What does a week at the wheel of the 2017 BRZ teach us about Subaru’s characterful coupé?
This is possibly the best-value rear-wheel drive coupé currently on sale, and certainly the cheapest with a thoroughbred boxer engine. It comes in one fully loaded trim level, yet manages to undercut the Toyota GT86
(its badge-engineered twin). And the Subaru is much rarer than the Toyota.
Back in the McRae days, Subaru sold 15,000 cars annually in the UK. Now it’s one-third of that, split across the Legacy Outback, Forester and XV SUVs, the Levorg estate, the Impreza
hatchback, the turbo-nutter saloon WRX STi and this, the £26,495 BRZ. And the BRZ deserves to sell way more than the 40-50 that dribbled in last year.
Old-school analogue in a dull digital world, it’s powered by a high-revving 197bhp 2.0-litre flat-four (no turbos, ironically) that twists the rear wheels (no four-wheel drive either) via a six-speed manual ’box and LSD. There are no mechanical changes here, just visual tweaks to make it look wider without wrecking the narrowness that makes it feel so wieldy, plus a new ‘infotainment’ unit and dash display, and a smaller-diameter wheel that accentuates the BRZ’s alacrity.
And it’s an absolute hoot. The flat-four barks like a hunt kennel and fizzes with energy, if little actual torque until you’re past 4500rpm. When it comes alive, you surge along twisting B-roads, revelling in exquisite balance, a hint of throttle-steer and one of the best-judged electrically assisted helms I’ve yet sampled. Like an MX-5
The money’s gone on the bits you don’t see, so don’t expect an Audi-rivalling interior, but it feels tough and well-made yet light. In fact, it’s the kind of coupé you’d be happy to grow old with. Certainly one I could live with very easily, which a week at the wheel has taught me, though the back seats are mainly useless other than as a luggage shelf, so it’s not a car for school runs. But you soon forget about hard dash plastics when they turn out to be creak-free, and while the clock looks like it came from 1983, it still tells modern time. Even the styling has grown on me, but what I miss most now it’s gone are the overall compactness and deftly damped ride that make this such a banzai express on my alternative bumpy-backroad commute.
This is one of those cars that makes you hunt out the long route home, every time. And praise doesn’t come much higher than that.
Words: Glen Waddington