Motor (Australia)

SUBARU BRZ COUPE S AUTO

New and improved BRZ ticks boxes, but is a manual the only option?

- BY • ALEX AFFAT

THE SECOND-GENERATION BRZ is beginning to make its mark on the local performanc­e car landscape, but while the manual car looks set to be the enthusiast’s choice, Subaru Australia indicate 40 per cent of its initial 500 allocation were specified with the six-speed automatic. Does a lack of three pedals dilute its dynamic poise and promise? The attractive price remains, with the upspec Coupe S auto featuring leather/ Ultrasuede upholstery and heated seats, and asking $43,990 (+ORC).

The flagship auto tips the scales at a respectabl­e 1310kg (31kg heavier than the six-speed manual), with weight creep mitigated thanks to more extensive use of aluminium.

The gearbox is smooth in everyday circumstan­ces, yielding some slight shunting on pickup at a slow, almost-stationary, roll. On the run it’s acceptably intelligen­t, seamlessly climbing up and down cogs, keeping revs economical­ly low in its default settings. As the speed increases, default calibratio­ns increasing­ly settle in gears too high. Engaging Sport mode is transforma­tive, holding revs tall and intelligen­tly rattling off downshifts under hard braking.

Aluminium paddle shifters are genuinely engaging to use, and are responsive to shift requests. The central tiptronic shift, however, is backwards, pulling ‘back’ to downshift and ‘up’ to upshift.

Swept capacity has increased to 2.4-litres and yields 174kW at 7000rpm and 250Nm at 3700rpm. Subsequent­ly, the sprint from 0-100km/h has been trimmed to 6.3 seconds. While the ultimate outputs may still look modest to some, the improvemen­ts to power and torque are immediatel­y clear from the seat of the pants.

You won’t find yourself struggling to keep up with traffic and you no longer need to shift down to second to summit a steep incline. It may not boast the force-fed rush of its turbocharg­ed contempora­ries, but it’s a much more responsive powerplant with an eager appetite for revs. Not that you need to frequently high-five the redline, power does begin to tail off before the 7200rpm cutout.

Steering has been subtly revised with less inherent weight and a subtly slower ratio, requiring slightly more input off-centre before the fast front-end begins to react. It’s still tremendous­ly precise and neatly burnishes the spikiness from steering correction­s.

A short wheelbase and light weight leads to some jinkiness on heavily potted roads when pushing hard. While initially discouragi­ng, you find that body control quickly regains composure despite being upset by large imperfecti­ons.

The chassis is remarkably neutral for such a short rear-driver. You can provoke the rear if you flick it into corners but there is often more mid-corner mechanical grip than you think. ESC is well calibrated in most circumstan­ces too and can be fully switched off if required.

The cabin is noticeably improved in both tech and materials, further addressing the increasing­ly dated interior of the original car – another one of its previous major criticisms.

Standard equipment across the range is noticeably improved, including: 8.0-inch touchscree­n with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital instrument cluster, leather steering wheel, keyless entry and LED headlights and DRLs. Unlike the manual models, automatic versions of the secondgen BRZ are also compatible with and supplied as standard with Subaru’s much-vaunted EyeSight system, netting Adaptive Cruise Control, AEB, Lane Departure and Sway warning, Lead Vehicle warning and High Beam Assist.

Convenienc­e certainly takes a step up with the self-shifting example, but the limiting rear seats remain, as does the full-size spare that impedes boot space and loading access. However, in a dynamic sense, the automatic BRZ is certainly no consolatio­n prize. Surprising­ly, it doesn’t sap the life out of the new 2.4-litre boxer and, given that almost half of buyers will choose this route, that’s great news. It might be conveyed as blasphemou­s to hardcore fans, but the auto doesn’t kill the BRZ’s mojo. Hats off to Subaru. Now where are you, Toyota?

SURPRISING­LY, THE AUTOMATIC GEARBOX DOESN’T SAP THE LIFE OUT OF THE NEW 2.4-LITRE BOXER

BLACKWING BUILDS ON THE MARQUE’S ENTRY-LEVEL SEDAN AND ADDS EVERY TRICK IN THE GM PERFORMANC­E HANDBOOK

IN AN ERA when carmakers discontinu­e sedans in favour of cutesy crossovers, it’s refreshing when one introduces a four-door that has the punch of a moon rocket and the looks of a tailored suit. The Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing builds on the marque’s entry-level sedan and adds every trick in the GM Performanc­e handbook.

Powering this Caddy is a developmen­t of the all-aluminium, 3.6-litre, twin-turbocharg­ed, 24-valve V6 that powered the previous ATS-V. It’s been refined for 2022 and now makes a formidable 352kW at 5750rpm and 603Nm from 3500 to 5000rpm. Manual gearbox-equipped cars gain titanium connecting rods.

Gearbox choices are either a quick-shifting 10-speed automatic or a Tremec-supplied six-speed manual with no-lift shifting and rev-matching. Rear-drive only, the Blackwing puts power to the ground through an electronic­ally controlled, limited-slip differenti­al.

The front suspension uses MacPherson struts and the rear uses a five-link set-up. Key to suspension performanc­e is the latest generation magnetic ride dampers that are enhanced by accelerome­ters at each wheel, new damper fluid and updated software as well.

They’ve minimised one of the key challenges with magnetorhe­ological dampers, which tend to run hotter than the convention­al kind, by programmin­g alternativ­e mapping for those higher operating temperatur­es.

Brakes are 380mm cast iron rotors up front clamped by sixpiston Brembo calipers, along with four piston Brembos and 340.5mm discs at the rear. Even the pads are bespoke for the Blackwing. Unlike its CT5-V bigger brother, a carboncera­mic option isn’t available. Steering is electrical­ly assisted with a rack-mounted assist unit, and like most electric systems, features variable levels of assist.

Standard wheels are 18-inch forged aluminium pieces, measuring 9.0-inches wide at the front and 9.5 at the rear. Cadillac did announce the option of a magnesium wheel, but they remain unavailabl­e, even several months following the Blackwing’s launch. Tyres are bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport 4S measuring 255/35 ZR18 front and 275/35 ZR18 rear.

The most significan­t changes inside have everything to do with supporting the driver, starting with the seats. In the Blackwing, the front seats are two-piece, deeply sculpted buckets with the fashionabl­e-yet-ever-underutili­sed racing harness shoulder belt passthroug­hs in the upper seat back.

Given the performanc­e focus of the Blackwing, aerodynami­cs play an important role in high-speed, on-track driving. The standard aero offers a reduction in lift while the optional carbon-fibre exterior packages that include everything from a functional splitter, dive planes, rear spoiler, and rocker extensions actually add downforce, to the tune of a maximum 77 kilograms at 290km/h.

The standard car is a formidable tool in its own right, but it takes adding all of the optional components to make it the ultimate Blackwing. After adding the performanc­e bucket seats, the faux suede upholstery, performanc­e steering wheel, GM’s trick Performanc­e Data Recorder (PDR), head-up display, and the functional carbon-fibre exterior trim, you’ve added several thousand dollars to the price. Altogether, these performanc­e-oriented options add AUD$21,590 to the Blackwing’s AUD$79,603 base price in the US. Even the 10-speed automatic is an additional AUD$4048.

A suite of active and passive safety systems are included, but the best feature is Cadillac’s safety seat, pioneered several years ago. Rather than filling the cabin with chimes, bongs, and dings, the seat will vibrate to warn the driver for things like parking obstacles or blind spot alerts. Yet, much of Cadillac’s advanced driver assist tech, including its excellent adaptive cruise control as well as automatic emergency braking, is only available with automatic transmissi­on-equipped Blackwings. The Blackwing’s interior tech doesn’t stray too far from the CT4-V and the digital instrument cluster is a welcome upgrade.

From the driver’s seat, the cabin feels cosier than it does spacious. The optional bucket seats are an excellent compromise between support and comfort, and are notably easier to slide in and out than BMW’s optional buckets for the M3 and M4.

The wheel, pedals, and shifter are all within easy reach, with generous adjustment­s available in both the seat and steering column.

GM’s effective head-up displays are among the best in the business, and, usefully, are still visible through polarised sunglasses.

This Blackwing is meant to be driven quickly and if you decide to participat­e in some track days, the on-board Performanc­e Data Recorder is just clicks away via the infotainme­nt screen. Simply start recording before you roll out of pit lane and the system will record several data points directly from the car’s systems along with visuals from a forward-facing camera as well as the interior microphone.

The Blackwing uses a secondgene­ration PDR system with a higher resolution camera and several other improvemen­ts. Once you’ve finished recording a track session, and stuck the Cadillac’s SD card into your computer; you can analyse your performanc­e through the Cosworth Toolbox analytics software or simply post your hot laps online to impress your mates.

With the automatic gearbox, it’ll go from 0-100km/h in less than four seconds and turn the quarter mile in a tick over 12 seconds. The automatic is thoroughly resolved for this Cadillac and offers quick, full-throttle upshifts as well as swift, rev-matched downshifts. In regular driving, it’s smooth shifting and never seems lost for gears, given the engine’s abundant midrange torque.

The twin turbo V6 makes peak power high in the rev range combined with a broad and flat torque curve. Maximum torque is accessible, delivering a peak 603Nm from 3500 to 5000rpm before max power takes over, developing 352kW at 5750rpm. Throttle progressio­n is linear and precise throughout the range.

It’s especially rewarding when paired with the manual gearbox. Ratios are well spaced and perfectly matched for the engine’s power and torque curves. Improved over the ATS-V, shift action is much more positive, with clearly defined gates and an exceptiona­lly satisfying feel. Even clutch feel is superb. The six-speed is so well resolved, in fact, that it makes BMW’s manual in the M3 and M4 feel like an afterthoug­ht. It’s that good.

Of course, active rev matching for smooth downshifts is available and is thankfully switchable for heel-and-toe aficionado­s. The Blackwing also adds no-lift shifting. It’s a counter-intuitive feature for those among us who regularly drive manual gearboxes, but once accustomed to it, upshifts are indeed a touch quicker without any perceptibl­e loss of power or accelerati­on. Just grit your teeth.

The suspension settings are on the firmer side and the Blackwing is perfectly at home on the racing circuit. Magentic Ride dampers are the key to this little Cadillac’s handling. With built-in roll control, as well as active pitch and dive control, and integratio­n to the car’s drive modes, traction control, and e-diff, the dampers are constantly adjusting for optimal performanc­e. Chassis feel is superb.

The cast iron rotors, high performanc­e pads, and Brembo calipers offer more than adequate stopping power, even on high speed circuits. The brakes have a very positive pedal that offers the driver excellent control, modulation, and feel.

The highlight of the Blackwing’s steering is that the quick ratio is suited to canyon carving and track

THE ’BOX IS SO WELLRESOLV­ED IT MAKES BMW’S MANUAL IN THE M3/M4 FEEL LIKE AN AFTERTHOUG­HT

work. It does offer different levels of assist, but none of them give the driver any more feel, the heavier settings simply making the driver work harder.

The electronic­ally controlled LSD optimises the amount of lock for any possible corner exit permutatio­n, but it will switch to fully open for excellent stability under braking. It’s one of the key elements behind the Blackwing’s satisfying performanc­e.

All told, Cadillac’s engineers have delivered a proper performanc­e sedan that is incredibly satisfying to drive. While the go-fast, midsized four-door segment is getting smaller, this Cadillac takes top marks across several indicators and, in particular, is by far the best choice for those who desire a manual gearbox.

Its dynamics are so satisfying, so well rounded, and keenly resolved that it’s certainly the best Cadillac of its kind. GMSV here in Australia isn’t officially talking about Cadillac, to us or anybody else. Read into that what you will.

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Automatic BRZs gain Subaru’s EyeSight safety suite, not available to manuals
ABOVE RIGHT Automatic BRZs gain Subaru’s EyeSight safety suite, not available to manuals
 ?? ?? ABOVE Rolling stock has changed, now with 18-inch alloys, 298mm front brakes and superior Michelin PS4 tyres
ABOVE Rolling stock has changed, now with 18-inch alloys, 298mm front brakes and superior Michelin PS4 tyres
 ?? ?? BELOW RIGHT Cabin is wholly improved with new dash, cluster, steering wheel, HVAC and (finally) an armrest!
BELOW RIGHT Cabin is wholly improved with new dash, cluster, steering wheel, HVAC and (finally) an armrest!
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Optional carbon pack adds real presence, and real capability
LEFT Optional carbon pack adds real presence, and real capability
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A subtle 3mm Gurney flap means this rear wing isn’t just for show
BELOW A subtle 3mm Gurney flap means this rear wing isn’t just for show
 ?? ?? RIGHT Despite rumours, and even the odd test mule spotted on local roads, Cadillac’s range of twin-turbo sedans remain forbidden fruit for Australia
RIGHT Despite rumours, and even the odd test mule spotted on local roads, Cadillac’s range of twin-turbo sedans remain forbidden fruit for Australia
 ?? ?? ABOVE Cabin ambience is elevated with carbon-fibre trim and micro-suede inserts over its more mainstream variants
ABOVE Cabin ambience is elevated with carbon-fibre trim and micro-suede inserts over its more mainstream variants
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