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New Subaru BRZ breaks tradition, proves really fun to drive

Consumer Reports News: June 15, 2012 12:08 PM

For years, Subaru used the tag line "The beauty of all-wheel drive" to promote their all-AWD lineup, until the age-old line was quietly traded in for "Confidence in motion." And as we've been experiencing at our test track, the BRZ coupe lives up to the new pitch line. And then some.

The BRZ sports coupe is an exception to Subaru hanging its hat exclusively on AWD. Simultaneously launched with the nearly identical Scion FR-S, both cars are configured with a front engine and rear-wheel drive. That layout may make this new Subie less popular in the ski towns of the Rockies and northeast than its stablemates, but it's likely to be a hit with enthusiast drivers, who find a certain purity and challenge in the handling some rear-wheel drive cars deliver.

We just added a BRZ (along with an FR-S) to our test fleet, and so far, we're finding it to be a delight both on the track and on surrounding roads. With brisk acceleration from the 200-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder (the only engine choice), a crisp-shifting six-speed manual transmission, and quick, well-weighted steering with decent feedback, the BRZ is nimble, balanced, and fun to drive. The ride tends to be stiff and a bit choppy, but odds are the enthusiasts Subaru is targeting are committed enough to endure it.

The BRZ is aimed squarely at driving enthusiasts, and a company representative pointed out even the cargo area (with the snug rear seat folded) is sized just right to swallow up a spare set of wheels and tires for track use. No mention was made of golf club bag capacity.

But like the Mazda MX-5 Miata before it, the BRZ is likely to find its way into the hearts and garages of both enthusiast and non-enthusiast drivers. The first bunch will love the balanced handling and the latter group will appreciate the head-turning styling at an attainable price. Even a six-speed automatic is available for those who don't want to shift.

Our base model, known as Premium in BRZ-speak, came to $27,117, including the destination charge and a few accessories such as a rear spoiler. Luxury models add leather trim, keyless entry, and other tidbits, and they start at $28,265, including destination.

It hasn't taken long to put on the requisite break-in miles to get our BRZ ready for testing, so watch for a full road test soon.

Jim Travers

   

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