First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ

Manufacturer’s web site
Subaru Canada

By Mike Schlee
Photos by Mike Schlee and Jonathan Yarkony

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2013 Subaru BRZ

“Don’t Believe the Hype”

Public Enemy taught me these words as an adolescent and they have stuck with me ever since. Through my 32 years, I have learned that, more often than not, the more something gets hyped up, the more it will disappoint me. Crystal Pepsi, Windows 2000, Transformers 2, and the Slap Chop have all failed to live up to their billing. But the highly hyped 2013 Subaru BRZ? Oh, that doesn’t disappoint; not even slightly. Now I am not going to turn this review into one of those silly pieces claiming that the BRZ is the best car ever made and owning a Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, or Audi R8 over it would be a colossal waste of money. But, for the price point, it is truly an automotive gem.

2013 Subaru BRZ
2013 Subaru BRZ
2013 Subaru BRZ
2013 Subaru BRZ
2013 Subaru BRZ
2013 Subaru BRZ. Click image to enlarge

The Subaru BRZ, Scion FR-S, and Toyota GT 86 triplets (the GT 86 available only in other markets) are probably the most hyped new cars since the 2007 R35 Nissan GT-R rolled onto our shores. Being that it is still brand new, the BRZ garners attention everywhere. Heads swivel through the city to catch a glimpse of it, people chase it down on the highway to snap some smartphone pics, and when camping with it at the Grand Prix of Mosport, I had to turn into a pseudo-salesman as every third person who passed my campsite wanted more information on it. The wait is finally over, though; the Scion FR-S has been on sale for a few weeks now and the BRZ is starting to arrive at dealerships as you read this.

The BRZ’s primary goal is to excel at driver engagement and fun behind the wheel. The second I began driving the BRZ, the engine-speed-sensitive, electric power rack-and-pinion steering showed that Subaru had done its research on steering feel. The steering is downright heavenly; anyone who wants to know why I go on and on about steering feel and steering feedback needs to drive one of these cars. The balance in the chassis is damn near perfect and there is a complete absence of body roll. The BRZ is actually quite willing to kick the backend out despite a lack of torque.

Being that the lone power source for this Subaru is a 2.0L direct-injection flat-four engine, power is mediocre at best. But engagement with a manual transmission and that growling engine note make it fun to row through the gears. My test car came equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, a decent unit requiring moderate effort to engage the solid, tight gates. The 2.0L produces 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, and Subaru claims that manual-equipped versions of the BRZ will hit 60 mph (98 km/h) in 7.7 seconds. Not exactly face-melting speed, but it doesn’t really matter, because all I wanted to do was get to the next bend in the road to put the standard Torsen limited-slip differential to work.

And work it will. The BRZ’s standard and only available stock tire option are the 215/45R17 Michelin Primacy HP units mounted on 17-inch rims. These tires belong more on a sedan than a sports coupe and definitely lack grip as they squeal early and often. It is almost like Subaru selected these tires on purpose to lower the BRZ’s handling limits and allow drivers to explore them safely and within legal speeds. No matter what the rationale, it sure does make the car a blast to drive, if a bit attention-getting. The 1,255-kg BRZ can be modulated in moderate speed corners between slight oversteer and slight understeer using the gas pedal despite the paltry torque numbers. These tires allow this to be done at a lower, controllable limit than many other modern sports cars, which makes it both attainable for non-professional drivers and fun.

Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony and I did have issue with the brakes, though. They take quite a bit of effort to engage, which is a bit disconcerting at first; but once applied, they work great. Maybe the electronic brake-force distribution could be calibrated better, or maybe it had something to do with the specific BRZ we were driving that showed signs of scoring on both front brake rotors already.

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