• Light, agile and communicative; the antithesis of an Electric Vehicle
    • Much improved drivability in the wet
    • Unbeatable dollar to fun ratio
    • Will not impress the badge snobs
    • Ride comfort for passengers
    • Most people seem to prefer the GR86
    5 Star

    About the Subaru BRZ

    David Festa purchased this Subaru BRZ new with additional options for $47,245 (including all on-road costs). David Festa would buy this car again because: “Standing on the side of the road, enjoying a cool breeze and looking out over the Victorian high country, my BRZ behind me making one of my favourite noises, the tick, tick, tick of a high performance sports car cooling down after a hard thrash, and the moment feels perfect. Of course no one car is ever in itself truly perfect.

    But at this point in my life, even with its faults, the BRZ is the perfect car for me. In the role of sports car, cruiser and daily driver the BRZ serves its purpose impeccably. For me the joy of driving was never about out right speed. I know there are people out there who will think that is what is said when you really wish for more power but the truth is if I want to get somewhere quickly I take my Golf R. If I want to savour every bend of a serpentine mountain road I take the BRZ.

    When I was a child I would read about exotic Italian supercars and it was easy to dream about driving them on roads like this (cue the famous opening scene of the original Italian Job with a gorgeous red Miura winding its way along a mountain road).

    But that was a long time ago. Now on the wrong side of middle age, I know the likes of a Lamborghini or Ferrari will always be out of my reach. But the reality is that the performance level and price of modern exotics have long stopped them being enjoyable on public roads. Not to mention the questionable baggage they carry for the image of the owners. I can not help but think I am having more fun in my humble Japanese chariot.”

    How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

    No real problems which should be the case in a new car but can not always be taken for granted. There has been an occasional Apple CarPlay drop out, especially when making phone calls but this was greatly improved with an update at the 12 month service and has only happened once or twice since.

    There have been no issues with build quality, paint finish etc. I took the care to Tasmania with a couple of driving buddies and the despite being thoroughly thrashed for a week the BRZ never missed a beat.

    In fact I discovered that the BRZ makes a surprisingly good road trip car. And despite the multiple outcries on social media my engine is yet to explode from loose sealant fragments clogging the oil pick up or a sudden loss of oil pressure on prolonged high speed right hand turns so, so far so good.

    What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

    A Subaru badge no longer carries a lot of cachet. Although highly aspirational in its day, the WRX now feels well past its best by date with the role of the all conquering, compact AWD turbo nutter being taken over by the Germans. And as for the rest of the Subaru line-up, the symmetrical AWD and safety engineering is admirable but hardly exciting.

    I have owned this car for 18 months and I still can not make up my mind about the engine noise. Sometimes I feel it has a purposeful, mechanical growl and I really enjoy it. Other times the note is less soaring Italian tenor and more drunken lout singing karaoke.

    Everyone keeps saying just change the exhaust but I am not sure. More burble would be welcome but too many after market exhausts have far too much drone for my liking. I am afraid changing the muffler might be like adding hot sauce to an ordinary meal – it makes more of an impression but does not necessarily make it better.

    I am not sure how true this story is but I read once that when Honda was in the late stages of developing the original NSX the performance of the V6 engine met all the targets but it still sounded like an Accord. Honda had to hire a team of engineers to work on the exhaust to make it sound like an actual sports car. When they asked a Ferrari Engineer how they made their engines sound so good he looked confused and suggested they all go and have a nice lunch!

    Even if I may not be able to decide if I like the engine noise this car makes but I can tell you that I love the way the whole car makes me feel when I rev the engine out.

    For some reason despite being virtually identical, most people seem to prefer the Toyota GR86 over the BRZ. I bought my car 12 months before the Toyota was available and have not driven a GR86 for a personal comparison, but I would love to if anyone is offering.

    I have heard the arguments for both sides and one thing is certain, there is no way a high spec. manual GR86 is worth the $7000-$8000 premium being asked over the equivalent BRZ.

    How has the purchase and aftercare experience been with your car?

    CarExpert previously published my initial impressions of the BRZ on 14/03/22 and details of the pre-ordering and purchasing of this car are outlined there (read that review hereEd.).

    Since then the BRZ has had the initial 1000km check and subsequent 12 month service with no other mechanical issues what so ever. When standing at the dealership I am not sure I fit in to the current Subaru demographic.

    I kind of feel out of place amongst all the Educational Academics and puffer jackets. To illustrate this the service manager did not seem to understand the concept of a rear wheel drive sports car.

    It took me forever to convince them to rotate the slightly more worn rear tyres to the front to equalise future wear. The service manager kept trying to convince me that, of course, the tyres with the most tread should be on the front to improve the steering. I kept trying to get them to think about why someone buys a RWD sports car and why the rear tyres were more worn. Diagrams had to be involved before I could win the argument!

    Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

    Overall the BRZ manages to straddle the juxtaposition of purity of purpose with an acknowledgement of practicality. My other car is a series 7.5 Golf R which is a fabulous allrounder but the BRZ is a much more focused device with a narrower range of abilities but what it does it does very well.

    I can live with compromises such as a cheap but functional hard plastic interior and excessive cabin noise. It makes me appreciate that development money was spent on more important things such as stiffening the chassis and lowering the centre of gravity to improve handling.

    The Subaru BRZ S is the better equiped model with very few options available when purchased. It is easy to focus on what is missing such as auto wipers, head up display, parking sensors or a sun roof which were not even available as an option.

    But I am more than happy with what is included – heated seats, climate control, keyless entry and Apple CarPlay Making this a very comfortable car to live with day to day. To be honest there is nothing I really wish for which is missing.

    The whole point of the BRZ/GR86 is the classic analog feel and even something like rev matching is not missed. In fact I find it intrusive and annoying in my son’s Hyundai i30 N and always switch it off.

    My main gripe is the stupid centre console and elbow rest between the front seats. This opens to reveal plastic moulded cup holders which rob the capacity to store anything and is useless as a cup holder because of the position right at your elbow.

    To add to the poor design the button to open the flip doors is the ancient measure of exactly one cubit from the gear level meaning that my elbow is constantly inadvertently opening the doors which is both annoying and distracting during focused driving. Something like using hard plastics to keep cost down is forgivable but this is just dumb design.

    What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

    No powerhouse but more than adequate, the up dated BRZ is now a genuinely quick car. More importantly the real “performance” advantage of the BRZ is in its handling and ability to use it’s power on public roads.

    The term ‘driver’s car” is thrown around but can mean different things to different people. For me a driver’s car is more about dynamics and feedback rather than outright power, grip or track times.

    Something like the new Civic Type R might be considered a “better” car because has more power and better grip through wider rubber meaning it will easily best a BRZ around a track.

    But I worry that the higher the performance levels, the more danger there is of taking away accessible fun, especially on the road. When driving a sports car surely a little bit of wheel slip should be part of the experience.

    As a daily commuter and with frequent bursts of “enthusiastic” driving the BRZ continues to give economy figures of 10.2 litres/100km.

    Not as good as my Golf R which is more powerful but has a turbo and is really an exceptionally economical performance car. When you consider the low insurance and maintenance costs, for a dedicated performance car the BRZ remains relative cheap to run.

    What do you think of the technology in your car?

    The technology is enough to extract the most out of what is otherwise an old school front engined, rear wheel drive, manual drivetrain.

    Not cutting edge on the “Gee Wiz” department but there are enough features and creature comforts to remain comfortable as a daily driver and smart phone mirroring is insurance over future obsolescence. One glaring omission is the lack of autonomous emergency braking in manual BRZs which is unforgivable nowadays in a new car.

    This is being corrected with the an update next year as Subaru’s excellent EyeSight driver assist system has been adapted for use in its manual cars.

    What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

    As a sports car ride comfort is always going to suffer but overall the suspension is more supple than the previous BRZ/GT86.

    It still feels stiff but remains comfortable as a daily commuter on all but the worse roads. It is interesting that little bumps and vibrations that from the driver’s seat are part of the feed back and ongoing conversation with the chassis can, from the passenger’s seat, feel more like harshness. This car does not feel luxurious in anyway and is definitely best enjoyed from behind the wheel.

    Handling is all about balance and rotation and this is where the BRZ shines. I know this is a well balanced sports car because it disappears around me when driving hard. Sweeping down my favourite mountain pass, enjoying the rhythm of a string of bends, I am no longer thinking of the car but just enjoying the experience of driving.

    In typical Japanese style the controls are light and delicate but precise, and in the BRZ full of feed back.

    A driving buddy has a manual Porsche Boxster S 987.2 with much heavier controls and after driving this and swapping back to the BRZ I invariably find myself slamming the clutch peddle clumsily into the firewall with the first gear change. Both cars have precise controls but like the difference between a scalpel and a sabre, different muscles are used.

    The handling on wet roads in my previous GT86 was absolutely treacherous and the new car is a vast improvement. So much so that instead of cancelling a driving day due to rain, I was able to thoroughly enjoy several runs up and down the Lake Mountain road in absolutely horrendous conditions.

    I would not have dreamed of attempting this in the previous model!

    In essence this is a chassis that can be exercised and exploited in all conditions on public roads, with out constraint or intimidation, and this brings me great joy.

    Do you have any additional comments about your car?

    There is a reason old men become grumpy. The longer you live the more your past experiences affect your perception. I have driven a lot of cars, good and bad, over many years but I remember the good ones the most. Any new car I drive now has to compete with all these fond memories.

    The BRZ is a new car that does not make me long for the past. It communicates in a way that is a genuine conversation and not just awkward small talk.

    I find myself more and more veering towards the light weight and simple end of the automotive spectrum for my motoring kicks. Where in the past I may have lusted after things more exotic this is no longer the case.

    In the days of quasi magical stability control systems utilising torque vectoring differentials and computer managed control by wire steering, throttle and brakes, the modern supercar seems as far removed from my reality as a F35 jet fighter. I see a modern supercar now and I just can not relate.

    I can not begin to imagine what it would be like to own and drive, even overlooking the ridiculous money involved. The old time supercars like the Countach and Testarossa used to be banged together in a shed, their carburettors tuned by ear and handling fettled by a bloke after a few wines at lunch.

    They were beautiful and exotic but flawed and therefore much more relatable. I look at a Ferrari 296 on the road and think it looks magnificent but it is as remote to my life as looking at a city skyscraper and admiring the architecture. I have no prospect of or desire to own either the car or the building and would not know what to do with either.

    In my decision to buy the BRZ I considered many other options but they were all fundamentally flawed in some way. The Civic Type R is front wheel drive, the Golf R has that horrendous user interface, the new BMX M2 weighs more than a Mustang, the cabin in the MX5 is too tight and a Porsche Cayman costs at least three times what I can afford.

    As I stated at the start of the article no car is perfect but for me the BRZ comes as close as possible. It has no fundamental flaws I cannot live with and so far I look forward to driving it every time. The only real problem I have with the BRZ is that I am perpetually looking for a section of clear twisty tarmac and instead have to deal with the everyday gridlock of Melbourne traffic.

    Overall Rating

    Ride & Handling9.5
    Price & Features9
    Purchase & Aftercare7
    Performance & Economy8.5
    Ownership Experience9