True Blue

3/5/2015


Version 12.1

The BRZ Series.Blue is the Ultimate in Responsible Fun

I’m enjoying my favorite on-ramp in the BRZ, comforted by the cosseting hug of the seat bolsters, my hands reading the texture of the rumpled New Jersey-spec pavement being communicated by the talkative steering.

The BRZ and I are engaged in a spirited conversation as we energetically claw our way up to the highway together – loving every minute of it. Cresting the top of the on-ramp, I launch my BRZ into, through, and beyond the thick of traffic and, in response, the FA20 engine growls contentedly, like a big cat enjoying a stretch. 

As I exit the highway a few moments later, I catch a picture of myself: “I’m just commuting to another meeting,” I think. “Do normal people feel this way? Is it right to be having this much fun? This can’t be legal.”

A Pure Sports Car 

Let’s take this story back to the starting line for a minute. I discovered I would have the chance to spend a few weeks test-driving a 2015 BRZ Series.Blue. As a powertrain engineer who thoroughly enjoys his fun cars, I was looking forward to it, to say the least.

Photo: Garrick Goh

By now, you’ve seen the automotive press wax eloquently about the BRZ and its design ethos. It’s all true: It’s a pure sports car, one that makes sense in a world of big, heavy cars with weapons-grade horsepower ratings. And while some buy a BRZ with dreams of EJ257 swaps and going all StanceNation™ with Rocket Bunny® wide body kits, it’s an enjoyable experience right out of the bottle. Why? It nails the tech fundamentals.

Who says you need 400 horsepower to have fun?

The Winning Boxer The most basic tech element of a car is the engine. And the boxer engine is one of the primary ingredients that make a Subaru, a Subaru. Wide and low, like a tasty, cast-aluminum pancake, this design has the advantage of being able to be mounted considerably lower in the chassis than other engine configurations. 

Many people think of an engine only in terms of how much power it produces. The engine’s shape, weight, and placement all have massive implications on overall performance. The engine is just as capable of transforming the handling of the vehicle it’s mounted in. And the BRZ is a perfect example of how this is done. Because the BRZ is rear-wheel drive with a lightweight engine, it doesn’t have to suffer from having a massive anchor dangling out in the front corner of the engine compartment. Its compact engine sits far back in the engine bay, resulting in a lower polar moment of inertia, and a car that enjoys changing directions.

If you pop the hood and have a gander at the engine bay, your eyes will be drawn to the D-4S BOXER plaque mounted atop the intake manifold. “D-4S” is a (very) short acronym for a rather JDM-sounding, “Direct Injection 4-Stroke Gasoline Engine Superior Version System.” Whew.

While you memorize that bit of trivia to impress your friends, notice the four runners on the manifold. This engine has 4 cylinders! Yeah, you probably knew that already, but did you know it employs 8 fuel injectors?

Killer Combo The FA20 engine has both direct injection and port injection, so there are four injectors of both types onboard. This combination yields the benefits of direct injection (high compression ratio and more power) along with the benefits of port injection (smooth and quiet cold starts and reduced valve deposits). It’s capable of running on port injection only, direct injection only, or a combination of both, depending on the driving scenario. The combination allows the FA20 to have a higher compression ratio (12.5:1) and more aggressive ignition timing. 

The tag-team injection system results in a driving experience without any odd dips or surges in the power band as you send the engine spinning toward its 7,400 rpm redline. Lift off the gas and the car slows immediately. Blip the throttle for a smooth downshift and there aren’t any delays.

No School Like the Old School These may sound like simple concepts, but I’ve driven too many modern cars that don’t give you that old-school, throttle-cable feeling. Thankfully, the BRZ does not suffer from this malady. It’s like someone went back in time, grabbed one of your favorite sports coupes from the ’90s, and updated it with only the good parts of new cars. And they made sure to keep the purity and tossability intact. 

EPS: I Love You The BRZ rear-wheel drive design, combined with the low-riding engine, results in a car that really relishes changing directions, eagerly turning at the moment you send the command.

The messenger for those commands is the electric power steering, or EPS in Subaru parlance. Most cars are designed with EPS for only one reason: to eke out some extra fuel economy. Happily, the BRZ is one of the few EPS-equipped cars that manage to provide both respectable fuel economy and the aforementioned fun.

As for another kind of power, let’s move to the rear of the vehicle. The BRZ rear subframe is designed in a similar fashion to its stablemate, the WRX. But since it’s rear-wheel drive, it employs a larger rear crossmember that accommodates a larger rear differential. 

Blissfully, it’s not a commuter-grade open differential, complete with peg-leg burnouts and minimal forward motion. The BRZ employs a TORSEN®1 limited-slip differential, which mechanically reroutes power between the left and right wheels, depending on where the traction is. In keeping with the BRZ theme, this isn’t a video game electronic differential that thinks it knows better than you. In a car that’s all about a pure driving experience, if you’re going to power the rear wheels, why not properly power both of them, right?

True Blue

Oh, one more thing: As you can see from the pictures, the “Blue” in Series.Blue does not refer to the color of the car, though it is offered in both WR Blue Pearl and Crystal White Silica, with blue accents scattered throughout the interior. The Series.Blue line was created as a limited run of vehicles, targeted toward a more tailored audience, with unique features that would be difficult to re-create after purchase. The only reason I can think of why they named it “Blue” is because that’s how I’m going to feel when I finally have to give it back.

  • Vehicle Type 2-door, 2+2 sports car, rear-wheel drive
  • Engine 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed (Subaru BOXER), diecast aluminum-alloy cylinder block
  • Horsepower 200 hp @ 7,000 rpm Torque 151 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm
  • Drivetrain Rear-wheel drive with Torsen limited-slip differential
  • Transmission types Standard – 6-speed manual

    Optional – 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode, downshift blipping control, and steering wheel paddle shifters,

 

2015 Subaru BRZ

1 TORSEN is a registered trademark of JTEKT TORSEN North America, Inc.