2013 Subaru BRZ Long-Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2013 Subaru BRZ Long-Term Road Test

Audio & Technology

2013 Subaru BRZ: Utah Road Trip, Final Ramblings

August 5, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

One feature I tried out during my 1,700-mile road trip to Utah in our long-term 2013 Subaru BRZ is the trip recorder feature. You access it through the touchscreen display, and it's able to track a bunch of interesting data: average speed, average speed while driving (subtracting out the time when you're stopped in traffic), highest speed, total driving time, highest altitude, lowest altitude and total mileage, of course.

Just before I backed out of my garage at 5:33 a.m. on my way to Moab, I hit the record button, figuring I could record the entire outbound leg.

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2013 Subaru BRZ: MotoGP Road Trip, Part One

July 26, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

We were reaching the end of the long-term test of our 2013 Subaru BRZ when photographer Kurt Niebuhr and I received an invitation to attend the MotoGP race weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. What a great way to log another 700 miles or so before we hand the keys back, no?

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Adjustable Verbosity

June 20, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

In general, I try not to get too annoyed at the budget navigation system in our long-term 2013 Subaru BRZ. The way I see it, the nav system isn't really what you're paying for with this car. Instead, you're paying for the Toyobarus' rear-wheel-drive architecture and painstakingly tuned suspension and steering. This cheapy nav unit is one small way to help defray development costs on a car that's very enjoyable to drive relative to what you end up paying for it.

But there's no denying that the navigation software is rudimentary at best. For example, over the weekend, I ventured into the Sounds and Warnings submenu within the Settings menu. The purpose of my visit was merely to lower the guidance volume, as the navigation lady ("Samantha") had begun shouting prompts at the top of her lungs. After lowering the volume, I realized I could adjust Samantha's verbosity level. Verbosity? Who did the translation here?

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Touchscreen Stylus

June 5, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

I may be 6-foot-3, but I have tiny girl fingers. Remember that woman on Seinfeld who Jerry dumped for having man hands? Well, I'm basically the opposite of her.

Why this confession? Well, the buttons on Subaru's touchscreen are so tiny and difficult to press while in motion that even I of the tiny girl fingers have trouble pressing them. I just hunt and peck away like a dim-witted pigeon, successfully pressing the desired button only about 33 percent of the time (give or take) as the firmly sprung BRZ jiggles and jostles my hand. And even if I do land the button square on, there's a good chance I simultaneously pressed part of two other buttons.

The ideal solution would be for Subaru to replace the thing...or buy a Scion FR-S. Barring that, I came up with a work-around courtesy of the Edmunds supply room.

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Flamed

April 3, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

Everybody bagged on Chris Bangle and what came to be called flame-surfacing when his first designs hit the road. A decade later, flame surfacing, 3D creases and compound curves show up in everyone's designs, from Hyundai to Ford. And here they are in the BRZ's dash, in the metal mesh grilles for the mids and tweeters.

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2013 Subaru BRZ Limited: Approach Lighting

March 26, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ Limited

You'll forgive me the dark and grainy photo, but it wasn't until this dark morning that I realized our 2013 Subaru BRZ Limited had an automatic approach-light feature.

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Audio Controls With Equalizer

March 21, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

When I connected my iPod to our 2013 Subaru BRZ's audio system for the drive home yesterday, it sounded awful, flat, and shallow. I've already ranted once (here) on how difficult it is to press those teeny, virtual buttons. So, imagine my surprise, three menus deep, to find this.

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Blinded By The Light

February 26, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

This unedited photo of the Subaru BRZ's touchscreen display in action is an exact representation of how it looked as I drove down Pacific Coast Highway with the sun behind me. Even sitting at a red light and putting my hand over the display to block the sun, viewing my options were nearly impossible.

We've already had problems selecting presets, changing stations and with a finicky navigation system. But not being able to see what you're doing is a different problem altogether.

Next time I head east in the afternoon, I'll be sure to select an album I can listen to in its entirety because knowing what I'm selecting is definitely not an option.

Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 11,290 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Head Unit Frustration

February 15, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

The photo doesn't quite convey how unnecessarily frustrating it is to do, but try reading then selecting a preset from that list of radio stations with the tip of your finger at the end of your outstretched arm while driving on a bumpy L.A. freeway at 65 mph in traffic and you'll understand.

Perhaps the motion-damped stylus that comes with the Fujitsu FA601US head unit has gone missing. Perhaps nobody listens to the radio any longer because I can much more easily select SAT, DISC, or USB than a radio preset.

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Plus-One for the Audio

January 4, 2013

2013 Subaru BRZ

The BRZ's touchscreen interface is pretty awful. Not MyFord Touch awful, but still pretty bad. Small icons placed haphazardly around the screen make navigating the audio system particularly perilous in traffic. At this stage in the evolution of in-car electronics, the manufacturers would do well to standardize some of this stuff. If they don't, NHTSA might well do it for them.

But here's a pleasant surprise. The also-crummy audio system is decidedly less crummy with the discovery of this 7-band graphic equalizer. You can dial in some decent bass with some definition and just enough top-end to bring out guitars, cymbals and vocals without getting too crispy.

You don't expect to find this kind of EQ in most cars these days. You're lucky to get bass/mid/treble in some nicer Benzes. The multi-band graphic EQ is just another quaint artifact from the days when people valued good sound in their car and desired some level of control over it. Now we keep all our music as compressed files on our phones.

I always soften a bit toward a manufacturer or their audio partners when I find one of these. Granted, the touchscreen virtual sliders are kinda dumb, nothing like actual knobs or faders. But in these fast-forward times, we take what we get.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 9,500 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Brace Yourself

December 07, 2012

BRZ brace.jpg

Things that don't mix: Tiny, hard-to-use-while-stopped touchscreens with tiny buttons and cars with too-firm suspension. It's even worse when a terrible song comes on the radio and you've got to change things QUICKLY. The only solution is to form a triangle (triangles make things strong) out of your thumb, middle and pinky fingers to build a strong enough base so that your index finger may, hopefully, possibly, hit the right button. o
I found a short video that represents this well after the jump.
Oh, but I shouldn't complain about the radio on a performance car? Please. The engine sounds terrible and this is 2012, if a car can't have a working radio it deserves zero passes. This interface is a case of trying to do far, far too much with far too few resources.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 8,100 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Navigation System on the Fritz

November 30, 2012

Subaru BRZ Navi Screen.jpg

"Not receiving navigation data."

This is what the BRZ lady says (or something close to that) within a few minutes of setting off. It's happened the last four times I've driven the car, and I wasn't in a tunnel, parked next to a giant building or in some other obvious place where the GPS signal would be lost.

After this happens, the navi then struggles to figure things out. In the above photo, the car is not where the map says it is. In fact, the icon was moving forward along Pico Boulevard when I took this photo despite being safely parked at a traffic light. It was actually further ahead than where I actually was.

So, not only does this navigation unit make using the audio system iritating, it doesn't really know where it is, either. Now, consider that this same unit comes on the all-new Subaru Forester introduced at the LA Auto Show this week. If navigation is an important feature for you, the Forester would look awfully silly compared to the Honda CR-V, Chevy Equinox (MyLink is great), Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and even the Ford Escape.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 7,958 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Keyless and iPhone Don't Mix

October 26, 2012

iphone key subaru.jpg

A number of the truly keyless, proximity-based smart entry/start keys don't like to work when face-to-face with an iPhone -- and by that I mean, literally, face to face. Keep most in your pocket alongside our favorite addiction and, if the phone is between the FOB and the car, it's unlikely to work. Switch places, however and it's fine.

You -> pocket -> key -> phone = bad
You -> pocket -> phone -> key = fine.

Unless it's the Subaru BRZ's key. It can't be in the same pocket or gym bag as an iPhone and still work. Big deal? Not really, but I keep my wallet in one front pocket and my key/phone in the other. This car just requires a different routine.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 6,414 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: The Reason

October 19, 2012


These aren't the differences between Camaros and Firebirds I'm talking about. With those cars, there were enough styling and interior differences to project and cater to the different attitudes of prospective buyers. But the FR-S and BRZ are, near-as-makes-no-difference, the same car.

So what makes me want an FR-S over a BRZ? Easy. Petty, but easy.

It's that radio.

There's no other option on the BRZ and I will refuse to put in an aftermarket head unit. The BRZ's system looks aftermarket enough as it is - mildly ill-fitting and cheesy. Not to mention it washes out even with indirect sunlight. And, as Mark already mentioned, it's difficult to hit the buttons and it's slow to respond.

Some times, it really does come down to something as simple as the radio.

What's your preference?

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 6,062 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Impreza Head Unit Should Be Standard

October 17, 2012

Subaru Impreza Head Unit.jpg

We've hardly gushed over the Impreza's stereo head unit, but I'd much rather have it than the terrible standard navigation unit found in the BRZ. Actually, I like it better than the non-nav head unit in the FR-S as well.

Its physical radio preset buttons will always score points for me, the iPod interface works well with the tune/track/ch knob and the screen is large. Sure, it doesn't allow you to alter the sound settings whilst driving (among other functions), but in general, I'd much rather have this than the so-called upgrade navigation unit that is also an option on the Impreza. Its tiny "buttons" are almost unusable, there's no tuning knob and you can't simultaneously see the radio presets and radio information.

Let's also not forget that removing the standard navigation system would theoretically lower the BRZ's price.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Insider Bluetooth Tip

October 01, 2012


Warning: This blog entry will not be relevant to you unless (1) you buy a 2013 Subaru BRZ and (2) you and your significant other have more than five smartphones or tablets between you.

As you might imagine, it doesn't take long for our staff to max out the number of allowable paired Bluetooth devices in most of our test vehicles. Five is a typical limit, and that's what it is in our BRZ.

So I needed to delete a device before I could pair my phone, but it's not immediately obvious how you're to do that in the BRZ.

First, you need to find your way to the Bluetooth menu and the paired device list.

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Hunt for Red October (with Video)

September 19, 2012


My spouse swears the navigation system prompts in our long-term 2013 Subaru BRZ sound like submarine sonar. So he shot a quick video while we were out on an errand this morning and being guided by the BRZ's navigation lady. That video is after the jump, followed by a clip of sonar in a real sub. Similar, aren't they?

You'll also notice just how robotic the voice navigation is in the Subaru -- and if you listen carefully, how the nav lady misidentifies "State Route 91" as "Stage Route 91." It's not an isolated occurrence. Every single California state highway (and we have many of them here in Southern California) is a stage route in her world. Is it a simple mispronunciation or is there a software engineer out there who imagines we still travel by stagecoach out here?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,890 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: Nav System Hiccups

September 07, 2012


I've noticed that our BRZ's navigation system isn't quite 100 percent healthy. There have been a few times that I've looked at where the navigation system is positioning the car icon on the map only to notice that it's not quite right compared to where I actually am. (It'd be off by about half a block or so.) There have also been two instances in the past couple weeks when the nav system's voice broadcast a "GPS signal lost" warning.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @4,320 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ: My Subaru Touch

August 01, 2012


Remember when I ripped on our Scion FR-S for not having steering wheel audio controls and clumsy head unit buttons. I take it back (except for the missing wheel controls). Not because I think they're good, no, because the BRZ's is so much worse.

First off, the virtual buttons are small. I don't have sausage-like fatty fingers, either. Secondly, the buttons are seldom responsive. It takes a couple of tries to get a track to skip forward. Perhaps they should have taken a look to the Hyundai/Kia interfaces for inspiration?
At least the sound quality is decent.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 1,800 miles

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2013 Subaru BRZ Research