Oh the humanity! Has Subaru lost its mind? We thought it got all this high-speed, dust-throwing, fuel-burning, anti-environment-thinking craziness out of its system with the WRX STI. Maybe not. Or maybe, just maybe, Subaru has found a way to deliver all the fun handling of the WRX with a fuel-economy-friendly engine. We tend to agree with the latter after a few days in the wonderful 2013 Subaru BRZ.
The BRZ is an interesting vehicle for Subaru, mainly because it is part of a co-development program with Toyota, which created the Scion FR-S. (Although it’s a lot more Subaru than Toyota when it comes to pieces and parts.) The vehicles are similar in almost every respect, including exterior design (This was mostly Toyota’s responsibility). The 2+2-seater is low, sleek, and athletic, not an overweight, overly styled wanna-be Corvette fighter. The rear-drive BRZ was designed for performance, with a low center of gravity (one of the lowest in the world for production vehicles at 18.1), numerous lightweight elements, and precision handling, all at a truly affordable price.
The BRZ’s roof is about a foot shorter than Danny DeVito (it’s also lighter and better looking), and the styling features strong rear wheel arches and a look that’s reminiscent of GT sports cars gone by. If it weren’t for the HID headlamps, you could almost see the BRZ wearing an Opel or Triumph badge.
The BRZ sits on a brand-new Subaru platform, one that borrows its double-wishbone rear suspension from the aforementioned WRX STI. Plenty of chassis stiffness, structural reinforcements, and high-strength steel give the BRZ the bones of a racecar. Add a limited-slip differential, electric power steering, and a quick 13:1 steering ratio, and all you’d need to go racing on the weekends is a rollcage and a fire extinguisher (which we know plenty of owners will be doing).
While the bones give the BRZ great structure, it’s the heart of the BRZ that makes ours skip a beat. Under the all-aluminum hood is an all-new FA-Series 2.0-liter Boxer engine that cranks out 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. While that may not sound like much compared to some sport coupes (it is 34 horsepower more than Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, however), combine it with a high 12.5:1 compression ratio, direct injection, and a curb weight of about 2,700 pounds for the Premium trim with the six-speed manual, and you’ve got an exceptionally fun ride that can squirt away from stoplights and out-corner vehicles three times its price. Another way to justify this purchase with the spouse is the fuel economy. With the six-speed automatic, the BRZ can get up to 34 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in the city.
Subaru did some reworking in the engine compartment to reach its low-center-of-gravity target. For example, the engineers compacted the engine by shortening up the intake manifold and making a shallower oil pan. They also mounted it almost two and a half inches lower in the compartment. Because of its lower overall height and placement, the engine actually sits about five inches lower overall, which drastically improves handling because it’s so much closer to the ground. Bringing everything tighter together increase the polar moment of inertia as well, so you know, just by looking at the BRZ on paper, it’s going to be a blast to drive.
There are a lot more features that we especially liked in this reasonably priced coupe: a short 35-foot turning radius, larger 11.6-inch vented disc brakes front and rear, standard 17-inch wheels and tires, and a long list of standard features in the base Premium model, such as a 6.1-inch LCD screen, navigation (yes, that’s right, standard navigation system), Bluetooth connectivity, carpet floormats, two 12-volt powerpoints, one USB port, and more.
For those who want all the fun plus more extras, the Limited trim adds dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, foglamps, keyless access with pushbutton start/stop, a rear trunk spoiler, Alcantara suede seat inserts with leather bolsters, dual-zone climate control, and more.
On the road, the BRZ reminded us of all the goodness of British racecars, but without the headaches and mechanical problems. Its turn in is crisp and responsive, the brakes do a wonderful job of reigning in the speed, and the torque from the engine is widely available, all the way up to the 7,400-rpm redline. Subie did a nice job with the exhaust note, also. Its growl perfectly matches the little coupe’s performance aspirations. Our test model featured the six-speed manual transmission, and we thought the throws were short and precise and the gearing was well spaced. We didn’t spend a lot of time constantly working through the gears going around mountain roads as we do in some “sports” cars.