I don’t think I had ever been in a car that did not have an obvious center area to rest your arm while driving that didn’t have a bench front seat, until yesterday when I climbed into a 2018 Toyota GT86 for the first time and put my elbow right into the parking brake.
The only acceptable time I have been in a vehicle with no armrests it was a truck with a bench seat, and even then it had a fold down arm rest for the majority of the time where nobody is sitting in the middle.
The GT86 is nothing like that. In the space between the two admittedly cozy heavily-bolstered front seats, there is a cavity of hard plastics just waiting to bruise some arm capillaries for the uninitiated, like me. Look:
This GT86 I was driving was thankfully a manual, and here’s where we dive into nitpicking. In my experience with manual cars, namely the E46 BMW I wrote about yesterday and my parents’ Mazda 3 back home, there has always been a cushy anchor point for my idle shifting arm.
I can’t believe I even have to explain this, but an armrest in a manual car means you can keep the gear action arm in a comfortable but ever-ready position for your slick shifts. An armrest perfectly sets up the driver for the classic “casual, one-handed relaxed” driving position that is half the reason of even owning a stick-shift.
Instead, with the GT86 and, as images prove, the Subaru BRZ, the car literally leaves you hanging. It’s not there to support you. It’s either two hands on the wheel, or an awkward one-on-wheel, one-on-shifter where your elbow is dangerously free.
You may think it doesn’t matter, since the fun happens in the lower gears where that elbow is greased to get a lot of gear action. But for anyone who has to sit at lights, or anyone with a commute who often keeps it thrown over in fifth or sixth, no armrest is a huge oversight, and a massive disappointment.
I don’t know what the hell they were thinking, but the fact that two automakers managed to overlook a major element of interior comfort while making the formerly-Scion GT86 and the steadfast BRZ is totally unacceptable.
If we actually want people to appreciate and purchase more manual cars, we should angle to cover the basics of comfort. There should be riots in the streets, but I’m not sure too many people care enough about these cars to actually do anything.