2013 Subaru BRZ Coupe Review
By Tim Miller, Toronto Star
The Subaru BRZ is a car for the serious driver.
It also provides a great deal of motoring enjoyment in a sleek, firm-riding and well-thought out package for under $30,000.
In an about-face from what is considered normal these days, the Subaru BRZ is a front-engined, rear-wheel drive sporting coupe with attitude. This is not a car to use when getting groceries or going to the home improvement centre to pick up plumbing supplies. This car thrives on performance – the more the better. It is a car designed and built in the tradition of the MG, the Triumph and the Porsche of 50 years ago: lightweight, agile, powerful and good-looking.
This car is meant to be driven and it will not disappoint. Once the flat-four Boxer engine gets wound up above 3500 rpm the power is steady and strong to the 7200 rpm redline. The shifter for the six-speed manual gearbox in the test vehicle falls readily at hand and provides very positive gear changes, a welcome change from sloppy cable-operated shifting mechanisms in front-drive cars. There was no negative feedback from shifting the BRZ. It could be thrown through the gears with the tight, concise feeling of a Hurst shifter-equipped muscle car from the 1960s.
Subaru has been a mainstay in the market with performance packages, such as its WRX STI sedan, and the BRZ continues this tradition. And as with the WRX, the BRZ will find its niche in competition.
The BRZ (which stands for Boxer, Rear-wheel drive, Zenith) is a car built in partnership with Toyota. The overall design and body development is from Toyota, while Subaru provides the engine and drivetrain. The BRZ is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer engine with 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The engine has a unique sound all its own – this sound is more prevalent in the BRZ than other Subarus due to the size of the car and at certain revs produces a Porsche-like resonance.
The manual BRZ will get you from zero to 100 km in a little under eight seconds, the optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is about a half second slower.
The BRZ is fuelled by direct and port injection with electronic throttle control. The engine has a fairly flat torque curve and only wakes up after 3500 rpm. You are not pegged back in your seat as with some turbocharger-equipped vehicles but things do happen quickly. The double overhead camshaft engine requires premium fuel, with mileage coming in at about 9.6 litres per 100 km for city driving and 6.6 litres per 100 km for highway use.
The engine sits low in the front of the BRZ and with its MacPherson strut front suspension and double wishbone rear suspension, coupled with 215/45 Michelin Primacy tires mounted on 17-inch aluminum rims, a 53/47 front-rear weight ratio and a low centre of gravity, the car displays near-neutral handling. It hugs the road and goes where pointed, showing very little understeer, or push. The steering is electrically-controlled but provides the driver with a great sense of command and feedback. With the traction control shut off, it is certainly possible to get the rear end of the 1255-kg BRZ to come around, but this action is very predictable and steering and power corrections can be made well within any danger.
Stopping is provided by four-wheel disc brakes, 294 by 24 mm in the front and 290 by 18 mm in the rear. Along with its anti-lock system the BRZ also has electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
As a trade-off to the BRZ’s excellent handling, the ride is firm and harsh. The car belies its nature on all but the smoothest of road surfaces. Getting into the BRZ is what one expects for such a low car, but once inside the cockpit is both inviting and intimate with all controls at hand and that gearshift knob just beckoning to be used. There is minimal use of chrome, the thick leather steering wheel falls readily into hand and the large Pioneer in-dash touchscreen navigation and sound system is easy to read and operate from the centre of the dashboard. The cloth seats are deep and offer a great deal of support and the whole interior has a no-frills, lets-get-down-to-business aspect.
The BRZ is touted as a four-seater, although rear passengers will have trouble getting in and out of the car and, once inside, find little leg room. The driving position is perfect for a driver six feet or under, but those taller will find operating the BRZ a challenge. With the front seat all the way back, one would be hard-pressed to put their hand between the back of the front seat and the cushion of the rear seat. The hand brake lever is mounted on the driveshaft tunnel (remember those?) to the right of the driver and could be hard to operate if the driver is wearing a large or thick coat.
And while the fit and finish of the interior is stylish and well-appointed with quality materials, there is no provision for a centre armrest and your right elbow falls into the deep cup holder when not running the BRZ up and down through the gears.
The BRZ comes in four colours: black, white, silver and blue. But with dark Anthracite alloy rims, black is the perfect shade for the sleek and well-proportioned two-door.
The BRZ is available with a sport-tech package – for about $2,000 more than the base car, which starts at $27,295 – that includes all the base BRZ features along with keyless access and push-button start, heated leather front seats and fog lights. The optional six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters is available on both models for $1,200.
The Subaru BRZ is not for everyone, but for those who want power and performance in a package with its own unique handling, this coupe has few peers. According to Subaru Canada, only 500 BRZs will be imported into Canada.
Get a black one.
2013 Subaru BRZ Coupe Review
Base price: $27,295
Engine: 2.0 L Boxer horizontally-opposed four
Power/Torque: 200hp/151 lb/ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy: L/100 km: 9.6 city, 6.6 highway
Competition: Toyota Scion FR-S, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Honda Civic SI Coupe
What’s best: Visual appeal, handling, solid shifting
What’s worst: Lack of centre armrest/console, use of premium fuel, analog speedometer numbers too small to read at a glance
What’s interesting: The BRZ is a joint Subaru/Toyota product designed in old-school fashion with front-engine, rear-drive. Only 500 will be imported into Canada.
Length: 4235 mm
Width: 1775 mm
Height: 1425 mm
Wheelbase: 2570 mm
Trunk capacity: 196 litres
Ground clearance: 125 mm
Weight (manual transmission): 1255 kg