Is there a better bargain driver’s car? We don’t think so but need to be sure…
Skids are fun, don’t you think? Over-rotate the rear and let the car slide along and – poof – a shot of adrenaline and an accompanying rush of endorphins are pumped into your brain and you feel exhilarated. Brilliant, isn’t it?
Well, yes, it is, unless you pile the back end of your drift-mobile into something hard, like a kerb. Then it’s not brilliant. I can tell you that from first-hand experience. A wiser driver might be inclined to leave some form of electronic assistance on when they fancy ‘getting the rear out’, to prevent such a scenario.
The Subaru BRZ can cater to this because, since the 2017 facelift, it comes with its ESP set at a raised threshold, made possible thanks to the fitment of firmer dampers and a variety of parts that increase chassis rigidity. This makes the car more predictable and therefore reduces the need for nanny ESP to step in and save the day – which is very good news because, ultimately, many enthusiasts buy sports cars to have fun in. Knowing you can do more of the driving with less intervention is a good thing
I attempted to gauge the effectiveness of the ESP system earlier this year at Brands Hatch (see earlier report below). I toggled between its three new settings – On, Track (in place of Sport) and ESP Off – but the weather was too good to really notice the difference in the latter pair. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to take the BRZ to Thruxton Circuit’s skid pan. There, with the ESP fully on, the Subaru is remarkably easy to drive, even on a surface as ice-like as Thruxton’s facility. You can try to power, turn and brake aggressively, but the system overrides your commands, limits torque and applies the brakes to any wheel that slips to ensure that both axles are travelling in the same direction. It’s pretty much foolproof.
Want to get slippy-slidey? Then switch to Track. In this mode, the wheels spin up, the front pushes and the rear rotates. Powering through the slalom section of Thruxton’s skid pan is a nerve-wracking experience and the car snatches and drifts. The ESP intervenes at about 20deg of slip, which is enough to look cool but ensures you continue pointing in the right direction
ESP Off illustrates just how effective Track mode is, because it becomes nigh-on impossible to maintain control through the slalom. The BRZ is a well-balanced car, but its Michelin Primacy HPs are no match for the skid pan and I just make myself dizzy with spin after spin. Even in this driving mode, the ESP is still on just a teeny bit. It turns out you can’t fully turn it off, although the only evidence of its presence during my countless spins is a flashing orange light.
Am I disappointed there’s no mode to completely disable the ESP in the Subaru? Not in this case, because, unlike other ESP systems, the BRZ’s ESP Off is clearly not there to intervene, but rather to reduce the speed of impact if you’re about to stuff it. It’s not a crash-preventing ESP – it has too little effect to be that. It’s an injury-reducing ESP, and I’m okay with that.
LOVE IT: The keyless entry is very good. The door unlocks the second you wrap your fingers around the handle
LOATHE IT: The brakes growl loudly when the ESP kicks in. Thanks for saving my life, but can you do it more quietly?
SUBARU 2.0I SE LUX MANUAL
Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Economy 33.0mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 9031
While leaving the field car park of a severely rained-on music festival, I discovered a remarkable thing about our Subaru BRZ: its 54/46 weight distribution and rear drive make for excellent mud-wading ability. I simply trundled through the sodden clay but others, in their front-driven hatches, struggled as their cars’ noses sunk deeper into the earth.
An astrophysicist once said that interstellar wormholes were our best bet for time travel, but he’d obviously never stepped inside a Subaru BRZ. If he had, he would have noticed that the buttons, the switches and the clock look like they’ve been transported through the fabric of time from 1993 to 2017, therefore proving that the BRZ is indeed from a different era.
That’s the only explanation I can think of to account for the reason so many of the details in the cabin are so square and lacking in design appeal. The numbers in the digital displays, the fonts on the centre console and the heated-seat controls all look like they came from that microwave you threw in the dump 15 years ago.
I’ll admit there are some aspects of the cabin I like. The steering wheel is refreshingly simple and feels right for the BRZ both in overall diameter and rim thickness. The instrument screen next to the dials is inoffensive and features some useful menus, including an oil temperature display and a live power and torque readout. Plus, the car’s seats are actually very comfortable. But, overall, the cabin isn’t anywhere near as pretty as the car’s exterior and so remains its weakest link.
Perhaps it’s because Subaru’s development team was so busy ensuring the car was excellently balanced and fun to drive that the interior styling department ran out of time to complete the final details. By the time they realised that the cabin was sub-par, it was too late to do the job properly and they had to resort to a dusty old parts bin.
If the BRZ’s cabin design was improved, I’d argue that the car’s desirability would be substantially boosted. As proof, take the Mazda MX-5. The little Japanese two-seater has a cabin as eye-pleasing as its exterior, with a tidy layout and nicely matched details. Even the cabin’s air vents are a work of art. Enjoying …read more