BRZ in the clouds

Since Subaru’s Impreza has only been available in conventional hatchback form for a while now, the bad boys of the road have had to turn their attentions elsewhere.  Subaru has now provided a new play thing and has kindly already fitted large exhaust finishers.

The design brief is a good starting point: rear drive, charismatic boxer engine, slippery shape and two-plus-two layout.  Available as a Toyota (the GT86) or with the Subaru badge here to match the engine, the BRZ offers a welcome return to fun motoring.

Rather dainty

Before even hitting the road, the local bird population saw fit to cast its votes all over our test car so a quick session with bucket and sponge ahead of my inaugural drive and photo shoot allowed some contemplation over its design.  For all the bold stance and chunky rear features, the BRZ is actually rather dainty.  All the styling ahead of the sizeable rear spoiler is quite subtle with curvaceous arches and minimal side sculpting.  The nose is ‘a bit Toyota’ and apart from a gentle frown is bereft of any extreme features.  The rear is where the BRZ is at, with chunky, scowling lamp clusters, deep number plate and heavy-looking black insert around those fat, twin exhaust finishers.  The broad C-pillar adds visual solidity to the design, leaving the overall look purposeful.

Slotting-in behind the wheel , there is no mistake about the BRZ’s reason d’être.  The seats are firm and supportive, certainly fitting my average frame well.  The grippy Alcantara doesn’t permit any unwanted movement and the reach- and rake- adjustable steering wheel allows full sight of all instruments and stalks.  The speedo to the left is almost incidental as there is a clear digital read-out within the central rev counter itself which, despite professing to dislike digital displays, I used exclusively.

Some of the interior plastics seem coarse but it looks like it will cope with wear-and-tear well.  The plastic gear knob top feels a bit cheap but the lever’s throw is short and positive.  The thick leather clad steering wheel is pleasing to grip.

Attracted attention

Heading for the hills, the BRZ attracted some casual attention through the villages from men of a certain age (i.e. pubescent boys) but those exhausts over-promise and don’t shout too loudly, even when opened-up.  This might disappoint – but it is nothing which couldn’t be ruined with an after-market ‘silencer’.  Driving through traffic is extremely civilised; the Subaru boxer engine pulls comfortably from barely above idle.  In the 3-5,000 rpm mid ground it inspires confidence and up to the red line (and a fraction beyond) it packs a satisfying punch. Subaru has kindly included a first flashing, then beeping and flashing indicator to remind one to change-up when approaching the rev limiter.

The ride is pretty stiff with even the lines painted on the road being felt in the cockpit.  That said, there are no rattles and the body feels reassuringly stiff.  There is also a fair amount of road noise transmitted up from the modest 215/45 R17 Michelins fitted to our test car.  Handling is one of the BRZ’s strong points, and it changes direction with ease.  There’s a whiff of understeer before the rear can be felt coming round.  The back tyres can emit an occasional squeak if being enthusiastic but the Torsen limited slip diff keeps things well under control if traction is lost at one of the wheels.

The only item which really lets the BRZ down is the Pioneer touch screen head unit.  The icons are poorly designed and crammed in a column on the left, some of the text isn’t even vertical and hunting for radio stations is made almost prohibitive with ridiculous chimes and sluggish responses.  Would it recognise an iPhone or iPod?  No chance.  In its favour, the sound was good through the six speakers – once I’d given-up being modern and rammed a CD in.

Disappearing into the clouds

After a few canal-side photographs I took the little blue Subaru off through Edale, where unfortunately the road disappeared up into the cloud layer and visibility dropped to a hundred yards-or-so – not good for pictures and not safe  to enjoy the open road.  Thankfully we found our way out of the cloud and popped-out into weak sunlight and perfect driving roads.  Anything much more powerful would have struggled to put the power down on the still damp roads but the BRZ didn’t put a wheel wrong.

Fundamentally, the BRZ is a good car and allows safe exploration of the sound chassis with the power it has.  Another second off the 0-60 time wouldn’t go amiss but we should see higher performance models in the future.  As it stands (Pioneer audio/nav controls excepted,) the BRZ is modestly-priced and makes an enjoyable daily car with performance enough for fun when the twisty A-roads appear.

Subaru BRZ SE 2.0 Lux £26,495 (range starts at £24,995 for the SE).

Power: 200 PS (@ 7,000 rpm), torque: 205 Nm (@ 6,400 – 6,600 rpm), emissions: 181 g/km CO2 (band I), 0-62 mph: 7.6 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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