Suburban malaise is a very real thing. Spend enough time in a small town and you’ll find yourself with a dull yet somehow intense boredom. Sure, you can mow the lawn and maybe get a drink down at the local dive bar, but it gets old. Fast. My solution to the boredom? Drive a Subaru BRZ.
Subaru’s little sports coupe feels like it was created with the express purpose of making your day a little bit better. It makes an ordinary drive anything but. The BRZ might not be a perfect car, but I’ll argue it’s the perfect car to get you through the day when you don’t feel like getting through much of anything.
Full Disclosure: Subaru was kind enough to lend me a BRZ with a full tank of gas for a week in suburban North New Jersey.
The BRZ Sliding Around Town
The Subaru BRZ is a boredom killer. Its notoriously tail-happy chassis lends itself to approachable fun. Give it a little too much throttle while going around a corner and it’ll easily step out. But that tail-happiness is easily controllable, and if you’re not too much of a goofus, you’ll be able to catch it just fine. The BRZ’s skinny 215/40R-18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires make this a much easier exploit than you might think.
But, I hear you. You aren’t that much of a risk-taker. Don’t worry, because the BRZ is still rewarding. The steering is as sharp and direct as any metaphor I could possibly come up with. The car will give you loads of cornering confidence without requiring you to venture into law-breaking speeds. “Slow car fast” is what the BRZ does best. There’s just one problem: the engine.
The Boxer Beatdown
My issue with the BRZ’s 2.4-liter boxer four doesn’t have to do with its power. With 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap, there’s enough get-up-and-go to make the BRZ feel quick, provided you don’t mind downshifting at higher speeds where the torque just isn’t there. My issue isn’t with the redline; the BRZ revs all the way up to 7,500 rpm, which is great for eking out power. The six-speed manual transmission is awesome, too; tight shifts and a notchy action mean you’ll never goof up and miss a gear.
No, my issue is that the naturally aspirated 2.4 sounds and feels rattly, like it wants to propel one of its horizontally-opposed cylinders through a fender. I understand that some people out there like the sounds and characteristics of a boxer engine. I am not one of them. I’m not even in the ballpark of one of them. At start-up the engine rattles and shakes like a diesel that’s been sitting for too long. It jiggles the shifter back and forth as if a ghost was making sure it was in neutral a bit too aggressively. No matter where you are in the rev range, the boxer sounds downright unhappy. At one point a passenger actually asked me if the car was broken. It sounds that bad.
However, I suppose the engine does add to the charisma of the car. You can never say it’s a boring powerplant. The boxer engine has a certain lively character, and since Subaru retuned the torque curve for the second-generation BRZ, the power is more accessible. That’s a good thing. To me this car is all about making life a bit more bearable when things are the most boring, and this engine does that.
What’s Inside the BRZ Doesn’t Count
Look, the Subaru BRZ is a cheap car. My tester — which is fully equipped with everything from heated seats to adaptive headlights — comes in at $31,445, including a $1,020 destination charge. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that drives this well for that little amount of money. Because of this relatively low price, the cost-cutting had to happen somewhere.
Nothing inside the BRZ feels like it’s a terribly high-quality item. Hard plastics, dated graphics and a slow infotainment system are really to blame for this general vibe. All of that, though, I can easily forgive.
I’ll even forgive the incredibly cramped interior dimensions. If you really try, you can get four full-sized adults in the car, but not a single one of you will be comfortable. (I highly recommend doing this if you’re planning on going to a local Outback Steakhouse.) It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the BRZ’s back seats aren’t totally suitable for human life, but it does add the practicality of being able to fit some extra luggage or whatever else won’t fit in the trunk. If you’re worried a Miata is just a bit too small for you, the BRZ should have you covered in most situations.
There is just one thing that bothers me in the BRZ’s interior: the front seats. Tight bolstering and a complete lack of lumbar support make for a less-than-comfortable sitting experience. In fact, it feels like there’s negative lumbar support, as if the seats are broken. I should say that all body types are different, and this would not keep me from buying a BRZ, but you should really sit in one for an extended period of time before deciding to make a purchase. Make sure you don’t have the same issues I do.
Making Your Way in the World With a BRZ
Despite its faults, the Subaru BRZ exists to make you a happier person. Is it perfect? No. But what vehicle really is? For under $35,000, you won’t find a new car that’s more fun to drive this side of a Miata. There are quicker cars out there, cars with better interiors and even cars that handle better. But none of them will give you the same feeling the BRZ does when you’re behind the wheel. Buy the Subaru, and you’ll never be bored.