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Joyride: 2015 Subaru BRZ Series.Blue Edition

Sure, the 2015 BRZ Series.Blue Edition isn’t any better than the less expensive 2015 WRX. What the BRZ lacks in dynamics, it easily make up for in boyracer flare.

When the Subaru BRZ hit the market in early 2012, it was, along with its Scion FR-S cousin, the best driving car – dollar for dollar – on the market. Nothing could quite touch it.

It was distinctive and sporty and fun and sprightly. And to top it all off, it was a bargain around the $27,000 mark. Where the Mazda MX-5 was a sports car for old women and the Golf GTI was for accountants without a sense of humor, the BRZ was a shining beacon of waggishness that the industry desperately needed.

Thing is, though, the market has changed a lot in the intervening years. The small, sporty cars that the BRZ used to trounce in the mid-$20,000 range have improved significantly.

For 2015, though, Subaru has taken a new stab at the BRZ and added some STI-inspired kit to the car, creating the Series.Blue Edition. Will these extra sporty bits help push the BRZ back to the top of the budget-minded driving heap? I was determined to find out.

Cornering king

Although Subaru has reinvigorated the exterior of the 2015 BRZ with some optional, snazzy STI-inspired exterior bits, which we’ll get to in a moment, it still handles and accelerates the same.

Under the hood is the same naturally aspirated 2.0-liter BOXER four-cylinder as always, which produces 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. That modicum of power is sent through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and out to the rear wheels through a Torsen limited-slip rear differential.

2014 Subaru BRZ engine macro

In the corners, the BRZ handles flat without any drama. And the sporty, well-bolstered seats keep occupants from feeling like they might fall out of the car.

With the push the VSC button, the BRZ transforms from a buttoned-down cornering king into a drifty, tire squealing joy. Essentially, VSC Sport mode mildly disables the traction control, which lets the BRZ hang its tail out a bit in the bends.

If drifty fun weren’t enough, the BRZ also boasts some well-weighted power steering. The hydraulic power steering is heavy enough to make the driver feel connected to road, but also light enough that a driver doesn’t have to fear taking his or her right hand off the wheel to shift gears in a corner.

In these ways, the BRZ is one of the best drivers car on the market, below the $35,000 price line.

Series.Blue

To attract some new buyers to dealers, Subaru has bolted up some optional STI-inspired kit to the BRZ, albeit for extra money. For an additional $2,545, buyers can transform the BRZ into the BRZ Series.Blue Edition.

In the corners, the BRZ handles flat without any drama.

For that money, Subaru adds an STI front splitter, side skirting, and a rear lip, as well as something called “under spoilers.” Then 17-inch STI Black Finish alloy wheels are bolted up, backed by red painted brake calipers. On the interior leather with Alcantara extras are added, accented by blue highlights and stitching. Finishing off the whole look, carbon fiber trim is added.

What we’re left with is a car that looks faster, but doesn’t go any faster. Why this package doesn’t include a much-desired turbocharger, I haven’t the foggiest.

Where’s the brakes?

The BRZ might delight in low-speed cornering, but it will likely underwhelm in the higher rpm. Simply put, the BRZ suffers from a power deficit. The BRZ isn’t slow per se, but it’s not quick either.

The 2.0-liter simply doesn’t have enough oomph to move the BRZ in a serious way. Put the pedal to the floor and it’ll make more noise – oh it gets noisier. Try to overtake a slow-moving car on a country road, or pull hard up a hill, and the BRZ will buzz its way slowly to the desired speed.

2014 Subaru BRZ back angle

Then there’s the braking. The bottle-top brake discs that Subaru bolted to the BRZ are simply insufficient. First off, the brake pedal doesn’t have good feel. It does nothing for the first inch or two then grabs too quickly. Stand on the brakes three to five times and what little brake feel existed in the beginning quickly gives up the ghost.

While on spirited country drives in the BRZ, I often found myself forced to rely solely on engine braking, for fear I’d burn out the brakes entirely.

Cannibalism

Forgetting the BRZ’s small and noisy interior, power deficit, inadequate brakes, and polarizing exterior, and the biggest hurdle the little sports coupe has to overcome is the in-brand competition. Namely, the BRZ must battle with the WRX for buyers.

What we’re left with is a car that looks faster, but doesn’t go any faster.

When the BRZ came out, it was the clear winner for budget-minded a buyer who valued driving dynamics over everything else. Since then, though, Subaru itself has exceeded the BRZ in every conceivable way with the WRX.

The WRX is less expensive. It has two more doors and a usable backseat. It has all-wheel drive. It has more power, as its 2.0-liter BOXER four-cylinder features a turbo, which produces 268 horsepower. And to cap it all off, by Subaru’s own admission, the WRX handles better than the BRZ.

So, by all means, get the $30,000 BRZ Series.Blue Edition if you must. I won’t fault you. In fact, I’ll respect and understand the decision. After all, the BRZ moniker won’t exist much longer, as Subaru will be forced to discontinue it, in accordance with its deal with Toyota. This will make a fun car that much more valuable, as it’ll become increasingly more rare.

Before you sign on the line for the BRZ, though, just know that you could have gotten another, better Subaru for less money.

Highs

  • Tire squealing, drifty driving dynamics
  • Well-weighted and communicative hydraulic power steering
  • Distinctive sports car styling on a budget
  • Firm and flat suspension

Lows

  • Lacks passing power
  • Brakes are easily overwhelmed