, proximity sensing keyless access and pushbutton ignition, and less noticeable but equally appreciated conveniences like front door courtesy lights, dual illuminated visor mirrors, two-way heated seats and dual zone automatic climate control, not to mention multi-reflector halogen fog lamps that complement the standard HID headlights, plus that cool looking low-profile spoiler is part of the Sport-tech package too.

But the standard cabin is nice as well, with soft-touch plastics where you're likely to place your fingers or elbows, and also across the dash where it absorbs sound and looks good too. Also impressive is the top-tier 8-speaker Pioneer AVIC X9310BT colour touchscreen, an impressive standard infotainment system with navigation, AM/FM/RDS/CD/MP3/WMA/DVD/DivX and Bluetooth streaming audio, MediaHub for iPod/iPhone 4/USB integration, auxiliary input in the glove box, Bluetooth hands-free phone, and detachable face security to make sure nobody but you walks away with it. I'm not going to try and compare the two cars' interiors, but I liked the little bit of extra luxury my BRZ tester offered over the FR-S I had before.

I also like the BRZ's integrity as a Subaru model. What I mean is, the heart of any car is its engine, and while Toyota (that owns a small percentage of Fuji Heavy Industries which owns Subaru) has helped FHI to enhance its engine lineup with some of its advanced technologies, the flat-four is pure Subaru, and even though it's a rear-drive vehicle instead of Subie's normal four-wheel drivetrain, the engine makes it sound and react congruently with the badge on the steering wheel. Do you know what I mean? For that reason and that reason alone I'd probably opt for the Subaru, as both cars work for me stylistically.

Yes, they're both gorgeous. Two of the prettiest sports cars on the planet no matter the price paid, and that reason along with their undeniably impressive performance is why car enthusiasts the world over are celebrating the arrival of this BRZ and its kissing Toyota/Scion cousins. Both have been sold out for quite some time, although I've read reports that more will soon be heading Subaru's way (but you'll need to talk to your dealer to confirm this for your area).

Pricing? A base 2013 Subaru BRZ will cost you a mere $28,990 including destination and pre-delivery inspection charges, with the Sport-tech upping the ante by another $2,000. A small price to pay for such a brilliant sports car, and a practical one too as the rear seat is ideal for smaller adults over short distances, although probably best for kids, and the trunk can store a lot of gear especially when the rear seats are folded flat.

Other practicalities include fuel economy combining for a claimed 8.2 L/100km city/highway, which is pretty decent in this class and not too far from the 8.5 I experienced while starting and stopping amid city traffic, driving up and over hills, and hardly being light footed most of the time.

I should also mention that I also enjoyed an hour in a six-speed automatic-equipped Scion FR-S too, which is the same alternative transmission as offered by Subaru, and while the paddle-shifters really help to enhance the driving experience, and fuel economy is actually a tad better, I'd choose the manual gearbox as it's more engaging.

In fact, I could step right into this BRZ tester the way it came, Sport-tech package and all. For $30,990 including destination it represents amazing value for one of the most impressive sports cars I've driven all year.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Subaru, 2013, BRZ, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Compact,

Organizations: Subaru

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