I like to think that after many arguments, the heads of Toyota finally gave in and accepted that their company needed some help. They called up Subaru and said look, we’ve forgotten how to build exciting cars, can you help. We have money.
Subaru BRZ Review by Ciro De SienaAnd so the 86/BRZ project was born. I’ve driven and reviewed the 86 before, but because the Subaru BRZ is made in such small numbers, and has literally sold out across the world, it’s been damn hard to get my hands on what I think is the origin of the species.
So what makes it different?The differences between the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are at first subtle. Again, I like to think the Subaru engineers got their own back by signing off the 86 while giggling like schoolboys at the back of maths. Because it feels like they then spent another year finishing the car.
The suspension is stiffer up front and a little softer at the back, which has worked wonders. Where the Toyota feels twitchy, nervous even, this feels planted and neutral. You can attack corners with more confidence, and the backend feels much more manageable.
The exhaust is completely different and sounds marvellous. Very Subaru indeed. There is delightful bark on start-up that will put a smile on your face, guaranteed.
At the front, the bumper is unique to Subaru, as is this very cool front splitter from the STI parts bin. At the rear, the massive exhaust tail pipes, leading off the uniquely Subaru exhaust system, are standard, as is this very cool rear wing. And of course this rally blue is Subaru only.
Should we start her up?Making that wonderful noise is a 2.0 litre boxer engine. Boxer engines are very interesting, I promise. They’re so called because the pistons punch at each other – the engine is completely flat. The benefit of this design is a very low engine profile, allowing the designers to make the front of the car very squat indeed. It also lends the car a lower centre of gravity, which has a huge effect on handling.
Because the crank shaft runs straight into the box, straight down the propshaft and into the rear diff without deviating at all, the car is perfectly balanced. And you can feel it, the Subaru BRZ is one of the most exceptionally poised sportscars on the road.
However, with 147kW and just 205Nm, it isn’t a very powerful engine. In fact, when you are next to a GTI or Focus ST at the lights, just wave and smile, because you don’t really have a hope. The Subaru BRZ is best at high revs and in tight corners; in a straight line the current model is left wanting.
So then why buy this sportscar if hot hatches are faster?Because it is a sportscar. Hot hatches are compromised by their very nature. They are heavy, front wheel drive turbocharged shopping carts compared to this thing.
This is the purest driving experience I’ve felt in a very long time. Lightweight, rear wheel drive. A notchy, short throw gearbox, great sound and low seating position.
It is fantastic fun to drive. You feel like you’re driving the car, not the computers. If you drive this car on a twisty road and don’t have fun, you should just give up on motoring and try cycling. Or perhaps take a bus.
How much? Subaru BRZ - PriceAt R389 900, the Subaru BRZ is a fair whack more than the Toyota, which comes in at around R340,000 for the top end model. But it really does feel like a premium product. Touch screen satnav and Bluetooth are standard.
As is a 105 000km, 5 year maintenance plan, which you don’t get with the Toyota 86. Subaru will look after everything except the tyres.
What’s next for the Subaru BRZ?I think Subaru/Toyota will listen to the buying public and motoring muppets like me, and give that 2.0 litre boxer some forced induction. Either in the form of a supercharger or turbocharger (rumour is the former), the car deserves, needs and would be just plain awesome with about another 40kW.
Smiles and Frowns
- Smile: Low slung sports car feel
- Smile: Short throw, notchy gear shift action. So satisfying
- Smile: Oversteer happy dynamics. Fun, fun, fun, fun.
- Frown: A bit pricey for the power/performance
- Frown: Infotainment system feels dated
- Frown: You have to wait a terribly long time to get one
Subaru BRZ – South African Quick SpecsView the vehicle: New Subaru BRZ Price: R389,900,00 Fuel consumption: 7.8 litres/100km CO2 emissions: 181 g/km Power: 147kW Torque: 205Nm Acceleration: 0 – 100km/h in 7.6 seconds Top Speed: 226km/h Transmission: 6 speed manual or automatic
RivalsIf all you want is a Subaru BRZ/86, Toyota can probably get you one quite quickly. But the 86 does feel a bit agricultural compared to the BRZ. It does come in at under R300 000 for the very base model, but with no maintenance plan, which is about another R30,000.
The Mazda MX5 is a perennial favourite. Front engine, rear wheel drive. It perhaps lacks the purity of chassis and drivetrain layout, and certainly looks less muscular (read: hair-salon-ish), but it is a fun little car indeed. Prices start at R366,000