By on 2017-05-26 -
Subaru BRZ 2.0i SE
FAR be it from me to suggest Subaru is a brand suffering a split personality, but stick with me and I'll try to explain ...
On the one hand there's a whole group of people who equate the Japanese manufacturer with its world domination of motorsport rallying in the 1990s and early naughties.
Drivers Colin McRae (1995), Richard Burns (2001) and Petter Solberg (2003) all won World Rally Championship title driving the famed ‘Scooby' Impreza WRX, while the Subaru team won the manufacturer's title three years on the bounce, from 1995 to 1997.
Others will see Subaru in a different light; as slightly agricultural to put none too finer point on it, because of the 4x4 capability of just about every other model in its fleet.
Whether you're driving the Forester, Outback, XV or Levorg, there's not many places you can't get to in a Subaru, which is why you often see them tackling the mud and muck of a farmer's field and why Subaru is the global leader in sales of all-wheel drive vehicles - it sells twice as many as Land-Rover.
So, a bi-polar brand then.
A car I haven't mentioned yet, and one which sits alongside the performance-orientated WRX rather than the rest of the Subaru stable, is the BRZ - a front-engined, rear wheel drive sports coupe.
Developed in tandem with Toyota's GT86, it's powered by a 200 horsepower, 2.0-litre, Boxer engine positioned low-down; giving the car a low centre of gravity which, in turn, equates to exquisite handling and poise, plus greatly reduced body roll when cornering.
The BRZ has been updated for 2017 and, joining other motoring writers for the car's unveiling, it proved itself tremendously engaging to drive on twisty Cotswolds back roads.
Subaru's are famed for their Boxer engines, which take their name from the punch-counterpunch motion of the horizontal pistons as opposed to the more traditional up/down motion of an in-line or "V" shaped engine. For 2017 the BRZ engine has been updated to increase responsiveness and reduce emissions, while new dampers improve road comfort.
The engine responds to being driven hard and you'll need to edge near to the 7,000rpm red line to wring every last drop of power; doing so will prove immensely rewarding, not least because of the heightened engine note. It was music to these ears.
The BRZ is a car that loves corners and although this is a sports car, it's not uncomfortable - the sports seats are very supportive.
The look and feel of the cabin has also edged upmarket in this latest iteration - one example being the red stitching and BRZ logo on the front seats. But what hasn't changed is the impracticality of the rear seats - the car is a 2+2 as opposed to a full four-seater and in all honesty, the rear seats are practically useless.
A major change you'll spot straight away when you get into the BRZ is the 4.2-inch colour LCD multi-information display that has been added to the instrument panel. It features a G force meter, steering angle gauge, brakeforce gauge, lap timer and torque/power curves for bringing out the sportier side of any driver.
Externally, the changes are minor; there's a reprofiled front bumper and grille to give it a wider visual stance, new full-LED headlights and tweaked rear lamps. New 10-spoke alloy wheels and a chunky new rear spoiler round off the revisions.
I've already mentioned the BRZ was developed as a sister car to the Toyota GT86 and in many ways the cars are identical. But for the 2017 update Subaru has consolidated around just one trim level and a price advantage now comes into play when comparing like for like - the previous SE model has been dropped and the BRZ is only available in SE Lux spec; the only option being a manual or automatic gearbox.
And while you can get an entry-level Toyota at a much cheaper price (Â£23,170), the Subaru's Â£26,050 on the road price for the manual, is cheaper than the equivalent, top of the range, GT86 Pro (from Â£27,560 to Â£29,160, depending on model).
Six-way adjustable and heated leather sports seats, dual zone air-con, heated door mirrors, CD/DAB infotainment system with sat-nav and Bluetooth, cruise control, 17-inch alloys and automatic headlights all come as standard. As does a draft of safety features.
The BRZ will compete against many "performance" cars; not just the GT86, but Audi TT, Nissan 370S, Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spider as well as hot hatches like Ford's Focus ST.
Subaru BRZ 2.0i SE Lux
Mechanical: 197bhp 1,998cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 36.2
Insurance Group: 31
C02 emissions: 180g/km
Bik rating: 35%
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles
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