Subaru does it different - and does it well

Subaru has a reputation for going its own way when it comes to the design and engineering - brave but it works, writes John Griffiths.

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But then there's the company's BRZ, the result of a collaboration with Toyota who produce a similar car under the GT86 name.

In some ways it is more conventional, even traditional - a classic front-engined, rear wheel drive coupe, a layout designed for agility and rewarding driving. It has all the ingredients of a true sports car: a solid structure. low-seating, low centre of gravity and excellent steering.

But unlike the rest of the Subaru range, it's rear wheel drive but still uses its characterful flat four boxer engine.

It isn't the most powerful or quickest of the genre but it is more affordable and its enthusiast-focused dynamics make it a delight on the road. And owners have a bonus - a beefy, eye-catching car with something of a rarity value as UK importers expect to bring in less than 150 cars this year, even with a new and improved model on offer.

The new car costs from £26,050 and, in the UK, comes only in flagship SE Lux trim, undercutting its Toyota stablemate and rival.

While it's 100bhp down on the class-leading, rear-engined Porsche Cayman (which costs 50 per cent more), it's also 100kg lighter and its centre of gravity is 2.5cm lower - two factors which contribute to its excellent handling characteristics. The boxer engine turns out 197bhp and 205Nm of torque, enough to waft it to 62mph in a far from sluggish 7.6 seconds with the growling exhaust note much appreciated by the keen driver.

Drivers will get plenty of chance to experience that, as with peak power at 7,000 revs and maximum pulling power at 6,400, it's an engine which thrives on revs if you want to get the best out of it - again, a classic sports car experience.

The official fuel average is a respectable 36.2mpg for the manual, 39.8mpg for the auto. Reading those figures after the test was a bit of a surprise, as the test car (a manual) actually did better, with a return of 38mpg. That doesn't happen very often.

It comes with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed auto (with paddle shift for manual intervention) which is clearly tuned for sporty responses which, surprisingly, also produces an even beefier soundtrack.

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The BRX is a traditional three-dour coupe design and definitely comes under the classification of a 2+2 as the rear seats are left with restricted legroom if you have tall adults in the front. Luggage space is 243 litres but if you fold those rear seats down it rises to a very practical 1,270 litres.

The new, 2017 model retains its basic styling - if it's not broke, don't fix it - but there are some changes, including updating to LED headlights and tail light cluster. Plus, there's a wider front bumper and taller rear wing.

The 17-inch alloy wheels are shod with 215/45 tyres and there are powerful ventilated disc brakes all round.

Inside there is a smaller steering wheel, the cabin appears to be trimmed with higher quality materials including leather and alcantara front seats. It has also been updated for some of the latest in-car technology, with a colour touchscreen for the navigation and infotainment system, plus the audio and Bluetooth systems. Voice control for various functions is also among the latest additions.

Well shaped full sports seats (heated of course) in the front put the human in sports mode as soon as you get in. Automatic dual zone air conditioning, electric mirrors, LCD trip meter, cruise control, aluminium pedals, hill start assist, ABS and electric stability control are also standard.

There's also a track mode button which sharpens up the throttle (and transmission if its an auto) responses and turns off the stability system to exploit the full rear wheel drive agility of the car in controlled surroundings.

The ride is sportily firm around town but really comes into its own on the open road, with an excellent combination of comfort and handling. Driving the BRZ you really get the impression that the engineers who designed it were themselves true enthusiasts and wanted to spread the word with a truly focused car - not just by creating a coupe-bodied car with a chassis little different from the average family saloon.

As time has moved on, the upgrading of the cabin and the addition of new technology is welcome, while retaining the 2.0-litre engine provides adequate power to have fun with the excellent chassis while keeping running costs in check.

Once again, Subaru has done it different - and done it well.

 

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