EVERY driver possessing even an ounce of sanity has probably hoped at some time that spotty youths in Subaru Imprezas would one day graduate to something newer and more sophisticated – a more mature choice, if you like.
The opportunity to do so is the Subaru BRZ, a car that is actually two cars because it also morphed into the Toyota GT-86.
The Toyota is finding fame as the vehicle for the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car to make a fool of themselves in the reinvented Top Gear, a programme we have not watched since a presenter many moons ago (pre-Clarkson) made a complete hash of explaining turbochargers and we realised the faces lacked essential talent for understanding the topic.
What they need is presenters with knowledge. For instance, Chris Packham wows us with his encyclopaedic mind on Springwatch, as does his co-presenter Martin Hughes-Games. Packham is a car nut with a classic Aston Martin who bought an Alfa Romeo SZ, of which just 100 were made, when they were new back in the ’90s while Hughes-Games is motorbike mad. They would be real, informative talent on Top Gear.
When the BRZ launched, it missed out on the Car of the Year award, which went to the Mark 7 VW Golf.
It was a decision that lacked passion because modern motorists, above all else, need to be inspired to enjoy the daily grind of pothole dodging and endless queueing.
The runner-up to the Golf, the Toyota GT-86 and the Subaru BRZ, was jointly developed by the Japanese giant and minnow. The two have been closely connected for some time and in Toyota’s case the GT-86 brings back memories of the old Celica and MR2.
For those who think Subaru has never done the coupe thing, it did attempt the very futuristic SVX with an aircraft-inspired canopy roof back in the ’90s.
A DNA connection between SVX and BRZ is the use of horizontally-opposed engines, where the cylinders lie flat on each side of the crankcase. These are otherwise known as boxer engines, as seen in Porsche, Ferrari, VW Beetle – and Citroen 2CV.
Forget the Beetle, though, as we are talking cars that look a million dollars rather than those made in their millions. And the BRZ looks the part but costs probably not much more than a major service for some of the exotic cars that use the same format.
See one and you’ll be amazed by the stunning lines. You’ll also have to work hard to focus your mind on not concentrating on the throaty burble emanating from the twin exhausts.
Luckily, from the side the wheels fill the bulging arches well enough but look at the tread widths and you’ll think them skinny, perfect for enthusiastic driving time.
In standard form the car gives just shy of 200 bhp at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb ft of torque at slightly slower engine speeds. So it’s a revvy unit, although not as extreme as the 9,000rpm limit on the Honda S2000.
To get the best you have to learn to drive with a different style, always buzzing, never relaxed. You must keep on the throttle – to lack the urge will throttle your ambitions.
Drive is to the rear through a six-speed gearbox (there is an auto option) and this alone will enthuse buyers fed a constant diet of front-drive surefootedness and wanting some tail hanging rear drive fun.
With a maximum 140mph and 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds the BRZ is maybe not the most enthusiastic rubber burner but the skill is extracting what it has and enjoying the experience.
Although it shares a Ferrari/Porsche engine layout, the BRZ doesn’t have the thrilling engine note of the exotics. BRZ owners are unlikely to blast through tunnels or other places where the exhaust can be heard bouncing off the walls.
What was welcome with this visit to the BRZ was the improvement in fuel consumption. Last time we drove a BRZ, just after the launch in 2013, it only managed 33mpg if used with restraint but this time the average was up around 39mpg, wringing some extra range from its 50 litres of unleaded.
It’s great to see the improvement, the more so because the on-the-road price hasn’t risen at all since back in 2013 despite the VED changes on April 1 bringing an £800 rise in the first registration fee for the manual car (£500 for the auto, which has a lower CO2 figure).
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Subaru BRZ SE Lux
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 7.6 secs
Top speed: 140 mph
Bhp: 198 @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 151 lb ft @ 6400-6600 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 36.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 180 g/km
Best bits: stylish; stimulating, sensible Subaru.