Paul Horrell 28 March 2012

On the road: Subaru’s new BRZ

Paul Horrell reports back from one of our most eagerly-awaited drives of the year…

Subaru BRZ first drive

You might think you know every last detail about the BRZ. Between Subaru and Toyota, there’s been a blizzard of multimedia. Enough concept cars, prototype sneak previews and track tests to broach your download limits.

But you don’t know it all. Because this is a road car, and here we are for the first time on the actual road.

See more pics of the Subaru BRZ on the road

So does it live up to the hype? Of course not. Unless it had been styled by da Vinci and engineered by Brunel – and for good measure had Newton quietly bent the laws of mechanics in its favour – it’d never have been as good as they said it would be.

But oh my, it comes close.

A quick recap. It’s a low-built, short-overhang, long-wheelbase rear-drive coupe. But the centre of mass is even lower than everyone else’s cars of that type, because it has a flat-four engine. And actually the flat-four is even lower and far further back than with other Subarus, because (since it’s RWD-only) there are no front driveshafts or diff in the way. There’s a limited-slip diff. It uses comparatively narrow tyres, so its 200bhp is enough.

The whole thing is a recipe for agility, low roll, tossable handling and general chicanery.

And so it turns out. The first few mountain hairpins or wet roundabouts verify that pivoting into a corner is the most natural feeling in the world. The front wheels are always happy to carve the exact track you request. Then you can poke the back end out and feel the hero. And unlike some rear-drivers, the BRZ’s magical balance and progression means it’s a cinch to gather up again. The low roll makes it marvellously tidy through S-bends.

But a road car needs more from its suspension and steering than a track car does. The steering needs to be direct and progressive, so you can pour the car into an uneven or unknown bend. The springs need to absorb bumps and keep the tyres evenly weighted so you don’t hop about.

And the BRZ is brilliant there too. All the steering lacks is a bit more feel, to tell you how much grip the tyres have left. But in this car more than in most, you don’t miss that because the rest of the car’s reactions are so accurate and faithful. You get the information from other sources.

The 200bhp two-litre is enough engine. Just. In this age of turbos, it does seem very light on torque between 3000 and 4000rpm. You have to revise your whole style of driving. Change down. And again. Rev its little spuds off, make sure you keep getting flashed by shift-up light as you zero in on 7500. That way happiness lies. For a flat-four, it doesn’t sound as charismatic as it might, but it’s always smooth enough that there’s no pain in sticking with those epic revs.

See more pics of the Subaru BRZ on the road

 

Hardcore though all of that might seem, this is a road car and you’ve got to be able to live with it. And though it’s firm, the ride is OK because you sit so low and so far from the wheels, there’s very little pitch and rock. The seats are brilliant and the legs-forward driving position spot-on. Everything quietens down decently at a motorway cruise. It’s easy to see out of, and the boot’s a decent size. If the front passenger slides forward, there’s even space to jam a grown-up in behind. Though there’d be human rights issues if you kept them there for more than 10 minutes.

And it looks good. Very good actually – bigger, more grown-up and less delicate than in pictures. A serious car.

And a serious laugh.

Now share it...

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear's code of conduct (link below) before posting.