The Subaru BRZ: A review

November 19, 2012: 5:00 AM ET

With the BRZ, Subaru has created a sports car in the classic mold.

By Alex Taylor III, senior editor-at-large

subaru_brzFORTUNE -- I had lots of reasons to dislike the BRZ before I ever got into the driver's seat. Like Volvo, Subaru is best known for station wagons, and, again like Volvo, it has suffered when it tries to get sporty. Anyone remember the awkward Subaru SVX from the early '90s with its bizarre "window within a window"? The news that Subaru had partnered with Toyota on the BRZ was also less than encouraging. Suppose Corolla bits had found their way into the finished product? Finally, there was the too-contrived name. "BRZ" is said to be an acronym for "boxer engine" and "rear-wheel drive," with "Z" thrown in for euphony. I wonder how that translates into Japanese.

Seeing the car in the metal melted my resistance. The BRZ is stylish without being faddish, its classic long-hood, short-deck proportions enlivened by a sweeping lower-body accent line and a gaping-mouth grille. Its lines reminded me of my old 1969 Datsun 240Z. When I climbed behind the wheel, I knew I was in a serious, performance-oriented car. The interior was all black, enlivened only by red stitching on the trim and red figures on the instruments. The overall effect declared -- perhaps too emphatically -- that the BRZ is all business.

I pushed the silver start/stop button, and the four-cylinder, 2.0-liter engine fired up. It isn't hugely powerful but provides a smart balance between performance and fuel economy. As I engaged the clutch and reached for the gearshift, I found a real treat: a magical short-throw gearbox slick enough to convert even the most manually averse. I'll leave a detailed description of the dynamics to more informed enthusiasts. Suffice it to say, the steering is precise, the handling responsive, and the suspension firm without being punishing. The BRZ is one sweet ride.

As a classically inspired Japanese sports car at a reasonable price (starting at $25,500), the BRZ recalls the arrival 23 years ago of the Mazda, now known as the MX-5 but originally called Miata. Perhaps Subaru can come up with a new name as memorable for this remarkable and deserving car.

This story is from the December 3, 2012 issue of Fortune

BACK TO: Are Subarus the best cars money can buy?

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