If you're like me, you've been counting down the days to your opportunity to drive one of the offspring of the Toyota FT-86 concept.
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As the first rear wheel driven Subaru in decades (and its first RWD sports car ever), there's a good deal of hype built up around the 2013 BRZ's launch.
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The BRZ is a light little coupe with a scant 2,760 pound curb weight for this automatic transmission equipped model (the manual gearbox is even lighter).
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Like the rest of the BRZ, the 2.0-liter engine is an amalgamation of Subaru and Toyota technologies. The horizontally-opposed boxer configuration is a Subaru hallmark, but the D-4S direct injection technology is a Toyota trick.
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Critics of the BRZ often point to its outputting "only 200 horsepower" as a con, but from behind the wheel that feels like just the right amount of power to allow the chassis to shine. Of course, more power would be nice, but that's a problem fixed easily enough by the aftermarket.
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Although I would have like to test the six-speed manual version of the BRZ, I ended up driving a model equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission. However, as slushboxes go, this is one of the good ones.
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The automatic BRZ features a custom program for Snow, a Sport mode for more aggressive throttle mapping, and a Sport VSC mode that loosens the stability control system's grip on your tail-out hijinx. Of course, the truly brave can turn the stability and traction control systems off.
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Like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the BRZ's cabin is a simple one. It's mostly devoid of anything that doesn't directly relate to the experience of driving.
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A push button starter is standard at the BRZ Limited trim level.
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Instrumentation is simple and easy to read, placing a large tachometer front and center. You'll notice that there are two speedometers: the analog gauge to the left and the digital readout nested in the tachometer.
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All BRZ models come standard with voice activated navigation and Bluetooth handsfree calling and audio streaming.
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The BRZ is also the first Subaru vehicle to benefit from the automaker's partnership with Aha Radio.
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USB, iPhone/iPod, and analog audio inputs are all accessed at this connection point.
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An SD card slot joins standard HD Radio and Sirus XM satellite radio in rounding out the list of audio sources.
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The BRZ Limited upgrades over cloth seats with Alcantara seating surfaces.
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The Limited model's front seats are heated. Silver trim, automatic climate controls, and illuminated visor vanity mirrors complete the upgrades over the Premium trim level.
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The BRZ's front seats offer good rear end grip during cornering. I was also able to squeeze into the back seats without much discomfort with the front seats adjusted for my 5'9" frame. Taller drivers would cut considerably into the rear leg room.
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A spoiler, fog lights, and body matched door handles externally differentiate the BRZ Limited from the Premium trim level.
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Dual exhaust tips punctuate the rear end, flanking an odd T-shaped reflector.
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These front fender inserts are not functional vents. I predict a third-party cottage industry manufacturing styling inserts for BRZ and Scion FR-S owners.
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17-inch wheels are shod in 215-width tires at all four corners.
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High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights are standard on all BRZ models.
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The BRZ was comfortable enough around town. It's a bit stiffly sprung, so you'll want to dodge those potholes. However, on the track the BRZ proves its worth with fantastic handling and good balance.
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With the onboard computer in Sport VSC mode, I was able to easily rotate the BRZ around corners and with just the slightest effort achieve that holy grail of progressive, predictable oversteer that's so rare in vehicles these days.
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As fun as the BRZ was, it's not really what I'd consider a track car,. 200 horsepower is just enough power for this coupe to be fun on a desolate mountain road, but not really enough for that hardcore track ready edge. With just a few more ponies and the requisite suspension and tire upgrades, the BRZ will be a force to be reckoned with.
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That said, the BRZ is worth every penny of its $25,495 starting price ($27,495 for the Limited trim level and $1,100 more if you want the automatic transmission). Drivers' cars such as this are few and far between.
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