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Subaru BRZ – a TOPCAR driving sensation that stimulates all the senses


When you think of sports cars with around 200 bhp most will list an Audi TT’s, BMW Z4 and possibly a Mercedes SLK. Scan the car magazines and brochures and the respective prices start at £29k, £29.5k and £30k. The new kid-twins on the block are the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ  which start a £24995 with no frills and top out at £27995.  So the new BRZ  or GT86 offerings look tasty on paper.


My  BRZ test ride was arranged with Elliott Cartwright at Carstins Garage, who have been selling Subaru’s since 1997. The family business, which started in 1964, is situated in Balsall Common at the heart of the Midlands close to the motorway network and a quick call sorted out a test vehicle within the hour.  It immediately became apparent on meeting Elliot was a true petrol head when questioned what was his favourite car.  His response was a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback for its iconic shape and being free from modern driver override features. He rated the throttle alone as the true form of “Traction control “ and jokingly said in a Mustang your stomach is the alternative Air Bag!


After showing Elliott what my TOPCAR website was about, he gave me a quick sum up of the key components of the BRZ. The heart of the BRZ tames a feisty flat 4 engine linked to a Lexus gearbox and a Toyota Limited slip differential driving the rear wheels. Our BRZ had a few extra modifications including 18-inch wheels, rear diffuser kit, Milltek exhaust and manifold system and a 3-setting KW suspension kit. The total package would set you back an extra £6k bringing you to a base 2.0 litre Audi TT cost.

Elliott summed his affection for the BRZ  in my 5 word challenge as being “Precise, Responsive, Fun, friendly and value.” A real up to date drivers car!

First impression of the car is really positive. It is much more masculine that the TT, Z4, SLK, 370Z, RCZ or MX5.  The headlights are distinctive and sit well within the front wing and wheel arch detailing. The rear end is quite striking but not OTT. The rear overhang is very short. So on looks alone it gets the second sense going.

Before we set off we popped the bonnet to see heart of the BRZ. Unlike the recent trend in many cars to cover the engine up with a large plastic cover it is nice to see the design engineers hard efforts are partly on show. Whilst it looks like the plumbers have been busy connecting all the pumps and cooling systems together you get the sense that something special is lurking below. We fired up the BRZ and the feisty roar was released from the Milltek exhaust system. The flat four definitely offers a different sound to manystraight inline engines. The noise sensation test scores the third tick.

                             197 bhp flat 4 cylinder engine hides beneath pipe work.

Moving inside the car it is apparent the BRZ interior is quite basic, but functional  and sporty rather than a class act of a TT. The large red revcounter  puts a focus on driving and the red stitching  to seats, steering wheel and handbrake suggests something is hot.  The seats are snug and comfortable with the benefit of two heat settings. The cabin is airy with really good forward visibility. The dash materials and finish are solid and tactile to touch. The rear bench seat is big enough for some shopping or the occasional short squeezed up journey for small children.

The car’s character really comes to life as you hit the road from dual carriageway to country roads. The engine revs freely and vocally up to 5000 rpm. Beyond 5000rpm the engine comes truly alive. The noise is satisfyingly sporty but not too harsh to drown conversation. The suspension is firm, perhaps the MK struts are set too firm, but the handling is great. The low centre of gravity of the engine means there is little body role into and out of corners. The power comes on very smoothly and stirs the senses. The cars 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds is fast enough and done in a characterful way. The car is satisfyingly quick in a controlled way and the vented discs seemed to the passenger as  very effective. Dad delights in the slick gear change and nicely weighted steering. Memories of his Alfasud Ti are used to compare the boxer engine and handling of the BRZ.

Sadly our time was running out and the BRZ had to be returned to base. A photo shoot in the nearby train station car park picked out the other features of the car. Its boot is a practical 243 litres  which is reported to be big enough for the two sets of golf club test. More fun it will swallow up 4 track day wheels to test the real limits of the BRZ. Not a lot is missed out in the design. A rear screen wash wiper and a set of parking sensors seemed to be the only two missing items.

In summary, the BRZ  ticks all the senses with good looks, sound, fun, sportiness, speed and value. With just 90 BRZ’s being imported in 2012 it looks like they will become gold dust for the lucky few. In the sub £25K price bracket Subaru’s offers an attractive “Every Thing Taken Care Of”  (ETCo) aftercare  programme and includes repairs to small dents and wheels for free. It goes way beyond what most other manufacturers offer to give peace of mind. Elliott sold two BRZ’s last week and it is easy to see what the USP of the BRZ is. It’s the complete sports car that should bring a new brand identity to Subaru as builders of a great sports car. Once leaders in constructing tough rally cars and four wheel drive estate cars Subaru really have created a TOPCAR drivers sports car.



Many thanks to Elliott Cartwright at Carstins Garage-Balsall Common-Link-


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