The word Subaru brings a universal image to the mind of a car enthusiast. The image is that of a blue car with green decals thrashed around by a presumably Scottish maniac (God bless the spirit of Colin McRae) through the type of terrain that would make the average sports car owner crap in his pants. Yes, the brand is known everywhere for their invincible All-wheel Drive monsters that dominated rally championships everywhere and even a few SUVs and sedans. Then, out of the blue (literally), Subaru announced that they had been developing a sports car with Toyota in 2012 and needless to say, people were as concerned as they were excited because the last time they made a sports car, it was called the SVX and let’s just say that things didn’t really go that well for them.
While the SVX used an AWD or FWD powertrain and had a weird futuristic design, their new baby with Toyota, the BRZ would use a classic Rear-wheel drive powertrain and lightweight chassis to specialize in going around corners as quickly as possible.
Also, for Toyota, the car was to serve as a spiritual successor to the legendary AE86 (any Initial D fans here?) so Subaru knew they had made themselves a winner. And rightfully so, the BRZ/86 quenched the thirst of millions of petrolheads who lusted after a cheap yet strong performance car and became a sales success.
Six years later, the BRZ is still alive and well albeit with a few minor changes and new rivals to go against. Let’s see if the 2018 Subaru BRZ still is the best budget performance car out there.
Driving and Performance
The goal with the BRZ was not to build some twin-turbocharged V6 rocket ship for doing quarter miles under ten seconds like an R35 GT-R but rather, to get in and out of corners quickly and in the most fun way possible. Hence the power plant of choice for this car was a compact 2 liter boxer four-cylinder engine which Subaru was pretty much responsible for because boxer engines have made so many great Subarus land in the automotive hall of fame and their advantages of lightness and balance of weight could not be ignored especially in a sports car like this one.
During the first few years of its life, the BRZ, despite handling like a true champ was highly criticized for being underpowered with a power output of just 197 hp. Ladies and gentlemen, that problem has been completely solved this time as this new one has a total of….205 hp!? Okay, not a big jump but at least they heard our concerns on the internet. Net torque has also made a slight jump from 148 lb-ft to 156 lb-ft but let’s not completely disregard the BRZ as a slow car because it isn’t.
On canyon roads full on twists and turns, nothing will give you as much confidence and rapid acceleration as this little thing and that was the point of this car in the first place. Though the BRZ feels completely tamable on slow corners and straights, you do witness small outbursts on oversteer just begging to set it free and maybe that’s just the spirit of the AE86 taking over the Subie. So yes, this car’s party piece is it’s handling and there are only a few cars that can match its superiority on an empty mountain road.
During the release of the “Toyo-baru” twins, the BRZ was to be the more gentlemanly and luxurious sibling with a cabin more refined than the 86. Here, you’d find better quality plastics, patches of decent leather here and there, a very responsive infotainment screen (high praise for such a driver-focused car like this one) and tons of head and legroom that will leave you in awe. Yes, the car does feel comfier than a Mazda Miata and obviously feels less cramped giving even tall drivers a chance to push the BRZ to the limit without feeling numb at a million different joints.
Another overlooked feature in this car is the flawless positioning of the brake, clutch and accelerator which makes it very easy to heel-toe downshift making you feel like Takumi Fujiwara from Initial D. The steering wheel is large and ergonomic to use with ample driving feedback and a few buttons to control voice commands and certain audio/video options.
The short throw, 6-speed manual gearbox feels miles better than the one in the WRX STI and you can see that the folks at Subaru definitely thought of this firsthand while designing the new BRZ. On the features list, there’s a backup camera, cruise control, adjustable steering, trip computer, remote trunk release, intermittent wipers, heated mirrors and even keyless entry available depending on how you spec this Subie.
The exterior design of the BRZ, although not as pretty as a Miata, has the perfect blend of smooth curves and sharp, pointy surfaces. The front end with it’s large, diversely shaped, blacked-out grill screams Subie everywhere and has very obvious design nods to the WRX STI. The fog lamps on each side are separated from the air intake portions next to it by this extended front lip which gives the lower end of the front bumper a feeling of completeness every time you look at it.
The LED headlamps have become bolder in shape and are bright enough for those 2 am canyon runs if you suffer from mild insomnia. The BRZ, along with stock alloys, also has the option of bearing BBS wheels along with Brembo brakes for better aesthetics and lightness. On the whole, it’s a car that will make you look like champagne Charlie for lemonade money.
Here are a few safety features available on the BRZ:
– 4 wheel ABS and disc brakes
-Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
-Daytime running lights
-Traction Control System(TCS)
For a precise sports car like this with an unlimited fun quotient, having necessary safety features is crucial and Subaru has filled the new BRZ with the most significant ones you could ask for as seen above.
With the way things are going in the automobile industry right now, the Miata and BRZ/86 could probably be the last two simple and driver-focussed naturally aspirated cars from Japan. And if you’re a true petrol head, you would know the importance of such cars as even the most technologically advanced supercar brands of the 21st century started with somewhat crude, lightweight sports-cars which made them successful in the first place.
Unlike most non-car people think, it is not a 200 mile an hour top speed or sub-7 minute Nurburgring lap times that gets a real car enthusiast excited. Instead, it’s the sheer ability of a car to put a smile on your face every time you take a U-turn at a signal and the back end kicks out.
Those truly are the simplest pleasures of a petrol head’s life and the BRZ is a car built solely for this specific type of buyer. Slowly you’d come to realize that 205 hp feels like a lot in a car like this and that driving pleasure is not that easy to attain in the modern world. And that realization is what drives a prospective buyer to choose a BRZ from everything else that’s on sale today. If you felt it inside you, go for it and get this gem of a car.