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The all-new 2013 Subaru BRZ is a purist's sports car—light, lean, and more focused than any affordable sports car on the market today. The only exception, perhaps, is the nearly identical Scion FR-S that you'll find over at Toyota dealerships.
With the BRZ, you don't need to worry about feeling detached from the driving experience; it's a back-to-basics sports car in some senses, yet it has a modern high-tensile-strength-steel structure, all the necessary modern safety features, and amenities like Bluetooth, iPod controls, and a standard touch-screen navigation system.
And it's quite simply a hoot to drive, with its steering, handling, and low-slung, seat-of-the-pants driving feel a big part of it. Communicative, quick-ratio steering, combined with suspension settings that are taut but just compliant enough allow you to enjoy the tight corners, read the road surface with your hands, and get a sense of where the BRZ's dynamics are headed before the tires lose adhesion.
Power won't be a strong point for those who have test-driven some of the heavier sports cars with turbocharged engines or big V-8s, but the 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally opposed ('boxer' or 'flat') four-cylinder engine can squirt you eagerly from corner to corner provided you keep it revving high. The precise, short-throw six-speed manual is what we recommend, but those who want an automatic won't be let down by the six-speed auto, with its steering-wheel paddle shifters, sport mode, and downshift rev matching. But the reward of the light construction and small engine is great fuel economy—up to 34 mpg highway.
The BRZ is going to be a popular choice for weekend track excursions, and for that there's not only a DSC Sport mode for the stability control but also a full-off mode. A Torsen limited-slip differential also helps give the rear wheels surer footing out of corners either on the track or on tight, curvy roads. Taller drivers will even be able to fit a race helmet on, and the rear seatback folds forward to fit extra wheels or gear.
Unfortunately, the BRZ isn't all that comfortable or versatile beyond that. While the ride feels fine on the backroads or around town—and we like the rather upright driving position—it tends to get a bit busy and noisy on pockmarked freeways, and the front seats are a bit too firm and could use more adjustability. Trunk space is good enough for a carefully packed weekend trip, but the load opening is quite narrow. And those back seats you see? They're just a tease, and only good for a child seat...maybe.
The BRZ is already proving the worth of Subaru's lightweight ring body structure, which takes advantage of high-tensile-strength steel; it's been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with top 'good' ratings across the board in the agency's crash tests.
Considering the engineering and focused performance capability you get with the BRZ, it's pretty impressive that this sports car starts at $26,265. But a look at the BRZ's feature set makes it all the more impressive. Most notably, a touch-screen navigation system comes standard, but we wish its fussy audio controls were a bit easier to access. Again considering the price, it's all quite forgivable, and we tend to think of this small Subaru as one of the performance bargains of the decade—and, perhaps, an instant classic.
- Lean, balanced driving feel
- Classic sports-car look
- Charismatic, rev-happy engine
- Excellent fuel economy
- Standard nav system
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- Busy, noisy ride
- Hard seats
- Narrow cargo opening and small trunk
- Fussy touch-screen audio controls