2013 Subaru BRZ to Palo Alto: The Scenic Route
August 09, 2012
"That's a tight-ass-looking Subaru, man. I've never seen one of those before."
I got the impression that a lot of people shared this sentiment declared by a rather eloquent fellow at a gas station south of San Jose. He wasn't the only person giving the BRZ long looks at that Shell, or at the Santa Monica Chevron several hours earlier. In fact, the BRZ draws attention like few other cars can, and certainly like nothing else in its price ballpark.
So it would seem that this $26,000 exotic could get by on its looks alone, which is something I can't say about many Subarus (if any at all). Obviously it doesn't have to, though, as you've no doubt already read our many poetic waxings about the BRZ and its Scion FR-S sister. I'm certainly not immune to its charms, as I discovered with the FR-S. But those observations came from bombing around a few canyons and zipping around town. A road trip requires a completely different skill set, so the 2013 Lexus LS launch event in Palo Alto, Calif., would be a perfect excuse to see if the BRZ's appeal extends to the open road.
It would've been faster to take Interstate 5, but whereas that highway provides tractor trailers, laser-straight tedium and signs alerting you to the Congress Created Dust Bowl, the 101 boasts brilliant scenery, long sweeping turns and signs alerting you to myriad road-side attractions like the Carlton Hotel in Atascadero (pictured). True, you can't go as fast, but if you've got the time, it's the better drive. And after all, it's about the journey, man.
And the BRZ made it a better journey, just as interesting cars are apt to do. It should come as no surprise that the BRZ's handling talents were appreciated through those sweeping turns, while there is an inherent and constant coolness that comes from driving something small and sporty on a lengthy trip. The engine also impressed, as it was able to keep cruise-controlled pace in sixth gear over several medium-sized grades. And while some have complained about its noise, I kind of like its mean little growl when you dip into the throttle.
Yet such trips are ultimately about comfort and I'm pleased to report the BRZ did not disappoint. The ride is well damped and not once did I find myself rolling my eyes as I'm apt to do in cars that incessantly bob, crash and jiggle over less-than-perfect pavement. My fear of regretting my car choice somewhere near Ventura and suffer for six hours thereafter never came to pass.
At the same time, the BRZ once again amazed for its seat comfort and space. Small Toyotas and Subarus have not traditionally been comfortable for all 6-foot-3 of yours truly, yet the BRZ/FR-S provides lots of headroom (more than the new LS, actually) and sufficient space for my legs. I say sufficient since I could've used a bit more seat travel to stretch my right leg, but I only started to yearn for that as the hours wore on.
I was originally going to take the Jag up to Palo Alto, but I'm glad I ended up with the BRZ instead. It gave me a chance to fall even harder for these wonderful little Toyabaru twins, plus it was a wee bit more efficient than the XF Valdez. I'll let you know just how efficient when I wrap up my trip tomorrow with the return journey, this time on I-5.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor