Subaru BRZ 2017 Road Test

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MINOR DETAIL


A sports coupe that still has in some ways to find its place, Subaru’s BRZ has undergone one or two minor changes. Whether this is to bring it into line with its immediate Toyota GT86 twin or to give the model slightly more individuality is hard to say. And when I say minor, unless you’re an out and out BRZ enthusiast you’ll miss most of the improvements. The remit of Subaru’s BRZ remains the same, a small, relatively basic, affordable 2+2 sports coupe that has ‘old school’ handling, appeals to real drivers looking for a front engine rear, wheel drive layout and is equally at home as a track day car as it is a daily driver. Add in that the BRZ actually has usable luggage capacity and is actually quite comfortable and it would appear the Subaru/Toyota combo has succeeded.


Retaining the same profile as the model it ostensibly replaced and now available in SE Lux trim only, the headlights are now LED whilst subtly reshape rear lights now sit just below the new lighter, thinner and far more attractive rear spoiler. Two huge but still noticeably subdued tailpipes poke out either side of the rear bumper whilst the rakish sides and arches still define the BRZ’s unmistakable lines. The car sits on 17” alloys shod with 215/45 rubber, tyre surface kept on the road and improved handling courtesy of what Subaru describe as significantly tweaked suspension.


Translated this means fully independent subframe mounted inverted MacPherson struts and gas filled shocks, coil springs and an anti-roll bar at the front, a larger rear stabiliser bar, double wishbones and more gas filled shocks at the rear. To improve overall stiffness chassis reinforcements around the rear shock mounts and a firmer, stiffer firewall has also made a considerable contribution towards improving what was already pretty decent handling.


Inside the cabin the new BRZ has started to err towards the GT86. Has it lost some of the original’s raw charm, the basic cabin for many part of the BRZ’s allure. Maybe so, but it was the first BRZ’s lack of nearly all creature comforts that pushed certain buyers in the direction of the Toyota. No frills hard surfaces still abound although leather inserts have now made an appearance, the basic row of centrally mounted switches are still there if slightly modernised as are the knurled metal heater controls and a 6.2” screen in the middle of the dash. I was reliably informed it had satnav but as to where it might have been hiding still remains a mystery. Likewise, whilst the inclusion of a CD player is still a welcome addition, the lack of DAB radio came as a surprise, given Subaru’s other BRZ updates.


On the plus side, the leather and alcantara racing seats are extremely comfortable and supportive, the red stitching and BRZ embroidery adding to the car’s sporting ambitions along with a maximum, rear seats folded luggage capacity of 1,270 litres. Rear seats upright and whilst you loose half of the luggage space you can carry around a couple of newborn children or a pair of amputees since rear legroom is nonexistent. From the driver’s perspective the new thicker leather sports steering wheel does improve feel whilst the aluminium pedals keep up the racing feel.


Instrumentation is reasonably clear, the centrally mounted rev counter that also houses a digital speedo the most useful of the three readouts. The fact you only ever monitor your speed using the rev counter’s additional display renders the actual speedo redundant, the multi display third clock relaying in the main things of little interest. Yes, mpg and fuel status remain useful but apart from this the rest has limited appeal.


Lift the bonnet and the Subaru-Toyota badged 1,998cc 4-cylinder aluminium block Boxer engine still reigns supreme. Now delivering 200hp and 205Nm of torque, you still have to hit 7,000rpm before grunt and thump start to play their part. But even when pushed you can still expect around 36mpg or about 340 or so miles from each 50 litre tank of unleaded. Should you be so inclined you can spec your BRZ with an automatic transmission although I’ve yet to work out as to why.


Far better to stick to convention and get the 6-speed manual version, the race and track inspired gearbox still one of the BRZ’s true delights. You also get traction and stability control should such gizmos appeal along with track mode. Apart from the fact the Subaru constantly thinks you're trying to set a time, the ‘mode’ tweaks the car’s overall feel and balance, reintroducing that on the edge feel that was the original car’s real appeal.


On the road you can still very quickly work out if the coin you ran over was ‘heads or tails’. The ride is still stiff, feedback of award winning novel proportions, you still have to rev the engine hard, residual energy vanishes in a matter of milliseconds, you still have to work the snick-snick gears and in anything other than dry conditions, this little coupe is still twitchy whilst the much vaunted power hike seems to make little if any difference. But the one overriding factor is that the BRZ is still a barrel of fun to drive.


Find a quite back road, a deserted moorland B-road, a sequence of fast flowing bends or dare I say a collection of mini roundabouts and the BRZ is a delight. After Subaru’s fiddling the BRZ now hits 62mph in a wheezy 7.6 seconds and onto a slower than most hot hatchbacks 140mph where permitted. But whilst a well sorted Eurobox will easily equal the BRZ they can never replicate the BRZ’s driver involvement.


Hit 60mph on a quite country lane and your senses like this rear driver Subaru become alive. As to whether Subaru’s upgrades have made the BRZ any better is actually hard to say since the car could would still benefit from more power, something the aftermarket suppliers have been quick to capitalise on. Granted the cabin has become marginally more civilised but it certainly wasn't imperative, the Toyota catering to those who basically wanted a posh track car with softer suspension.


At £26,050 Subaru’s newest BRZ offers a tremendous amount for reasonably economical outlay. It offers true sports coupe motoring with genuine practicality coupled to track capabilities that, in the hands of a driver who can capitalise on them, will payback some significant dividends. Likewise, the fact it isn't a Eurobox blandmobile makes the BRZ a serious contender in anyone's book.


True, the German car will provide its occupants with a vastly superior number of toys, better long distance comfort, family car space and in all probability more all round appeal. But that's not what the BRZ is about. This little Subaru is there for you to reach and learn the limits, to revel in oversteer, to work out when it'll try and catch you out and to recreate the days when sports cars really were sports cars.


Given time its more than possible to provide numerous reasons why you shouldn't buy the latest BRZ, but after living with one for just over a week the list would be immaterial.


Mechanically, Subaru has been able to refine their little coupe if not by as much as this tester would maybe have liked. But no matter how they try, they'll never improve on the sheer enjoyment of driving the car, that is unless they decide to add a turbo!!!!


By; Mark Stone


Model Subaru BRZ
Price £26,050 as tested
Engine 1,998cc Flat-4 (Boxer)
Transmission 6-speed manual
Performance 0-62: 7.6 secs / 140 mph
C02 180
Economy 36





The New Subaru BRZ 2017 Road Test