Jointly developed by both Toyota and Subaru the BRZ/GT-86 siblings first saw the light of day as concepts in 2007 and finally appeared as fully formed twins in 2012.
They look the same and cost the same. The model was conceived by Toyota. The story is that their boss specified the need for a car that was built for pure driving pleasure; one that transcended current trends and his designers really came up with the goods. As it turned out – thanks to their rally heritage – the joint project was almost entirely designed and engineered by Subaru (although built by Toyota) and it is their version we are concentrating on here.
As stated, there is virtually no difference in these cars although there are a couple of styling tweaks that are virtually unnoticeable. Yet, in driving – which is where DriveWrite makes the distinction – the BRZ seemed noticeably less tail happy than the GT-86 I had a half-hour with some time back. Knowing that their loyal customer base is accustomed to the characteristics of their symmetrical all- wheel-drive system found in products like the Impreza and Forester, Subaru apparently went and made the front suspension of their version slightly firmer. This increases the car’s tendency to understeer.
Consequently the rear-wheel drive BRZ behaves in a far more neutral manner when driven with brio around our blighted highways. The road conditions were appalling during my week with this car which meant the traction control stayed firmly on, alas. Duty of care and all that. Occasionally I felt the back end get a bit twitchy but there were no real dramas. Pile into a corner and get too enthusiastic on the loud pedal and the front end will just slowly start washing out. The GT-86 is definitely more likely to throw the tail off line – fine if you like drifting, but for most the more predictable BRZ might be preferable.
The driving experience is fantastically sporty. The BRZ has the lowest centre of gravity of any car on the market which aids such a sweet handling experience. This is thanks to the low-slung 2.0L Boxer engine which sits as far back and as low as possible in the engine bay for an almost perfect weight distribution of 53% in front and 47% in the rear. The engine is a 200bhp 2.0L flat-4 petrol motor driving through a regulation 6-speed manual gearbox. The traffic light sprint is achieved in a modest 7.6 seconds going on to a top speed of 143 mph; but that isn‘t what this car is about. Torque is adequate at 151 lb/ft but it means that rapid progress can only be achieved by keeping the revs up and, as a result, it is easy to hit the limiter as I surprisingly found whilst overtaking a lorry on a rain soaked B road.
The brakes are fine, the gearshift throw short and crisp and the dash layout is simple and uncomplicated. Inside the top of the range version it was all leather and alcantara; there’s a perfectly good sat-nav in this version too. It’s very easy to get comfortable with a more laid-back driving position as befits a sports car. The back seats are pointless – except maybe for small children – but they do supplement the decent sized boot to provide ample luggage space.
The suspension is quite soft when compared to similarly priced hot hatches, which need rock hard suspension to compensate for the handling of a basic car that’s been tuned. The comfort is helped by the same tyres as used on the Toyota Prius. This is not an expensive car to run especially when you consider an average of 35mpg. Frugal for a sporting motor.
The Subaru BRZ is uncomplicated, handles brilliantly and lets you explore the limits of grip without having to worry about meeting a sudden, oily demise in a hedgerow. It isn’t especially fast, it is priced at a bargain £25k and is the best driving car on the market. For once, there are no red brake callipers but above 4,000rpm it does make a very appropriate noise. Take it out for a spin down Britain’s country roads and your eyes will be opened to what real driving is about.
There are apparently people out in the world who are demanding that this car be given a more powerful engine and better tyres; to these deluded folk I have this to say: You are missing the point of the Subaru BRZ. If you want a sports car with these attributes then buy a Porsche Cayman. If you just love driving then save some cash and buy this. It gets a perfect ten from me.