2016 Subaru BRZ
The perfect road trip companion
Date Posted: August 17, 2015
By Zack Spencer
Subaru developed the BRZ to help bring back pure driving pleasure into the two-door coupe segment. The BRZ is a stripped down car with a minimalist interior and lightweight platform. It all comes together to produce a great handling car.
The Subaru BRZ is the odd-man-out in the Subaru lineup. It is a front engine, rear wheel drive sports coupe, running totally against the grain, compared to the all wheel drive four-door sedans, hatchbacks and crossover vehicles Subaru is typically known for.
The BRZ came to be as part of a joint venture with Toyota. As I understand it, Subaru did the majority of the engineering that went into this sleek car, and Toyota funded the project and developed the fuel injection system for the engine. Toyota also sells this car as a Scion FR-S in North America and a Toyota GT86 in the rest of the world.
The idea behind the car was to develop a lightweight sporty two door coupe that brings the attention back to driving and provides only the basics, in terms of creature comforts, helping to limit the cost and to reduce weight. Some might find this driver-centric design, with a focus on handling and driving dynamics, to be novel but Mazda has been just as focused on the same goals with the MX-5 Miata for almost twenty five years. At least it is nice to know that these types of cars still exist in an era of more driving automation and nanny systems.
To showcase the back-to-basics approach, Subaru Canada held a three-day road trip from Vancouver, through Whistler, across the Duffy Lake Road into the Okanagan settling in Kaslo, before returning. British Columbia does have some fantastic roads and this trip was a great refresher on just how beautiful BC is.
Leaving Vancouver in city traffic then heading up the Sea-To-Sky highway, it was rather obvious that the BRZ lacks low-end torque. This is a car that needs to be kept in the 6000+ RPM range to make the most of the 151 lb.-ft. of torque that peaks at roughly 6500 RPM and peak horsepower (200hp) is at 7000 RPM. It makes quick, low speed maneuvers rather sluggish and the engine always needs to be screeching along in order to make the most of the car. To be honest, this is a lousy city car. When we got onto the open highway, twisting through the roads that hug the many river valleys we experienced, the opposite is true. This is a car that rewards a good driver, making the most of every shift and learning to keep the car in the sweet spot. Yes, the engine is still loud but it was at these moments when every corner begged for more input, more speed and more fun, that the BRZ shows what went onto making this a great car.
The reason this car feels so at home on a twisty, open road is the attention that went into making it light and low. Subaru is known for making what are called Boxer engines, meaning the pistons go side-to-side, not up and down. This makes a wide and very low engine that sits as low as possible and as far back as possible inside the engine bay. With the low centre of gravity and perfect weight distribution front-to-back, this a very predictable machine, one that can be pushed harder than most drivers will dare. Then there is the design of the suspension that also instills confidence. The bumps are easily eaten up and for 2016 Subaru did dial down the aggressiveness of the suspension geometry, making it slightly more relaxing but at times there were a few corners that the car tended to plow through, rather than dance through. Once again, if the driver sets the car up properly, it does deliver great handling.
Getting a chance to spend three days behind the wheel brought out some high and low points in the interior. I do like the simplistic approach, nothing too much, just enough to get the job done. The dash has everything at hand and the shifter falls perfectly into the driver’s hand. There is no padding on the centre console, something that could easily be added by Subaru, making the longer trips more comfortable.
Updates for 2016 are few; they include new interior trim pieces on the centre console and dash, plus a revised steering wheel and upgraded switches. Basically, don’t mess with a good thing. One area that has always let the BRZ down is the infotainment system; it is very basic and can looks like an afterthought.
Unlike the Scion FR-S cousin, this BRZ comes standard with a navigation system and starts at $27,395. Subaru Canada tells me that BRZ buyers are older than FR-S buyers and they tend to choose the Sport-Tech package in the BRZ for $2000 more, which adds
push button start, heated front seats, a rear spoiler, fog lights and automatic climate control. Good value for just a couple of grand.
After a wonderful three-day adventure I came away with mixed feeling about this little car. It, at times, felt underpowered but at other times, the power was just right. It all depends on the environment in which the car is being exercised. The BRZ can be equipped with an automatic but this really is a car for motoring purists and a manual is the way to go.
It also took me a while to learn the cars sweet spot, making it a car that will never get boring. The better a driver you are the better the car feels. The longer you spend with the car, the more you learn, making you a better driver; almost like a circle.
Power: 2.0L 4-cylinder with 200hp.
Economy: 10.9L/7.8L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $27,395-$29,395
The better a driver you are the better the car feels