Late last year, we told you that the Subaru BRZ will be coming to Malaysia – now, the impending arrival of the sports car has been confirmed by Motor Image (MI), the Subaru distributor for our region. Estimated time of arrival is the fourth quarter of this year, slightly later than the originally mooted Q2/Q3 2012 plan.
Followers of this website would have already known that Motor Image has big plans for Subaru in Malaysia. Our country will host Fuji Heavy’s only CKD project outside of Japan, besides USA. The model chosen for the region is the XV, and MI will take advantage of AFTA rules to export the Segambut-assembled crossover to Thailand and Indonesia.
The XV is scheduled for a December 2012 launch, but before that, the BRZ will be introduced here. The BRZ is a fruit of the collaboration between Toyota and Subaru, and the twin sister of the former’s GT86.
We’re told by Subaru that they were in charge of the engineering, development and production of the GT86/BRZ, while Toyota’s responsibility included styling and product planning. Both brands are selling and marketing their sports cars individually, of course. Minor differences between the two are the shape of the front intake, headlights, DRL design, fog lamp housing and fender garnish. Suspension tuning also varies slightly.
So it’s fair to call the car a Subaru, designed by Toyota. Both cars roll out of Subaru’s Gunma factory in Ota-city, Japan. In fact, the start of production was just announced three weeks ago, and they’re bursting at the seams with orders at the moment, so it’s amazing that MI has managed to secure stock so soon after – the BRZ made its regional debut in Singapore’s Clarke Quay on Wednesday evening.
BRZ stands for Boxer engine, Rear-drive, Zenith. Subaru’s trademark boxer engine and rear-wheel drive are of course the main ingredients. The flat packaging of the horizontally opposed four-cylinder is the reason why the car’s nose is so low – the low-set “FA” engine (made more compact by a shorter intake manifold and shallower oil pan) that’s pushed far back also contributes to the BRZ’s “ultra low” centre of gravity. At 460 mm, it’s lower than a Mazda MX-5.
Also added is Toyota’s D-4S direct injection and port injection technology. The final tally for this 2.0-litre is 200 PS at 7,000 rpm and 205 Nm at 6,400 to 6,600 rpm. Two six speed transmissions are available – manual and automatic, the latter with Sport mode and paddle shifters.
Interestingly, Motor Image will not be pushing the manual gearbox for its markets, although the stick shift can be special ordered if you insist. MI boss Glenn Tan explained that they’re discouraging manual sales to move away from the “boyracer image” the brand has built up over the years. Of the big winged turbo monsters, Tan said: “This is not the kind of image we want to have. We’re doing a completely different thing now, we want to be a premium Japanese brand.”
You see, MI used to sell a sizable number of hot Imprezas in Singapore back when COEs were more affordable, and many of these young hot blooded male buyers got into trouble on the road, so much so that insurance companies were reluctant to insure Subarus. This is what they’re trying to stay away from. Not just MI, but Subaru has also exhibited signs of wanting to be more mainstream, as seen in the current five-door hatch and Forester.
So yes, we sampled the BRZ, but can’t tell you how the manual gearbox feels like. Just a few minutes in the car around a makeshift carpark course in Singapore won’t be enough for a verdict, but the brief encounter was positive nonetheless.
It has been awhile since a proper Japanese coupe emerged, and this one looks right. The low, flat serpent-like nose, the swelled fenders and the muscular rear haunches blend well, and the BRZ-exclusive WR Blue Mica colour (GT86 exclusive colour is orange, six other colours are shared) looks fab in the sun. Nothing I would change, except for the fake vents on the fenders.
Even better is the driving position, which goes very low. Combined with grippy seats and a nice steering that adjusts for reach, I’m aroused even before starting the engine. Not because of the flash (dash design is nothing to shout about) but what lies ahead.
Pressing the start button elicits a growl, and we’re told that there’s a “sound creator” that helps with the soundtrack upwards of 3,000 rpm. Floor it and the lack of a turbo kick is conspicuous – this is a different kind of Subaru all right, one that demands more “work” for the pleasure. I like it like that, and the noise the flat-four makes.
Response is rather sharp and I really like how the controls feel – the brake pedal and steering both provide good sensations. The latter isn’t too heavy, and its sharpness gives the car an agile feel. Not an illusion, the lack of inertia is apparent throughout. Not much roll in the slalom, too. I can imagine the BRZ being a great B-road tool.
We had a go in trying to kick the BRZ’s tail out, but with a tense and strict chaperon beside me and the ESP only half-off, it wasn’t that easy. I managed a small slip, but it didn’t last long. At least we can confirm that the electronic safety net is there, and very effective for the rest of the time when you don’t want to play naughty.
Although we didn’t get to do proper road driving (can’t complain, since there won’t be test drives even for potential owners, as clearly stated in the Singapore ads), we’ve established that this is a sports car that has all the right ingredients to be a great driver’s car. Oh, and those rear seats are usable – much better than the Audi TT’s and slightly better than the Peugeot RCZ’s.
The high-spec car you see here will be the one coming in, but it won’t be cheap – expect a price tag north of RM250k. With the same spec, a manual will be costlier than an auto. That sticker will cause many to look elsewhere, even to its twin with the 86 badge, but that won’t cause sleepless nights within Subaru, especially when they can’t make enough of these to satisfy demand from elsewhere!
A big gallery of the BRZ is after the jump.