BRZ makes ar­gu­ment for your dol­lars

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WHEELS - BY JUSTIN PRITCHARD

Subaru’s BRZ Inazuma is the lat­est spe­cial-edi­tion ver­sion of the brand’s two-door sports coupe which, in case you didn’t know, of­fers sportscar bang-forthe-buck on par with a $3-case of dy­na­mite.

In Inazuma Edi­tion guise (Inazuma is Ja­panese for light­ning, if you’re won­der­ing), core BRZ traits are en­hanced with tar­geted up­grades to brakes, sus­pen­sion and ap­pear­ance.

Drivers get a fa­mil­iar flat-four en­gine that loves spin­ning fast, a fan­tas­tic six-speed stick and nearly per­fect weight dis­tri­bu­tion.

Then the Inazuma Edi­tion adds a slick spoiler, black trim, spe­cial wheels and tires, Sachs pre­mium dampers and pow­er­ful Brembo brakes.

Also, it’s very yel­low — from the vivid yel­low paint, to the yel­low ac­cent stitch­ing, seat pan­els and even in­te­rior door grab han­dles.

Oc­cu­pants sit low and deep in the cabin, with­out feel­ing too cramped. There’s de­cent at­hand stor­age, in­clud­ing cub­bies and door pock­ets and proper cup hold­ers.

Folks sit­ting up front won’t find this too hard a coupe to board or exit, though rear seats are a dif­fer­ent story.

You can phys­i­cally fit an adult into them, but they might be more com­fort­able walk­ing home in the rain.

As a pack­age, BRZ Inazuma makes a com­pelling ar­gu­ment for your dol­lars — just un­der 33,000 of them, in the case of this top-dog model.

For the money, one thing sticks out fur­ther than any­thing else in sep­a­rat­ing the BRZ from com­peti­tors. From the ground up, it was de­signed to be a gen­uine sports car, not a hopped-up ver­sion of a high-vol­ume com­muter model, like a Honda Civic Si or Mini Cooper S.

This shows up mas­sively in the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The un­com­pro­mised de­sign means BRZ is small, lean and light with lit­tle con­ces­sion for things like cargo space or a big rear seat.

It’s rear-wheel drive, too, where most sporty com­pacts aren’t, so you can talk drift­ing with your pals.

And, with the Inazuma Edi­tion’s en­hanced brakes and sus­pen­sion im­prov­ing stop­ping power, brake sys­tem dura­bil­ity, and han­dling sta­bil­ity, and find­ing a sports coupe bet­ter set up for week­end track days, right out of the box, will be a toughie.

Move fast if you want one though: at writ­ing, only a few dozen copies of the lim­it­ededi­tion BRZ Inazuma were left un­sold.

Many words de­scribe what you feel when driv­ing this ma­chine hard, in­clud­ing frisky, feisty and ea­ger. It’s eas­ier to ex­plain what you DON’T feel though: drive the pants off of it, and you never feel like the car is strug­gling with its size or weight, or like you’re both­er­ing it.

The steer­ing is so quick, you only need mil­lime­tres of move­ment at the wheel, but also heavy enough that it doesn’t feel all anx­ious or twitchy on the high­way.

Pitch it around some fast cor­ners, and BRZ Inazuma seems to say “all right, cool, we can do that!”

There’s no body roll, no drama, no plow­ing. Spin the two-litre en­gine to its growl­ing 7,400 RPM red­line and it sounds like it loves it. If you have a pulse, you’ll be smil­ing ear-to-ear as 205 horse­power surge into ac­tion as the revs climb.

Brake hard and she shuts down from speed right now with min­i­mal fade and con­fi­dence to spare. The steer­ing, shifter and clutch all have no slack. The bal­ance is tremen­dous — brakes are per­fectly matched to the power. The steer­ing is ex­pertly tuned against the han­dling and char­ac­ter of the ve­hi­cle.

Noth­ing over­whelms any­thing else, and as ag­gres­sively as you’d care to drive, it just never feels out of its el­e­ment. BRZ responds with that im­me­di­ate ur­gency to your com­mands that you just don’t quite get with a souped-up Civic.

With the Sachs pre­mium dampers, the added han­dling per­for­mance comes with min­i­mal com­pro­mise to com­fort.

Some ve­hi­cles that han­dle this well ride like a trash-can full of rocks. Here, you’ve got ride qual­ity that’s com­fort­able enough for use any day.

Fur­ther, though horse­power out­put is mod­est, you do get to smash a few good red­line gearshifts be­fore you’re in de­merit point ter­ri­tory. It’s also amus­ingly good on fuel.

Gripes? Wind and road noise lev­els at speed are gen­er­ous, rear seats are ba­si­cally use­less, and if you’re not some­what fit, you’ll prob­a­bly wish it was eas­ier to get into your seat. Worst of all, the cen­tral com­mand touch­screen looks like it’s from the for­ties.

End of the day, though, here’s an au­then­ti­cally sat­is­fy­ing sports car driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that doesn’t cost too much, is easy on fuel and loves be­ing driven hard.

If you feel like there just isn’t enough sports car in your life, this thing will fix all of your prob­lems like a packet of Peter Popoff mir­a­cle spring wa­ter.

Justin Pritchard is an au­to­mo­tive con­sul­tant and a mem­ber of the Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada (AJAC).

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