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CAR REVIEW: Subaru BRZ

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I know what you’re thinking: Why is this review entitled Subaru BRZ when this bloke is clearly writing about Toyota’s new GT86? Fair enough, you’re essentially right. But, like a broken clock, you’re only right for a moment or two. If you think the car in question is a Toyota I’m afraid you’re very much mistaken: It’s definitely a Subaru. Confused? Allow me to explain.

The Subaru BRZ – the B stands for boxer (as in engine); the R for rear wheel drive (more on that later) and the Z stands for Zenith (not sure why) – is mechanically identical to Toyota’s GT86. You’ll have noticed they look pretty similar too. Apart from different lights, the Subaru has its LED running lights as separate units instead of having them integrated in the headlamp units as per theToyota, a subtle re-styling of the front bumper, an ever-so slightly different suspension set-up, and of course different wheels and badging, the two cars are virtually inseparable to all but those in the know. You can’t help feeling Subaru are aware of this too, for what reason other than to prevent possible mistaken identity would they have fitted their BRZ press car with the unashamedly attention seeking SU08 ARU registration plate?

But then judging by the amount of looks the BRZ got during my time with it, it’s probably not really a car for shrinking violets. It’s also worth noting that the BRZ will be the rarer of the two cars. This year Toyota will import 4000 GT86s; Subaru just 1000 BRZs. The styling, a combination of swooping curves and the kind of creases a master of origami would be proud of, is unmistakably Japanese. A rear splitter, twin tail pipes, and a boot spoiler too mean the BRZ gets attention; if ever there was a car for the Fast and Furious Brigade, this is it.

Sadly though, the BRZ’s interior isn’t quite as stylish. The hip-hugging seats are superbly supportive, visibility is good in almost every direction, and the driving position, once aboard, is nigh on perfect regardless of your size. But, the quality of the materials used is a let down. The plastics are hard, the switches feel cheap and the overall look is very dated.  Basically you get some nice clear dials, some comfy suede covered seats and a very “after market” radio-cum-sat-nav unit (if you spec it), and that’s about it. It all feels and looks like an 80’s arcade game. By comparison it makes an MX-5 feel like luxury car.

Press the starter button though and things improve. The BRZ has been built to be driven and every input you make is immediately responded to. The steering is beautifully direct and tells you everything. The throttle response is immediate thanks to the 2.0 litre flat-four being naturally aspirated – there’s no waiting for a turbo to spool up –  and the gear-change is light, precise, and short of throw. With only 197bhp, Subaru’s little coupe doesn’t feel particularly rapid, 0-62 takes 7.6 seconds, and with peak power not arriving until 7000rpm it needs to be revved hard to make the best of what it’s got. But what it has got is coupled to a chassis that makes the BRZ feel light and nimble, and ultimately flatters you as a driver.

Carry little too much speed into a corner and the front wheels will just scrub it off with a little predictable under-steer. Get your entry right though, and with the traction control set to Sport Mode and a liberal application of your right foot on the exit, you can indulge in the most controllable Tokyo Drift style over-steer you’re ever likely to encounter in a sports coupe costing the right side of £25,000. So what if the ride is a little bit bouncy on all but the smoothest of surfaces; when your having this much fun it simply doesn’t matter.

The BRZ isn’t for everyone. No-one will ever thank you for making them sit in the back – the rear seats are far too small for anything but the shortest of journeys – the boot is shallow, and the fuel consumption is nothing to write home about. But ultimately that’s not what the BRZ has been built for.  It has been built to offer good old fashioned front-engined-rear-wheel-drive fun.

It delivers it in spades!

Subaru BRZ

Engine: 1998cc flat 4Cyl 16V petrol
Transmission: 6 speed Manual, rear wheel drive.
Power:  197bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque: 151 lbft @6400 – 6600 rpm
0-62MPH: 7.6 Sec
Max Speed: 140mph
CO2: 181g/km
MPG: 36.2 combined
Price: From £24,995

 

www.liam-bird.com
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