May 14, 2012
At 9.6/6.6/8.3 L/100km city/highway/combined, fuel consumption from the manual transmission version is considerably higher than the automatic, which returns 8.3/5.9/7.2 L/100km. But either way, fuel economy — premium fuel, by the way — is commendable. For those who like a manual shift experience with their automatic transmission, this one features downshift rev-matching control, steering wheel paddle shifters, sport shift mode, and snow shift mode.
The big question about the BRZ is, “Does it live up to the hype?” The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” This is one of the most entertaining cars I have driven at this price point in quite a while. It is comfortable, refined, fast, and superbly agile. You’ll feel in complete control as you hurtle (responsibly…) down remote backroads, or fling it around the tight corners of a racetrack like the Oregon Raceway Park as we did.
2013 Subaru BRZ. Click image to enlarge
We drove both automatic and manual transmission models, finding both to be quick-shifting and precise. The automatic downshifts or holds gears in corners, and happily hangs on to the redline if your foot’s flat on the floor. In Sport mode the paddle shifters are as quick as a good double-clutch gearbox, and feel almost as visceral in operation, especially when the throttle is aggressively blipped as you downshift in preparation to launch yourself out of a corner. This is a great transmission that Subaru should make available in its other models.
The manual transmission, however, is a delight. With short throws and a wonderfully smooth, mechanical action, this transmission is the drummer of the band, the centre around which the BRZ’s excellent driving dynamics revolve. It’s all about the wrist (and the exhaust note) with this gearbox, and I can’t imagine that owners who select the 6MT would ever getting tired of the sense of control it confers on them.
About the power… Well, there’s certainly enough to have a great time in the BRZ, but not so much that you’ll get into trouble. We had no difficulty in quickly bringing this car to the legal limit, with reported times from 0–100 km/h in the low six-second range. True, you could argue that the BRZ would benefit from more tire (215/45-17 are the standard Michelins — maybe a bit narrow). However, owners of this type of car will always want more power and more handling, and one supposes that an STI version may follow, along with a range of aftermarket go-faster technologies. I liked it out of the box, though. What you may lose in flat-out grunt, you can more than compensate for in its already amazing grip.
Finally, there’s also some practicality. Child seats fit in the back seat area (although adults don’t), and with the rear seats folded, the cargo area will accommodate four 17-inch tires with rims or two sets of golf clubs. Too bad it doesn’t have a hatch, though, which would really extend the BRZ’s utility. And while I do appreciate the standard Pioneer navigation system, it does look like an add-in from Future Shop, as does the clip-on microphone that sits up by the rearview mirror. These should be properly integrated. You have to buy the Sport-tech package to get heated seats, which seems a bit mischievous.
Why go for the Subaru over the Scion? Subaru makes the drivetrain, and presumably Subaru technicians will be more familiar with it; the BRZ has a different fascia and grille, along with some exterior trim items that you may or may not prefer. But it probably has more to do with brand image and availability. Initially, supply could be limited. It depends on how many want a Subaru BRZ or Scion FR-S, and judging from the quality of this vehicle and its competitive pricing, this could be more than both companies expect.