2016 Subaru Series HyperBluePosted on June 28th, 2016
Sports car’s beauty is more than skin deep
By Nina Russin
The BRZ two-plus-two is a bit of an anomaly for Subaru: the only rear-wheel drive car in its line-up, and one of two models focused specifically on racing. Unlike its closest sibling, the WRX/WRX STi, the BRZ is a track car in the traditional sense of the word. With its perfectly balanced boxer engine, low center of gravity and close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, the Subaru BRZ begs to take corners at speed: the more the better.
Subaru developed the BRZ in conjunction with Scion, which calls its version the FR-S. While Toyota engineers took the reigns through much of the project, it’s important to point out that the engine, the heart of the car, is pure Subaru. Toyota wasn’t being charitable handing this very critical part of the chassis over to Subaru. The fact is, they couldn’t have done it better themselves. Subaru’s four-cylinder engine with identical bore and stroke dimensions is perfect as a high-revving block in a car designed to deliver short bursts of speed.
Direct injection and a high compression ratio give the engine exceptional throttle response. When mated to the six-speed manual gearbox, the BRZ goes off the line like a rabbit. The car’s lightweight chassis, low center of gravity and excellent front-to-rear weight balance give it the nimble performance driving enthusiasts crave.
For 2016, Subaru has produced a special edition called HyperBlue, with a unique exterior, leather and Alcantara seat surfaces, special wheels and badging. It’s a fearsome looking package inside and out. The fact that it goes as well as it shows and is affordable makes this BRZ the total package.
Base price is $27,690, including all the aforementioned features on the limited-edition car. Final MSRP with destination is $28,485.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week I drove the BRZ through Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as the foothills of the San Tan Mountains in the Gila River Indian Community southeast of town. Having recently driven a Scion FR-S with the six-speed automatic, the difference between that and the manual gearbox is night and day. While the automatic transmission is well-engineered and nicely matched to the engine, it feels out of character for the car.
The six-speed manual gearbox is engineered for racing, with a short-throw shifter, close ratio gears and a direct ratio fifth gear. The only overdrive gear is sixth. Triple synchros on gears one through three enable drivers to bang through the low gears with confidence, for robust and delightfully linear acceleration. This is an engine that wants to rev high, and is engineered to do so throughout the life of the car.
A front strut brace keeps the chassis flat during aggressive cornering. Quick-ratio steering lets drivers cruise through autocross at speed. While the suspension is firm, it’s by no means uncomfortable, even with the aggressive seventeen-inch rims on the test car.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good. Lack of a B-pillar makes over-the-shoulder visibility a non-issue. A standard rearview camera helps drivers monitor cross traffic in crowded parking lots.
There is a fair amount of road noise at all speeds. Engineers focused on keeping the chassis lightweight as opposed to adding sound insulation. But the robust exhaust note should be music to most driving enthusiasts’ ears.
Driver focused interior
Although the BRZ is technically a four-seater, rear seats are primarily a nod to insurance companies, best for some additional interior storage. Front seats are well designed for performance driving, with plenty of lower lumbar and lateral support.
A narrow-diameter, leather-wrapped steering wheel is perfect for maneuvering through twisty roads or on the track. The clutch is quite light and engages low, so those who are used to driving a manual should have no problems managing it in traffic. There is plenty of range within each gear to prevent constant shifting in stop-and-go situations.
Designers wisely made the tachometer the most visible gauge, combined with a digital speedometer. An analogue speedometer sits to the left of the tach. I found both the audio and climate controls intuitive to operate and minimally distracting.
Despite its performance focus, the BRZ comes well equipped with convenience features including keyless entry and start, satellite radio, automatic climate control and heated front seats.
While the BRZ won’t meet the needs of buyers who regularly carry larger gear, there is enough room in the trunk and back seats to make it function well as an owner’s primary vehicle. Luggage, groceries and small camping equipment is not a problem. Cyclists will be better served with one of Subaru’s crossover vehicles.
The Subaru BRZ comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, high intensity discharge headlamps, daytime running lamps and a rearview camera. The BRZ received a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
The factory warranty includes three years of roadside assistance, up to 36,000 miles.
The BRZ is on display at Subaru dealerships nationwide.
Like: A true sports car at an affordable price, with excellent power and handling as well as good fuel economy.
Model: BRZ Series HyperBlue
Base price: $27,690
As tested: $28,485
Horsepower: 200 Hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 151 lbs.-ft. @ 6400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/highway
Comment: The manufacturer requires the use of premium unleaded gasoline.