Subaru BRZ review by Racecomp Engineering

BRZ DRIVEN FULL REVIEW At first when it was announced that Subaru and Toyoya were to collaborate on a rear wheel drive sports car I honestly didn’t pay attention nor did I want to be bothered by the thought. For years it seemed cars from the Far East start as an awesome idea and by the time it gets to our shores it’s very watered down and becomes apparent that someone in Japan had a very different idea of what Americans would want.

This "watering" down effect for the average enthusiast is always felt in the handling and braking areas. Add in the traditional factory awd handling and added weight and we are left with a platform that “has potential". To the average enthusiast you can tell the "passion" of the car was lost in corporate decisions and it left you wondering "what were they thinking?".

The passion of the new BRZ sports car from Subaru was not only retained but was THE primary focus. This is evident as you approach the car. From the carved roof line that provides additional head room for driver and passenger, the hood bulges just over the front wheel arches, to the front nose that is meant to slice through the air with a high level of efficiency. Your mind processes these things in milliseconds and it’s NOT the same as seeing it at the car show. At the car show you are 5-6 months away from driving it,.... if your wife says you can get one, ..if you can afford it....but at 25 can ! Its at that moment that a voice says “you’re getting this". You feel like a kid who sees the BMX bike or a skateboard in the store and has already mastered it.

From the first second you stand near this of the stage at your local new car show, its very much "game on" and your throat swallows as your senses are alerted that something great has happened here. You won’t notice but anyone around you will notice,.. your smile...and I don’t mean the controlled smile when you take your driver’s license picture...I mean the smile you have as you day dream about hitting the lottery ! THAT SMILE! That uncontrollable smile of pure happiness. Total elapsed time.......2 seconds.

These feelings consume me as images of all the fun things in life flashed before me. My dad driving his 450SEL 6.9 around a long sweeper when I was young to show me how well independent suspension cars handle, sliding my mom’s 280Z in the rain in 10th grade or the first few miles of my new 87 Golf GTi. But as quickly as that happens all of the things I have learned as a driver, instructor and racer also came to mind and then the big drums and theatrical music starting playing in the Grand Turismo music track in my head.

Whether you are short or tall as you stand before the car you realize its overall height is LOW. There is a feeling of "OMG what have I got myself into" that admittedly gets the adrenalin pumping. As you slide down into the low sitting coupe there are NO feelings of familiarity from ANY Subaru of the past. Your body slides into the most supportive, heavily bolstered seats of any Subaru I can ever remember. My 6 ft 2 frame, size 38 waist had no problem feeling immediately at home. Anyone who has ever sat in a Formula car or open wheel car will be very reminded of this seating and foot position because your butt is sitting LOW and you feel as though the pedals are "hung" from the fire wall and your heels are on the floor which promotes an INSTANT "fast feeling". Right away you notice the pedals are placed perfectly for heel and toe action. For anyone who never learned now it will be MUCH easier.

As you extend your hands over the steering wheel adjusting it outward or up for tall drivers, you quickly notice you have room for proper hand placement and full range of motion. But the biggest thing you notice is you are UNDER the wheel and the under dash area has a lot of room for say a 34inch inseam in this situation. Steering wheel and gear shifter location are spaced for sport driving and the shifter is in front of the wheel. Undoubtedly the Miata was the king for stock shortest shifter throw but those days are over! The only effort needed to shift this car is with your wrist.

While taking all of this in your eyes fall upon the red “push start” button. And for once you feel as though there was someone on the board of directors or project managers who is ACTUALLY a “car guy”(or gal).
With your left hand on the much smaller than EVER steering wheel, and the remote in your pocket you push the RED start button and the small direct injection 2.0 liter, Boxer engine comes to life. Nothing earth shattering but it revs freely right off of idle. To the “mod hungry” group of enthusiast you instantly imagine a light weight flywheel and firmer clutch …except…….the clutch feels VERY good. The motor revs very fast and is responsive. The motor does NOT have the boxer rumble but does sound aggressive.

There is no “reaching” for the shifter as it’s easily within reach and pushing the lever into first gear proves to be a very short commute from neutral. This is the first real hint of what you have “gotten yourself into”.

As I pull out of the parking space the first thing I notice is I am NOT turning the steering wheel like a mass transit bus driver. Instead my left hand drops from the 9 o clock position to the 6 o clock position and I am reminded of an 05 STI with a Quik Rack ! The 13:1 rack is electronic and the steering feel is medium weight. Imagine Miata meets Lotus Elise, meets Porsche 911!

My initial curiosity was to press the gas pedal to the floor to see how the 200hp, high revving motor feels, but I resisted. First I started turning the steering wheel to see how responsive it is. ITS RESPONSIVE ! Its amazing what happens when you remove front axles and a differential. Immediately you notice the absence of body roll. Your brain says..” how can this be?”. Then the advertised lower CG than a Ferrari 458 comes to mind and you look for the closest exit ramp.

Turn in is cerebral like. NO REALLY…..its unlike ANY Subaru I have ever driven. That includes the GC8 STI Type RA with factory goodies etc. Mind you my wife and I met at a Subaru dealer and we have owned 13 Subaru’s since 2000. The list includes 04 STI, 06 Legacy Spec-B, 2001 2.5Rs, 2011 WRX and many more. NONE were left stock and ALL had extensive suspension and brake work. ALL were tracked at some point in time. I only say this to validate my opinion of the STOCK steering in the BRZ.

Simply put: Subaru hit this out of the park! The steering is this car means you can put this car EXACTLY where you want it. The stock Michelin Primacy’s will fool you. These tires have a VERY stiff sidewall and in typical Michelin fashion, are surprisingly supportive for a 215/45-17.

Some will do the crazy wheel and tires sizes and some will go for “less equals more”. The factory knew this and have rolled the fenders for you. With the wheels off you quickly realize you will be able to fit a 10inch wide wheel in the back. But remember at 200hp and 2700lbs anything above a 245 probably will never get warm enough for good traction! This platform is efficient. Everything the factory did was to save weight and make the best use of the power to weight ratio.

Borrowing from the multi link rear suspension of the previous and current generation Impreza and WRX platforms the rear suspension I am told has various pillow ball mounts for a more “positive handling car”.
14mm rear sway bar, reverse front WRX control arms, no pitch stop mount and motor mounts that are seemingly WRX like…….make up the short list of distinctive differences this car has underneath.
No front eccentric bolts means stock class auto-crossers have their work cut out for them. But that’s just it….this car STOCK on a twisty road will RUN AWAY from a stage 2 STi. How you might ask?

2749 lbs with full tank, 2714 lbs with spare tire removed and 2650 lbs with 1/8 of a tank means this car weighs 150lbs less than a 2000 Impreza 2.5 RS, has 35 more horsepower ,no front axles to push, and does this thing called………TURN !!! The BRZ turns like the best of them. I have driven a lot of cars over the years and by default instructed a lot of students (which means you have to take them for 3 laps in their car before you turn it over to them) in all of the latest and greatest. This car will dominate at autocrossing. Track day drivers will love it because unlike the AWD platform of the WRX and STI this car has CRISP turn in, allows you to get on the gas BEFORE the apex and tracks out with an amazing amount of confidence. AGAIN……all from a stock car.

Less weight means less to stop. The brake pedal is hard and feels like an EVO with stainless steel lines ! No more mushy pedal even after you do braided lines and good fluid. Under hard braking the car is planted. The first thing you think is….”why would you get a big brake kit?”. Front rotors are same as 2011 WRX. Rear brakes also 2011 WRX-like. This car stops very well. Consider these brakes come on a car with about 70more horsepower and weighs 550 lbs more. It stops.

Oh and the power. 200hp in a 2700 lb car on paper isn’t a big deal. What Subaru has done is they have made this car handle so well that as soon as the road turns……the power becomes far more usable than say a 300hp AWD STI. Keep in mind I drove my 300whp 2011 WRX to pick up the BRZ. My WRX has STOPTECH brakes, Pagid pads, Bilstein shocks, sway bars, steering rack bushings and Michelin Pilot Supersports. The BRZ’s ability to make use of the power you can put down is the key. Gone are the days of turn in…WAIT……then get back on the gas, then track out. Now its FAR more fluid like. It reminds me of a go kart in the sense that you come in hot, trail brake, crank in the amount of steering input you need and the car gives it to you as you sweep past the apex and then track out WITHOUT upsetting the “rhythm” of cornering. Most racers know that the reality of “slow in fast out” becomes fast in, “gather it up “then fast out ! This is true with this car. I do think that it rewards an experienced driver but would also allow a novice to have fun and learn the limits. Yes the factory did design some understeer into this equation….BUT…….before you get mad with visions of -3.9 degrees of front camber…….the understeer this car has is LESS than a older chassis GC Impreza with ALL of the caster and camber tricks.

The reality is this car is amazing. Some will buy it and do a turbo kit with 700whp, some with buy it and do stock level autocrossing. For me this car is so refreshing with its handling and agility that power just isn’t the focus. Yes it could use some more power but it more than makes up for it with handling, braking and “FEELING”. One thing is for certain, nothing in my recent memory feels as good as a BRZ.

Myles Williams
Racecomp Engineering/GTWORX

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