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The hype accompanying the 2013 Subaru BRZ was deafening, but this fun little coupe is definitely worth the noise.
Light and well-balanced chassis; excellent steering; high fuel economy; comfortable and spacious front seat; abundant standard features; distinctive styling.
Small backseat and trunk; frustrating audio controls; relatively modest acceleration.
Available BRZ Coupe Models
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The 2013 Subaru BRZ is an all-new model.
After nearly four years of development and plenty of concepts, prototypes and hype, the 2013 Subaru BRZ has finally arrived. Unlike so many things in life, this compact sport coupe was actually well worth the wait. With its superb chassis, communicative steering and light curb weight, the BRZ proves that you don't need a ton of power to have a ton of fun.
It also proves that this quirky Japanese car brand isn't a slave to tradition. Every Subaru made since 1997 has had all-wheel drive, while almost all of its performance models sold in America have been turbocharged. The BRZ, however, features a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat-4 engine that sends 200 horsepower to the rear wheels only. This layout, and indeed the entire car, is the result of the BRZ being developed in partnership with Toyota, which sells the mostly identical Scion FR-S.
Most importantly, this layout is the key to the car's inherently excellent handling dynamics. Without having to incorporate all-wheel drive, Subaru's engineers were able to locate the engine farther back in its bay than in other Subarus, while the flat-4 design means it's placed much lower than in typical coupes. This adds up to a brilliantly balanced car with a lower center of gravity. Add in wonderfully communicative steering and the car's low 2,700-pound curb weight, and you get one of the most rewarding cars to drive in any price range.
Now, the BRZ certainly is not slow, but doesn't boast the same sort of neck-snapping power as similarly priced sporty cars like its Subaru WRX sibling. Backseat and cargo space are also lacking, even compared to coupes like the Ford Mustang and Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Therefore, if practicality or racing away from traffic lights are priorities, the 2013 Subaru BRZ probably isn't for you. However, it should be very appealing to those who value impeccable car control and communication in a small, affordable package with an impressive number of standard features.
The 2013 Subaru BRZ is a four-seat compact coupe available in two trims. The Premium model comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, a limited-slip rear differential, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat and a fold-down rear seatback. Electronic features include a touchscreen interface, a navigation system, voice controls, real-time traffic, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, hands-free text messaging, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The BRZ Limited trim adds foglamps, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, faux-suede and leather upholstery, and an All-Weather package that includes heated front seats and heated mirrors.
The 2013 BRZ is rear-wheel drive and features a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed "boxer" four-cylinder engine that produces 200 hp and 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic with steering wheel shift paddles and rev-matched downshifts is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped BRZ went from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. The automatic BRZ did it in 7.9 seconds. These are slow compared to most other small, sporty cars, especially the automatic time. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined with the manual and an excellent 25/34/28 with the automatic.
Standard safety equipment on the 2013 Subaru BRZ includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control (with five different levels of possible intervention), front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In Edmunds brake testing, the BRZ came to a stop from 60 mph in 114 feet -- a short distance, but expected for a car with summer tires.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the BRZ received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The BRZ has a simple, pleasantly styled cabin that features a blending of Toyota and Subaru switchgear and materials. It will feel a bit spartan compared to some other sporty cars in its price range like the VW GTI, but then this is supposed to be a back-to-basics sort of driver's car.
There's no shortage of features, however, as even the base model is loaded with high-tech items like navigation, HD radio and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Unfortunately, those particular features are controlled by a standard touchscreen interface that's difficult to use. The menu layout requires a lot of back-and-forth commands and the small virtual buttons are tough to press on the first try. Not helping matters is that there are no audio controls on the steering wheel. As such, you'll spend a lot of time taking your eyes off the road to fiddle with the controls. Just for this reason alone, the FR-S and its more traditional sound system design is pretty tempting.
The BRZ's front seats are supportive enough for hard driving, yet still comfortable for long-distance trips as well. People of just about any size should find the driving position to be quite agreeable, and thanks to the low-profile hood, there's an expansive view of the road ahead.
There's a backseat, too, but few adults are likely to want to sit back there. Legroom is next to nil, your head will be perilously close to the rear glass (or entirely pressed against it) and the center tunnel impedes hiproom. Trunk space is also rather small at 6.9 cubic feet, but folding down that mostly useless backseat expands cargo-carrying abilities considerably.
If you're the sort of driver whose car must be able to hammer down freeway on-ramps with its tires ablaze, the 2013 Subaru BRZ is not for you. Its power is sufficient and nothing more. Instead, the BRZ is for those who get a thrill from going around corners and feeling all the nuances and inputs that go along with a car that offers phenomenal communication and impeccable control.
Its limits are approachable and easily controlled, which makes for a wonderfully engaging sports car. The brakes don't fade, the gearbox is a pleasure to shift and the chassis remains composed even when the road surface doesn't. The steering imparts the front tires' grip status precisely to the driver's hands, and even the available automatic transmission is programmed for enthusiastic driving.
Away from twisty roads and used for more mundane moments -- say, on the way to work or on a road trip -- this little Subaru is still rewarding. It's surprisingly easy to drive and the ride is sufficiently well damped. However, there is a fair amount of road noise that is especially evident on concrete-surfaced freeways.
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