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Spent my Labor Day weekend "helping" a friend of mine pick up his new BRZ Limited in Colorado Springs and driving it back to Seattle via Reno (something that fun isn't really help tongue.gif ). Was a blast, great scenery and a great car to enjoy it in and great roads to enjoy it on. Here's the gallery:

Here's our route

And the ride

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Nice shots. How was the car, exciting enough that you'd buy one?
It was really good! First impressions in Colorado was that it was gutless but we did the math and at 11,000 feet it was losing 66 of its 200 HP (!!) and got a lot stronger as we got closer to sea level. It also seems that these things pick up about 10 HP during the first 5000 miles according to various dyno comparisons undertaken by owners so that is still to come. The power delivery is quite linear and builds to the top end, I'd say it has a couple noticeable ranges though: one starting at 2500 RPM where you get into that "usable for making good headway in everyday driving" range and about 5000 where it gets into "fully on song" range (torque peak is 6600 and HP peak is almost at the 7400 RPM redline and it shows). Below 2500 is fine for puttering through town and accelerating past a school zone but don't expect it to get you moving in 5th or 6th gear with any alacrity. The sound is good, but not great...the midrange sounds fine as long as it's not just grinding at constant revs and the top end is actually pretty exciting sounding for a 4 cylinder. It's also very smooth everywhere (yay boxers) and quite quiet when you're at low throttle, but gets pretty loud at full throttle and high revs, which is nice! Overall, legitimately quick but not quite fast, smooth, fun power delivery that's still adequate for everyday drudgery and better sound than many reviewers led me to expect (but not about to set your world on fire either)

Was definitely impressed with the ride comfort and how good of a highway car it is. It tracks very straight and doesn't fidget or ride harshly (great damping on firm springs and no fancy tricks trying to have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too, soft-bushings-and-stiff-springs, million-step-adjustable-bullshit) and the road and wind noise are comparable to any other modern near-economy car, which is to say inoffensive particularly for this type of car. The steering is EXCELLENT, like, three-way tie with a Caterham Seven and a go-kart in terms of best of all things I've driven. Lighter than the Caterham by far but still has good weight, lots of feel without rubbing your hands raw with kickback. Very quick just off-center (no slack) and a quick ratio overall so you're never going hand-over-hand but, like I said, when you hold the helm steady at the center it doesn't require constant correction and it doesn't really follow tramlines or grooves too bad either (probably would moreso with more aggressive tires). Steering wheel is nice and fat without being too fat (looking at you, BMW M) and very comfy in the hands with some thumb cutouts and dimpled leather at 9 and 3. Diameter is small without getting anywhere near obstructing the view of the gauge pack. The gauges are all about the big center tach and digital speedo readout with trip computer/odo screen below them; the analog speedometer has 0 MPH at about 5 'o clock and is a little on the small side so I never really looked at it. The fuel and coolant gauges are very plain but get the job done.

The seats were comfortable for our 30-driving-hours-over-3-day trip. At first we were both having our butts fall asleep after a couple hours but I think we learned to sit in them correctly...minimal slouching, let the side bolsters carry a little more of your weight via your kidneys and shoulders than you might otherwise be used to and they're good! The seats are quite narrow; I'm down to about 175 pounds at 6'1" and I think I wouldn't want to be much broader than that in this car, but I'm not so they were really supportive for me smile.gif One of the few changes for the 2014 models is the addition of knee pads on the center console. At 6'1" I missed those in both the driver's and passenger seats; the owner being more like 5'7" didn't have use for it in the driver's seat until he set the cruise control and put his foot on the floor, and said it would've been nice in the passenger seat. Fortunately they're available to put into the '13 models as well. The tops of the doors and the armrests are both nicely padded for arm comfort, with snazzy red stitching on vinyl that matches the grain of the dash plastics (it's black cloth in the BRZ Premium and FR-S). Nicely done, Toyobaru.

The trunk isn't big but was plenty ample for us to have our carry-on bags in the trunk with room to buy a 24 pack of water bottles at walmart and some more to spare besides. Definitely totally adequate for a 2 seat car (the rear seats are not every going to get used as seats, unless the people in front are very very short) and significantly better than a Miata. The trunk has an interesting feature where you can press a toggle switch inside the trunk that prevents you from getting able to get into the trunk using the button on the dash or by pressing the button above the license plate (which I noticed the FR-S lacks), requiring you to use the key to get in via a tucked-away keyhole above the license plate. We used it when we were parked in Reno and had my camera in the trunk, seemed like an extra touch of security.

Visibility is quite good, the center rear view mirror seems uniquely expansive as you see the entire rear window through it. Front visibility is really good, though it's a little hard to tell where the front of the car is...the fender peaks help, it would take practice from there to learn how far in front of the fender peaks the bumper is. The a-pillars got in the way sometimes and checking over your shoulder for your blind spot wasn't always great but the side mirrors were fine and overall I had no stress about placing the car on the road or in traffic. Headlights are good on low beams, the high beams don't make the biggest difference but are fine. It was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the fog lights being off or on.

The stereo is fine, no complaints in terms of sound quality though it's definitely not audiophile-quality (what is in a factory stock car, short of a Mark Levinson Lexus or something?) full-flat audio settings it was too bright but it has a full graphic equalizer so I was easily able to get it well-tuned. If you love bass you'll want a subwoofer but for most rock and pop listening it can be made well balanced. The head unit however is kinda a has lots of features and everything is in there, but the menu system is really slapdash. It took us two days to figure out how to remove a waypoint that we added while on the move in the nav system, for instance, because it was tucked up in a totally different menu up in the corner that we weren't using for anything else (like, say, the menu we used to put the waypoint IN). Plus on the second day of the trip it just...had a bad day and would often lag out for 10-20 seconds when we tried to change screens. Didn't do that on days 1 or 3, though. The music searching through the iPod interface was also kinda could scroll through the entire iPod by song, artist, album, or genre by going letter-by-letter or the whole list. On a big iPod it was very frustrating that it constantly defaulted to the top of the list if you dared go ANYWHERE else in the menu, and scrolling letter by letter was sloooow. The shuffle and repeat settings seemed to have a mind of their own too, never quite figured that one out...just turned them both off and it seemed to kill shuffle (but kept repeat??) Couldn't get Bluetooth audio to work on his iPhone5. Also lastly, there is a mismatch between the pin lengths in the USB plug Subaru uses and the lightning USB cable which means the USB cable gets stuck in the dash. People online claimed it got STUCK stuck; we experienced the sticking but got it out with a careful side to side wiggle. Not encouraging, however. We were very happy the nav system had altitude in it though! That was fun for our trip. Oh yeah, and the nav address input did stuff like...always set the country to "United States, <last state you set an address in>" so if you're travelling state by state you have to start by typing in "United States, <next state name>" instead of just leaving it on United States all the time. Not an issue for normal use but annoying on a long trip like this (why doesn't it just have separate country and state fields?) Once I got back from the trip I poked around the FR-S's optional touchscreen radio at the Scion dealer; it is a totally different interface and seems a lot nicer to use, though I haven't take an FR-S on a long trip so can't say that too definitively.

The car feels supremely balanced; I didn't really push it much past 7.5/10ths in terms of lateral grip since it wasn't my car but at just about any speed you revel in its neutrality, the low center of gravity, the well-judged damping, and the steering feel and linearity. It really is very harmonious and it feels like it just yaws right at your hip (I was a passenger as the owner broke its 9.5/10ths grip cherry on a couple choice roads on our route and could feel that the car had just the tiniest nudge of front push first but overall felt like it lost grip sideways instead of front or ass end-first, and is well within the envelope wherein vehicle rotation is changeable with throttle or trail brake). It shrugs off taking turns at double the advised speed like you were being a grandma, and yes, that's even on the standard tires. As for those tires, they're fine; they didn't hydroplane in all but the craziest downpours (we had a few really dumpers as we were peppered with thunderstorm cells most of the trip) and gave confident grip. When they give up they're very progressive and don't make you afraid to push the limits, aren't too loud, and are surely part of the car's compliant ride. I'd say the place where their grip limits were most evident were when we did a couple panic braking stop tests; the car clearly felt tire-grip limited in those situations, though it still stops just fine and proportional to the go-power of the drivetrain. I would still say I'd rather have those Michelin Primacy HPs over any all-season tire, maybe excepting the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S, while a very high performance tire like a Michelin Pilot Super Sport or Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 would simply be too grippy for the car, though something in between like a Conti DW or Potenza RE760 would probably be very nice. Speaking of the brakes, brake modulation is linear and nicely adjustable, travel is a bit longer than I was expecting (no slack up top but moderately soft throughout the travel) which meant that with my narrower shoes I prefer to wear while doing fun driving, heel and toe was kinda difficult with light braking but just fine with moderate to heavy braking.

The shifter is tight and direct in its gates but was a bit notchy (could be smoothed out with some break in?) and I sometimes felt that you had to make a somewhat concerted effort to get it down and out into 6th gear land, and we both missed a couple shifts along the trip. Will have to see how break in or a potential future fluid change might affect that but the throws, the weighting, the directness were all pleasant. The clutch is interesting, it seems to have a very progressive engagement that you have to be slower with than the part of the clutch travel that gets you to the bite point. I quickly got used to having my left foot make a 2-part maneuver (fast to the bite point and then slower through the engagement) but it was still a little bit odd.

Would I buy one? Well, yeah, pretty much. My medium term plan is to get a new car as I continue to push the GTI farther into fun car/track car territory and while it's kinda silly to have a sports car AND a track car, I just can't bring myself to drive anything boring. The only stuff really on my radar in terms of driving enjoyment are the BRZ, FR-S, and potentially the '15 GTI Performance Pack (I'll keep an eye on the new WRX too but I don't really need AWD and it would have to make significant fuel economy gains over the current model for me to want it to be my everyday car).

Speaking of fuel economy, the BRZ's was impressive. Sticker says 22/30 but we averaged 34 over the whole trip without particularly trying (in fact, beating on it pretty heavily at several points after the first 1000 miles were done and using the A/C practically the entire trip, which BTW makes no noticeable difference on engine performance) and we were averaging 36 through the slower speeds (~65-70 instead of ~75-85+) of Oregon! Even a stretch on CA-139 where I was really flying, I couldn't get the thing under 30 MPG. The sticker on the auto is 25/34; I suspect that is much more realistic for what the manual gets, it's just a fluke of the EPA test that the 6-speed gets dinged so badly. In our experimenting using the instantaneous fuel economy meter, the car seems to hit its fuel economy sweet spot at 3100 RPM in 6th gear which is about 72 MPH, which is just right IMO, and doesn't penalize you much for being anywhere in the 65 to 85 range in 6th. Nicely judged by Toyobaru there too. Below about 60, acceleration in 6th isn't really happening unless you're going downhill; going uphill you're gonna want 3000 RPM on the clock at least. It will run 65 to 100 in 6th gear quite nicely without downshifting; it didn't really want to get past about 106 without a downshift into 5th (or a helping downhill; there's a bit of a hole in 6th where the engine isn't quite into the meat of its power yet to overcome that much wind resistance)

Well that's my comprehensive BRZ review! Definitely a great car and I could very much see myself getting one and being very happy with it smile.gif
Epic review! Want to drive one. I, for one, wish do need AWD and wish it was...
Nice . . . sounds like an awesome journey.

I'm constantly baffled as to why these companies think it's OK to give customers a completely incomprehensible nav/audio system. I wonder why they don't just plug an iPad or Nexus 7 in that hole and call it a day. I would love to try the system in the Jaguar XF (which I believe Apple consulted on).

I would love a fun car, and these are so appealing . . . but there's no way I could justify getting rid of the Legacy for one, and Jen would never agree to trade in her Yaris for a sports car. My medium-term plan is to buy a slightly tired 912 and stop becoming all sullen when I see someone driving a non-people mover . . . but that could be a while away still.
QUOTE(Bjorn @ Sep 10 2013, 08:42 AM) *
the system in the Jaguar XF (which I believe Apple consulted on).

If this is true, I'm moving the idea of a Jaguar higher on my list for "next insane car I buy;" top spot currently held by the GT-R. Is it so fucking much to ask that my in-car and out-of-car tech should work harmoniously?

There needs to be a goddamn standard for this, I swear to god. Like, an in-car API that is universal and accessible to all mobile device manufacturers. The fact that there's no such thing yet is super dumb.
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