Subaru BRZ gets gritty makeover with tS model
RAW rear-wheel drive. It's a back-to-basics recipe that recently received a pinch of fun to reinvigorate the Subaru BRZ.
Launched six years ago, a new range-topping tS variant was introduced this year to add some extra road-holding firepower to the little coupe.
A twin under the skin with the Toyota 86, its development was a partnership between the two brands but this tS is the most savage stock-standard derivative you can buy as it comes with better equipment than the 86's GTS with performance kit.
Hardcore tuning arm Subaru Tecnica International has given the BRZ a mid-life makeover to formulate the tS, using a heap of go-fast bits to improve its ability when the going gets twisty.
Costing an extra $4404 over the Premium derivatives, the retail price is just below $40k, which means a drive-away bottom line in the vicinity of $43,000.
Among the headline acts is a seven-inch infotainment touch-screen, which comes with sat nav and, most importantly, smartphone mirroring applications Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latter improves functionality and is the most cohesive integration of your smartphone available - Subaru has struggled with its systems in the past and this addition is a boon.
But key changes come under the skin. Take a look at the black 18-inch alloys and the Brembo brakes with red painted callipers provide an insight into the upgrades within.
Cornering prowess was the focus, with Sachs suspension, STI coil springs, as well as Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
Apart from the external badging, other hints that this is something special come from the black rear spoiler, mirrors and shark-fin roof-mounted antenna, while it also gets an exclusive front bumper.
Inside there are red seat belts, push-button start with STI logo, along with Alcantara seat trim.
It's available in limited numbers with a "cool grey” palette, a hue that attracted many detractors for its "undercoat” look, as well as white pearl, silver metallic, grey metallic, black silica, two shades of blue and a bright red.
Services are every 15,000km or nine months - the latter is short and it can be frustrating going back to the dealer regularly. Most other manufacturers have adopted annual schedules.
The first four services are capped at $224.44 each.
ON THE ROAD
Sounding and feeling distinctly sporty from the moment you hit start, the edgy feel is immediately evident.
Yet carrying speed into a corner is when the BRZ tS shines. Not only did STI tune the Sachs suspension and throw in their own coils, changes were also made to steering and control, with stiffer front suspension links.
With the typically low sports car position, it hunkers down close to the bitumen and almost dares the driver to push its limits. With the improved rubber it claws into the road and challenging go-kart-like manoeuvres were met with impressive dexterity.
Among the greatest criticisms of the BRZ - and the 86, for that matter - has been power. But the key to having fun and enjoying rear-wheel drive coupes like this isn't break-neck speed, rather the composed feel derived in twisty terrain where the pilot needs poise rather than brute force.
The driver's binnacle gives the greatest indicator of the BRZ's intentions, with the tachometer taking precedence. Loving to rev, it'll work hard, although it will never shatter 0-100km/h sprint times with an official figure of 7.6 seconds.
Sitting close to the ground and on low-profile rubber means there is a reasonable amount of road noise and using Apple CarPlay for hands-free phone calls the volume had to be at maximum - those at the other end said it sounded like calls were coming from a tunnel.
Rear seat accommodation is tight and is an area restricted to children or small adults. The key issue is space in the footwell under the low and bulky bucket front seats.
The rear-wheel drive is fun, although for similar coin I could opt for a rampaging little hot hatch that actually has room in the back seat for the kids and a larger boot.
I'm a confident steerer who can handle a rear-wheel drive coupe, which is the purist's choice when it comes to getting behind the wheel ... and I can handle three pedals.
The five-star rating was applied in 2012. Armed with stability control, anti-lock brakes and seven air bags, it still has good protection but misses out on some of the latest gadgets, such as radar cruise and autonomous emergency braking.
TOYOTA 86 LIMITED EDITION FROM $38,840
Just like the tS, it comes with a rear wing, Brembo brakes and Sachs dampers. Equally good fun, just has smaller alloys and misses out on the smartphone mirroring apps.
HYUNDAI I30 N FROM $39,990
Take your pick from any hot hatch realm but this is the latest addition offering impressive value for money. It's front-wheel drive, 2.0-litre turbo and a real little rocketship.
Anyone can go fast in a straight line. It takes skill and precision to carve through corners and the BRZ tS offers the weaponry needed in the bendy battleground. It's not refined or luxurious, rather it possesses the true essence of a fun sports car.
AT A GLANCE
Subaru BRZ tS
PRICE $39,894 manual, $41,894 auto (ok)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 3 year unlimited km (ok) 4 services total $898 (short intervals)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl 152kW/212Nm (needs PULP)
SAFETY 5 star, 7 airbags, stability control, reversing camera, no AEB (ok)
THIRST 8.4L/100km (thirsty)
SPARE Space saver (helps boot)
BOOT 237L (pretty compact)