2017 Subaru BRZ Review - The Track School Starter Kit
2017 Subaru BRZ
If I were opening a performance driving school tomorrow and needed to strike a deal with an OEM for a supply of cars, the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ would be on that list.
To be sure, plenty of other production cars are well-suited to the purpose of instructing students. Last time I went through a track school, the company used BMWs (3 Series, if memory serves, but the 2 Series is also good). The Mazda Miata and its related cousin, the Fiat 124 Spider, would also serve as good choices. I could probably, without much effort, pick a whole bunch of cars from the current market, utilizing all types of drivetrains and transmissions, that would be great for novice track drivers to get their feet wet with.
Yet, the Subieoyta would right there at the top of that list. Here’s why: It’s quick but not too quick, the electronic nannies can be programmed to let the rear end step out (but not too far), the steering is direct and quick, and the car’s light weight makes it very tossable.
Lack of power/lack of a turbo has long been a complaint about the BRZ/86, and while Subaru hasn’t added a turbo for 2017, the car did gain five more horsepower and five more lb-ft of torque, up to 205 and 156, respectively.
The BRZ is easy to drive quickly without running into trouble — that’s for sure. It’s weird to drive a Subaru without all-wheel drive, but one quickly gets used to flicking the car into and out of corners, letting the rear end hang where necessary and catching it with a bit of opposite lock.
Acceleration is fine for public roads, though it’s not going to light anyone’s hair on fire. It will get you from corner to corner quickly, which is all that matters.
The six-speed stick is a bit notchy in an old-school way, and it works well with the clutch – I can’t imagine opting for the automatic if you buy this car.
My test unit came with the optional Performance Package, which includes Brembo brakes, upgraded front struts and rear shocks, and wider wheels.
On public roads, it’s hard to tell how much that package enhances performance. The wider wheels are supposed to improve steering stability, for one thing, but without driving both versions of the car back-to-back, it’s hard to spot the difference.
Speaking of steering – the BRZ’s steering remains among the best available on a production vehicle. Precise, quick, well-weighted – it’s what enthusiasts and journalists ask for. And it’s not so performance-oriented as to become annoying while commuting.
Ah, commuting. While the BRZ is, in theory, cheap enough to serve as a second car for track use or weekend-warrior duty, many buyers will daily this thing. As one might expect from a small two-door sports car that’s more than a little track-focused, it’s not quite all the fun in city driving. It’s loud, rides a little stiff, and the rear seat is useless for hauling any human that isn’t a toddler. Also, the trunk is small.
Inside, the cabin materials are a bit on the cheap side, and you’re stuck with Subaru’s infotainment system, which just isn’t very good. You do get a cool screen in the gauge cluster than can show you different performance metrics, and the tach and speedo look cool, so it’s not all bad.
Both the BRZ and 86 have the same basic styling they’ve had since the beginning, and the look still feels fresh. Some may find it dated, but not I. It’s a good-looking car.
Affordable, small rear-drive sports cars are a small niche in the market. You have the BRZ and its twin, the Miata and 124 – and that’s about it. Yes, you can get fun-to-drive non-V8 versions of the Mustang and Camaro, but they have a slightly different focus than the BRZ.
For the BRZ, that focus is all about handling. It excels on the back roads and at the track.
Which makes its trade-offs worth it. A car like this isn’t easy to live with, but it rewards those who do.
Which brings me back to the track-school starter kit premise. A novice track driver will find satisfaction as he or she gets better, and the BRZ is the kind of car that will help them improve quickly, while having fun doing it.
Some cars are built with a purpose. The BRZ is one of them, and it’s among the best at filling its role.
Now, about that turbo.
[Images © Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]
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- Chris P Bacon I see no reference to Sweden or South Carolina. I hate to assume, but is this thing built in China? I can't help but wonder if EVs would be more affordable to the masses if they weren't all stuffed full of horsepower most drivers will never use. How much could the price be reduced if it had, say, 200hp. Combined with the instant torque of an EV, that really is plenty of power for the daily commuter, which is what this vehicle really is.
They have the right to spec this car however they want. It's just that the lack of a turbo is so inexplicable. The market is crying for it. Subaru has a history of putting turbos in just about everything including Imprezas, Legacys, Outbacks, Foresters and the upcoming 3 row crossover. Plus there's a proof of concept in the aftermarket. So it's hard to understand what's stopping them.
I definitely appreciate the old-school goodness of NA engines, like the wonderful 2.4L in my TSX, but I agree the 86/BRZ should have more punch. When Subaru introduced a 1.6T boxer a few years ago, I thought it might be compact enough to preserve the 86/BRZ's balance, and that we'd see it eventually. No dice.