2013 Subaru BRZ - First Drive, May 2012
The BRZ’s very low center of mass is likely key to its dynamic straightforwardness, even if it doesn’t quite have an ideal front-to-rear weight distribution. It has one of the lowest of any production car, at 18.1 inches high.
Ready for weekend track time
The BRZ is certainly going to be a popular car for weekend track time; for that, there’s a Torsen limited-slip differential to help the rear wheels deliver the power in a confident way, and while electronic stability control is of course included as a standard feature—and it’s going to be a good safety net on wet, slippery roads, where the tail could be a little too happy—there is a full-off mode. And seemingly in a nod to one common issue for taller drivers—getting the helmet on, and being comfortable with it—there’s an abundance of headroom. Subaru also says that with the rear seatbacks folded forward (and using the pass-through, you can load four race tires plus tools.
There’s really no such thing as feeling detached from the driving experience in the Subaru BRZ, and while that’s mostly a good thing, it turns into a burden at those times when you would rather shut off your inner racer for a few hours and set the cruise control. There, unless you’re on a nearly perfect highway surface, the BRZ tends to bound up and down with highway patchwork, and although it tracks straight and you’re seldom pushed off course, the experience can be fatiguing. A lot of road noise goes with that—although top gear is a deep overdrive, with about 2,300 rpm at 70 mph in our automatic—returning 34 mpg on the EPA highway test. Even more impressive was that we saw 30 mpg in about 280 miles of varied driving (none of it steady or sedate).
Furthermore, the BRZ’s seats, while they get stronger bolsters and are finished with Alcantara inserts in Limited versions, like what we had, are somehow missing the sort of middle back support that you now get in many inexpensive cars, and their lower cushions felt too short and hard for this very tall driver. Extendable thigh support or allowing some seat tilt would make a big difference. Also, don’t even think of having any riders with legs use the backseat; it’s strictly a 2+2.
Flaws all forgivable considering the price
The 2013 BRZ starts at $26,265 (about $1,300 more than the FR-S), and our automatic-transmission Limited model—adding upgraded seat bolsters, heated seats and mirrors, a rear spoiler, dual-zone climate control, fog lamps, and a keyless start system—bottom-lined at $29,395. On all BRZs include a touch-screen navigation system that's integrated with eight-speaker sound; Bluetooth hands-free and audio connectivity; and iPod controls. We found this system to be a bit frustrating at times as there's no way to select audio other than with tiny 'buttons' on the touch screen (and the navigation features are a far cry from those of the CUE system we'd just come from testing in the Cadillac XTS); but it does allow a split-screen view to see audio and the map/navigation view simultaneously.
You probably know the story of how the BRZ came to be—Subaru did the engineering and builds it, but Toyota did design and sourced some components (like the direct-injection system)—along with how it lives a sort of double identity in the U.S. as the Scion FR-S. After sampling the BRZ (see our First Drive of the FR-S as well), our obvious reaction is more along the lines of, how can they build enough of them? Here in the U.S. there may be a backlog for some time.
Overall, the Subaru BRZ is a purist's sports car—more focused than any vehicle we can think of in either Subaru's or Toyota's past—and an instant classic of sorts. Especially today, keeping it simple has so much allure.