First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ

Introduction

The BRZ is a condemnation of Subaru’s bread and butter all-wheel drive and turbocharged performance stall. Apart from the fact that bits and pieces are picked off from the Impreza design lot, Subaru has pretty much completely diverged away from their rally racing trademark and dulve into a light weight rear-wheel drive sports car machine. To give a few examples, the front struts are tilted at an angle inwards towards the engine bay to yeild a lower front height while retaining equivalent suspension travel resulting in  improved ride comfort and handling. The radiator is also placed at angle to achieve better weight distribution in the rear.

A bulk of the engineering design efforts of the Subaru BRZ was spent on optimizing weight distribution. In order for Subaru to achieve an overall 53/47 front to rear  balance,  Subaru used an aluminum hood and placed the auxiliary battery behind the front wheel axle. The engine mount is also recessed lower into the vehicle to improve the center of gravity. Even though all the components are mounted so low in the vehicle, the BRZ still surprisingly achieves decent ground clearance with no issues of front or rear fenders scraping under typical driving conditions.

Driver Ergonomics

One of the major design criteria of the Subaru BRZ was to maximize the man-and-machine interaction. Never to say the least, Subuaru scored an A+ on this one. Once hopped into the BRZ and doors closed, you obtain an immediate effect of being fully integrated with the vehicle. The raw engine sound floods strait into the cabin to fully alert the driver of the rev status. There is minimal sound insulation in the cabin space – every rain drop splattering on the chassis roof can be clearly heard. The six speed automatic transmission delivers a quick snap effect with blipped throttle when changing gears upon a flick on the paddle shifter. The six speed manual transmission gets even sweeter.

The shift lever has a perfect throw coupled with a light weight clutch. Even the manual shift knob shivers with alertness to indicate the car is ready for some cornering ass kicking. As much as the BRZ was built for handling – it doesn’t deliver that neck-snapping effect when sling-shooting through corners. However, the car is so well balanced and lightweight (at 2700 lbs) that in any conditions in and out of a turn, the car remains completely calm and composed. It is so easy to drive, and the car simply goes and does what you want and expect it to do.

Performance and Handling

The six speed manual transmission definitely delivers a much more exciting driving experience, but you won’t be flogged for buying the six-speed automatic version. In fact,the automatic transmission has a few nifty features to preserve the track car driving experience such as an integrated yaw sensor to detect when the car is turning through a corner to instruct the transmission to hold its gear at up to 7450 rpm. Common to both transmission models, the speedometer is dead simple with a triple digit seven segment LED display to clearly indicate vehicle speed, a massive tachometer and a large blinking red LED shift indicator when engine speeds are within the red-line zone. The BRZ does have a limited 200 hp of power delivery.

The torque curve starts to flatten when breaching 3200 rpm. Building up speed and passing can lead to difficulty in the lower rpm range; therefore, downshifting is a necessity to keep the engine revs up to deliver peak acceleration.

Conclusion

In modern sports cars, on-board computer nannies are built into vehicle to assist and override physical driver input to achieve better cornering performance.  It is rather refreshing to see that Subaru has stripped out all vehicle baby sitters to deliver a purely raw driving experience. The overall vehicle weight of 2700 featherlight pounds with sport tuned suspension and a light-weight 4 cylinder horizontally opposed boxer engine make the BRZ a cornering machine of excellence. The Subaru BRZ is definitely a very unique car and will be enjoyed by many enthusiasts for generations to come.