2017 Subaru BRZ Driving Impressions

The Subaru BRZ has the dynamics to delight high-performance drivers on twisty back roads. Not only is the front-rear balance good, and the 2800-pound weight light, but the center of mass is one of the lowest of any car made. It’s a car that you feel in the seat of your pants. The handling is predictable and body control inspires confidence, even without all-wheel drive like every other Subaru made. However a Torsen limited-slip differential gives the rear grip on both sides, enabling sure footing exiting slow corners, especially.

The steering is quick and communicative, the suspension taut and compliant. However on even slightly patchy pavement, the BRZ bounds up and down, and it’s fatiguing. The noise doesn’t help.

The double-wishbone multi-link suspension is adapted from the high-performance Subaru STI sedan. Front struts and coil springs in front, mounted low. It’s designed to scrub speed off the front wheels and transfer weight to the rear, when the car is driven aggressively: hard on the gas, hard on the steering. In other words, it’s tuned to be easy to drive tail-out–that’s what it’s all about.

There is a sport mode for the stability control to allow the tail to go out, but also a full-off mode that allows the tail to go out and around. In 2017, the stability control has been programmed to allow more yaw, a complement to the car’s predictability.

The engine is almost just a vehicle to deliver the handling. It’s enough but not exceptional. The 2.0-liter boxer four delivers 205 horsepower with only 156 pound-feet of torque (with the manual transmission, five less of each with the automatic). It’s high-revving but lacks low-rpm torque, so the spirited driver must keep his (or her) foot in it. There’s not much grunt below 4500 rpm, but it fairly zooms from 4500 to 6500, while the exhausts like a Subaru WRX.

So you have to shift gears a lot, to keep the revs high. The 6-speed gearbox engages with a snick, and we love the short throw; it’s the transmission we go for and it just seems so right for this car. However, the paddle-shifting 6-speed automatic also makes it not too hard to stay in the power zone. The sport mode delays and sharpens shifts, and adds a big blip when you downshift hard. In that sport mode, it’s programmed to stay in the gear even at redline; we like having the power to shift at redline when we want to.

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