The Subaru BRZ is a low-slung, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive coupe. It's the result of an engineering partnership between Subaru and Toyota; marriage that also spawned the Toyota GT86.
Visually, the only differences between the two cars are to the front bumper and badges, while they are mechanically identical, bar the Subaru's slightly stiffer suspension.
What's the 2012 Subaru BRZ like to drive?
Perhaps the best way to sum it up is to say that the BRZ is a bit of a rough diamond.
The engine is a 2.0-litre horizontally opposed flat-four, much like the one in the legendary rally-inspired Impreza WRX.
You need to rev the engine hard in the BRZ
Unlike the Impreza, however, the BRZ does without a turbocharger, so there's no addictive induction whoosh, and none of the neck-snapping mid-range wallop that the turbo car delivers.
Instead, the BRZ's engine produces a relatively modest 197bhp. That's not a lot in this day and age, but because the BRZ is also relatively light at 1239kg, it's still enough for a sub-7.0 second 0-62mph time.
You'll need to rev it until it's about to explode to produce these kind of figures. That's because the engine is very flat below 4000rpm; you find yourself working it for all its worth before grabbing another gear from the short-throw gearshift and shoving the accelerator back against the floor.
Due to its marginally firmer suspension, the Subaru feels slightly less at ease over urban lumps and bumps than the GT86, but it also feels that little bit sharper as speeds build.
Get it flowing down a country road and it changes direction smoothly and accurately, thanks to its low centre of gravity and slick steering.
Turn the traction control off and let rip with the accelerator and the BRZ goes from being neutrally balanced to extremely tail-happy. This trait isn't helped by the standard low-rolling-resistance tyres, which can also produce embarrassing amounts of tyre squeal when you're simply pulling out of your drive.
Great fun to drive, but road noise is an issue
In fact, the BRZ is about as far from a sophisticated coupe as you can imagine. The transmission is clunky and noisy and you can forget about needing any driver-attention aids because the racket produced by tyre on Tarmac is guaranteed to prevent your from dozing off.
What's the 2012 Subaru BRZ like inside?
Pretty minimalist. The BRZ's cabin is constructed almost entirely from tough-wearing (cheap) plastics. Most of the switchgear is simply arranged, though, while a bank of toggle switches gives the dashboard a bit of a fillip.
The low-slung driving position is spot on, thanks to a chunky sports steering wheel and superbly supportive sports seats. Some taller drivers may find the steering wheel doesn't have quite enough height adjustment, though.
More damningly, the back seats are next to useless. Head- and legroom are far too tight for adults, and foot space is worse still. Getting in and out of the rear is no pushover, either, so you'll be better off using the seats as extra luggage space. The boot is a reasonable 243 litres and just about wide enough to accept a set of golf clubs.
Should I buy one?
The first question you need to ask is should I buy a BRZ or a Toyota GT86. Our money would go on the Subaru.
Both cars are identically priced, both are built by Subaru and both produce the same amount of power and torque.
Even so, the BRZ's engine seems to develop more mid-range clout and is freer to rev. Whether this is a case of our Subaru BRZ test car having more miles on the clock - the Toyota felt extremely tight - or Subaru having reserved some software tinkering for its own cars, we'll find out in our main group test (see the September issue of What Car? magazine, on sale July 26th).
In addition, while the BRZ's firmer suspension does impact on comfort, it also gives a slight handling edge, which is more in keeping with the brief of a sports coupe.
We prefer the BRZ over the Toyota GT86
The next question you need to ask is whether either car is worth £25,000. You can blame the strength of the Yen for the steep pricing.
This is brought into sharp focus when you consider that for thr same kind of money you can have an Audi TT sitting on your drive, or, if you fancy something a bit more hardcore, the brilliant Renault Megane 265 Cup.
Read the full What Car? Subaru BRZ review
Renault Megane Renaultsport Cup
What Car? says...
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