Text: Brent Co / Photos: Jet Rabe | posted February 17, 2014 16:58
Rear-wheel drive with true Subaru soul
Born out of a joint development between parent company Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) and Toyota Motor Company, the rear-wheel drive Subaru BRZ breaks the tradition of all-wheel drive Scoobies. It has brothers that it shares the same assembly line with at the FHI plant in Ōta, Gunma with the Toyota 86 and the Scion FR-S (to which we compared the BRZ against in a feature, but now it's time to see how Subaru's coupe really performs on its own, both as a daily driver and as a weekend warrior.
The BRZ was officially released to the Philippine market December of 2012 in a rather modest launch compared to the Toyota 86’s grand entrance at the Subic International Airport. With a seemingly unusual strategy, Motor Image Pilipinas decided to release both manual and automatic transmission models with identical pricing at PhP1,928,000, unusual given that automatic transmission variants normally carry a premium over the manual.
The basic design of the BRZ follows on the FT-86 Concept shown at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show; a look that was initiated by the 2007 Toyota FT-HS design concept. The design was subsequently refined by Toyota’s ED2 Design Studio based in the south of France after the two companies agreed on jointly developing the rear-wheel-drive 2+2 sports coupe. The BRZ is also the second rear-drive Subaru since the 1500 from 1954.
They say eyes are the window to the soul, and the BRZ's 'C-shaped' LEDs that surround the projector headlights stay true to its Subaru roots. The front bumper features a boxier appeal more consistent with Subaru’s design language. Gone however is the 86 badge on the front fender, as it was replaced with a chrome strip to hint at a more refined sports car. The sexy coupe line leads to the same rear which it essentially shares with its Toyota sibling along with the 17-inch wheels.
As soon as you sit on the grippy leather/Alcantara seats, you are welcomed to the driver-centric cockpit which features a rather large tachometer with a built-in digital speedometer, the full-grip steering wheel with paddle shifters and racecar-inspired climate control dials and switches. Realistically though, you’d be lucky to sensibly fit two extra occupants on the rear seats, despite it being classified as a 2+2 sports car.
The BRZ also follows a more premium treatment inside, featuring a primarily black-colored interior with silver accents. A push-button starter is also provided as standard to work with the keyless entry function. Entertainment is provided by the 6-speaker 3-way audio system which has additional iPod/USB/Aux connectivity.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter Subaru Boxer engine co-developed with Toyota and has the D4-S dual direct-port injection system. The engine produces 200 PS at 7,000 rpm and 205 Nm of torque at 6400-600 rpm. Our test unit came mounted with a six-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and paddle shifters.
Combined with the lightweight body, the engine and transmission combination provided a good amount of acceleration to zip through the daily hustle and bustle of city life, while providing loads of fun on the open road. Throttle response was quite good throughout the power band, giving a good amount of acceleration on demand.
I took the car on my daily route as most buyers won't have the luxury of relegating it as an option car to take to the track or mountain passes. On Metro Manila roads, it handled the normal 'road imperfections' with ease, but expect a firmer road feel due its 'sporty nature'. However, it becomes a lot more tolerable if you count the additional attention you'll be getting on the road.
On sweeping corners and winding twisties the BRZ felt at home. The car handled naturally and takes you through in a more stable and sure-footed manner, thus staying true to its Subaru soul; grippy and understeer-biased.
Overall, I seem to like the Subaru BRZ with its automatic transmission version as a more practical option to handle the daily hustle and bustle of the city while giving you the ability to occasionally let it breathe out in open stretches. And if you decide to take it out of a spirited drive during the weekend or holiday, the paddle shifters can take care of the fun factor as you attack the corners.