TEST DRIVES

2013 Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S: A Joint Venture

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Michelin

What do you get when two Japanese auto manufacturers join forces to develop a formidable yet affordable 2+2 sport coupe? You come up with an incredibly capable, reasonably priced vehicle that is a ton of fun to drive under the guise of two distinctive marques. The vehicles in question are the 2013 Subaru BRZ and the 2013 Scion FR-S, which are nearly identical in terms of design and mechanical composition. The two cars differ only in the front and rear fascia treatment, content, headlamp styling and of course badging.

We’ll deal here with the 2013 Subaru BRZ, with power delivered to the rear wheels through either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with Sport and Winter modes, paddle shifters and downshift rev matching. The engine is a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed Subaru “Boxer” four-cylinder with D4-S (featuring combined Direct and Sequential Port Fuel Injection) that cranks out 200 horses at 7,000 rpm, while developing 151 pound feet of torque at 6,400 rpm. Premium fuel is required.

Using a large proportion of high-tensile steel, with aluminum for the hood, the 2013 Subaru BRZ weighs just 2,762 pounds. Contributing to its agile handling, the Subaru BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at only 18.1 inches. The Boxer engine design, with its low height and its mass positioned low in the chassis, contributes to a low center of gravity taking maximum advantage of this characteristic.

The rear-wheel drive configuration allows placement of the engine lower and farther back in the BRZ than in any other Subaru model in order to attain the best possible center of gravity and polar moment of inertia. Moving the engine closer to the center of the chassis helped make the BRZ quite compact, at just 166.7 inches long on a 101.2-inch wheelbase.

The 2013 Subaru BRZ will be available in two levels of trim: Premium and Limited. Both models include all of the BRZ’s performance features, such as the sport-tuned suspension with front strut brace and TORSEN limited-slip differential.

The BRZ Premium model’s list of standard fare includes: a comprehensive infotainment configuration anchored by a touch-screen navigation system that comes with a 6.1-inch LCD screen, AM/FM stereo with HD radio, voice activated controls, map upgrades via SD card, a single-disc in-dash CD player, a 196-watt amplifier, 8 speakers, MP3/WMA capability, Bluetooth hands-free phone and Bluetooth audio streaming connectivity, iPod control capability, iTunes tagging capability, a USB port, Sirius XM Satellite Radio with NavTraffic (subscriptions required), SMS text messaging capability, and a 3.5mm auxiliary audio input jack.

Externally, the BRZ Limited is distinguished in front with fog lights and in the rear by a body-colored trunk spoiler. In terms of its stunning and stealthy exterior visual appeal, the BRZ reflects its inner power with a low, sleek roofline that directs airflow cleanly and efficiently over the gracefully curved cabin. The stance is low and the face delivers a menacing competitive look with its sharp expressive lines and forms, such as the wide lower intake and angular headlight assembly that houses projector-beam headlamps. Front fenders protrude aggressively upward, while moving to the rear, the fascia sits low and wide, with a diffuser panel that encases the sporty dual exhaust system. LEDs showcase the edgy taillamps along with center-mounted backup lights.

Inside, drivers are treated to a 3-spoke, tilt and telescoping, leather wrapped steering wheel, accented with red stitching. A multi-function display provides current and average fuel economy. There are carpeted floor mats, and each door panel integrates a cup/bottle holder, with the center console offering two additional cup holders. There are also two 12V power points, one in the glove box and another in the center console.

The 2013 Subaru BRZ features 2+2 seating with deeply bolstered, supportive and comfortable seats up front, with a rear seatback that folds flat for added versatility and functionality. A large, center-mounted tachometer is the focal point of the three gauge main cluster that also features a programmable shift indicator, allowing the driver to set rev limits in 100-rpm limits beginning at 2,000 rpm. Speed is measured by both digital and analog gauges.

A soft skin dash cover delivers a flat horizon design with a raised centerline rib, which in combination with the pronounced front fender bulges aid in keeping the driver intuitively oriented with the car’s position.

The BRZ is equipped with a host of standard safety features including: six airbags, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, vehicle stability control, brake assist, and ABS with “Smart Stop” technology.

Despite its powerful 100-horsepower per liter engine, the BRZ yields an estimated EPA rating of 34 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission or 30 mpg with the manual gearbox. Weight is kept to a minimum by the implementation of an aluminum hood, a solid roof and by a trunk rather than a hatch design. The low weight is complemented by dynamically tuned suspension componentry consisting of MacPherson struts forward and a double wishbone setup aft. Positive steering feel is provided by electronic power steering and the BRZ rides on lightweight 17×7-inch alloy wheels. Ventilated disc brakes are standard at all four corners. Experienced performance driving enthusiasts will appreciate the vehicle stability control and traction control systems, which may be set in varying configurations.

Pricing for my test 2013 Subaru BRZ which came in Premium trim with the 6-speed manual gearbox was set at $25,495, which came to $26,265 after adding destination charges. It sported a Blue Pearl exterior and a Black cloth interior. The BRZ, due to its heightened content is priced at roughly $2,000 more than the Scion FR-S.

Considering the starting price point of the 2013 Subaru BRZ sports coupe along with its performance credentials, it’s clearly destined to become a popular model in the Subaru stable. It serves up a most attractive and appealing design, with harmonious and well-balanced lines and contours. while evoking a bold and athletic image even when parked.

Acceleration is impressive, as are the precise handling characteristics. The ride quality is comfortable, but not benign. To put BRZ through its paces, I piloted it over one of my favorite California backcountry roads, where it performed admirably.

In the final analysis, the 2013 Subaru BRZ Premium 2+2 sport coupe delivers fun in large, heaping doses under normal driving conditions, as I’m sure it would on a racecourse with an almost unbelievable price of $26,265. Let’s face it — the BRZ is a no-brainer for the 2+2 sports coupe set.

– Article by Arv Voss

Michelin

Founder, Owner & CEO

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