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Old 12-02-2011, 05:16 PM   #1
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Post Motor Trend First Drive Review: 2013 Subaru BRZ

Here's my source.
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First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ

December 02, 2011
By Edward Loh

Two days after the official unveiling of the all-new BRZ sports coupe at the Tokyo Motor Show, Subaru invited a small group of select U.S. journalists for a quick test drive of the 2013 Subaru BRZ at the Subaru Kenkyo Center (SKC) two hours north of Tokyo.

After revealing that the BRZ name stands for Boxer Rear Drive Zenith, and plying us with all manner of technical specifications, Subaru P.R. released us on a short course that included a high-speed oval, twisty handling track, and a section of broken tarmac. We were given a few 15-minute stints with two U.S.-production models: a high-spec BRZ Limited equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission and a base model BRZ Premium with the standard six-speed manual.

BRZ Limited with 6-Speed Automatic
When the start button mounted just ahead of the gear selector knob is pushed, the BRZ comes to life with a growl that settles into a smooth, burbling exhaust note. But when the car is opened up on the banked oval, the note coarsens into something more animalistic. However, it's not the braaap-braapp flatulence you might expect from, say, the WRX STI. This is a bit more sedate, yet pleasant in the way it resonates throughout the ****pit. Credit goes to supplier Mahle for piping the boxer engine note through the bulkhead in a manner similar to what Ford engineers did with the Mustang. At wide-open throttle, the pipe brings in a pleasing roar, loud enough that you'll be shouting to your buddy sitting next to you, "SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD, RIGHT?"

The steering wheel is small, just 14.4 inches in diameter, and the smallest of any modern Subaru. But the shape and diameter is just right - thick enough given the small size, but oversize and doughy like the ones in recent BMW M cars. The steering wheel is covered in black leather with red contrast stitching to match the dark interior. An obviously Toyota parts-bin cruise control lever hangs off the right side of the wheel, and there are no other controls, giving the wheel sanitary look that compliments the center stack and instrument panel.

Feedback from the tiller is immediate and natural, which is a relief since it is an electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) system. The feel is not as light as an MX-5, yet provides none of the artificial heft of Audi's Dynamic mode (thank goodness). It's just clean and organic-feeling. It is not as precise or direct as one of the handling targets (Porsche Cayman), but it's close enough to its boxer brethren to be mentioned in the same breath. The same cannot be said of everything else in what Subaru claims is the BRZ's competitive set: Mini Cooper S, Civic Si, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Miata MX-5, and of course Scion FR-S.

Outward visibility is excellent, even though the driver sits low in a package not much longer than a Mazda MX-5. The FA20 engine, a 2.0-liter flat-four variant of the new Impreza FB family, is mounted as low and as far back as possible in the chassis, which improves everything from handling to outward sightlines, thanks to the low hood and cowl heights.

The optional Aisin-derived six-speed automatic trans is good enough, but surpassed in shift speed and response by today's dual clutches. Up- and downshifts are appreciably quick for an automatic via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles (metallic painted plastic) or slotting the shift lever towards you and toggling back and forth. But the car won't always give up a downshift upon demand; instead, a beep-beep warning is heard.

Still, the overarching sensation through the hands, butt, and inner ear is superb balance. To keep the center of gravity (CoG) low, BRZ engineers put lighter, higher-strength steel high up in the body. Moving from the oval to the winding track reveals the benefits of both low mass and CoG, as there is little brake or accel dive and almost zero roll when cornering.

That is not to say push is entirely absent. Apparently, for safety reasons, understeer is the default condition when you get sloppy. It's easy to induce through early turn-in, which causes the front outside tire to roll over and howl unhappily as the nose plows.

As a credit to the BRZ's balance, oversteer is a cinch to find as well. Flick the wheel while adding too much throttle, and the back end will break away in a progressive, predictable fashion. Yes, BRZ will dorifuto, but more on that later.

An early surprise is how aggressively the stability control intervenes in normal driving mode. The car has been criminally smooth until this point, but once the tail begins to get unsettled, things get a bit rough. In normal mode (all traction and stability controls left on), the primary response is the quick and noisy application of brake to the inside rear wheel. Dragging this tire helps kill the initial rotation and brings the car back in line, albeit in a noisy, staccato fashion. BRZ engineers say the secondary response is reduced throttle response, but that is harder to sense.

Traction and stability control algorithms are governed by three buttons mounted just behind the shifter in 6AT-equipped BRZs. (Manuals lose the center Sport/Snow button.) With one touch, the left button partial turns off stability control; when held down for 3 seconds, it turns off completely. As you'd expect, the latter is a must for wannabe drifters.

In automatic BRZs, pushing the sport/snow mode rocker switch forward turns on a yellow SPORT light in the instrument panel and sharpens the throttle map and shift algorithm, resulting in quicker shifts and lower gears held to higher RPMs. What sport mode doesn't affect is EPAS or throttle response. Toggling the rocker switch back to snow mode starts the transmission in second gear, reducing wheel slippage in low-grip conditions.

Punching the rightmost button engages Sport VSC mode. This activates a combination of stability/sport indicator lights on the gauge cluster and lets you hang the car's tail out a touch, via steering angle, yaw rate, and lateral G sensors that forecast the vehicle's position. If that future looks too sideways, brake and throttle cut precautions engage. In practice, it's the best mode for spirited road courses like the SKC handling track. This twisty second/third-gear course had several tight low-speed turns and a couple of nasty mid-corner bumps that conspired to unsettle the BRZ. Sport VSC caught it every time, with a more progressive engagement of stability control over the normal mode.

BRZ Premium with 6-speed manual
As good as the BRZ auto is (and it's very impressive), I'm glad I drove it first, because the Premium model with the standard six-speed manual is the purist's delight.

But check your purists preconceptions at the door, because this ain't no stripper model. Perhaps as a nod to Scion's content-cramming technique, all BRZ models come standard with a limited-slip differential; cruise control; eight-speaker audio system with navigation and XM radio; leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and e-brake handle; soft-touch dash; and black fabric trim. Step up from base Premium spec to Limited, and you get leather/Alcantara seats and surfaces, 17-inch wheels with summer tires (instead of 16s with all-seasons), vented 16-inch disc brakes up front, and vented 15-inchs at the rear (as opposed to solid 15-inch discs all around).

But back to how it drives. Ergonomics play a bigger factor in the manual as your right hand must frequently leave the wheel to engage the six-speed trans. Shifter position and feel is excellent, lighter yet tighter, and far less rubbery than the WRX STI's hand-built gearbox (the two share the shift knob and lever arm). To be fair, the latter is built for the abuse of a much heavier, 300-hp rally racer. In terms of weighting and crispness, the BRZ is mighty impressive, though I'd still give the Mazda MX-5 the nod in terms of near-perfect positioning.

Why do we still love manuals so much? Because direct control over the transmission allows the driver to really ring out the RPMs and fill the BRZ's cabin with arguably the best exhaust note a Subaru has ever produced. It's loud and not particularly smooth, but completely beguiling and perhaps the beefiest-sounding 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine note around.

Manuals also encourage drag launches and other hooliganism. With VSC Sport on, one-two shifts near the 7400 RPM redline will loudly chirp rear tires. The two-three shift gives only the faintest pip, and not all the time (remember, there are only 150 lb-ft of torque). Wring it out all the way through sixth gear and you can enter SKC's 43-degree banking over 120 mph. At that speed, the BRZ feels stable and planted -- perhaps due to the number of aerodynamic doodads (rear diffuser, double bubble roof, deck wing [Limited only]) that help the car achieve a 0.27 coefficient of drag. We didn't attempt VMAX, but Subaru engineer say a 7450-rpm fuel cutoff limits top speed to 220 kmh -- which is approximately 136.7 mph. To be honest, that seems a bit low.

On the handling course, you can drive the manual BRZ differently than the auto -- upshifting and rev-match downshifting at will -- but you don't have to. Though relatively low on torque, the FA20 is quick to rev and pulls the 2800-pound chassis around with no real flat spots in acceleration. I left it in third gear for two laps of the road course and never felt the need to downshift, except for the tightest of hairpin corners. Staying in second meant bouncing off the 7400-rpm rev limit or repeatedly snicking the fantastic transmission.

Just before I headed out to track for my second stint in the 6MT, a BRZ engineer let slip that the lateral acceleration target is 1.0g I tried to validate this claim on a giant circular skidpad using my patented belly fat accelerometer, but gave up after about 90 degrees in favor of practicing my best Keiichi Tsuchiya impersonations.

As I said earlier, yes, the BRZ will drift, and it is a beautiful thing. The combination of low mass, low center of gravity, and rear-wheel drive creates a neutral-handling vehicle that needs only to be flicked into a corner to get the rear tires breaking sideways (no clutch kicking or other abuse needed). With just enough torque available low in the rev range, and a reasonably high redline, BRZ can keep its tires spinning while the exploratory "dabs of oppo" can be dialed in. This very different from the Miata/MX-5, which is only beginning to break sideways at the top of its rev range before you must shift and kill any sideways momentum.

But it's not quite ready for Formula D just yet. While it has the snap to transition quickly from side-to-side and drift-to-drift, the BRZ needs more power to sustain the kind of high-speed drifts that win head-to-head battles. However, it would make a killer track day or autocross racer right off the lot with just a stickier set of tires (and Subaru says you can do that by folding down the rear seats and stuffing the 6.9-cubic-foot trunk with spares and tools. Try that in your Miata.)

Final Thoughts
The BRZ delivers as promised. Handling is as sweet as Orange Tang, but far less artificial-tasting. Power is not neck-snapping, but the car has just enough to make it exceptionally responsive. My frequent Mazda MX-5/Miata references are no mistake; the BRZ is definitely in that Zoom Zoom category of vehicles that deliver grins from pinning occupants to the side bolsters rather than seatbacks. The low mass, low center of gravity, and lack of dive and roll combine with direct steering and excellent outward visibility to create an exceptionally focused and pleasurable driving experience. With the BRZ, instead of adding speed with the gas pedal, you can refrain from subtracting speed with the brakes. The car is about carrying speed and momentum, and will surely be snapped up by auto crossers and track day enthusiasts alike. Our drive was brief, but the takeaway message is that the BRZ is scalpel in the current rear-drive knife fight.

The 2013 Subaru BRZ will be available in seven colors (black, pearl white, silver, dark grey, dark blue, world rally blue, and red) when it goes on sale in May 2012. Expected volume for the BRZ is in the neighborhood of 3600-4000 per year and the cars will be built alongside the Toyota GT86 and Scion FR-S at Subaru's Gunma Main Plant. Prices are said to be "very close to the WRX" for base model (Premium), so expect $24,000 for Premium models and roughly $27,000 for the BRZ Limited. As precision surgical instruments go, that's a pretty good deal.
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Old 12-02-2011, 05:18 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Quantum View Post
Here's my source.

Cheers,
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Copy and paste teh article. :> And have em in quotes. :E:happy0180:
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:14 PM   #3
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Punching the rightmost button engages Sport VSC mode.
Is that button on the FR-S as well?
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:16 PM   #4
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Now you gotta update the Quote because I just corrected them on the article.

Cheers,
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:42 PM   #5
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It's just clean and organic-feeling. It is not as precise or direct as one of the handling targets (Porsche Cayman), but it's close enough to its boxer brethren to be mentioned in the same breath. The same cannot be said of everything else in what Subaru claims is the BRZ's competitive set: Mini Cooper S, Civic Si, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Miata MX-5, and of course Scion FR-S.
Is this poor writing or am I missing something?
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:46 PM   #6
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Manual has no Snow mode...hmm that comment about the FRS really makes me wonder about the suspension tune up. If is it a typo or if it's actually tuned differently. Either way Im for both cars! Great review thank you for posting.
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:51 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by motortrend
We didn't attempt VMAX, but Subaru engineer say a 7450-rpm fuel cutoff limits top speed to 220 kmh -- which is approximately 136.7 mph. To be honest, that seems a bit low.
That math doesn't jive with the earlier "2900 rpm @ 60" claim. At that ratio, the rev limiter shouldn't kick in until 154.

Edit: Also, solid front rotors on the "premium" model... uhhh, fail.
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:51 PM   #8
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Why do we still love manuals so much? Because direct control over the transmission allows the driver to really ring out the RPMs and fill the BRZ's cabin with arguably the best exhaust note a Subaru has ever produced. It's loud and not particularly smooth, but completely beguiling and perhaps the beefiest-sounding 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine note around.
yesssss

Quote:
That math doesn't jive with the earlier "2900 rpm @ 60" claim. At that ratio, the rev limiter shouldn't kick in until 154.
I'm guessing it is just not able to accelerate beyond that with only 200hp [please don't start a flamewar]
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Old 12-02-2011, 06:56 PM   #9
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I'm guessing it is just not able to accelerate beyond that with only 200hp [please don't start a flamewar]
Needs moar turbo.
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Old 12-02-2011, 07:47 PM   #10
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Most informative review I have read yet so far. Curious how the premium gets the small brakes amd smaller wheels. Anyone got a pic of the 16s?
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Old 12-02-2011, 08:02 PM   #11
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That math doesn't jive with the earlier "2900 rpm @ 60" claim. At that ratio, the rev limiter shouldn't kick in until 154.

Edit: Also, solid front rotors on the "premium" model... uhhh, fail.
With them claiming that they are 15" ..... not buying it.. poor reporting.
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Old 12-03-2011, 12:32 AM   #12
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Huh, most detailed automatic review I've read for a while o.O;

I'm curious about the push button start though. @Quantum/Hong do you know/can you ask if its like the tC rs series with the fob push button to start or is it more like the S2k where you stick the key into the ignition and then hit the button?
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Old 12-03-2011, 01:45 AM   #13
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Huh, most detailed automatic review I've read for a while o.O;

I'm curious about the push button start though. @Quantum/Hong do you know/can you ask if its like the tC rs series with the fob push button to start or is it more like the S2k where you stick the key into the ignition and then hit the button?
In the push button cars we've seen the key hole capped off (which looks cheap IMO) so I'd assume it'd RFID.
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Old 12-03-2011, 03:09 AM   #14
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In the push button cars we've seen the key hole capped off (which looks cheap IMO) so I'd assume it'd RFID.
Ah I see. I was just curious cause I just looked at this thread:

http://www.ft86club.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2596

and just noticed the dude sitting there with the keys in the car. Thought it was the Subaru one he was driving but I noticed the camo stuff on the side mirrors. But yeah... it does look cheap lol.
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Old 12-03-2011, 03:18 AM   #15
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Ah I see. I was just curious cause I just looked at this thread:

http://www.ft86club.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2596

and just noticed the dude sitting there with the keys in the car. Thought it was the Subaru one he was driving but I noticed the camo stuff on the side mirrors. But yeah... it does look cheap lol.
That is the Subaru but the lower spec. Only the higher spec Subaru has the push to start system.
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Old 12-03-2011, 03:44 AM   #16
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That is the Subaru but the lower spec. Only the higher spec Subaru has the push to start system.
*erk*

noooo Consarn it!

Sigh lol. Well ... well... ... whatever price is lower then.
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Old 12-03-2011, 04:02 AM   #17
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Is this poor writing or am I missing something?

I think poor writing if not the different spring rates in BRZ he's mentioning here!

I am also surprised with the brakes in the premium!!
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Old 12-03-2011, 04:23 AM   #18
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Can somebody explain brake theory to me. Does a one inch difference in brake size really make that much of a difference where its worth spending more money for the more expensive model? I can care less about the vents. Solid brakes work fine. But 16 inch opposed to 15 inch in the front. How significant is the difference?
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Old 12-03-2011, 10:51 AM   #19
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The fronts will NOT be solid. As for brake differences this is the first time we have heard of front brake differences (and IMO it's incorrect) so most likely both versions will have the same. Fr-s will also be the same. You'd care about the vents when your brakes overheat though
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Old 12-03-2011, 12:08 PM   #20
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Most important aspect of that article where the colors. I'm sad if the BRZ doesn't come in orange, because the FR-S interior looks crappy, and I want an orange car.
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Old 12-03-2011, 12:21 PM   #21
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Most important aspect of that article where the colors. I'm sad if the BRZ doesn't come in orange, because the FR-S interior looks crappy, and I want an orange car.
You could get white then get it painted orange?
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Old 12-03-2011, 12:26 PM   #22
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You could get white then get it painted orange?
Paint jobs are expensive dude.

I guess it depends now on what options you can get on a scion for me. If I can get an orange one with upgraded interior, I might go that route.

I might just have to break down and buy a subie and give up on the little orange sports car dream.
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