The fact of the matter is this: the BRZ would lose a drag race to the wimpiest of Ford Mustangs, and the little Subie's power output basically matches the Hyundai Sonata. Subaru fans with lead feet would do well to walk across the showroom and put their money down on a WRX instead.
But I wasn't thinking about power output when I first took the BRZ to GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Michigan and strapped in for a few laps of the 2.1-mile road course. I was thinking, why is everyone going so slowly around these corners?
On a set of Dunlop Direzza StarSpecs tires, the low-slung BRZ grips quite unlike anything I've ever driven. There's no drama, no body roll, no waiting for the car to settle into a corner. You turn the wheel, it goes where you put it, and you exit the corner with little drama and great speed. On stock tires (Michelin Primacies), the BRZ's absolute grip falls away, forcing the driver to work a little bit harder to keep a neat arc through corners. Every time I step out of the BRZ after some time on the track, I've learned more about car control, and that alone makes up for the BRZ's relative weakness on the straightaways.
Leave those stock tires on the car and head onto public roads, and that simple track trainer transitions to an entertaining drift machine. Given the right circumstances the BRZ can turn any corner into an opportunity for light, super controllable oversteer. That trait is even more present when the driver switches the traction/stability control into sport mode, which should explain why the button on our Four Seasons BRZ Premium has almost no paint left on it.
That dichotomy--absolute grip versus entertaining antics--isn't a fluke. No, engineers at Toyota and Subaru knew that the cars could effectively be two different animals, which explains why the cabin was designed to allow you to cart around a set of wheels and tires in the back. With just a torque wrench and a jack, you can drive to the track on the comfortable (and entertaining) stock tires, swap in firmer, grippier rubber for your laps, and swap them back for the ride home.
Why am I thankful for the Subaru BRZ? Two reasons. On one hand, it sends a message that numbers aren't everything--that precision and feel, ride and handling mean just as much. On the other hand, I just love to drive it.
Pictured are the 2013 Subaru BRZ and the 2013 Scion FR-S.