"Heck, it may even be the best driver's car on the market."
The 2013 Subaru BRZ's late fall introduction last year meant it narrowly missed being a part of our 2012 Automobile of the Year testing, yet we knew a car of this pedigree warranted a year-long examination even before we'd had a chance to hand it any awards. When it came time for our 2013 AOY testing, we'd already spent four months with our long-term car and the BRZ was a staff favorite heading into the weeklong event. While it's unusual to use a Four Seasons car for AOY evaluation, it's not easy finding an idle BRZ or Scion FR-S and so our Subaru made the trip to South Haven, Michigan, for a week in early October.
To give the BRZ a fair shot at the title, we wanted the car running in top shape, so we took it to the dealer for a new set of brake pads with just 6510 miles on the odometer. We were disappointed to see the brakes wear so quickly, but we've also spent an inordinate amount of time on the track with our BRZ. As soon as we took delivery of the car, road test editor Chris Nelson snuck off to GingerMan Raceway for a day. The next weekend, he gave SCCA ProSolo autocross a try. Then we brought the car back to GingerMan for an evening of lapping while the sticky Dunlop Star Specs were still mounted. If we hadn't kept the car stock for AOY testing, we certainly would have upgraded the pads.
Nonetheless, we'll definitely be ready for another set of pads by spring, so look for a brake upgrade before we test those R-compound tires that have been collecting dust. The unscheduled service stop set us back a hefty $672.79, with $194.90 for the parts and $420 in labor to resurface the rotors and install the pads.
While at the dealership, we also asked the service department to investigate a resurgent rattle in the dashboard as well as a distorted driver's door speaker. After disassembling the dashboard around the climate controls, the dealer was able to silence the dash. Unfortunately, the speaker was blown and a replacement was ordered and later installed under warranty.
With a clean bill of health, the BRZ reported to South Haven during the first week of October along with 26 of its new-for-2013 peers. We can't reveal how the BRZ acquitted itself during AOY testing until we announce the winner on November 1, but we can share some of the notes our staff made after lapping GingerMan on the track portion of our test:
"I am now absolutely certain I want to buy and own a Subaru BRZ (or a Scion FR-S; I'm not picky). Having driven the car on the track at GingerMan and then halfway across the state, I am in awe at just how well-rounded this car is. Not only was it an absolute riot on the track -- almost as much fun as the Boxster--it also proved surprisingly quiet and comfortable on a 250-plus-mile trip back home. I averaged 29 mpg between South Haven and Ann Arbor, and that included a stopover to visit a friend in downtown Grand Rapids." - Jake Holmes, associate Web editor
"I have no qualms in saying this was the best driver's car we brought to AOY testing. Heck, it may even be the best driver's car on the market. How so? It's communicative, engaging, and rewarding to drive right. That can also be said of the Boxster S, 911 Carrera S, and RS5 we also had at hand, but the Subaru excels where the others don't. The BRZ challenges you to learn -- to perfect driving lines, power application, shift points, brake points -- in order to extract the car's full potential." - Evan McCausland, associate Web editor
"The engine is somewhat gritty sounding but I cannot understand people who contend that this car needs more power. The BRZ is definitely a fun track tool. What a difference coming out of the (quite good) Focus ST and into a rear-wheel-drive car. It's a whole different experience, and one that's quite rare at this price point." - Joe Lorio, senior editor
"As McCausland points out, the joy in driving the BRZ is to wring every bit of power and performance out of the relatively simple yet very athletic chassis and engine. And the BRZ definitely does enjoy being wrung out, whether on a racetrack or a serpentine stretch of road." - Joe DeMatio, deputy editor
We're obviously quite smitten with the Subaru BRZ on a road course. But it's important to remember Automobile of the Year is about a whole lot more than how a car behaves at the limit. Be sure to check back on November 1 to find out if the BRZ managed to bring home our most prestigious trophy. Win or lose, we look forward to eight more months of adventure in this sporty coupe.