The Touge-Otaku

Driven by the Love of the Drive

The BIG BRZ Post

So I got’s a BRZ. I’ve been hyping this car since last November when the production version was officially released. And god damnit you’re probably sick to death of me right? Well friends, I’m sorry but I need to make this post. So here we go, my full initial impressions of the BRZ. Want the tl;dr version? It’s a fantastic little car.

I’m going to be completely honest here, it is impossible for me to be completely objective about this car, at least in these initial 1000 miles. I’ve already illustrated the reasons why I love the concept of this car, and why I want it to be successful. It was already a given I would buy one, it was just a matter of when. I’ll admit that at some points I felt that this car could do no wrong. I have an obsessive personality I am slightly ashamed to admit, and when I latch on to something I LATCH ON TO SOMETHING. It’s hard for me to be objective about anything I obsess over. And ask any of my friends on Facebook and they’ll tell you I’ve obsessed over the BRZ (and FR-S/86). Almost to a unhealthy point at sometimes.

So I guess the question of the hour is this: was my hype justified? Eh…….er……..YES.

I am ready to admit that it is not the second coming of car-Jesus though. It’s not a perfect car, and there are minor annoyances. My first is the damn seat-belt. It’s a problem I have with many coupes, and something that never fails to annoy me. For some reason you can’t adjust the height of the belt and as a result, being a shorter person, it jabs into my neck throughout my drive. It’s something I should get used to over time, and yet I never do. And as a result, now I most likely have to buy some tacky set-belt pad that makes me look like a ricer.
Another annoyance is the sat-nav. I make no secret that I love the fact that the BRZ comes standard with navigation, hell it’s one of the BIG reasons I chose the BRZ over the FR-S. But the unit in the BRZ is at times hopeless. First off, the bluetooth. I get that it’s for safety, but I don’t really understand the point of not letting me dial my numbers on screen while the car is in motion, when I can just pick up my phone and use that to dial even if the car’s doing a hundred miles an hour. Seems like locking me out is only encouraging the more dangerous method no? And as for the sat-nav itself, the satellite signal is rubbish. It always cuts out, or says I’m going in the completely oposite direction. I honestly stoped using the sat-nav after a day.
Couple of other quick complaints: there’s a serious lack of interior storage………….and that’s it.

Seriously, when you’re complaining about seat belts and lack of places to put your random crap in a car you know you’re just stretching. So yes, the last couple of paragraphs were just me pretending to be objective reviewing this car. I just can’t, really I can’t. If anything I’ve become even MORE obsessed with this car post-purchase. I’ve been driving it around for about four days now, and it’s still not old. Sure four days is not a lot, but I remember not driving the WRX as much in my initial days after the purchase. And I also remember not feeling as special behind the wheel either. I’m not talking about being the center of attention (although that certainly has been the case as well), I’m talking about feeling special inside. Feeling good. The car just gives your a really really good feeling. It’s a feeling I get whenever I drive something like an M car, or a Porsche. A feeling of knowing that this car’s sole purpose is to stir your driving-soul. And I hate to put anyone down, but if you don’t know of that feeling, you’re not a real car enthusiast.
That feeling of driving pleasure is apparent right when you plop down into the brilliant seats. Seriously, among the best seats I’ve felt in a stock car this side of a Recaro. Drivers of a more well-endowed size, sorry, but you may want to either lose a few pounds or look for aftermarket seats, because these things are tight. Once in the seats, a great steering-wheel awaits your grip. I remember Toyota and Subaru bragging about this being the smallest wheel they make, but honestly it doesn’t feel all that much smaller in my hands than my WRXs did. The thing I love about this steering wheel is the thickness of the rim (and yes, that is indeed what she said…). It’s not quite BMW M (which is like an orgasm in my hands), but it’s the closest I’ve felt in a long while. I just love holding this wheel. Then, you stick you’re key in (or not if you got the BRZ Limited, you lucky bastard) the ignition, and depress that clutch, and then……whoa wait what? Holy crap that thing is light. Yes, the clutch pedal is seriously light, surprisingly so for this car. Is that a bad thing? I’m not sure, I really think it’s subjective. Personally I love it because I sit in traffic an awful lot. I will admit that it does lack in “feel”, I’m still trying to get used to the release point. But I will also admit that this is personal taste and not the cars fault. After you get over the clutch, you slot the car into first gear, and realize that this ain’t no Subaru transmission. I’ve read it’s based on the Aisin AZ6, used in other cars such as the NB Mazda Miata, Mazda RX-8, and my all time favorite feeling manual transmission the Honda S2000 (albiet Honda modified the AZ6 extensively). It is a seriously good feeling transmission, a tad notchy, yet precise with short throws at the same time. Not quite as slick as the S2000, but about as damn close as I’ve felt in a good while.

And remember, this is all before we’ve even started moving. Slot the car into first, again damn this is a good gearbox, and off we go. First thought? Response. Second thought? Response. Third thought? Hey that’s a pretty girl……response. Many a car reviews have said that the one word they’d use to describe the BRZ is balance. And while that is very much true, to me the bright neon headline is response, response , response. The throttle, when I press it, the car revs!! What is this I don’t even… When I turn the steering wheel, the car turns! What is this wizardry!? When I hit the brake pedal (and wow that brake pedal feels good!), the car bites and stops. It’s all so new!! Okay seriously though,  the immediacy with which everything driving wise happens is amazing. My big thing is the throttle response, something I absolutely HATED in my WRX. I’m sorry, I know turbo boost is a nice feeling, but give me engine response any day of the week. And that brings me to the monkey in the room: power. Yes, on paper 200 horespower isn’t a lot.  And yes, 150 lb-ft of torque is even less. And yet, I don’t care! I didn’t care before I got the car, and I care even less now that i have the car. Horsepower’s only good if you use it, and I don’t ever feel the need to use more than 200 on the street anyway. As with many aspects of this car, that mentality is not for everyone, I get that. But trust me, if you love driving the lack of grunt in the BRZ will not annoy you. And if anything, it gives you an excuse to wring that engine out, which sounds fantastic. I’ll admit that I was a little worried about the noise, being that many reviewers ripped it. But in all honesty I love the sound. It makes a wonderful “GGGGGRRRRRRRRHHHHH” sound, and sounds even better when you blip the throttle for a heal-toe. Sort of a “chrroooom” sound. Again, not for everyone, but it works for me.
Steering feel is great. This is my first car equipped with electric power steering, so maybe my opinion will change after some hard driving, but for now I have no complaints. I’m hesitant to comment on handling characteristics as I have yet to truly push the car in the turns (a travesty I know), but there are things I can inherently feel that make me smile even when driving around town. When you turn the car, it really feels like the whole car just pivots around your hip. Cliche description, yes I know, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. While I haven’t kicked the ass-end out yet, you get the sense that the rear of the car is moving in unison with the front. For me it’s an odd and satisfying feeling, one that is absent in the WRX. Taking turns just makes me exclaim “Yes! Yes, this is what I was expecting with RWD!”. My next local autcross in July can’t come soon enough.

*Photo credit: R. Shiroma

God, I love this car. It just feels so special. It feels like it’s something more than just a mode of transportation. The WRX has that same feeling too, and yet its different. I’m not gonna say that one car is better than the other. It’s literally different strokes for different blokes. The WRX is a great car, and more than enough car for a great many people. But for me? No question, the BRZ just feels that much more special. I tell people this: the WRX is an economy car with mustard shot up it’s bottom. The BRZ was built from the ground up to be a a machine of “pure handling delight”. And there’s an inherent feeling in both cars that signify this. In the end that feeling  the BRZ portrays is just priceless, and something the WRX or any hot-econo-car can’t portray (although the M3 and 1M say otherwise, and I do have to agree with that). Many have comapred the BRZs ethos to the Porsche Cayman and Boxster, and some go so far as to call the BRZ just that: a budget Cayman. I can’t make that claim, I’ve never driven either (anyone wanna help with that?). But if the BRZ is only half as good as a Cayman, then the Cayman must be one HELL of a car.

*Photo credit: R. Shiroma

If you love driving, if you love being behind the wheel of a car for the sake of driving, then I urge you to try a BRZ. Or an FR-S. Heck, if you’re in Hawaii I’ll let you drive mine! I really think this car is that important. It’s a car that can get other’s into cars and driving. It really could, and should, be the forerunner to a new age of enthusiast cars. One of simple humble roots, one of cheap thrills, accessible laughs for the people. I truly hope that the other car manufactures of the world see it as a success, and a business case for a new car of their own. And then I can say 10 years down the road: “Yes, yes I was one of the few who helped spread the love of cars to a new generation”. And who knows? maybe in 10 years I’ll still be doing it in this very BRZ..

Seat belts be damned.


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