The pleasure is all Subaru's
HOOD RIVER, Oregon - "Subaru introduces its first ever RWD sporty coupe: The BRZ!" What does Subaru know about rear-drive coupes? Are they not all about AWD and safety and fuel economy? This may be true but they were already on this path before Toyota (which owns 16% of Subaru) slipped into the picture.
Both are now benefiting from this joint adventure in their quest to regain some street-cred, much-needed in Toyota's case.
The Toyota influence
The first piece of information we must remember is that the car is a Subaru, not a Toyota, and built by Subaru in Japan. Here's the breakdown: Toyota designed the outer shell and the cabin and threw in direct injection for engineering purposes. The remainder is all Subaru.
The 2013 Subaru BRZ's sheetmetal is all win. The mid-front location of the engine allows for a sharp and low hood flanked by fenders that peak up over its edges; a very classic and distinctive feature in many performance cars. The front end fascia of the car is wider than you would imagine and, other than the wheels, is the only unique physical feature of the car compared to the 2013 Scion FR-S.
It is next to impossible to criticize the car's stance and appearance. The proportions are ideal, the track is beefy and the height is kept to a minimum. In Subaru's pre-launch research, they found that "sexy" was a widely used term to describe the car's styling. The car is hot and comes in four colours: Silver, Black, White and World Rally Blue.
Although Toyota did a great job with the out, the in is not as stellar. The steering wheel is control-free and small at 365 mm in total diameter, the seats are supportive and well bolstered. The lower marks come from the awful Pioneer audio system with its annoying double-din display and the silver island of plastic surrounding it.
Amongst the cool features of this car, the one that got my juices flowing the most, was that the door-cards and dashboard are designed and assembled in such a way as to allow for a roll cage to be installed without interference.
Subaru is synonymous with Boxer or horizontally-opposed engines. The Subaru Boxer 2.0L (code named FA20) is the centrepiece of this car. Because of it, the BRZ has the lowest centre of gravity of any car below $75k. It is lower than that of the Mazda MX-5 and BMW M3. In fact, the 2013 Subaru BRZ's profile is lower than that of a Porsche Cayman.
The chassis on which rides the BRZ is all-new and evidently not based on any current Subaru. Fuji Heavy Industries used some seriously high-grade steels to ensure a very rigid body structure.
How does it all come together?
Extraordinarily well. The driving position is exceptional. Immediately, I felt a connection with the car the moment I dropped into the low seat and settled in. From this moment on, the 2013 Subaru BRZ is as damn near close to being plugged into your spine as any car has the right to be.
Right from take-off, I felt as though I wanted more power. I did begin my day of driving the optional 6-speed autobox. Although it works fine, includes paddle shifters, a Sport mode and matches revs on demand, it saps the BRZ and driver of their constitutional mojo. Honestly, it's good, but ticking the $1,200 automatic option is cruel to both you and the car.
With the Aisin 6-speed manual, heavily modified by Subaru, the 2013 BRZ comes alive and thanks you by showing you what it's made of. The engine sounds more raucous, power delivery feels stronger, palms get sweaty-er and the real pleasure begins.
The 2.0L (based on the FB20 from the Impreza) generates 200 hp at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque between 6,400 and 6,600 rpm. To get the most out of the mill, the revs have to climb and be kept high as good times start above 5,000 rpm. The 7,450-rpm redline comes in quick after peak hp but the BRZ has a programmable shift light to keep you on your toes. Here, I no longer wanted nor needed more power.
It can handle anything
The roads we drove between Hood River and Grass Valley demonstrated a level of poise and comfort (not a typo) that I did not expect. The low centre of gravity limits the need for body movements and therefore a strange level of serenity exists in the cabin. Strange because ground is being covered at speed and occupants are mere centimetres above the ground.
The low centre of gravity means that the car's suspension does not need to work as hard to keep it stable. Therefore, it doesn't need to be tuned as stiffly for better ride comfort and stability. That's the equivalent of Gwyneth Paltrow being available and attracted to you at the same time. The numerous switchbacks provided ample examples of the rear-end's predictable and controlled nature. The car's a real delight to pilot.
Steering is perfectly dosed, responsive, direct and highly rewarding. Turn-in is crisp but without bite. Between the engine, sweet and slick-shifting 6-speed and chassis, the 2013 Subaru BRZ is a car that brilliantly clings to driving basics through agility and unfiltered car-driver interaction.
On the highly complex yet rewarding Oregon Raceway Park track, the BRZ revelled at the opportunity to be pushed hard. At only 1,255 kg (2,770 lb) and with a 53/47 weight distribution, the car is unfazed by the trick off-camber corners. A careful right foot keeps the sporty coupe in check. An overzealous lift-off will get the rear end to swing out when stability control is deactivated. In Sport mode, the car's nannies are forgiving and pleasure is the only order of business.
A few laps of the Oregon Raceway Track at the wheel of the Subaru BRZ.
Pleasure, for the fun of it
The 2013 Subaru BRZ delivers on the promise of being a pure driving machine. Don't be thinking that Subaru threw out its usual criteria for building cars. The 6M BRZ should consume no more than 8.5L/100km on average while the 6A is expected to best it by 1L per 100 km.
With a base price of $27,295, Subaru offers up a truckload of car and is well worth it. An extra $2,000 tacks on the Sport Tech package with dual-zone climate control, fogs, a spoiler and a few other goodies. Navigation, big brakes and a limited-slip differential are standard.
Subaru calls it the soccer player in their line-up. The STI is a football player. I call the 2013 Subaru BRZ a brilliant piece of Japanese engineering that exists for all the right reasons in a time where the art of driving is constantly being threatened.