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March 24, 2012

Video & Review: The Subaru BRZ runs the quarter in 15.3 seconds

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Written by: Oliver Trako
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Video & Review: The Subaru BRZ runs the quarter in 15.3 seconds
Distill the comprehensive goodness of the 2013 down to a single desirable property and it is this: Profound control.

It is the rear-drive BRZ’s competence in those pivotal split seconds as the limit of grip approaches and departs that gives it undeniably enticing character. Few cars in recent memory do it so well and those that do typically cost at least twice as much. Think Lotus Exige/Elise or Porsche 911 GT3. In other words, the BRZ offers a level of engagement that, until now, has been either too costly or too impractical for the average enthusiast.

That will change with the introduction of the BRZ to the U.S. First, with an estimated price in the mid-$20,000 range, it’s not costly. Second, it’s practical enough to be driven daily. And, finally, it fills a niche in the U.S. market that has remained conspicuously vacant for years.

Filling the Niche
It’s not just the BRZ’s communication and control that’s alluring, however. Its approachable limits are what make it a wholly engaging sports car. Go on the attack in a BRZ and you’re not flirting with a $120,000 disaster. What’s more, it’s most rewarding at modest speeds found in 2nd and 3rd gear. In this regard it pulls from the same well of level-headed appeal that makes Mazda’s MX-5 Miata so fun. But being a softly sprung convertible has always compromised the Miata’s abilities and limited its appeal for those seeking a dedicated driver’s car.

The BRZ’s singularity of purpose doesn’t come with the same space and structure compromises found in the Miata, either. Its trunk is big enough to handle more than just weekend trips, its structure makes no concessions to top-droppers and its suspension strikes a perfect balance between date nights and track days.

Video & Review: The Subaru BRZ runs the quarter in 15.3 secondsFocus, Focus, Focus
In addition to its mid-speed capability, the BRZ encourages full-attack driving on unfamiliar roads well into triple digits. Its brakes don’t fade, its gearbox doesn’t balk and its chassis remains composed even when the road surface isn’t. We hammered it for hours over rough roads with little regard for the hardware and never once bottomed the suspension or had a moment that made us reconsider our speed.

Steering, which is electrically assisted in a rapid 13.1:1 ratio, is immensely feelsome and exact, imparting the front tires’ grip status precisely to its driver’s brain stem. It is perhaps the best electric steering in any car, except, possibly, Mazda’s nearly extinct RX-8.

Brake response, too, is immediate and confident. Thirty minutes driving well past rational limits did damp the middle pedal’s hair-trigger response, but we never lost confidence in the pedal. Ironically, the BRZ’s tires, which are the same used as in the Plus Performance Package on a Prius, seemed entirely able, exhibiting only insignificant wear after a full day of back-road insanity.

Like It Should Be, Mostly
The 2013 ‘s five stability control modes — three too many, if you ask us — are needlessly complex. So much so, in fact, that even Subaru insiders struggle to adequately explain the purpose for so many choices. There’s a “Sport” mode which will loosen the electronic reins enough to allow you to have fun while still metering out protection if needed. Fortunately, fully disabling the system is easy.

What’s more, it’s not really needed. Because it communicates so clearly, there’s no sense of intimidation driving the BRZ to its limits. It’s a textbook example of predictable rear-drive behavior, which is rewarding for both the advanced and novice driver alike.

This is all that’s required to make a sports car with elegant control, engaging feedback and enlightening limits.

Ignoring the BRZ’s entirely modest arrangement of parts, the car is a stunning experience. Considering them, it’s a machine you need to drive in its element to fully appreciate. When it comes to purity of purpose, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a car that delivers this much speed and involvement under $50,000 — Mitsubishi’s Evo X being one possible exception. Repeat this kind of driving in an Evo, though, and you’ll be buying tires and brake pads at double this rate.

Not About the Numbers
If you’re the kind of enthusiast whose car must be able to hammer down freeway on-ramps with its tires ablaze, the BRZ isn’t your car.

At 7.3 seconds, its 0-60 time (7.0 seconds using a 1-foot rollout like on a drag strip) isn’t going to win over many drag racers. But this time comes with an explanation. The rev limiter in 2nd gear kicks in at 59.2 mph, requiring a second shift to achieve the milestone and slowing the time considerably. The quarter-mile passes in 15.3 seconds at 92.1 mph. Judge the BRZ on its acceleration alone and you’ll be disappointed. But it should surprise exactly no one that 200 horsepower pushing around 2,734 pounds isn’t going to thrill John Force.

But you’re not John Force, are you? Neither are we, which is why we realize that the BRZ’s respectable 69.1-mph slalom speed and striking 0.92g on the skid pad are more definitive of its character than is its acceleration. Those numbers are better than both the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe (67.4 mph slalom, 0.89g skid pad) and the 2011 Ford Mustang GT (67.3 mph slalom, 0.91g skid pad).

Braking, too, is solid. The BRZ required 114 feet to stop from 60 and it did so consistently with a firm, confident pedal. The Genesis Coupe needed 116 feet to make it happen and the Mustang got the job done in only 109 feet.

What You Get
By now you know that the 2013 Subaru BRZ’s 2.0-liter flat-4 combines port and direct fuel injection to produce the aforementioned 200 hp and 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment and a six-speed automatic — perhaps the only one ever well suited to this kind of car — is optional and will cost about $1,200 if it follows traditional Subaru pricing strategies. Shift paddles offer full control over the gearbox and downshifts are perfectly rev-matched.

Video & Review: The Subaru BRZ runs the quarter in 15.3 secondsThere are few distractions from the BRZ’s driver focus inside, where the finish is spartan but not cheap. A center-mounted tachometer consumes most of the instrument panel real estate. To its left is a conventional speedometer, which is duplicated in digital form inside the tachometer itself. The cloth seats are comfortable and supportive enough for hard driving, while the steering wheel is small, thick and wrapped in leather.

Navigation, Bluetooth and a USB port are standard on Premium trim levels. Throw in the extra $2,000 or so for a Limited model and you’ll get synthetic suede and leather seats, seat heaters, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start and a few other features — like a spoiler.

Subaru plans to sell 500 cars monthly in the U.S. beginning April 20. Exact pricing won’t be announced for several weeks, but a , which lacks the 2013 Subaru BRZ’s navigation system will sticker at $24,930 including delivery. A base WRX sedan — which also lacks navigation, but comes with a turbo, all-wheel drive and four doors — can be had for $26,345 (including destination). The BRZ is considerably smaller and simpler than a WRX so we’re putting our money on a base price with destination around $26,000.

Then consider the fact that Subaru’s BRZ lacks adjustable dampers, throttle and steering calibrations. It has no complex electronic means of torque delivery and it can’t be had with a sunroof or — mercifully — as a convertible. It is simple, relatively uncomplicated and wholly uncompromised. Despite this, it is one of the most rewarding cars we’ve ever driven.

Perhaps there’s a lesson here. If this is all that’s required to make a sports car with elegant control, engaging feedback and enlightening limits, we have only one question:

Why isn’t every manufacturer doing it?

Specs & Performance

Year Make Model 2013 Subaru BRZ Premium
Vehicle Type RWD 2dr 4-passenger Coupe
Base MSRP $26,000 (est.)
Options on test vehicle None
As-tested MSRP $26,000 (est.)
Configuration Longitudinal, front midengine, rear-wheel drive
Engine type Naturally aspirated, direct- and port-injected injected flat-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in) 1,998/121
Block/head material Aluminum/aluminum
Valvetrain DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, + exhaust
Compression ratio (x:1) 12.5
Redline, indicated (rpm) 7,400
Horsepower (hp @ rpm) 200 @ 7,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm) 151 @ 6,400
Transmission type Six-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1) I=3.626, II=2.188, III=1.541, IV=1.213, V=1.0, VI=0.767
Final-drive ratio (x:1) 4.1
Differential(s) Torsen limited-slip
Suspension, front Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rear Independent double-wishbone, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering type Electric-assist, rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1) 13.1
Tire make and model Michelin Primacy HP
Tire type Summer
Tire size, front 215/45R17
Tire size, rear 215/45R17
Wheel size 17-by-7 inches front and rear
Wheel material Aluminum alloy
Brakes, front 11.6-inch ventilated steel disc with 2-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear 11.6-inch ventilated steel disc with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.) 2.7
0-45 mph (sec.) 4.8
0-60 mph (sec.) 7.3
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.) 7.0
0-75 mph (sec.) 10.4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph) 15.3 @ 92.1
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.) 3.0
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.) 5.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.) 8.0
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.) 7.7
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.) 11.1
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph) 15.7 @ 90.5
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.) 28
60-0 mph (ft.) 114
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) 69.1
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON 66.6
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) 0.92
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON 0.88
Sound level @ idle (dB) 44.2
@ Full throttle (dB) 81.6
@ 70 mph cruise (dB) 69.0
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm) 3,050
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration comments Best launch rpm = 3,500-3,700. Rev limiter hits in 2nd gear at 59.2 mph, forcing the 2-3 shift just before the 60-mph milestone and significantly increasing the 0-60 time. This transmission hates aggressive 1-2 shifts. Missed 2nd gear multiple times as a result.
Braking comments Solid, consistent effectiveness point throughout test. Brake pedal feels reliable in this kind of test.
Handling comments Slalom: Excellent feedback. Feels narrow and slithers through cones respectably quickly. Steering feel and effort better than any car at this price. Yes, any car. Skid pad: Balance, balance, balance. Easy to walk up to limit and beyond with ample control and feedback. Driving near the limit of grip is truly this car’s strength. It balances steering vs. throttle better than just about anything else. Fun.
Testing Conditions
Test date 3/6/2012
Test location Cal Speedway
Elevation (ft.) 1,120
Temperature (°F) 52.1
Relative humidity (%) 74.3
Barometric pressure (in. Hg) 28.7
Wind (mph, direction) 3.88 head/crosswind
Odometer (mi.) 1,605
Fuel used for test 91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi) 35/35
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg) 22 city/30 highway/25 combined — manual transmission, 25 city/34 highway/28 combined — automatic transmission
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo description 196 watts, 8 speakers, AM/FM/XM radio with single in-dash MP3/WMA CD player
iPod/digital media compatibility Standard USB and generic aux jack, Bluetooth audio
Satellite radio Standard
Bluetooth phone connectivity Standard
Navigation system Standard, 6.1-inch LCD screen
Smart entry/Start Optional
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.) 2,762
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.) 2,734
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%) 55.7/44.3
Length (in.) 166.7
Width (in.) 69.9
Height (in.) 50.6
Wheelbase (in.) 101.2
Track, front (in.) 59.8
Track, rear (in.) 60.6
Trunk volume (cu-ft) 6.9
Bumper-to-bumper 3 years/Unlimited miles
Powertrain 3 years/Unlimited miles
Corrosion 3 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance 3 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance 1 year/10,000 miles

Source: insideline

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