There are some things that we don’t have enough of in this world: Good books, movies that aren’t remakes of old ones, good bars with happy hours that last longer than an hour, or Katy Perry videos.
The same can be said of cars. In today’s world filled with hybrids, “Luxury SUVs” , SMART cars, and crossovers ,there are very few cars that allow us to experience the pure joy of driving. Today cars have such things as “Lane assist” and “Blind spot mirrors” and adaptive cruise control. All of which means we don’t have to do much actual driving. If we drift from our lane we get a warning; someone in our blind spot? There’s a light on the outside mirror for that; we can even set the cruise control and it will automatically keep the gap between us and the car in front of us. Or brake assists which actually has the nerve to brake for us if we get to close to something. There’s even a car being developed that will drive itself. There is also the environment. We have to take care of it, cut our emissions, be kind to Mother Earth. We have hybrid power which saves precious fuel while aiming for something called “zero emissions”.
With all the junk on today’s cars and things coming in the future, there will come a time when pure driving will be a thing of the past; an old memory we share in the retirement home. “Back in my day you actually had to turn the wheel and press the gas pedal your own self”, and “If you didn’t brake in time you actually hit the car in front of you”.
The point is there are very few cars today that we can call pure driving machines; rear wheel drive beasts that require the driver to be an integral part of the driving experience. At least ones the average Joe can actually afford. Sure there are Ferrari’s and Lamborghinis and so-called “supercars”, but let’s face it who among us can really afford such a thing?
Then there is Subaru. The same company which builds the very capable, but frankly boring, Forrester, and the funky little station wagon they call an Outback, has given us something that seems less like a Subaru and more of something built in Maranello. Okay, that might be stretching it a bit; however what they have given us is something rare in today’s automotive market, a pure driving machine.
Jointly developed in Japan by Toyota and Subaru from the 86 line, the BRZ (Boxer-engine, Rear-wheel drive, Zenith) is a pure sports car through and through. Toyota sells its variant under the FR-S badge. We drove one earlier in the year and while we absolutely loved it, the BRZ is different, and in a good way.
Like the FR-S the body is low allowing for what Subaru calls an “ultra-low” center of gravity. Although the Boxer engine provides the same horsepower (200) and torque (151 lbs) as the FR-S , there is something about the BRZ that sets it apart from its FR-S brother. Perhaps it’s the different suspension, or the layout of the interior which features a row of buttons reminiscent of the Lamborghini Aventador we drove few months ago, or the lack of steering wheel controls found in others. Whatever it is make no mistake about it, the BRZ is its own machine.
Available in Premium or Limited trim levels, models include all performance features, such as the sport-tuned suspension with front strut brace and TORSEN limited-slip differential. The base Premium model gives you a ton a standard features; daytime running lights, track-mode, Bluetooth, GPS with a 6.1 inch touch screen, cruise control, power door locks and windows and a lot more.
The Limited adds fog lights and a body-color trunk spoiler. Inside, the seats are upholstered with Alcantara inserts and leather bolsters. New for 2014 is Aha® infotainment smartphone integration included with the standard navigation system. The Limited also adds a dual-zone automatic climate control in place of the Premium model’s manual HVAC system, and its standard All-Weather Package includes dual-mode heated front seats and heated side mirrors. A full security system augments the engine immobilizer that is standard in the Premium model.
Climbing in you know this car is all business. The contoured seats wrap around you and a press of the start button sends a rumble through you; it’s like the car is saying “let’s go drive”.
On the road the BRZ is nothing short of pure joy. The 200 HP doesn’t sound like much, but with the low weight to power ratio this car will launch from a stop light leaving most others behind. And that “ultra-low” center of gravity allows you to zip around corners with confidence. The cabin noise is louder than most and you feel every little nuance of the road; but that’s okay. This is after all a driver’s car and as such hearing the engine and feeling the road is part of the experience. As with most sports cars the backseats are useless for actually carrying a passenger. You can fold them down for a bit of extra storage room, but beyond that, forget about it.
The Limited model we had was equipped with a manual transmission; a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters is available. We were glad with had the manual, it only adds to the fun. If you are looking for something that will give you a comfortable easy commute, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a car that will instantly wake you up, put a smile on your face and have you looking for the long, and hopefully curvy, way to work. All of this for a very affordable price under $29,000 ($28,390 for our top of the line Limited).
The BRZ is a little slice of automotive heaven; a true drivers car. It’s a rear wheel drive machine that reminds us that actual driving can still be done by the driver. To hell with greenhouse gases, hybrid power and global warming let’s go have some fun. Although to its credit the BRZ does get admirable fuel mileage; 22 city, 30 highway and 25 combined with the manual and 25 city 34 highway and 28 combined with the automatic. During our week we got closer to a pleasantly surprising 27 mpg; surprising considering we launched away from every stop light leaving the mass of traffic behind. We came to another realization during our week with the BRZ, a somewhat poignant realization at that.
Sadly cars like this, at least ones that the everyday person can afford, are becoming a rare breed. Driver’s cars such as the BRZ are fast moving dinosaurs heading towards the tar pits, towards extinction. There will come a time when all the zero emissions, self driving adaptive cruise control hybrids will take over the roads and the world. So enjoy it while you can. Someday we will be sitting in the retirement home muttering “remember when?”
The 2014 Subaru BRZ Limited
MSRP (as tested, Limited) $28,390
Engine: 2.0 L/122 BOXER
Horsepower @ RPM 200 @ 7000
Torque @ RPM 151 @ 6400
6-speed manual transmission: 22 city,30 highway, 25 combined
6-speed automatic transmission: 25 city, 24 highway, 28 combined
MPG (As tested, mixed conditions) 29 MPG
Base Curb Weight (lbs) 2762
Passenger Volume (ftÂ³) 76.5
Second Head Room (in) 35
Front Shoulder Room (in) 54.5
Second Hip Room (in) 45.3
Front Head Room (in) 37.1
Second Leg Room (in) 29.9
Passenger Capacity 4
Front Hip Room (in) 53.1
Front Leg Room (in) 41.9
Second Shoulder Room (in) 51.7
Length, Overall (in) 166.7
Min Ground Clearance (in) 4.9
Track Width, Front (in) 59.8
Width, Max w/o mirrors (in) 69.9
Wheelbase (in) 101.2
Track Width, Rear (in) 60.6
Height, Overall (in) 50.6
Cargo Area Dimensions
Trunk Volume (ftÂ³) 6.9
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Up (ftÂ³) 6.9
Roadside Assistance Coverage
36 months/36,000 miles
36 months/36,000 miles
60 months/60,000 miles
60 months/unlimited distance