2013 Subaru BRZ truly a driver’s car
The new Subaru BRZ is a sports car built the way sports cars used to be built. And it’s also affordable. The BRZ is the least expensive among its nearest competitors.
If you approach driving as a chore, a daily necessity that facilitates errand running, the commute and the odious family outings to the in-laws, you’ll have little interest in this review.
However, if you genuinely enjoy being in the driver’s seat and thrive on the feedback transferred from the contact patches, through the steering wheel, pedals and seat, read on.
The 2013 Subaru BRZ is a sports car built the way sports cars used to be built: lightweight, visually appealing, and with near surgical steering precision — and, in the classic sense of the genre, it’s a rear driver.
It’s also affordable. Starting at $27,295, the BRZ is the least expensive among its nearest competitors, the $28,179 Genesis Coupe and the $28,995 Mazda MX-5.
As a design collaboration between Subaru and Toyota (sold as the Scion FR-S in North America), the sporty coupe serves a different purpose for its respective house brands. Toyota is working on injecting some much-needed adrenalin into its lineup, and the FR-S is seen as the ideal syringe.
Subaru, on the other hand, has no qualms about its stamina, the WRX STI already providing ample doses of machismo and brute force. For Subaru, the BRZ (which is the acronym for the rather unfortunate Boxer Rear-wheel-drive Zenith) is seen as an extension to its lineup aimed at wooing successful under-30, testosterone-rich males, and empty nesters — older males who’ve booted their adult offspring out of the house and are ready to indulge in a little self-gratification.
Few will dispute that the BRZ is stylish, sexy and well-proportioned. An engaging interior doesn’t dazzle with sparkly, shiny things or an excess of buttons and switches. You’ll find a nicely finished, let’s-get-to-business cockpit that surrounds you snugly in quality materials.
Deeply sculpted seats are firm, providing race-seat-like lateral support without compromising long-distance comfort too much. At six feet, I found the seating position accommodating, but I’m at the maximum height of someone intending on strapping on protective headgear to go lapping.
With the seat adjusted to its lowest position, my helmet butted up against the headliner during lapping sessions at Oregon Raceway Park. If I were any taller I’d have to slouch to fit — or pull out a mallet and recontour the roofline.
The BRZ is touted as a 2+2 coupe, yet the rear seat is more ornamental than functional. With the front seat adjusted for an average-sized driver there’s no way even a budding teenager can squeeze in back there.
The boxer engine layout was chosen for its favourable weight distribution. It contributes to lowering the centre of gravity, Subaru claiming it is lower than the Miata, RX-8, M3, and its own STI.
It also helps centralized mass, contributing to a 53/47 front-to-rear weight bias, which helps the BRZ achieve a lower polar moment of inertia (it’s quicker-steering) than the M3, RX-8 and Cayman S.
One of the characteristics of the Subaru’s 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine is a relatively flat torque curve, which peaks at 151 lb.-ft., producing much of that from about 2,800 revs. The engine is rated at 200 horsepower and is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with manual gear changes initiated through steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
The engine is a bit thirsty, averaging 8.3L/100 km with the manual box, and the automatic bettering that by more than a litre at 7.2L/100 km. It also requires premium fuel.
To sample the BRZ’s cornering prowess, my hosts traced a serpentine 180-km route to the racetrack, where it was more thoroughly put through the paces. Within just a few bends at speed, it’s clear that this car is all about handling.
Electric power steering is light, but effectively communicative. The car steers with pinpoint accuracy and is almost completely devoid of understeer, while body roll is nearly non-existent. Designers found the right suspension balance, the Macpherson front struts and double-wishbone rear suspension providing a comfortable, controlled ride on the street, while being firm enough to handle an elevated racetrack pace.
What the BRZ lacks is seat-compressing acceleration. Power delivery is linear and the car accelerates with modest gusto from low revs, but it is absent of any surge in the powerband. This isn’t a hindrance, as the BRZ makes up for it with high cornering speed. This is a momentum car and if driven as such is surprisingly swift.
Drifting types might be disappointed because at the racetrack, even with the traction control turned off, it was difficult to induce tail-swinging slides. This is a testament to how well balanced the chassis is, but also an indication that there’s just not enough power to break the rear end loose at speed. Slides can be induced if you enter a turn slower and nail the throttle at the exit, but I prefer speed to theatrics and found grip levels quite rewarding.
One positive aspect of the Subaru’s modest output and light weight (1,255 kg/2,766 lbs.) is that it’s easy on hardware. Drive a heavy, high-horsepower car hard on a racetrack and it’ll chew through race tires quickly. After numerous lapping sessions at the challenging racetrack, the Michelin Primacy HP tires looked just scuffed in.
At a spirited street pace, four discs deliver strong, fade-free braking, but all-out charging at the track taxes them and pedal feel diminishes slightly within a couple of laps.
The manual gearbox has tightly spaced gears and a short shifter throw. The stick doesn’t exhibit Miata-like fluidity and selecting gears is a bit notchy, though it does return an agreeably solid feel.
Those who choose the automatic won’t be disappointed, as it provides sharp, quick gear changes when in sport mode, and it is mostly obedient to manual commands at speed.
It reveals its limitations at high speeds on the racetrack, where electronics often govern when it changes ratios despite what your fingers do at the paddles. It often ignores commands when pushing at near ten-tenths, prompting a second stab at the paddle to initiate a gear change.
It behaves more dutifully when backing off to eight-tenths, providing swift, aggressive gear changes, and it is more effective in automatic sport mode. If you’re serious about lapping, chose the manual box.
Trunk capacity is 196 litres, and to emphasize just how focused the BRZ is towards the performance-minded driver, Subaru claims there’s enough room in the BRZ with the rear seats down to store four race tires, a helmet and a basic tool kit — the bare essentials needed for a day at the track.
After driving the Subaru BRZ, I can say it is probably the most fun you can have on four wheels in this price range.
The only way to have this much fun for less is to head to the Scion dealer for the FR-S, which retails for $1,200 less, though you won’t get a standard-issue Pioneer navigation system, HID headlamps with auto levelling, and LED daytime lights.
Two trim levels are available, the standard BRZ and the Sport Tech package (an additional $2,000) that adds a smart key with push-button start, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and various styling touches. It’s expected at dealers in mid-June.
Used Subaru All Used Vehicles
Become a member
Register now to access all features including:
- Save and ask friends to review vehicles
- Exclusive rebates & offers from local dealers
- Premium content, reviews and tools
All for free!
Already a member?
Registration 2 of 2
Welcome to Wheels!
As a final step we've sent a confirmation to your email address as a security measure. Please click the link in the email to complete your registration.
Terms of services
DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, TORONTO STAR IS PROVIDING THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES ON AN "AS IS" AND â€œAS AVAILABLEâ€ BASIS AND MAKES NO WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, IN ANY CONNECTION WITH THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES, THEIR CONTENTS, OR ANY WEB SITE OR CONTENTS WITH WHICH IT IS LINKED. TORONTO STAR DOES NOT WARRANT THAT THE FUNCTION OF THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES OR THEIR CONTENTS WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR FREE, THAT DEFECTS WILL BE CORRECTED, OR THAT THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES OR THE SERVERS THAT MAKE IT AVAILABLE ARE FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS.
TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, NEGLIGENCE, SHALL TORONTO STAR BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OF USE, LOSS OF DATA, LOSS OF INCOME OR PROFIT, LOSS OF OR DAMAGE TO PROPERTY, OR FOR ANY DAMAGES OF ANY KIND OR CHARACTER (INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION ANY COMPENSATORY, INCIDENTAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, SPECIAL, PUNITIVE, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES), EVEN IF TORONTO STAR HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES OR LOSSES, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE USE OF THE TORONTO STAR WEBSITES, THEIR CONTENTS, OR ANY WEBSITE OR CONTENTS WITH WHICH IT IS LINKED. IN NO EVENT SHALL TORONTO STARâ€™S TOTAL LIABILITY FOR ALL DAMAGES, LOSSES, AND CAUSES OF ACTION, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, TORT (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, NEGLIGENCE), OR OTHERWISE, EXCEED THE AMOUNT PAID BY YOU FOR ACCESSING THIS SITE.X