First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ subaru reviews first drives
2013 Subaru BRZ. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2013 Subaru BRZ

Portland, Oregon – The 2013 Subaru BRZ arrives in showrooms in mid-June, 2012, and make no mistake, this is a car lover’s car. Not since the introduction of the WRX has Subaru brought a more interesting and exciting vehicle to market.

Low slung, sleek, and sporty, the $27,295 BRZ is a two-plus-two-seat car that recalls sports coupes and GTs from a couple of decades ago. It generates 200 horsepower from its Impreza-derived, but significantly modified 2.0L direct-injected flat-four-cylinder engine, and puts power to the ground through an all-new six-speed manual or paddle-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. The manual, also modified by Subaru, is sourced from Aisin.

First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ subaru reviews first drives
2013 Subaru BRZ. Click image to enlarge

Lower yourself into the deep BRZ sport seat, grip the small, thick steering wheel, put your hand on the stubby, short-throw gearshift and you’ll get what this car’s all about without even starting it. You’d be tempted to say there’s really nothing else quite like the Subaru BRZ on the road today, except that there’s something exactly like it in the form of the upcoming and almost duplicate version from Scion, the FR-S.

So these are twins, built at the same factory in Japan, although they may be somewhat estranged, as Subaru doesn’t really like to talk about Toyota’s Scion version. Likewise, one suspects that while Scion will acknowledge the existence of the BRZ, they’re not really that keen on broadcasting a close relationship with it, either. Two companies; two cars, at least from a marketing perspective.

No matter. The bottom line is that Subaru engineered the platform and the drivetrain specifically for this car, and Scion handled the sheet metal and interior, also supplying the direct injection system. But what really sets the BRZ apart from other Subarus is the absence of all-wheel drive. Yes, this is a rear-wheel-drive platform, which for Subaru — who have pretty much made their reputation on “symmetrical all-wheel drive” — is a major departure. For Scion… not so much.

First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ subaru reviews first drives
First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ subaru reviews first drives
2013 Subaru BRZ. Click image to enlarge

Another technology for which Subaru is equally well known is the horizontally opposed engine (a configuration seen only in Subaru and Porsche vehicles). Subaru is always quick to mention that the low centre of gravity engineered into Subaru vehicles is available because “flat” engines sit so low in the engine bay. Subaru uses this characteristic to great advantage in the BRZ, whose centre of gravity is a very low 460 mm. Additionally, in the BRZ this engine is mounted 240 mm farther back than in the Subaru Impreza, for instance. This creates (in theory, at least) a superbly balanced automobile. When you factor in the BRZ’s light weight of 1,255 kilograms, such a vehicle should also be fabulously nimble.

However, Subaru seems to be taking a page out of Honda’s book when it comes to the way this high-compression (12.5:1) engine makes power. Its 200 hp arrives at 7,000 rpm (redline is 7,450 rpm), with peak torque only reaching 151 lb-ft at 6,400 rpm. So power is generated by engine speed, which means you may have to put your foot down hard to get the promised performance from the BRZ. Fortunately, mitigating this characteristic is the engine’s equal bore and stroke, which enables you to access most of the torque at lower rpms.

The BRZ uses electric power steering and a front suspension optimized for the low hood line, but retaining enough travel to produce a comfortable ride. The rear suspension is a double-wishbone type and a 17-inch wheel with summer performance tires was chosen to reduce wheel/tire, and therefore unsprung, weight. The BRZ is equipped with a standard Torsen limited-slip differential and a vehicle stability control system that features five settings, including a Sport mode and TCS (traction control) off switch.

Customers can choose between the standard car or a $29,295 version with Sport-tech trim. Standard equipment includes a navigation system, HID headlights, Bluetooth connectivity, 6.1-inch display, eight-speaker, two-channel audio, air conditioning, and a comprehensive power group. The Sport-tech version adds fog lights, a body-colour trunk spoiler, heated seats, automatic climate control, and Alcantera seat inserts with leather bolsters.

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