We’re currently living in a world where cars are increasingly more robotic than ever. Depending on the car we own, what we often feel whenever we interact with the steering or the gear lever has been synthesized by electronics. It’s like talking to your best friend through Zoom or Facebook Messenger during the enhanced community quarantine. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not as authentic as seeing each other face-to-face. In a world where cars are increasingly going digital, it’s refreshing to drive something as authentic and as analog as the Subaru BRZ.
The Subaru BRZ has been around the market since 2013. While this sports car is now on its seventh year in the Philippine market, it’s still a very significant car for car enthusiasts. Born out of a partnership between Toyota and Subaru, both the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 were conceived with simply one goal in mind—to provide absolute driving pleasure.
A look at the exterior of the Subaru BRZ won’t exactly fire up the senses. Not that it’s ugly. As a matter of fact, it’s also the better looking of the “Toyobaru” twins, but it doesn’t have the same emotional appeal as the Mazda MX-5’s long hood and short rear deck proportions. At least its distinction is provided by nice 17-inch alloy wheels, full LED head and taillights, along with a nice coating of World Rally Blue paint. On the upside, the simple design has aged well. It’s an eight-year-old car for sure, but its classic lines and conservative shapes mean it eschews automotive design fads that will make the BRZ look weird in the years to come.
It’s the same story in the interior as well. It’s simple and easy-to-use without too much fuss or drama. The color multi-information display (MID) is functional and displays a host of information such as your Gs, but that’s about the hint of modernity in the interior. Whereas the color multi-information display (MID) highlights the BRZ’s modernity, the infotainment is a time capsule from the 2000s. It has no form of smartphone integration–heck it doesn’t even have Bluetooth connectivity. On the upside, it’s a far easier system to use than the god-awful touch screen infotainment system used in the Toyota 86.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter FA20D (or 4U-GSE in Toyota’s engine codes) horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 200 hp at 7,000 rpm and 205 Nm of torque at 6,400 to 6,600 rpm. With these power figures, don’t expect the BRZ to be blisteringly quick. Zero to 100 kph is achieved in 7.6 seconds, but that’s precisely the point. As mentioned, the Subaru BRZ isn’t festooned with electronics, which makes it a lot easier for me to write this review. More importantly, the resulting driving experience feels unadulterated out in the open road.
Just like the Toyota 86, the BRZ has sound tubes that pipe in engine noise from the boxer engine. No sound enhancers nor fake engine noises piped through the speakers. Just pure, unadulterated intake noise without any turbos spoiling the BRZ’s vocals. The higher you climb the redline, the more satisfying it becomes. All of the engine’s power and torque are in the higher revs, encouraging you to exploit its entire powerband.
The steering wheel also feels authentic. Sure, it’s an electronic power steering unit, but it’s by far one of the best I’ve ever used. There’s no electronic nonsense that alters the weight or amount of feel depending on what mode you’re in. It’s simply an authentic electronic power steering that provides so much road feel, you’d probably know if the wheels have squished a mosquito. It’s lightning-quick, too, responding immediately without any delay to every input you make.
While it’s easy to dismiss the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ as a copy-and-paste collaboration, there are certain differences that separate the Subie end of the spectrum. At least in Philippine spec, the suspension’s stiffer. While the Toyota 86 feels more tail-happy, the BRZ is a bit more serious. The stiffer suspension makes the BRZ grip the road slightly better, but there’s not much into it between the 86 and BRZ. Consequently, this has made the BRZ’s ride quite stiff, though it isn’t too uncomfortable.
Most sports cars and high-performance machines nowadays opt for a fast-shifting dual-clutch transmission or simply a faster automatic, but the BRZ continues to be offered with a manual. Please, just do yourself a favor and buy the manual BRZ. There’s simply nothing like the satisfaction of rowing through the gears on your own. Granted, the Mazda MX-5’s slick 6-speed manual and lighter clutch feel nicer to use, but the BRZ’s heavy clutch and short-throw mechanism offer a distinct feeling on its own. As for fuel economy, the 8.2 km/l was the best I could achieve for the whole week the BRZ was with me, assuming fuel economy is your concern when buying a sports car.
Additionally, most modern cars nowadays also opt for thicker sound insulation for a more comfortable driving experience. That’s not the case with the Subaru BRZ. This would normally be a deal-breaker for me, but the lack of sound insulation amplifies the sensation of speed, even if it’s just below the 100 kph speed limit on expressways.
All of these things add up to a sports car that feels alive and authentic. It’s not the fastest sports car out there, and with a 6-speed manual–your reflexes will never match the ultra-fast shifts of a paddle-shift. But instant isn’t always better. Take ramen for example. No sane human being has ever said they’d rather have an instant cup of Nissin over a bowl of Tantanmen from Yushoken. And for those who haven’t tried one, you’re missing out on half of your life.
That’s also the case with this Subaru BRZ–or any other manual sports car for that matter. If you haven’t driven one, you haven’t fully lived your petrolhead life to the fullest. Sports cars like the Subaru BRZ simply prove that in order to have fun, all you need is authenticity—a car that communicates the sensations of driving without being synthesized by electronics.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.0 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.