Subaru BRZ long-term test review: you can switch the ESP fully off?

Skates are fun, don’t you think? Over-rotation of 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 euphoric. Great, isn’t it?

Well, yes, it is, unless the stack of the back-end of your drift-mobile on something hard, like a kerb. Then there is bright. I can tell you that from first-hand experience. A wise driver may be inclined to leave some form of electronic assistance in when they feel like ” get the back, to avoid such a scenario.

The Subaru BRZ can cater to this because, from 2017 facelift, comes with its ESP set at a high threshold, made possible thanks to the installation of shock absorbers that are firmer and a variety of parts that increase the stiffness of the chassis. This makes the car more predictable and therefore reduces the need for a nanny (ESP) to intervene and save the day – that is a very good news because, ultimately, many of the enthusiasts buy sports cars for fun. Knowing that you can do more driving with less intervention is a good thing

I have tried to evaluate the effectiveness of the ESP system earlier this year at Brands Hatch (see previous report below). I switch between your three new settings, the Track (instead of Sport) and ESP Off – but the weather was too good to really notice the difference in the last couple. That is one of the reasons why I decided to take the BRZ to Thruxton Circuit skid pan. There, with the ESP completely, the Subaru is very easy to drive, even on a surface as ice-as Thruxton. You can try to power, turn and brake aggressively, but the system overrides your commands, limits engine torque and applies the brakes to the wheel that slips to make sure that both axles are traveling in the same direction. It is virtually foolproof.

You want to get slippy-slidey? Then, change to the Track. In this mode, the wheels turn, the front pushes and the subsequent tour. Feed through the slalom section of Thruxton skid pan is a nerve-wracking experience, and the car starts and moves. The ESP is involved in around 20deg of slip, which is sufficient to go to the style but ensures that you continue to be pointing in the right direction

ESP Off illustrates how effective Track mode is, because it is almost impossible to maintain control through the slalom. The BRZ is a well balanced car, but his Michelin Primacy HPs are no match for the skid pan and I just make myself dizzy with twist after twist. Even in this driving mode, the ESP is still only a little bit. It turns out that you can’t fully turn it off, even though the only evidence of his presence during my countless spins is a flashing orange light.

I am disappointed that there is no way to completely disable the ESP in the Subaru? In this case no, because, unlike other ESP systems, the BRZ ESP Off it is clear that we must not intervene, but rather to reduce the impact speed, if you are about to get. It is not an accident-the prevention of the ESP – has very little effect. Injury is a reduction of ESP, and I agree with that.

LOVE IS: The keyless entry system is very good. The door is unlocked in the second to wrap the fingers around the grip

I HATE IS: The brakes growl loud when the ESP comes into action. Thank you for saving my life, but you can do it more quietly?


Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Economy with 33.0 mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 9031


Leaving the field of parking of a severely rain music festival, I’ve discovered a remarkable thing about our Subaru BRZ: its 54/46 weight distribution and rear-wheel drive that make for excellent mud-wading capacity. I just trundled through the baked clay, but others, in its front-driven hatches, struggled as their cars nose sank deeper into the earth.

Mileage 6380


An astrophysicist once said that interstellar wormholes were our best bet for time travel, but he had, obviously, never intervened in the interior of a Subaru BRZ. If he had, he would have realized that the buttons, the switches and the clock, seems to have been transported through the fabric of time, from 1993 until the year 2017, thus demonstrating that the BRZ is, in effect, of a different era.

That is the only explanation I can think of to account for the reason that many of the details in the cockpit are so square and lacking in attractive design. The numbers on the digital screens, the sources in the center console and the seat heater controls all seem to come from a microwave that was launched in the dump 15 years ago.

I admit that there are some aspects of the cabin I like. The steering wheel is refreshingly simple and suitable for the BRZ, both in diameter and thickness of the rim. The instrument’s screen next to the mark is harmless, and some useful features of menus, including an oil temperature of the screen and the horsepower and torque reading. In addition, the car seats are very comfortable. But, in general, the cabin is not by far as pretty as the outside of the car, 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 than the interior design department ran out of time to complete the final details. By the time they realized that the cabin was sub-par, it was too late to do the job correctly and they had to resort to old pieces of recycling.

If the BRZ’s cabin design has been improved, I would say that the car of the convenience would be substantially boosted. As proof of this, take the Mazda MX-5. The small Japanese two-seater cabin has a more pleasing to the eye as its exterior, with a nice design and very well matched details. Even the cabin’s air vents are a work of art. Enjoying the CVC is good of handling as alternate ventilation such as those that make the experience feel as premium as it is fun – and I say this with confidence, after having spent a few days in a 2.0-litre MX-5.

But – and this is where I have to finish – even when I was driving the MX-5, I still I lack the BRZ. I loved the Mazda is a more intuitive system of information and entertainment, but that he could not counter my longing for the state of alert of the BRZ chassis. The MX-5 is far from being slow in their responses, but the BRZ does not somehow feels heavier, despite being really 156kg podgier, and is more willing to react to each degree of steering input. It really gives the impression of being on another level in terms of performance, even if the cars respective of the power and torque figures suggest that this is not the case.

The BRZ just feels more special to lead. Is aided by a seat bottom that makes the car look more hunkered down, which gives you more confidence to drive correctly. Your attention is focused on soaking up the experience of driving.

You could say that although they are very different in shape and character, the BRZ and MX-5 are in fact closely aligned to the rivals. After all, the price of this BRZ and the MX-5 I drove are nearly identical.

As such, I would say that we are lucky to live in a time in which these cars are available simultaneously. Having said that, nothing can convince me to chop in the BRZ, microwave buttons and everything.


LOVE IS: The BRZ’s brakes are not over-attended, unlike most modern cars, and the pedal offers a decent amount of feel.

I HATE: The light weight of the BRZ’s body has a price: the little acoustic insulation. Quite a lot of noise is generated on the motorways.

Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Economy 33.5 mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 6104


Our BRZ has the top specification of the system of information and entertainment: a 7.0-in touch screen made by Alpine, but that is offered through dealers of Subaru. In comparison with the standard 6.2 on the whole, our system adds satellite navigation and DAB radio. It seems expensive at £1250 (excluding mounting), so if, like me, you can use your smartphone for navigation and music, you could save that money for petrol in his place.


How”Subaru”is the BRZ? It is a ‘real’ Subaru?

These are the questions I have been asked several times, often after someone accuses our car is a “rebadged Toyota GT86”. So, to find out more about the real Subaru character, I climbed up to a WRX STI – the yobbo of the range Subaru and a ‘Scooby’ – to see if I could identify any strands of shared DNA with the BRZ.

As our BRZ, this WRX (pictured below) was finished in WR Blue Mica and had a rear spoiler, but that is where the similarities ended. The BRZ, with its slick coupe’s exterior, welcomes you to a low height of the seat in position and it feels like tiptoeing on the road. On the contrary, the WRX, with its muscular styling and chairs in the upright position, it feels more and more antisocial as it chunters along.

In fact, it feels very awkward to the unit and its controls are significantly less fluid to operate. The WRX is much faster – a given due to their highly powered 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer delivers 296bhp – but it is more difficult to predict and, as such, offers a less communicative experience than the BRZ.

Really, these cars feel like products completely different brands, which might suggest that the answer to our earlier question is ” no ” – that means that the BRZ is basically a GT86 spin-off, right? Well, erm, no. My test comes from a week-long season in a GT86 (image below), which showed me that the BRZ, brother from another mother is, in fact, markedly different.

There are minor differences in various areas, but the most obvious contrast comes in the form of the car ride. The BRZ is firmer, especially in the rear, which makes the GT86 more comfortable in the city, but at the same time gives the BRZ slightly sharper handling in a B-road. The differences are small but they are significant because they send to both cars in different directions of approach.

You may feel that Toyota has designed its GT86 to be more tolerant in several areas, which makes it a little better all-rounder, while Subaru has done to their BRZ the more aggressive of the pair. That is a very Subaru thing to do, surely, which means that the response to the questions posed at the start are ‘very’ and ‘yes’. I think that. Can I go now?


Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Economy 29.1 mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 5682


Overflowing with a 2+2 coupe with four adults and their luggage is not recommended, but I did, and it was a squeeze. As such, the stretch up the M1 from London to Leeds (pictured above) was marred by the moans of numb legs and cramps. But the BRZ was very frugal (on average 42mpg) and, for the driver, at least, a comfortable place to spend three-and-a-bit hours.


Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Economy 42mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 5470


The BRZ is equipped with eco-focused Michelin Primacy HP tires that make it all the more entertaining on the road, because you can explore the car’s limits relatively modest speeds. But on the way, they are faced with grippier asphalt and much higher speeds, these are the 215/45 R17 boots really work?

A good place for test this is in the grand prix circuit at Brands Hatch. Ripples, the changing surface, heavy braking areas and long corners means that there is the potential for aggressive driving to melt the BRZ’s tires out of their edges. That is a thought that is disconcerting when you’re fully committed in the Paddock Hill Bend.

But even in the rhythm track, the BRZ is so confidence-inspiring. I’ve taken Brands of enormous proportions, the first curve on other cars and spent the time necessary to mount the steeply angled roller-coaster of terror of an imminent moment of snap oversteer. In BRAZIL, however, feels very connected with the car that you are always a step ahead of what your sweet balanced chassis is doing.

In corners, the BRZ moves below it, making the whole process of participation. You can work the wheel with the minutes at the entries through each corner, the balance of this with the throttle adjustments and the use of everything from visual cues to the feeling through the back to measure what is happening.

It sounds difficult, but such is the level of communication offered by the chassis that comes very naturally after a couple of laps.

Few cars can feel so alive but so predictable, and few can take so much abuse for so long. Even after 15 minutes of very hard driving, the brakes and the tyres felt well within their limits. In fact, the tires showed no physical signs of overheating after four to 20 minutes in cold.

Of course, this car is not perfect on the track – the most modern hot hatches will power past on the straights and other tires offer the most grip, but by pure and consistent enjoyment of a circuit, is one of the best of the factory-spec road cars that I’ve driven.


Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Economy 32.4 mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 4997


A month in the operation of our BRZ, I’ve learned two very important things. One, the BRZ is not a supercar slayer, because it is not especially powerful, and the tires are Michelin Primacy do not offer masses of grip. And two, I don’t give a hoot, because in the right side of the road, in the right conditions, is simply sublime.

The reasons are easy to explain. For starters, the car’s low center of gravity that gives it the balance that the cars of two times the value of the envy, and its well-weighted steering responds with an eagerness that makes it feel as if the whole car is wrapped around you and moving with your every input.

The power hard out of a corner with the motor running very close to peak torque around 6000rpm and out of the rear of the car squat just enough to maximize traction but not so much that the opposition front tire feels like it is fighting to stay in contact with the ground.

It is a very satisfactory feeling to the work, in the car this hard, and despite sending only 197bhp to the back, Torsen limited-slip differential locks just enough to allow delicate slide on the corner exits.

The traction control and ESP, while mostly not intrusive when turned on, can fortunately be turned off completely, leaving it up to you to ensure the car stays on the black stuff. However, unlike a car that has more power, you feel like you are a long way from getting in trouble. The BRZ is a very forgiving machine, flattering, both aggressive and smooth driving styles.

In an open and well-sighted B-road you can drive with a level of commitment that I was going to send to many other cars at full speed into a hedge. The BRZ dances and rotates around its center and it is small enough to thread along a British B-road without the fear of stepping over the white lines.

All of this translates into a car that is accessible, but it still feels like a true sports car. My colleague Jimi Beckwith put it very well after you jump directly from a Mazda MX-5 and BRZ when he said that the Subaru “feels more serious,” and “as a specialist in the car.”

I agree. And for that reason, I’m not going to hand the keys to it any time soon again.


Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Economy of 25.6 mpg Faults None Expenses None Mileage 2748


You can’t buy much more pure cars in 2017 of a Subaru BRZ.

With a naturally aspirated engine up front, a six-speed manual gearbox in the middle and the unit is sent to the back, it really is a delicious recipe for motoring nirvana. It is, of course, one of which was shared very closely with the Toyota GT86, so that leaves us with one burning question: why buy Subaru?

At least for me, there is a very obvious answer: the color. Certainly, the World Rally Blue is the only color that the BRZ comes, but it is the only one that must go. The paintjob refers to a motorsport pedigree that even Toyota – a company with a history of the interpretation of the models and a fine of jurisdiction of the heritage – I can not match. That is what Subaru of 28 years that he spent in the World Rally Championship is, I guess.

Of course, it is not the only reason that you could buy a BRZ over a GT86; there are technical reasons, too. Subaru gives your car a little more aggressive chassis set-up, which is the sharper of the pair, and the brand is also more aligned with the car’s distinctive 2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, so it could be said that guarantees the right to a Subaru badge on its nose, even more than the Toyota.

Then there are the visual details. The Subaru has its own design of the bumpers and light graphics, creating a more aggressive look front and rear. For me, the Subaru, in 2017, facelift guise especially, the edges of the GT86 for looks, although I recognize that opinions vary. Then again, only one comes in World Rally Blue.

In the interior, the Subaru puts a slightly different finish to an interior that is otherwise identical to that of the Toyota. Our car comes with the £1500 option of a touch-screen satellite navigation and infotainment system, and is an option box well worth taking.

In general, the cabin feels pretty solid. That bridges the line between functionality and sportiness quite well, despite the fact that some of the buttons feel like they have been transplanted directly from the decade of 1990. In particular, the digital clock in the center console looks like it belongs in a museum.

I like the driving position, which allows you to get nice and low in the car and have the arms stuck out in a straight line. That said, I’m quite long-legged, so that to achieve the perfect arms reach, my legs are a little bit narrower than they would be in, say, a Porsche 718 Cayman.

But it is unfair to compare the BRZ, which starts at £26,050 on your registration form, a car whose price of entry starts at around £ 13,000 more. Better to compare it with the Mazda MX-5 RF, which, with a 2.0-liter engine, costs from £23,395. While the BRZ lacks a collapsible roof, it feels significantly more concentrated in the way that the MX-5, while its boxer engine only the edges of the Mazda’s more conventional in-line four for the character.

The BRZ also faces competition from the Nissan 370Z, which costs £29,185. Even the BRZ’s flatfour is a match for the 370Z is a muscular 3.7-liter V6, which is both more urgent and more phonetically pleasant to listen to. The 370Z’s muscular appearance gives him a more adult appearance, while the BRZ, especially with its sporty rear spoiler, it looks a little more youthful.

But the BRZ wins in the form of the face any way. You have to stroke a 370Z by a winding country road, the car management strong 1496kg empty weight, while the sprightlier BRZ – pesa 1242kg – can be pushed as a hooligan. The motor needs to be discussed in order to work correctly, because the maximum torque of 151lb fti only available between 6400rpm and 6600rpm, while its 178bhp peak power of the following even later, at 7000rpm. But this hunger of revolutions to adapt to the car’s character to perfection.

The Subaru is certainly no rocketship, taking 7.6 seconds to reach 62 mph from rest and the expenditure in excess of 140 mph. But it is a proper sports car with old-school charm and bags of character, so that even after only 1500 miles of ownership, my first impressions are very good (if had not already working on that).

We have the next six months to know what it is to live with SU13 ARU (see what I did there?). You will need to be as frugal as it is fun, as flexible as it is agile and as comfortable as it is attractive. In exchange, I promise to keep that World Rally Blue paint glossy.


Price £26,050 Price as tested £27,550 Options Sat-nav £1500 Economy 27.9 mpg Faults None Expenses None