Review: Subaru BRZ

In five years Subaru has sold just 603 BRZs in Britain, but the update could change all that.
In five years Subaru has sold just 603 BRZs in Britain, but the update could change all that.
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Toyota’s GT86 burst on to the market in 2012 to flurry of interest, not least from the pack of motoring writers who wanted to get into the seat of this reborn classic, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive 2+2 from Japan.

Structurally it was a Subaru, built by Subaru for both companies, using its distinctive flat-four petrol engine and a six-speed gearbox. Subaru was a bit later to the UK market with its own version, the BRZ. Today, either car is a rare sight.

In five years Subaru has sold just 603 BRZs in Britain, peaking at 128 in 2016, but with 87 sold so far this year it may be set for a new record.

Toyota’s UK sales of the GT-86 are much higher, reaching 5,951 in the five years since April 2012, with a world total of 177,280, of which North America has bought 70,000.

Both cars were updated for 2017. The BRZ’s 2000cc engine generates 197bhp (200ps) at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb ft of torque (205Nm) at 6,400-6,600 rpm. These ratings means that it needs revving high to get it really moving. With six-speed manual transmission the BRZ covers 0- 62mph in 7.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph.

The differences between the pair are slight, with tweaked suspension tuning, (the Subaru is more sporting) cabin trim details and for Toyota its own injection technology added to Subaru’s boxer engine. BRZ has one trim versus Toyota’s two and, says Subaru, is equivalent to their top spec but about £2,000 cheaper. Colours: WR Blue is only available on BRZ and Orange only on GT86.

The BRZ sounds glorious – with help from some acoustic trickery. I quote from Subaru: “A Mahle filter systems sound generator is fitted which synchronises the engine note and throttle application. There is a notable lift in engine roar from around 4,000 rpm, which Subaru engineers hope will encourage drivers to turn off the audio system to make the driving experience more dramatic as the BRZ approaches its rev limit.”

Actually, chaps, the radio gets harder to hear anyway as the engine’s orchestra strikes up.

“By contrast, the sound generator has been tuned to keep the engine as quiet as possible at lower engine speeds for more relaxed urban driving and motorway cruises.” That’s true. Note, though, that some purists do not like this interference with the engine’s sound.

Driving either car is a blast. The enhanced engine note gives an exaggerated sense of pace – but the 0-62mph figure shows that these cars are quick enough to be contenders in the rat pack race if you go in for that sort of thing.

Floor the throttle leaving a junction and the BRZ flicks out its tail before its stability system gets it in check and before the idiot driver gets into hot water, or the hedge.

I enjoyed it tremendously and still kept all four wheels on the road. It would make a terrific track-day car – with enough power to be quick and rewarding and bring the proverbial smile to your face and a frisson to other parts. For serious track driving you can select a track mode, which reduces the onset of traction control to give the driver more throttle control of the cornering balance and faster upshifts. Good luck.

For very serious track driving you’ll easily find an outfit who will raise the power.

The seating is 2+2 and with three-up, my plus one, of medium adult proportions in the rear, had to accept some discomfort, or walk. The finishing is leather and Alcantara, with red stitching. The bench back seat folds flat in one unit to extend the boot far enough to take a bicycle – with the front wheel removed. Seats up, there’s plenty of luggage space. Inside there are the usual cup holders and storage locations. The navigation screen and operating system looks dated and isn’t easy to understand, but once you do, it gets you from here to there.

There are rear visibility blocks. Over the shoulder scoping for reversing is impeded by the roof pillars and this is one car which could do with a camera or at least parking sensors. There are also reflections in the rear window from the parcel shelf.

Verdict: Updated and even more of a belter.