It’s not often that true automotive collaborations work and receive such acclamation as the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 cars have. The slinky two door has won rave reviews around the world; here in Australia Toyota has been getting the lion’s share of the noise whilst Subaru’s been quietly going about its business, selling every BRZ they get their hands on…..almost. A Wheel Thing slides into one of the few they keep for reviews, sampling a tasty blue machine with six speed manual and 147 kW boxer engine and says Send In The Clones.
The car A Wheel Thing was handed the keys to had less than 1000 klicks under the tyres and was literally just a couple of months old. Bearing that in mind, with a tight engine and transmission combination and yet to loosen up, low end acceleration was leisurely but picked up the pace from around 3000 to 3500 revs. It’s Subaru’s famous flat four, 2.0L in size, with 147 kW and 205 Newton metres of torque, with that second number the more important one. It takes 7000 revs to see peak power but a too high 6600 rpm for peak torque.
Although it’s a short throw shifter and a sweetly tuned clutch, it means there’s a need for some quick moves to keep the engine percolating, whipping through the gears and keeping the engine spinning. As Subaru and its partner have eschewed forced induction, the lack of torque low down minimises a true “sports car” drive feel. Adding to the issue is a smallish 50 litre tank and a dietary requirement of 98RON go-juice. Subaru quotes 7.8L/100 km on a combined cycle and 10.4L/100 km for the urban, for the six speed manual (the auto is slightly less). This means, if driven to the best of your abilities, around 500km should be expected in an urban environment…
A “drive by wire” system eliminates throttle cable flex and loss of some input via the right foot, sending info from the go pedal instantly to the engine management system.
There’s some seemingly simple yet clever engineering in the BRZ as well, with a low mounted engine powering the rear wheels providing a lower centre of gravity, working hand in hand with the front and rear suspension, allowing the driver to feel what the car is doing.
Long, low, wide footprint, aero profile and looks stunning in blue. Long front, short bum, almost E-Type in profile. Rakish and angled at front and rear, with sweeping curves for the wheel arches and an undulation across the rear, atop a black plastic panel bisecting tow broad exhaust tips.
Front on, it’s an aggressive, hawk eyed look, displaying an assertive and authoritave stance. There’s globe lit and LED lights in the headlights plus driving lights pushed to each corner of the front bar. It’s purposeful all around. It’s low slung, two doors open wide but you lower yourself down rather than in; however, it’s an easy process.
Rolling stock is 215/45 Michelin Primacy tyres on multispoked alloys of 17 inch diameter.
On The Inside.
Don’t have kids if you’re thinking this is for you. There’s no room in the back…well, seats is being kind. With the front seats rolled back to a safe and comfortable position, there’s literally no leg room for anyone other than a microbe. The front seats are manually operated, well padded with red stitching and clothed in velour and leather.
There’s a definite retro look to the dash and console, with flick switches for aircon, red LEDs for the dials and a metallic, chunky look to boot.
There’s no controls for anything on the steering wheel, it’s pure old school in that respect.There’s a faux carbon fibre look to the panel housing the radio and aircon vents above that in a sweeping, arched design, mimicking the driver’s binnacle. An ergonomic hiccup is the placement of the USB/Auxiliary plus, at the base of the centre dash and directly in conflict with the stubby, short throw, gear lever. Anything other than a cable around 12 inches long would be required to utilise the plugs effectively.
A smart idea is the straps on the seat shoulders; there to help guide the seatbelt over to the passengers, it’s brilliant in its simplicity. From the front seats, there’s also a clear view of the front, giving you an idea of where the nose finishes plus the two blisters above the front wheels, balanced out by the muscular haunches at the rear. Cargo wise, it’s not huge but enough for a couple of overnight bags.
Safety isn’t compromised; there’s dual front, side and cutain airbags plus driver’s knee airbag and the usual swag of electronic driver aids.
On The Road.
The high revving nature of the engine is the immediate concern. Acceleration is leisurely, even rowing through the slick shifting manual transmission via the short throw lever. As mentioned, it does seem to become more alive from around 3000 revs or so, throwing out a buzzy, metallic wail as the revs climb. The chassis is almost perfectly balanced, controllable by the crack of the right foot once on song. It’s taily, edgy, with the rear feeling constantly feeling as if it’s about to break loose, thanks to the relatively narrow tyres.
The low centre of gravity and wide tracks help to keep the BRZ planted but it will allow some fun with the appropriate pedal pressure.
There’s some tugging through the steering wheel as it hits bumps and ruts but never feels loose, offering plenty of feedback, being pinpoint sharp and precise as you twirl it lock to lock. It’s surprisingly compliant, with just enough “give” initially, before hardening up, to allow a ride comfortable enough but still tight enough to back up its sporting aspirations. Through undulating road surfaces it’s composed, tied down and sits flat through off camber turns. It’s in the turns that you can feel the rear end of the car aching to slide, there’s some slippage built into the system to allow it to just reach the edge without going over unless provoked further.
The clutch point is well engineered, as you’d expect, allowing a progressive, non “light switch” pick up as you bang through the gears. The short throw makes it a pleasure to shift through, allowing revs to drop off only minimally. It’s fun, enjoyable yet deliberately lacking that final percentage for total exhilaration.
Subaru has broken its self imposed all wheel drive shackle without diluting or discarding what has made it distinctive. Its association with Toyota has, potentially, opened it up to those that may not have considered the brand previously. Given the mechanical package is identical to the car badged with a big T, people ignoring it because it’s a Subaru are doing themselves a disservice.
It’s a competent chassis and, in the spirit of the MX-5, has been given a sweet manual transmission and an engine that delivers not quite enough. Yet, from that, it’s allowed after market developers to develop and produce packages for those that really have that need for speed. As it stands, it’s a driver’s car and to take it further makes it a specialist’s driver’s car.
It’s raw, retro, stripped back and without frills but offering thrills. There’s one spec level, a choice of manual or auto and starting at around $37K driveaway (head to http://www.subaru.com.au for your suburb’s estimated price) it’s a reasonable price for tin top sports fun.
Subaru BRZ, two door coupe, front engine, rear wheel drive.
Engine: 2.0L, horizontally opposed “boxer”.
Fuel: Petrol, 98RON, 50L tank.
Consumption: 7.8L/100 km (combined), 10.4L/100 km (urban), 6.4L/100 km (highway).
Power/Torque: 147 kW @ 7000 rpm, 205 Nm @ 6600 rpm.
Wheel/tyres: 17 inch diameter, 215/45 profile Michelin Primacy.
Transmission: six speed,close ratio manual (automatic available).
Dimensions: 4240 mm x 1775 mm x 1280 mm.
Track/wheelbase: 1520mm front/1540 mm rear, 2570 mm.
Weight: 1216 kg (tare), 1256 kg (kerb).
Service: Subaru BRZ comes standard with a capped price scheduled servicing, 3-year/60,000km service plan. The capped price is $199 inc. GST per scheduled service interval during the first 3 years of ownership, or the first 60,000 kilometres (whichever comes first and subject to terms and conditions).