The Japanese manufacturer stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the customer desire for more speed from the Subaru BRZ, at least in the UK, although this great little sports car has been revised for 2017. The original was great, this latest version is even better but the downside is there is no more power. This car requires the driver to exercise proper driving skills so if you want cheap thrills go back to the loud n’ brash hot hatch market. That would be a mistake however because this stylish car rewards the effort with a fine madness of its own.
Do I still love the Subaru BRZ though?
Yes indeedy. The driving experience hasn’t changed that much and you can read my thoughts on that when I spent some time with the previous version last year, HERE. As mentioned previously, the power output remains at 197bhp with torque also unchanged at 205Nm. The engine has been upgraded to accommodate emissions and improve the response but that’s it on the power mods I’m afraid.
There’s a newly styled front bumper and grille which give the Subaru BRZ a wider visual stance. Additionally, there’s new full-LED headlights and tweaked rear lights. Very smart 10-spoke alloy wheels and a chunky new rear spoiler round off the exterior improvements and revised damper settings have added to the experience of driving. It now rides better over rough roads (i.e. most of them in the UK) and feels even more planted through the bends.
The Subaru BRZ still nips about on skinny wheels via rear-wheel drive so wet surfaces can be a bit of a laugh on the get-go but traction control and a Torsen limited slip differential keeps things in order. New for 2017 is a ‘snow’ mode when conditions get dicey plus the ability not only to switch the traction control off but also to set the car up in track mode for the ultimate experience. Remember though that at this point you’re very much on your own. My preference was to leave it in Sport mode for a bit of leeway.
The 0-62mph time is a modest 7.6 seconds. As ever, the key to getting the most out of this car is to keep those revs humming above the 3500 mark for maximum attack. Below that things are a little pedestrian but, in the inevitable traffic, it’s not a big deal. It’s the open, twisting, turning road where this car earns its fuel allowance.
Improved Subaru BRZ comforts for all.
For UK buyers there’s a choice of just the one version but it has been properly specced up to suit. The steering wheel now has controls, there’s keyless entry and Bluetooth. The seats are great, with their BRZ logo, and covered in comfy Alcantara. There’s a small but adequate infotainment screen and, pleasingly, there’s now a trip display in the dials which features a G-force meter, a lap timer and even a torque and power curve graph. Nice touch. As ever the driving position is spot-on. For the full specification of this car see below.
But the real Subaru BRZ surprise is…
…an automatic gearbox. I know. It’s unconscionable. As someone who thinks the six-speed manual in the Subaru BRZ has always been just about perfect, I was initially horrified to learn that my test car this time would be an auto.
In fact, I need not have worried. It is unquestionably good and I have to say that, in traffic, the ability to be able to creep along without all that extra tedious clutch action was very welcome. Left to its own devices the gearbox works well but it seems to me it’s not ideal for those sporting drives. Certainly, the more you put your foot in the longer it will hold onto ratios and I could see the value of that on long and tiresome motorway runs.
In any event, there are paddles as an option for even greater control over shifts although I did, very infrequently it has to be said, experience a little hesitancy between flipping the paddle and the shift. Not a big deal but worth a mention. Could be crisper.
I can see the value of the automatic gearbox to some drivers who just want a nice small sports car to have fun in and in that respect it works well but, as a keen driver, I missed the clutch and its control and I suggest it would be too easy to get comfortable with auto always. Would you buy a Subaru WRX STi with an automatic? Hell, no!
The choice is yours. If you like a relaxed life then by all means go auto; if you like your driving full throttle then manual remains the only thing. Either way revising the Subaru BRZ at this time means it successfully holds its own against the upstart Fiat 124 Spider (and Abarth version) and the evergreen Mazda MX-5. Thanks to the bigger boot the BRZ is the most practical option too. Geoff Maxted