I have recently purchased a 2014 Subaru BRZ. Some of you may be surprised by this, especially given that I didn’t exactly review the BRZ favorably when I drove one last year. Well, dear readers, I have (obviously) changed my tune, and I can explain why.
I didn’t understand the BRZ the first time I drove it. I had never really driven a small sports coupe; the hottest car I had ever driven had been my own Mazdaspeed3 (which is not a coupe), or possibly my dad’s 2004 Corvette (which is not small). And the BRZ basically just put me in mind of a shrunken, less practical version of the Mazdaspeed3. It was very Japanese inside: lots of exciting orange LEDs, lots of shiny plastic trim to break and squeak and rattle as the miles rack up. The story seemed a bit too familiar for my taste; so, I was put off.
But time marched on, and I test-drove more cars. Months later, I drove the FR-S, and by the time I drove that car, the Toybaru twins had begun to worm themselves into my heart. The sound of the engine, the way the car looked, and even the interior–it had all grown on me. So I convinced myself that the FR-S was just somehow better than its Subaru counterpart, which I had remembered being so skeptical about.
But all the pieces really fell into place after I drove a 2007 Porsche Cayman S this spring. As I hustled that car over the broken pavement of downtown Denver, and subsequently onto the interstate at Warp Factor 7, it hit me: the Cayman is the best car I’ve ever driven, in so many dimensions, and the BRZ is trying really hard to be a Cayman. That happy little horizontally-opposed mill, that center-mounted tach, the nice steering wheel, and all the all the crazy lightness and stiffness and chassis balance–it all adds up to a pretty decent Cayman impersonation.
And the BRZ isn’t quite the Porsche that it dreams it is. But it’s maybe 70% as good as a Cayman, and being 7/10ths of a perfect car is still damn good. And you can feel that it tries to live up to its German benchmark. That’s what gets me, every time I drive it: it’s endearing the way it wants to be a great driver’s car. It wants you to egg it on. It’s almost like a dog that really wants you to throw a tennis ball for it. I can just hear it every time that little boxer-four clatters up the RPM range: “Come on! Come on! Throw the ball! I’m a Japanese Porsche! I am! I am!”
And it…isn’t. But it’s a hell of a car anyway. And I love how hard it strives to be great. So, as long as the head gaskets aren’t destined for multiple failures, I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.