Subaru’s BRZ isn’t normally the sort of car you’ll read about in The Mud Life, for one its ground clearance is atrocious, and secondly of course it’s only 2wd. However, I’m all for killing two birds with one stone, and when the invite came through from Subaru to test both their updated BRZ and Levorg down in Cowley near Cheltenham, I couldn’t resist.
Because it’s a 2+2 sports car, the BRZ is a bit of an oddity in the Subaru range, and then it becomes a little more complicated because it was created as a joint venture with Toyota, who incidentally own 16% of Subaru’s parent company, and have their own version, the GT86.
Subaru say that the concept behind BRZ was the desire to build a back-to-basics sports car, offering the purest handling possible and an involving driving experience. The Subaru Boxer engine is an essential element in this philosophy as, by design, the engine can be mounted low and pushed back in the chassis, which creates an ultra-low centre of gravity and helps distribute the weight 53 per cent front/47 per cent rear.
For 2017, the exterior tweaks to the BRZ are subtle, there’s a reprofiled front bumper and grill to give it a wider visual stance, new full-LED headlights and tweaked rear lamps. New 10-spoke alloy wheels, and a chunky new rear spoiler round off the revisions.
After wedging myself in with Lawrence from Parkers, my driving buddy for the day, we set off for a morning's drive, and as our version didn’t have sat-nav, it didn’t take us long to get ourselves lost.
If you’ve read other reports on the BRZ you will have gleaned that although it’s good, the 200ps 2ltr Boxer engine isn’t the most lively, but that’s ok because it’s the handling that matters. With an excellent driving position, low centre of gravity and a balanced chassis you can have a great time throwing the BRZ around corners.
Despite being electrically assisted, the steering is impressive in the way it delivers feedback, and I would imagine that on a track it would be even better. On the subject of driver involvement, the top of the gear knob is 17mm higher and closer to the steering wheel compared to the Subaru Impreza, making it easier and quicker to change gear.
Performance wise, when paired to the six-speed manual transmission the BRZ covers 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. Drinking wise, returns combined mpg figures of 39.8 (automatic) or 36.2 (manual) and CO2 figures of 164 g/km (automatic) or 180 g/km (manual). By the way, that isn’t a typo, the automatic is better on fuel than the manual.
Subaru say that spread of ratios is closer than that of their other models, allowing drivers to make the most of the high-revving engine, which is true. For this reason I somehow expected the BRZ to be a bit awkward in heavy traffic, but driving through the centre of Cheltenham just before lunch proved that sometimes I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, as the BRZ felt right at home.
If you opt for the six-speed automatic you get paddle-shift with Blipping Control, which basically means it revs the engine in line with downshifts and adds to the sporting experience by increasing engine note and smoothing the changes out, losing the ‘slur’ between gear changes that can affect some automatic gearboxes. I can't forget to mention that the 'new for 2017' TRACK mode enhances the stability of the car, and allows for more refined accelerator inputs when driving on circuits.
According to others, the interior of the BRZ had always received criticism for cheap materials and a lack of refinement, so the minor refresh is welcome. The new multifunction steering wheel is a big improvement, while there are also new materials on the dash, and increased leather stitching throughout, that helps boost the ambience.
Subaru’s latest Starlink info-tainment system is controlled via a high-resolution 6.2-inch touchscreen. The display allows occupants to control the car’s audio system using the intuitive touchscreen with functionality similar to a smartphone. Various functions can also be controlled remotely using voice control, though we didn’t have the time to play with this.
Another benefit of that flat four engine is that the heated, Alcantara trimmed, leather front seats (with red BRZ logo and stitching) can be mounted quite low, which gives the driver a sense of being 'at one' with the car. However, this also means that, for me especially, it was difficult to get out of the car with any kind of grace and dignity!
While the BRZ is first and foremost a compact 2+2 sports car, Subaru engineers have tried their best to make it as comfortable and convenient for daily use. There’s ample storage space for small objects around the driver’s seat, a central console compartment, 2 centrally-located cup holders and bottle holders in each door.
The boot capacity is 243 litres with the rear seats upright and 1,270 litres with the rear seats folded flat, while a tyre repair kit allows boot under-floor storage.
Arriving at our coffee-and-cake stop to swap over to the Levorg, I wished I had more time with the BRZ. I got the sense that it’s been primarily designed to be fun, and although I only had an hour or so, the BRZ lived up to its promise.
Subaru BRZ is available in the UK in SE Lux trim only and is priced at £26,050.