Some time back in April I had the chance to sample “the last of the trio” if you will, referring obviously to the Toyota 86, the Scion FR-S and the BRZ. Having spent quite a lot of time behind the wheel of Toyota versions of the car, including a fun afternoon in a TRD 86, I was really interested to find out what Subaru did to inject a bit of their own flair into this collaborative project. So after picking up the brand new metallic silver press car at Subaru HQ in Shinjuku…
…I jumped straight on the Shuto and headed north towards Tsukuba. My destination was going to be the challenging roads of Mt. Tsukuba, which on a weekday are eerily empty, offering the perfect venue to assess the little BRZ. Let’s talk about the drive up on the expressway first; you see, I have been seeing a lot of negative comments regarding the BRZ’s harshness and rather unrefined feel but I really have to disagree on this. Anyone jumping in a BRZ (or an 86/FRS) and expecting to be cosseted by a velvety ride and be able to listen to music in refined silence are really missing the point. Sure there is lots of tire-nose, the gear shift might make all sorts of clunky noises but come on, this is a drivers car and nobody is really going to care.
I actually found it refreshing, finally a car that doesn’t try to tick all the boxes but instead stay true to its sporty character. It helps bring another dimension of feel to the experience, making you become more part of the car. It was adequately comfortable on the highway and around town, returning great fuel consumption of around 15 km/L (35 mpg) when driving conservatively and feeling zingy and direct when zipping through traffic.
However once you hit the right sort of roads the BRZ comes into its own element. This car is all about feel and handling, the engine taking a back seat as it’s just there to propel the car with just about adequate power and torque, allowing the driver to concentrate on the important stuff; driving! The BRZ feels slightly firmer suspended than the 86 and really comes alive though the turns. The steering, which for an electrically assisted rack is not bad at all, to me felt slightly more direct, the car sharper on turn in and probably marginally better at resisting understeer than the Toyota versions. Third gear corners are dealt with impressive composure and tons of grip even from the “nothing-special” stock rubber. I love how this car edges the driver to push more and more to further explore the limits of the chassis.
While some more powerful cars that I have driven on these same roads may be a lot faster, the BRZ manages to put a bigger grin on your face because at the end of the day, it’s the more satisfying drive.
A lot of people think that it needs more power. I think it’s fine as it is. Sure more power would be superb but with every hike in outright performance you would be taking a bite out of its drivability and approachable limits. The 2L boxer-4 in the ZC6 (by the way this is the BRZ’s chassis code, the 86′s is ZN6) is the same 200 HP lump as fitted to the other cars, there are no differences. There is continuous talk of a more powerful STI version coming soon, so there might be lot’s of exciting things to come from these cars. Both Subaru and Toyota will milk it as much as they can I’m sure, and they should too because they are on to a real winner here. It will be interesting to see in say 3-4 years how many limited edition versions there will be!
The interior is a superb place to be in, ergonomically very well thought out and while the materials and fit and finish might not be of the highest quality, again, what do you expect at this price level? Seating position is extremely low with plenty of adjustability, nothing short of a Godsend for taller people like myself. The BRZ has the obvious little touches to set it apart from its Toyota brother, so on top of Subaru’s Pleiades badge on the steering wheel…
…we also find a slightly different instrument cluster…
…and silver dash trim that in my opinion look far better than the dark carbon-look ones fitted to the 86.
The press car I was given was fitted with a Panasonic touch-screen navigation system, but you are always able to specify no audio/navi so you can drop in one of the many cool JDM 2-DIN aftermarket systems currently on sale.
The 2-zone automatic climate control came in handy on the hot spring day and while I have no problem with the design and layout of the controls it’s that little strip on top of the A/C unit that could really use a bit of a redesign. Could that digital clock look more dated? It reminds me of the crappy digital clocks that Lexus still keeps using on most of their cars, but that are now, from the new-gen GS onwards, finally getting replaced with something more 21st century looking!
The no-frills switchgear is simple and functional, nothing is over designed. There are some nice touches like the leather-like upholstering on the doors…
…with colorful red stitching like on the steering wheel and seats to brighten things up.
Aside from the little nitpicking above, I rally can’t fault much else in the interior.
While looks are subjective I think Subaru have done a nice job of differentiating its version of the car from Toyota’s.
The front bumper is instantly recognizable even from a distance…
…as are the rather plain fender trims. This is the place where Toyota puts the opposed-pistons 86 logo, maybe Subaru could have come up with something more adventurous that a fake air outlet?
There isn’t much to say about the wheels except the fact that they are round and are the same as the ones fitted to the 86/FR-S albeit with Subaru badges. But seriously, we all know the majority of owners will get rid of these rims and fit something aftermarket with a little more daring offset.
The wheels and the almost comical height of the suspension is really the only thing that would need to be addressed on the BRZ, initially at least. Maybe a nice mechanical LSD for good measure!
The BRZ in Japan is available in three different trim levels, starting off with the “RA” which is the stripped out version with almost no interior options and black steel wheels. Then comes the “R” version which gets 16-inch wheels (17s are options) and other things like manual A/C and better interior trim, and finally the top of the line “S” version that I had, with everything on it like keyless entry, HID lights, the 17-inch wheels, better seat trim and so on.
The press car was also fitted with the optional trunk spoiler.
So after having driven four versions of this car I walk away once again impressed by what it’s able to offer. It seems so simple that a manufacturer should have an entry-level, fun, affordable FR sports car, yet so many don’t. I continue to hope that the BRZ/86/FR-S get other car makers to open their eyes and get busy building affordable rear-wheel drive cars for those that put driving satisfaction above all else.
Hats off to Subaru & Toyota once again.
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
i'm imagining of switching those controls with gauges and some switches would look pretty cool..lol
Is the TRD edition coming to the US? I would buy that car and leave it be, it's too damn sexy!!
DanknastyAE86 Well as the car is sold as an FR-S in the US if any of the parts from the TRD line-up do they will be under the Scion branding.
@speedhunters_dino, the badge wouldn't matter, as long as I can make it look just like the black TRD 86 that you guys at speedhunters covered not long ago, then I'm more than happy
Dino, I'm pretty sure that the brz comes with an LSD from the factory. Why would you suggest adding one? Or do you mean clutch type LSD instead of torsen type?
I'd say a clunky gear-box is something reserved for econoboxes, not a 'true sports car'.Hopefully it's an easy aftermarket fix.
I wonder how hard it would be to turn that cosmetic air outlet into an actual air outlet? a little fabrication, some cutting, some carbon (or plastic) venting, badda bing! Hmm...
MattAtDoyle Shouldn't be that hard though the opening that leads from inside the bay to the back of the vent is quite small.
Dino, since you have had an adequate time with each vehicle, if you were in the market which would you purchase, the BRZ, FR-S, or 86?
BSides Well since they don't sell the FR-S here it would have to be between the 86 and BRZ. Tough choice! Probably the BRZ as I don't think I'd want so much Subaru branding on a Toyota that I bough LOL
I'm a Subaru fan boy, so I'm glad that was your choice, even if it was based mostly on the badge :P
I do believe you mean lowering it will change suspension geometry, meaning that there will be a change in the camber curve of the car and the roll center will be somewhere else, which could negatively affect roll.
speedhunters_dino That'll do it for the most part! A lot of people leave this step out.