Subaru has a knack for building the best cars for the money. As any motoring enthusiast would know, the WRX STi is a legend, and many would argue the ultimate car. The perfect combination of daily driver and track monster, it is the perfect year round bulldog of the road. Having the monopoly on AWD daily drivers, Subaru now has decided to prove their muscle in the world of sporty RWD coupes, a group that is growing smaller every year with the influx of mpg-craving hatchbacks and crossover SUVs. The question is how does it match up?
Many of these weekend street sprinters have fallen by the wayside over the years. The Supra went extinct in the ’90s, Honda dropped the S2000 and the working man’s supercar NSX a few years ago, and the Silvia called it quits after being one of the most popular tuner cars in history. Its closest rival and last of the rotary-powered sports cars, the Mazda RX-8, tucked its tail and ran before the BRZ even showed up to the party. So what’s left?
Nissan: With the recent resurgence of “Godzilla” (GTR), Nissan decided to revamp the Z series. After some track and field days the Z is back and better than ever as the 370 takes over the reigns. The 350Z had the horsepower to rival the E46 M3 at 287, and the absolutely revolutionary styling way ahead of its time! However it wasn’t very nimble on its feet, making it more of a Japanese pony car. The 370Z has the same bold fiery looks, it’s revved up to 332 hp, and it knows what a corner looks like.
At a base price of just over $33,000 you get all of that plus a 6-speed manual gearbox. However the optional extras add up quickly, and by the time it has the Nismo package you are looking at an extra 10k. So the Nissan trumps the 4 cyl 200hp boxer BRZ in power, and possibly looks. Price goes to the Subaru, with a base model starting out at $25,495. The top trim model is just $27,495 with fog lights, spoiler, and leather seats! It also has back seats if necessary to squeeze 4 people into, 2 more than the flashy 370z. I can attest to the fact is has boatloads of torque as well! As you shift up through the 6 speed manual gear box, it never seems to run out of it. It makes a great use of the 151 ft lbs of torque.
However, if we are going to compare the BRZ to the Zs, I think it is best if we wait until they release the turbocharged, estimated 250hp “STi” version, and be looking out for that in 2014 lineup. With those looks how could you pick anything else?
Now let’s have a look at the only real comparison left on the market to the current 2013 BRZ.
Hyundai: The Genesis crashed onto the scene in 2009, but was unfortunately marketed to the wrong crowd, and had the Hyundai name stamped on it. There were too many comparisons against the new Camaro for it to be taken seriously in the import world. You don’t see many people driving these, and that’s because everyone was still buying the better looking RX-8’s with the Mazda motorsports pedigree.
Reputation aside let’s have a look at how the stats stack up against the Subaru. It also follows the new trend of a 4cyl engine in the front and the power at the back. However this is an inline 4 compared to the Subaru’s reputable boxer engine. The Genesis has a party piece with its base model, and that is a turbocharger! This bumps the HP up to an impressive 274. At just over $24k you have the 2.0 I4 turbo, a 6-speed gearbox, and back seats. On paper it looks like a much better deal than the Subaru, but then again, the looks are horrendous.
The interior of the Genesis is simplistic and dull and sets the mood of a Honda Accord. The exterior is no better. It looks like the Tiburon out grew its own clothes, and that goofy smile is not very intimidating. There is something to be said for beauty in form following function. Hyundai should let the stylists go home at lunch next time. Also by the time you jump to the top trim so you can be taken seriously, you’ve gone over $33k. That’s 370Z money, and I’d like to meet the person who would choose the new kid in school Genesis over Nissan’s backyard brawler.
So compared to the competitors the BRZ holds its own, with affordable pricing, great styling, and good performance from its small power plant.
Performance, Pedigree, and Styling
When I first saw BRZ, I immediately noticed was who they had in their sights. It reminded me all too much of the RX-8 (which I owned at the time)…until I went for a drive. This was before its release, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was surprisingly comfortably and roomy, and rode well. Then you put your foot down and it springs to action. Around corners, you just point the nose where you want it to go, give it power and the tail slides out in the most perfect way. As the Subaru rep and I went drifting through an intersection I couldn’t believe how controlled and smooth it was! The handling is superb. It will do 0-60 in just over 7 seconds, and from what I’ve seen can get to 150mph in the real world. That coupled with 22cty/30hwy mpg, what more could you ask for?
The styling is fantastic inside and out, not too much, but it isn’t too simple or dull either. It is taken seriously, but still is fun. With Scion making the twin FR-S you also have a few different looks to choose from.
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It also comes from a line performance pedigree, one of which is the Corolla GT-S, and it’s big brother the Supra. Test drive one for yourself; I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.
So here it is: the verdict. I can really only sum it up this way. When driving in a friend’s BRZ a couple months ago, we both came to a realization. The nimble, agile handling, affordable price, perfect torque, sufficient power, good gas mileage, and reliability tipped us off. There is a reason Mazda ducked out right before this showed up. The BRZ is everything that the RX-8 should have been.