A real-life hero
Posted on: 4th Jul 2012
Cards on table time. I love Subarus. I like the fact that the company is so keyed into engineering. I respect how driving entertainment has often taken priority over more mundane considerations. I chuckle when people criticise cars for being too heavy and too complex, knowing that an alternative exists.
Subaru's BRZ is a car that takes many of the better aspects of 'old Subaru' and melds them with a fresh, forward facing approach. You'll probably know it as the sister vehicle to the Toyota GT86. Subaru likes to think of it as their baby and it's easy to see why.
The joint project is powered by a Subaru engine, runs on a modified Impreza chassis and suspension and is built in a Subaru factory.
Ignore all those who claim that the BRZ isn't quick enough. Yes, it will just about dip under eight seconds to 60mph if you have a heavy right boot and can manage one good gear change and the 200PS power output is routinely bested by all manner of humble hatchbacks, but it's how it drives rather than what numbers it makes that underscore what a special vehicle this is.
The key point is that it's a normally aspirated, front-engined, rear-wheel drive coupe. For the keen driver, it doesn't get much purer than that. Plumb in a boxer engine that helps it to a centre of gravity lower than a Ferrari 458, add a proper mechanical limited slip differential and offer a six-speed manual gearbox with three pedals in the footwell and you have what most would agree is a very good start.
The BRZ is so right in so many ways it's almost as if the hand of Porsche has worked upon it. There's simplicity to its controls, a delicacy and tactility to the steering and the pedals that offer the keen driver so much.
Design and Build
One of the fundamentals in the design of the BRZ was to keep weight down. As a result of this, the car tips the scales at a mere 1220kg, or less than something like a Renaultsport Clio 200 hatch. Despite this, the BRZ feels surprisingly spacious inside and a glance over your shoulder reveals a lot more room in the back than you'd find in something like an Audi TT or a Peugeot RCZ.
The styling diverges a little from the GT86, and if pushed, I think I prefer the more aggressive-looking frontal treatment of the Toyota, but all of that would be outweighed by the firmer suspension settings of the Subaru. The interior is clearly built down to a price, with some hard plastics on display but the BRZ is not a car to perambulate around in feeling superior about your slush-moulded dash roll top.
Market and Model
Value is a tough one to pin down. On the one hand, you're paying around £25,000 for a car that's can't hold a candle to a Kia cee'd when it comes to creature comforts and technology, but the enthusiast driver would point to the fact that nothing in its price bracket comes remotely close to the driving purity delivered.
The Mazda MX-5 possibly comes closest but the BRZ is considerably more focused in its approach. It sounds like so much hyperbole but the Porsche Cayman is its closest competitor in terms of its ability to deliver rich feedback and flow down a road quite so well.
Suddenly that asking price doesn't seem at all optimistic and includes features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, a torque-sensing LSD, front, side, curtain and knee airbags, MP3 connectivity, dual-zone climate control and LED daytime running lights. Should that still prove a little rich, a second, lower-spec model will also be offered, as will a third 'stripped out' version.
Cost of Ownership
Subaru is committed to doing what it can to make the ownership experience as painless as possible. Its innovative ETCo (Everything Taken Care of) package is like no other after-sales service around.
It's a three-year scheme which includes a total of eleven different elements, and covers minor dent and scratch repairs, alloy wheel repairs, a monthly wash and vac, an annual full valet and wheel alignment check, lost key replacement, first MoT cover and contributions to any work needed to pass the MoT, an accident management service, a contribution towards any out of pocket insurance excess bills and even a facility to store winter wheels and tyres.
In total it can be worth up to £7,000 and it's offered in addition to the usual three year/60,000 mile warranty that Subaru offers. The best part? It's included in the price of the car.
The Subaru BRZ is a very special car. The hype machine went into overdrive a long time back and it would be entirely understandable if even a very talented vehicle failed to live up to the fevered anticipation.
Despite that it's better than the true (WR) blue Subaru optimist could hope to expect. There's a beautiful simplicity about the car that speaks of paring back to the essence of driving purity, including just enough of what is needed and nothing that is not.
It's a hero car for our times, one that rewards the properly talented driver and doesn't make the less proficient feel clumsy or unworthy. And yes, in the final reckoning, it's a proper Subaru.