By Derek Price
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — When you’re shopping for a true sports car, only one question matters: How does it make you feel?
A good one fits the driver like a glove, becoming the sort of machine that you wear rather than ride within. It feels like an extension of your body, transmitting every bump, vibration and sound straight into your psyche.
And by that standard, the Subaru BRZ is one of the best sports cars to hit the market in a long, long time.
Like its near twin, the Scion FR-S, this car handles so spectacularly well that it’s easy for drivers to be smitten by its sense of speed and precision. I fell in love with it on the winding roads of rural Arkansas, where hairpin turns, rapid elevation changes and stunning vistas seem custom designed just for cars like the BRZ.
While it’s not the most practical car you can buy — its small trunk, firm ride and joke of a back seat ensure that fact — it’s nonetheless one of the most desirable cars for sale today, in my opinion.
Its 200-horsepower boxer engine, perfectly tuned suspension and mechanically brilliant six-speed manual transmission all inspire lust.
Even from a utilitarian perspective, which is clearly the BRZ’s weak point, it doesn’t disappoint in relation to how cramped and uncomfortable cars in this class can become. Compared to my personal sports car, a Mazda Miata, the BRZ feels like Grandma’s comfy Cadillac with a few extra inches of cabin space in all directions and a suspension setup that does a surprisingly good job soaking up bumps without sacrificing on-the-edge traction in corners.
In other words, it does a great job minimizing the inherent drawbacks that sports-car drivers often have to live with.
I also love the BRZ’s styling. It has the timeless, low-slung shape of a GT coupe with huge front fenders, low overhangs and a slippery roofline, the kind of style that has just the right mixture of sportiness and classiness to my eyes.
Subaru offers two trim levels on the BRZ. The Premium level, despite its name, is the base model that also happens to come with a generous list of standard equipment, including a 6.1-inch digital screen, smartphone integration and voice-activated controls. It’s priced from $25,595.
The Limited trim, which starts $2,000 higher, adds leather seats, keyless start, automatic climate control and other luxuries.
That pricing places it squarely between the Miata, which starts at $23,720, and the Nissan 370Z, which starts around $30,000. The BRZ has more practicality and substance than the Mazda and less power and speed than the Nissan, so the MSRP makes perfect sense.
The bigger question is whether you want the Scion version or the Subaru version of this car, and that becomes a matter of personal taste. Having driven them several months apart, I couldn’t tell an appreciable difference in the handling — although a back-to-back drive on the racetrack would surely make the differences stand out more.
As a whole, this is one of the few cars that I give a “10” overall. From its handling to its style and inherent sense of exhilaration over the road, it’s nothing short of perfection.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2014 Subaru BRZ Premium ($25,595). Options: None. Price as tested (including $795 destination charge): $26,390
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Length: 166.7 in.
Width: 69.9 in.
Height: 50.6 in.
Engine: 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed 2.0-liter (200 hp, 151 lb.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
EPA Mileage: 25 city/34 highway
2014 Subaru BRZ
Why buy it?
It’s a brilliantly designed car in every way. It sounds, feels, looks and drives just like a true sports car should, with wonderfully precise handling and a sleek style.