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Review: 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue

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People, gearheads, enthusiasts – what is wrong with you? Why are you not buying the Subaru BRZ?

Here is a car that has so much going for it. It is a car that everyone asked for, and yet few are actually buying. It’s rear wheel drive because it’s the best wheel drive. It has an honest #savethemanuals transmission. It’s affordable, efficient, and reliable. It’s even kind of practical. Most importantly, it is a blast to drive!

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Let’s start off with the fact that the BRZ is a great daily driver. Face it, most of the time it’s just you and your gym/work bag. But it does have room for your friend or partner should you choose to carpool. Rear seat can be used to transport small or annoying people in a pinch. I had my two young kids back there and they didn’t complain any more than they did in the AMG G63 but buckling them up was dramatic. But if you do have kids you should just get a WRX – you’re welcome.

Road trip? While rather comfortable, it is kind of loud and unrefined – hey, it’s a sports car, sport cars are suppose to be loud! There’s a good sounding audio system that has been updated for 2017. It streams, satellites, Aha™-s, Pandora®-s, iHeartRadio®-s, Stitchers, and blueteeths your tunes, There is no nav, which if fine because you have a fancy phone. Your partner gets a butt-warmer, their own climate control settings, and a cup-holder. If he or she still is not happy, you need a different partner. Once on the road you’ll actually get good gas mileage, too, nearly 30mpg. Sure, you won’t be breaking one of Alex Roy’s records but getting there is part of the adventure.

The trunk actually has some space, certainly more than any Miata, easily swallowing up two duffel bags with room to spare. The rear seat, as small as it is, folds down. Track junkies manage to fit four wheels/tires and a toolbox inside. While not exactly recommended, it is possible to fit a roof rack for bikes or skis. But on a road trip, if you can’t fit in all your crap, it means you brought too much crap – add some lightness to your luggage.

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But you’re a gearhead, a car guy, and you know that you will attend track days and autocrosses. Bro, the BRZ is almost perfect. It handles great. There a big tach front and center, with a digital speedo. The steering is just excellent, quick and direct, with less than 2.5 turns from lock to lock. It obviously is not a fast car, but you already know that driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slowly. Driving it in anger is almost hilarious; just make sure you’re not drag racing some dad in an MDX. If you desire more fast, aftermarket has more stuff than you can imagine.

The suspension is obviously tuned for spirited driving but it is not overwhelmingly stiff, which means that it won’t knock the fillings out of your teeth like some so-called sport cars when venturing downtown. The six-speed manual shifter is great. Clutch pedal and clutch engagement is rather typical. Sometime ago I drove the Scion FRS  with the automatic transmission and that was surprisingly good, as in I could happily live with it and not miss the stick at all. There is a limited-slip differential, too, to limit your single wheel slips.

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The BRZ has a certain analog feel about it. It is something not seen often anymore. Many new cars make the driver feel like he or she is playing a videogame, isolated. But not the BRZ. In the world where gears are instantly shifted by pressing a button and the engine sound comes from the speakers, the BRZ is organic. Road surface is felt through the steering wheel. The shifter feels like it is connected to something. I hate to say that it almost feels old, but it feels good.

The port and direct injected two-liter pancake engine has a surprisingly flat torque, meaning that you don’t have to shift at redline all the time. Not surprisingly, the peak 200 horsepower comes just 400rpm shy of the 7400rpm redline, which means that you will want to shift near the redline all the time. Some say that the BRZ is a turbo shy of greatness but I am not sure about that. The BRZ is a perfect example of a vehicle where the chassis is faster than the engine. It makes you work harder each time you drive it, it challenges the driver whereas many other cars just cover up driver mistakes with a press of a pedal.

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The 2016 Subaru BRZ starts at $25,495. The special edition for 2016 Series.HyperBlue adds the flashy paint, leather and alcantara with blue stitching interior, black badges, wheels, and mirrors, and a fancy frameless rearview mirror to the Limited model. The manufacturer suggested retail price for this vehicle is $28,485 with the destination charge. A quick look at Truecar.com shows that people pay much less than that. Track junkies and cone kickers should consider the Performance Package which includes wider wheels wrapped in meaty Michelins, stiffer suspension, and Brembo brakes.

This relatively low price, along with amazingly low interest rates, and a warranty, makes the BRZ one of the few cars I would buy brand new over used. Used ones, while cheaper, are likely to have been abused or modified and have a reduced warranty period, if any. We often forget that we live in amazing automotive times. While the BRZ has many competitors, it is difficult to beat in the price per grin category. Personally, I’d pick it over many pricier and more powerful cars simply because it’s stupid fun to drive.

Go buy one, while you still can.

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Subaru of America, Inc. provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. Images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2016 and Subaru.

  • CraigSu

    Why aren’t people buying it? Random thoughts, not necessarily related (or relevant).

    1. When or where has anyone seen it advertised?
    2. It’s not a Miata.
    3. No hatchback.
    4. No convertible (see Miata).

    • 1. Every auto enthusiast/potential buyer knows about it.
      2. Right, it’s better!
      3. When did that become the magic thing? Not hatchback = lighter and stronger.
      4. Good!

      • Andrew_theS2kBore

        Simple answer- S2000. Faster, more reliable, and MUCH better looking. Also cheaper, because although they’re only available used, they regularly go 300k+ miles. Here in SoCal demand is high enough that prices have climbed 2-3k in the last year.

        • Windbüchse

          Wrong answer if you’re tall. The S2000 was very desirable but not worth the vertebral deletion surgery to fit.

        • Zentropy

          I’d like to know where you’re finding cheap S2000s. Rare birds around here, and pricey when you find a clean one for sale.

          • Andrew_theS2kBore

            Not cheap, just cheaper than a new Toyobaru.

      • CraigSu

        1. Which makes for a very small market. As we (the auto enthusiasts) all know the majority of the buying public just isn’t interested in a (perceived as) underpowered small coupe.
        2. If it were perceived as better it would be selling better.
        3. Hatchback option perceived as more flexible storage options.
        4. Convertibles are perceived by the general public as being sportier.

        I’m not discounting any of your points but the key word, as you’ve probably noticed, is perception.

        • JayP

          3: You may have a point. My Focus looked like it’d hold a warehouse from the outside but it wasn’t anymore than my Mustang.

          Still, an MGBGT or Clownshoe design would have really swayed me.

        • Zentropy

          I agree the advertising has been weak, and while I agree the Miata is the better car, it has until this year model been convertible-only. Open tops mean more body flex (= less sporty), and look emasculated in my opinion. I’d give two Boxters for one Cayman any day, if I had the money for either.

          • Andrew_theS2kBore
            • Zentropy

              I was, and I would argue that the closed-top Aventador LP 700-4 from which it came still has the superior structure for sporty driving. Lopping the top off of a car doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one, it just makes it less rigid. And convertible does not mean more sporty, it just means there’s likely a woman or a retired old dude behind the wheel.

              • Andrew_theS2kBore

                There’s a difference between “fastest possible laptime” sporty and “maximum enjoyment” sporty. For me, a convertible will always be more fun, because you are experiencing the world around you with all your senses, not just watching it go by in a blur.

                And for what it’s worth, I would gladly pit myself and my beat-up, roofless, windowless old track car against you and whatever you care to bring on any track you name (unless it’s a dragstrip…).

                • Zentropy

                  Hey man, ease up! To each his own. If convertibles float your boat, then drive them. Enjoy the wind through your flowing locks, but don’t be under the impression that an open top makes the car sportier just because you enjoy it more. Sports cars are defined by their performance, not their aesthetics. And I’ve driven many a convertible that are anything but “sporty”.

                  Truth is, a roofless car is more difficult to make stiff, and usually only by adding more substructure and weight, which again hurts the performance. But buy what you like.

  • Zentropy

    It ticks most of the right boxes, but my biggest issue is the styling. Neither Toyota nor Subaru stamp attractive sheetmetal these days, and I can’t see a way to make it look better without serious surgery. That, and I prefer hatchbacks and sedans. Coupes are a waste of wheelbase.

    In a word, it’s fugly.

  • JayP

    Tough market… Miata, Genesis Coupe, Camaro, Mustang are all there.
    They are popular at the track though – I see as many FR86’s as any other car out there these days.

    • Blah.
      No, sucks, no longer in production.
      Can’t see shit out and pricey.
      Heavy and pricey.

  • kogashiwa

    I have to find out what options are for carrying my 14′ paddleboard on one of these. Need to carry bikes as well. If I can make that all work relatively easily this may well be my next car, next year. IF IT ONLY WERE A HATCHBACK like it ought to have been this wouldn’t even be a discussion. I used to carry my road bike in the back of my 1st-gen RX-7 (people were always amazed to see it emerge from there, since once out it seems almost as big as the car).

    Although it would be perpetually disappointing that an average new full-size truck (the default vehicle around here) is a lot faster.

  • Needs two kinds of smoothness:

    1. Smooth out the torque curve. Lose the weirdo pointless induced dip. More usable and gratifying midrange, even at the expense of the advertising-friendly 200bhp number.

    2. Smooth out the styling. Proportions are great, jut finesse the details a bit so that it all flows better. More 240Z, less geometry jumble.

    Someone’s going to say something about sound deadening, probably, but whatever on that front.

    I want one. Or, really, I want a just-so-slightly-better one. No boy-racer turbocharger, no silly excess, just a good 2.0 on the general idea.

    But dear God I hope everyone lets it live long enough for that to happen in the first place.

  • hwyengr

    Seems it’s already too late for some of us. There is a single BRZ available in inventory for the entire State of Illinois, and it’s an automatic.

  • crank_case

    “People, gearheads, enthusiasts – what is wrong with you? Why are you not buying the Subaru BRZ?”

    Hey, if I had a disposable €40,000 (44060 US) required to buy one here, I’d be on it already.

    • Woah, you should move to where there is freedom, affordable cars, and cheap gas!

  • Maymar

    I wasn’t about to be able to pony up $10k more than the (also new) car I bought 2 years ago, so that’s my excuse.

    It’s a shame too, as it is a wonderful car. I agree, the power band is a little wonky, but other than that, it’s more than quick enough so long as you don’t judge your performance based on drag races against (insert mundane modern overpowered vehicle here).

    Also, the Toyobaru doesn’t actually sell that poorly, relatively speaking. Just the BRZ on its own has outsold the Miata every year until now.

  • Windbüchse

    Been daily driving a 2013 Limited over 4 years and 60k miles. Mostly canyon/mountain roads where I live. A few long drives of 600 miles/day would aggravate my tinnitus. At 6’5″, I find this car a comfortable fit and can stretch out my legs with no problem. My hair does touch the roof in the morning, gravity increases the headroom by evening. The trunk is fine and with the rear seat folded, I can fit 3 long gun cases, a scuba tank, a field box and more for the range and shows. That rear seat is a joke – similar

    Handling is exemplary and surpasses cars (in stock form) I’ve previously owned including BMWs, Porsches and Jaguars. The car can surely use more low-end grunt for the stoplight grand prix, but with my summer wheels and tires, the power is more than adequate to negotiate the canyons. For less than $30k out the door, it has been a great value.

    Initial problems included 2 ECU reflashes (CARB crap), a leaky rear light assembly and driver door to fender fit (slight rub) – all quickly resolved by the dealer. Zero mechanical problems, 29 mpg daily average with spirited driving (worst 25 mpg when being stupid on Angeles Crest). Oh, and I hit a Bobcat three weeks ago resulting in ~$2000 damage and 35 lbs of roadkill.

    Is Subaru having a problem moving these now? It took me two months to find mine in 2012.

    Anyway, I:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/145371aaff44ba61a7027b844ce00a9e9dc7887da18218281e702b15156477c7.jpg

  • I talked to a dealer about the torque curve. He said, tongue in cheek, that most customers shift right after the first peak, never had complaints. He also said that it looks more wonky than it feels on twisties. You will feel it on a straight, though.

  • Justin Hughes

    I’ve been daily driving my 2014 BRZ Premium since I bought it new. Snow tires for winter, wider MPSS on wider wheels for summer, an exhaust that doesn’t sound like my ex’s ’96 Impreza, and boom, you’re done. It’s also easier to get on the track than a Miata because it has a solid roof.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    I have 2 good reasons not to buy a Toyobaru.
    1. my shoulders are wider than the front seats so the bolsters pinch
    2. I don’t have that kind of money
    3. I need to haul more people and stuff than can comfortably fit in a BRZ

    This is why my latest automotive purchase was a used Mazda5.
    If I had the money to spare I’d consider it, but I’d also consider a Miata first

  • mrh1965

    Because I’m old and fat and actually quite like my 2007 Lexus. I’m not one of those guys who gets on internet sites and says, hey, cool car! If only it was a diesel, wagon, manual tranny, awd, I would totally buy it! Although a diesel shooting brake BRZ might be cool..

    • Let’s be honest here, anything diesel shooting brake would be cool.

  • Douche_McGee

    When they first came out, I wanted a white BRZ Limited badly. But having 4 Miatas in the past, I got bored of the lack of power in normal day to day driving, and got rid of them. When I had my 3rd Miata (’03 NB) I also bought a ’09 WRX, and the Miata sat in the driveway a lot, and ended up being sold because the WRX had the power and was a lot more fun to drive day to day.

    Even though the BRZ had 30hp on the last Miata I had (06 NC GT), that was my fear with the BRZ, and it was a $30k gamble on getting bored with the stock 200hp because you have to wring it out to get the power

    I ended up with a FiST, and with all the torque down low (mine is “stage 2”) it’s a blast to drive. I was a die-hard “FWD IS CRAP” guy, but the FiST converted me.

    Had the BRZ been available with the WRX’ turbo motor, I probably would not have hesitated.

  • Ross Ballot

    Here’s where I’m at with the BR-Z:

    Just bought a WRX a few months ago. Can only swing one car at the moment. As soon as I have the money/space to do the 2-car juggle again, I’ll own a BR-Z/FR-S/GT86. Seems like one of those cars you “need to own” at some point. Especially with forced induction. I drove a friend’s BR-Z briefly and loved the chassis and handling but hated the engine (I had a V8 Challenger at that point; power was no comparison). I’ll own a Toyobaru someday, it’s just a matter of time. Hopefully they’re inexpensive on the used market ($10k?) when I’m ready to scoop one up.