Toyota Subaru Sports Car
The understeer isn’t a deal-breaker; with perfectly timed and moderated inputs (or with huge, pimp-slap jerks on the wheel and heavy stomps on the go pedal), it is possible to avoid it all together and turn it into delicious oversteer. When the rear end goes, even in the wet, the BRZ slides slowly and progressively. It’s so easy to catch that you might find yourself fishing in your pocket for spare change with one hand while the other meters yaw around an off-ramp. (Subaru says that Toyota’s suspension tune will vary slightly, a tad softer in the front and stiffer out back.) The brake pedal feels a little less wired than the rest of the car, but the binders wind the speedo back toward 0 in a hurry.
Conducting the chassis is steering that is more immediate than anything this side of the Lotus factory. Its heft is perfect for resisting unintentional inputs at the limit. Feedback falls short of perfection, but only slightly; blame the electric steering if you must. The electric motor assisting the BRZ’s rack is mounted high up on the firewall, contributing to a slightly higher center of gravity but simultaneously shifting the front/rear weight balance a touch rearward.
In developing the BRZ, Subaru took an almost maniacal approach to weight and its management, keeping it low and evenly distributed between the car’s axles. The company claims that 54 percent of this car’s mass rides on the front wheels and 46 over the rear, and says that its center of gravity is right around 18 inches high. That latter figure rivals or beats the measurements for the Porsche Cayman and Mazda RX-8, among others.
Helping keep the mass snug against Mother Earth is the FA flat-four. Compared to the FB four found in other Subies, the FA’s intake is 2.6 inches lower and the oil pan clings closer to the crankcase, allowing it to be mounted with its crankshaft centerline 2.4 inches lower. Amazingly, the engine is mounted 9.4 inches farther back in the chassis than an Impreza’s four. A Subaru spokesman says the two engines share “maybe a few screws, ” but are otherwise completely separate pieces. We’re told the weight difference between the two is negligibly in favor of the A. Placing the engine so far rearward of course helps balance the car, but it also precludes Subaru from fitting an all-wheel-drive system. The company says that it has no room for a turbocharger either, but after peering under the hood, we disagree. Besides, Subaru desperately needs something to tie this car to the rest of its lineup, and a turbocharged STI model would be the perfect solution. Although the BRZ doesn’t need more power, it certainly could handle more. We’re guessing that a turbo will be part of whatever mid-cycle updates this car sees in two or three years.Top speed is said to be 143 mph. A resonator pipes sound into the cabin, and above 5000 rpm, there’s enough noise inside the car that you’ll need to scream to talk. Not that you’ll be having much conversation. That said, we wouldn’t call the quality of the sound unmistakable; it could be taken for a number of undesirable things. Having heard what aftermarket exhaust companies do for other Subaru flat-fours, though, we’re confident that they can coax a better voice out of this 7400-rpm screamer./p pIn spite of its higher output, the FA should still manage 30 mpg on the highway, according to Subaru. Underbody paneling helps keep a clean aerodynamic profile, although the company still hasn’t decided if the treatment will be standard on all U.S. cars or only on higher trim levels./p table border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0"x">
Even the Weenies are Treated Well
As mentioned, two six-speeds are available, a manual and an automatic. Following our drive of the BRZ in Japan, the manual had us seeking a temple at which we might make an offering of thanks. The clutch pedal is a touch light—and a touch light on feel—but snaps to attention right off the floor and engages smoothly, and the stubby shifter snicks between gates with ease. Heretics who buy their sports cars with automatics will at least get a good unit. There are two modes in the Subaru: Drive and Sport. Wheel-mounted paddles are standard; in D, the transmission allows them to make gearchange suggestions but still upshifts at redline and downshifts when the driver floors the accelerator. In Sport mode, however, paddle commands are gospel—the way God’s lazy, automatic-driving half-brother intended.
While most of the engineering and chassis work is Subaru’s doing, the styling fell to Toyota. It apparently drew a basic coupe shape and—well, it must have seen it created something less than sultry but stuck with it anyway. It’s good enough. The view from abaft is actually fairly exciting, with the slope of the greenhouse hesitating just slightly to form a decklid before tumbling into the rear fascia. Only the front fascia, badges, and maybe wheels separate the BRZ from its Toyota—and Scion—sibling. The suggestion of flares on the front fenders merely alludes to the muscular (some might say exaggerated) styling of the various concept cars, but the U-shaped view from the driver’s seat over the scooped-out hood is at least unique. Visibility in all directions is much better than most sports cars.