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Wednesday 28th March 2012

Driven: Subaru BRZ

Toyota's let us drive the GT86 on the track but Subaru's let us loose on the road in its BRZ - Dan's still grinning


Proof that BRZ plus sideways equals big grin
Proof that BRZ plus sideways equals big grin
The traditional comedy duo usually hinges on one big ego and one hard-working support act; Bob Mortimer to Vic Reeves is one example that springs to mind, but there are many more. So is that really the relationship between the Subaru BRZ and its better-funded, more mainstream-friendly doppelganger the Toyota GT86?

Well, what other colour would you choose?
Well, what other colour would you choose?
Is Subaru really the subservient junior partner, drafted in because it had some time on its hands and some production capacity and granted the right to sell a few of its own with a different badge on the nose? And just why would you buy one over the other? Well, perhaps because Toyota's economies of scale look like making the GT86 a grand or two cheaper for a start, subject to confirmation.

More on the fraternal comparisons in due course, but one thing's for sure; that little cough as you hit the starter button before the boxer four catches is pure Subaru. And that chunky, mechanical gear shift action, likewise the beautifully placed pedals and thrummy flat-four hum. From initial impressions it feels a lot more natural with stars of Pleiades in the centre of the wheel than the Toyota ellipses. But maybe the traditionally long and convoluted press presentation has done a good job of softening us up - quick, more meaningless graphs showing indecipherable measurements of ...who knows what! It's the Subaru way.

Basically good, few plasticky details though
Basically good, few plasticky details though
On the road at last
This drive in the south of France for the BRZ is the first time the Toyobaru has been unleashed on the street; drives in the Toyota half of the equation until this point have been restricted to track sessions. Which gave Chris Harris the perfect environment to answer the all-important question: will it go sideways?

His video should answer that one quite neatly. But you'd have to bloody hope so, given the combination of low weight, low centre of gravity, an LSD and surprisingly skinny 215 section tyres - 205s on the stripped out versionwith the steel wheels we'll be getting next year. The centre of gravity is a biggie, one of the less indecipherable of the graphs relating to the fact the BRZ's 460mm is lower than a Mazda MX-5's and comparable with a Boxster or Cayman, both of the latter of course sharing the boxer engine layout.

Low centre of gravity a big deal for Subaru
Low centre of gravity a big deal for Subaru
Subaru makes excuses for the fact that it's dropped its signature four-wheel-drive technology as much as Toyota makes tenuous claims at 'ownership' of boxer engine technology - it once made a dinky coupe with a horizontally opposed engine called the Sports 800 it seems. Both have compromised their values in pursuit of the shared goal then, Subaru's dropping of four-wheel drive at least meaning the engine can sit much lower and further back than it does in the Impreza.

Numbers game
But these cars aren't about graphs or statistics. Indeed, they're a rejection of all that. Subaru's 'pure handling delight' is a classic bit of Japanese-English but it does at least get to the point, likewise the 'have fun!' command at the end of the press conference. We've waited a long time for someone to have the guts to build a sports car that opts out of the horsepower arms race and concentrates on feel and fun. And this is it.

Junior partner or not, Subaru has beaten Toyota to letting us sample the BRZ/GT 86 on the road. And it's an immediately confidence-inspiring little car.

Needs a thrashing to give its best
Needs a thrashing to give its best
The engine on our test car feels a little tight and wheezy with just 4,000km on the clock and you get the impression it'll loosen up nicely with a few more on the dial. But the dull whirr at lower revs gives way to a more assertive bark past 5,000rpm and the insistence that it revs to over 7,000rpm was apparently laid down early in the development process. And you get the impression a cheeky aftermarket induction kit, the like of which will inevitably follow the cars over from Japan in no time, will give it a much clearer voice.

The all-electric steering is neat, pointy and direct and the weighting is good. It's a precise and tidy little car the BRZ, and it encourages you to drive it so. Tight or not, the engine responds crisply to throttle blips and other demands and works brilliantly with the tightly gated manual. Driving position and controls are all spot-on, these little factors hugely contributing to the general sense of well-being and confidence.

A bit fussy from behind?
A bit fussy from behind?
So, is it any different?
Around town it feels crisply sprung and not exactly compliant, though it's not stodgy like some and the damping is at least nice and quick to react. There's much talk of Subaru opting for different suspension settings to Toyota and, chatting with Subaru engineers, they admit that this is so while proving unwilling to offer up numbers or percentages. Interestingly we are told that damper settings are different (though the difference is officially 'nuance'), but Subaru opts for stiffer springs up front while Toyota goes the other way round. Our spokesman suggests that Subaru's emphasis is on stability while Toyota opts for a more fun-focused set-up, which may seem surprising if you reckoned the BRZ was going to be the more enthusiast-ready of the two. Whatever, it rides beautifully at speed with a gentle but well-damped amount of body movement that lets you really feel what's going on. Which is the kind of subtlety we can all enjoy.

Out of town the BRZ shares much in spirit with the MX-5, in that it's less about building speed than carrying it. There's more power than the Mazda of course, but not the grunt of a 370Z, the more delicate feel of the BRZ encouraging neatness and precision rather than lead-footed thuggery.

Really it comes down to which badge you prefer
Really it comes down to which badge you prefer
In pure numbers terms the BRZ is actually not a million miles off a Clio 200 and both boast similar power and revvy, normally aspirated engines but, once again, it goes to prove how meaningless the numbers really are. In a Clio you'd be attacking these roads like a maniac. In the BRZ you're no less quick but the progress is somewhat more elegant, the gentle transition under power from stabilising understeer to a tighter, rear-balanced trajectory on faster corners or easily indulged wee drifts on slower, tighter ones likely to be a revelation for a generation raised on front-drivers.

Bedded in
You do need to pedal it pretty hard to make meaningful progress, though. But the reward for keeping it above 5,000rpm is a much more aggressive note and a real last minute surge towards the redline, reflected in the fact peak power doesn't come until 7,000rpm. You need to keep busy with the gears to keep it there but that's no chore, perfectly placed pedals and a precise gate making it a blipper's delight. And it's stuff like this that matters more than horsepower or lap times.

The right badge in the centre of the wheel?
The right badge in the centre of the wheel?
Subaru makes no pretence at the BRZ being a track car - in fact it actively discourages such thoughts - and on the road it really does shine. For too long we've been convinced that we need cars that bully the driving experience into submission, be that with over-damped suspension or aggressively mapped turbo engines dumping peak torque in your lap from 1,500rpm. The Toyobaru gives you time and space to savour the experience, much in the way you would in a Boxster or Cayman in fact. It'll dance about on its skinny tyres when you want it to as well, which'll please the hooligans among us.

But for the rest of the more mainstream audience it'll pootle about and do all that their TTs, Sciroccos, Mini Coupes and RCZs do. Let's hope they drop their badge snobbery and buy the buggers in decent numbers, so a few years down the line we've got a ready supply of affordable rear-drive coupes to fill up the PH classifieds for years to come!


SUBARU BRZ
Engine:
1,998cc flat-4, direct injection
Transmission: 6-speed manual/6-auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 200@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 151@6,400rpm
0-62mph: 7.6 sec (auto 8.2 sec)
Top speed: 144mph
Weight: 1,239kg (manual, Premium spec)
MPG: 36.2mpg (combined)
CO2: 181g/km (manual, Premium spec)
Price: £26,000-£28,000 (subject to confirmation)


Related links:

Stripped out BRZ coming to the UK
PH Blog: Subaru vs Toyota
Subaru BRZ: big brother's little brother
Driven: Toyota GT86
Chris Harris video: Toyota GT86
Toyota GT86: £24,995

 





 

 

 

 

Dan Trent
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Author Discussion

TommyBuoy

Original Poster:

786 posts

53 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
Loving the BRZ and GT86.

BRZ looks fantastic and I even like the rear alot.

Not sure what the tuning capability will be like as it's an N/A though, the big Jap tuning houses tend to go after FI (with the exception of the older mugen stuff perhaps, I'm no expert).

Either way, weight saving through a single exhaust and some other goodies and this is looking like a perfect second hand buy.

Looking forward to other manufacturers taking note, just hope it sells well too!

daveknott5

652 posts

105 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
Epic car and really admire what Subaru and Toyota have done here by focusing on fun above all else. Shame it sounds very ordinary from the outside - could do much better here!

gmh23

249 posts

66 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
7.6 seconds to 60?!

31mpg?!

What happened to this 40mpg they were on about??

DoctorWhom

241 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
At least Autoblog claim to have gotten the Engineers over at Subaru to admit that a 280 HP version is in the works.

http://www.autoblog.com/2012/03/26/2013-subaru-brz...

Cotic

248 posts

38 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
This looks so much fun!

Having enforced FWD ownership for so long, I can't wait to try one and get my RWD mojo back...
Advertisement

10 Pence Short

32,880 posts

103 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
I can't get on with the styling. It doesn't look like either a Subaru or a Toyota- more like something Korean. The proportions at the rear aren't great, either. Mind you, that's totally subjective.

I can't think why I'd spend money on either before a decent used something else, though.

BBS-LM

3,841 posts

110 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
Looks like a good car, but sounds terrible, I never thought a boxer engine could sound that bad.

davidsc

230 posts

38 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
gmh23 said:
7.6 seconds to 60?!

31mpg?!

What happened to this 40mpg they were on about??
I think it looks nice but a Clio would wipe the floor with it.

ArosaMike

1,023 posts

97 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
Not an aweful lot of power to drift on a dry road there...seems to regain grip fairly quickly. I'm sure it's a lovely car to drive (and I would seriously consider one as my next car), but it doesn't really look like it's going to be a massive drift monster in the dry. I guess it's perhaps more of a modern day, larger and more civilised MX5....no bad thing really.

Dan Trent

991 posts

54 months

PH Editor Bloke

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
Just handed the car back to some very relieved Germans who thought we'd eloped with it!

And chatted further with Subaru UK guys on the price and spec and it seems the higher entry cost is partly accounted for by standard heated leather seats compared with the Toyota. Final specs are TBC on both yet but this would appear to be the major difference at the moment. Nav will be optional and a non-OE Pioneer unit fitted here in the UK.

Dan

Dave Hedgehog

7,270 posts

90 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
looks very pointy on the front smile


just needs 4wd and 400bhp

tongue out

PGM

1,789 posts

135 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
davidsc said:
I think it looks nice but a Clio would wipe the floor with it.
I don't think so and that's missing the point really:

article said:
In pure numbers terms the BRZ is actually not a million miles off a Clio 200 and both boast similar power and revvy, normally aspirated engines but, once again, it goes to prove how meaningless the numbers really are. In a Clio you'd be attacking these roads like a maniac. In the BRZ you're no less quick but the progress is somewhat more elegant, the gentle transition under power from stabilising understeer to a tighter, rear-balanced trajectory on faster corners or easily indulged wee drifts on slower, tighter ones likely to be a revelation for a generation raised on front-drivers.
Edited to ask, was Harris out there with you doing a video for it?

Edited by PGM on Wednesday 28th March 12:25


Edited by PGM on Wednesday 28th March 12:25

Jurgen

190 posts

41 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
I'm still not sure if I like it (or them, counting the Toyota as well). I love the concept, back to basics revvy n/a, rwd, reasonable weight. Focused on driving more than impressive numbers. I even think the looks are pretty nice, apart from the utterly horrible looking wheels.

But it also reminds me of my S2000, which is sortof similar I suppose (although 2 seater and droptop). And while it's immense fun when on the right roads, it can be slightly frustrating to extract the power. On paper I much prefer this concept over say a 370z, but I think in the real world the 370z would be nicer to drive most of time.

J4CKO

11,422 posts

86 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
davidsc said:
gmh23 said:
7.6 seconds to 60?!

31mpg?!

What happened to this 40mpg they were on about??
I think it looks nice but a Clio would wipe the floor with it.
In what way, the article says it has similar power to weight and it handles well, that it will be a revalation to a generation of FWD drivers.

I drove a Clio 182 and didnt see what the fuss was about.

Dan Trent

991 posts

54 months

PH Editor Bloke

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
Mr Harris is out on another launch driving something completely different ... watch this space but this'll be one review you won't want to miss!

PGM

1,789 posts

135 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
Dan Trent said:
Mr Harris is out on another launch driving something completely different ... watch this space but this'll be one review you won't want to miss!
OK, thankyou.

Johnnytheboy

10,449 posts

72 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
DoctorWhom said:
At least Autoblog claim to have gotten the Engineers over at Subaru to admit that a 280 HP version is in the works.

http://www.autoblog.com/2012/03/26/2013-subaru-brz...
Now that would be worth owning.

Fire99

8,682 posts

115 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
It looks a good piece of kit but ultimately I think it'll miss sales due to not having headline grabbing figures.
I feel it would sell more with a turbo (even if it may have been less balanced as a result)

flattotheboards

6,662 posts

92 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
I sat in both the GT86 and the BRZ at the Geneva Motorshow and I really liked them, the dashboard plastics weren't absolutely top notch, however it was nicely laid out with everything to hand along with the supportive seats. The cabin felt nice and compact, cosy if you like. The overall size of the car is spot on, not huge but big enough to get stuff in so that you can easily use it day to day and small enough to thread down your favourite road. I left the show extremely impressed with this car and will definitely considering one in (hopefully) the not too distant future.

If I was to choose one after seeing them in Geneva, I would probably plump for the GT86 purely because I prefer the front bumper and inside it had white dials and nicer coloured trim (the long strip where the front airbag/air vents are) in the Toyota it was a carbon fibre effect whereas in the BRZ it was just a silver slab. It should also be noted the GT86 had the sat nav whereas the BRZ had the standard stereo which makes a difference as the graphics help to contrast with the rest of the interior. Obviously the interior colours may be changeable depending on options so I will reserve judgement until the final specs/options list is announced.

A pearlescent white GT86 for me please with the black half leather/alcantara seats and sat nav.

IAJO

211 posts

44 months

[news] 
Wednesday 28th March 2012 quote quote all
how accurate are the stats as they seem dissapointing. Lets compare to my zr.


Engine: 1,998cc - zr 1.8
Power (hp): 200@7,000rpm - zr 158@7,000rpm
0-62mph: 7.6 sec - zr 7.4
Top speed: 144mph - zr 131mph
Weight: 1,239kg - zr 1.145
MPG: 31.7mpg - zr 37.6
CO2: 181g/km - 179g/km

I know the brz is slightly heavier and has an extra 13mph top end but the trade off is a slower 0-60 time and a lower mpg figure. Its a larger engine but seems to be less efficient than the 1.8k series which is what 30 years old? CO2 is worse also so its not a lower pollution issue.


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