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Auto Show:  2012 Detroit Auto Show

2013 Subaru BRZ: Detroit Auto Show

author photo by Nick Palermo January 2012
  • A front-engine, rear-drive 2+2 sports car
  • Lightweight and performance-tuned, with 200 horsepower
  • All-new design with a focus on pure sports car character

The debut of the Subaru BRZ at the Detroit Auto Show marks a departure for the Japanese automaker who for years has offered only all-wheel drive models. In their effort to create a new sports car from scratch, the company opted for a rear-drive arrangement, the longtime standard for performance automobiles.

Another established key to building a proper sports car is expressed in a high power-to-weight ratio. Sure, a sports car needs a powerful engine to be quick. But low weight is equally important, and the engineers at Subaru carefully kept the weight of their new creation down to optimize performance and handling.

The result is the all-new 200-horsepower BRZ, the lightest rear-drive 2+2 sports car in America. A new four-cylinder engine, careful weight savings and performance-optimizing engineering combine to provide a track-ready yet practical sports car.

Subaru may have ditched their standard all-wheel drive setup, but their favored boxer-style (horizontally opposed) engine design remains. However, the new 2-liter is different from the one powering the Impreza and WRX models, allowing it to be mounted lower in the vehicle to contribute to a low center of gravity. The motor and components like the radiator and battery are also pushed aft in the BRZ for better front/rear weight distribution. A combination of direct injection and port injection are implemented to optimize performance and efficiency. The quick-revving engine winds up to a 7,400-rpm redline.

Both available transmissions, the standard six-speed manual and optional six-speed automatic, are performance oriented, too. The three-pedal setup features a short-throw lever and pedals arranged for heel-and-toe techniques on the track. The automatic includes sport and manual settings, the latter allowing inputs at the lever or using steering wheel-mounted paddles. Throttle blips provide the automatic with sporty downshifts.

The BRZ's suspension shares architecture with the WRX and Impreza, but as with the motor, the chassis is designed to be low and light. The front strut and coil spring suspension contributes to weight savings. Use of lightweight high-strength steel and 17-inch wheels help, too, resulting in a curb weight of 2,762 lbs for the manual transmission BRZ.

That's about 160 lbs lighter than a Porsche Cayman and more than 500 lbs lighter than the Hyundai Genesis coupe. This means the BRZ has a power-to-weight ratio that's significantly better than that of the Genesis with its base turbo four-cylinder. The V6 Genesis carries fewer pounds per horsepower, but its 3,400-lb weight means the lighter-on-its-feet BRZ may be more athletic in twisting pavement. The Cayman offers the best ratio, but it also has a base price over $50,000. Along with purists like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the BRZ will likely prove a high-performance bargain.

What it means to you: Subaru promises that the new BRZ is a pure sports car. On paper, it certainly appears to be one more among the handful of genuine performers.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2013 Subaru BRZ: Detroit Auto Show - Autotrader