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2013 Subaru BRZ Road Test Review by Martha Hindes - RTM's 17th Annual Sexy Car Buyer's Guide

2013 Subaru BRZ Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2013 Sexy Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Most Sex Appeal

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There's a difference in knowing a new car is coming along and having it unexpectedly thrust in your vision with a spectacular image. That's the reaction we had to first seeing the new 2013 Subaru BRZ sports car. It was like "Wow! Can't wait to drive it!" And rather like first sight of the "amazing" Bachelor Shawn Lowe removing his shirt to show off his spectacular abs, then anticipating he would do it again as a Dancing with the Stars competitor. We could imagine his foxy fan clubbers hoping for a 3D TV to watch him.

Of course we expected good things from BRZ, considering Subaru's history of rally car racing. We recall the magnetic draw of the fabled WRX that had some driving enthusiasts peering into showrooms after the Japanese company finally brought it to America a decade ago. We had taken our turn behind the wheel carving through a sandy road racing course in mid-Florida where we learned of its strength and agility in maneuvering around hairpin corners. That included those illusive handbrake turns that can pivot a speeding auto's direction to another in seconds. We expected no less from the new BRZ.

The BRZ comes in Premium and top-line Limited editions. Our test model was a gleaming Limited coupe in a shade called Crystal Black Silica, strikingly contemporary in design, with sultry body lines flowing back to the obligatory winged rear spoiler. A low slung nose looked ready to devour the roadway ahead.

The BRZ is rear-drive unlike the usually all-wheel-drive Subaru’s. It has the racing credentials -- new, 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed "Boxer" engine generating 200-horsepower, sport-tuned suspension, and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. (Ours was fitted with summer performance tires.) On the mileage side, it posted an overall 25 MPG rating (22 city/32 highway) with manual transmission. The optional six-speed automatic rates at 28-MPG combined (25-city/34-highway).

We think the BRZ's breeding should make it an ideal racing car, capable of whiplash turns, sudden revs and slowdowns and presumably the ability to go airborne at speed over a deep dip on a rally road course. We didn't try that, and won't recommend it without first checking with Subaru or a rally club. But handling was agile and responsive and begged for a chance to soar unfettered along a ribbon of mountain road.

The interior of the BRZ has a simplified, no-nonsense layout with tachometer dead center in the driver's gauges (for racing) with inset digital speed readout (for normal driving conditions). The speedometer gauge is on the left. Controls are mostly dials with gear-like silver colored surrounds that match a silver-toned plastic dash panel. The three-spoke, sport steering wheel is tilt/telescoping to make it customizable.

BRZ seating, in a matte black with suede-look panel insets and red saddle stitching, leaves no doubt this car is race worthy. The high bolstered, hip hugging front seats will keep almost anyone glued to the seats regardless of the sidewise G forces one imposes. The aluminum-clad dead pedal should help maintain driver control on the gnarliest courses. A button cancels skid control so one can freely slide the auto's rear around corners when speed is essential. (We think some lead-footed cops might appreciate this during a chase.)

While the front seat can slide back enough to accommodate a six-plus footer with ease, rear seating is there, but barely. We think it could be useful for someone very small or who doesn't mind riding head down to constantly text. Child seat anchors are there, not visible but recessed in the rear seat-back that folds down to expand the small trunk area with enough space for four racing tires.

At first the standard audio/navigation system seemed underwhelming. That perception changed. While the screen was smaller than in some more luxurious (and far pricier) autos we've tested, it was intrinsically more stable and user friendly than some. The touch screen worked easily and gave a birds-eye map, altitude, longitude and latitude markings (maybe a help for a navigator plotting course corrections). We tried the high definition radio and found it continually drifted in and out of the signal area, quickly resolved by touching the HD button that turned the hi def off. It was that or reserve the audio for our playlist selections.

While the BRZ has vehicle stability control, full airbags including side curtains and 4-wheel disc brakes with brake assist among safety items, it is not yet EPA safety-rated. We found it, however, agile and compliant in handling, with taut cornering, a tight turning radius and strong braking with no hint of dive.

For someone who wants a "pure sports car" (Subaru's term) without hocking the house, the BRZ is simply fun unlimited.  At $27,495 base for our test model ($28,265 as delivered including $770 destination and delivery charges) we can't imagine a more delicious way to take on temptation at a reasonable cost. And with a lot of road racing talent as its underpinnings.