Zooted-out Subaru BRZ Series.Blue accentuates some simple fun | SummitDaily.com

Zooted-out Subaru BRZ Series.Blue accentuates some simple fun

2015 Subaru BRZ Series.Blue

MSRP: $27,695; As tested: $30,285

Powertrain: 200-HP 2.0-liter four-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission

EPA figures: 25 combined MPG (22 city, 30 highway)

If you are so far not one of the 1,000 folks lucky enough to snap up the cool, upgraded edition of every auto writer’s favorite low-output race car, get on board soon.

The Subaru BRZ, as you may remember from all the gushy words a few years back, is the joint Subaru/Toyota (Scion) project which sought to reintroduce some stylish simplicity into the world of two-door, rear-wheel-drive sports machines. Hot looking, fun to drive, but just 200 horsepower.

This was just as the world was starting to get overwhelmed by what are now 700-horsepower automobiles that regular schlubs with clean credit scores can buy for mid-level Audi prices. The audacity of the BRZ’s simplicity resonated with us car dudes.

Last year, to revitalize the Subaru end of that project, a special edition BRZ called the Series.Blue emerged, limited to 500 blue and 500 crystal white cars for the U.S.

And with a litany of sharp aerodynamic treatments that make the already stylish BRZ look a little more like an undersized Corvette Z06 — including some impossibly huge exhaust tips, red brake calipers, very sharp black wheels and the wing on the trunk — you might get the impression that Subaru also went crazy and crammed a 300-plus HP engine from the WRX STI rally car under the hood.

Sadly, no dice, though there are a couple of slightly misleading STI emblems and a big red start/stop button added for confusing effect. Power remains exactly the same, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine that maintains that Subaru heritage but is not entirely tire-melting — but is also totally in keeping with the car’s size and character. More suited to drifting on a race track than blowing off competitors at the traffic light.

Changes are mostly aesthetic though the Series.Blue gets updates suspension damping for a slightly crisper ride, though you’re already so low to the ground and well-connected in the standard BRZ that it’s not like it’s suddenly been turned into a totally dedicated race car. The optional six-speed manual does give you a little more flexibility on your use of the power you have.

BRZs of any flavor — or the Scion FR-S, the mirror image vehicle from Toyota’s oddball division — are absolutely wicked when given the chance to let loose in a race track setting, with their rear-wheel-drive setup, their fantastically responsive steering and their concise braking all happily accentuated by that lack of sheer, hellacious output. You have to goose the Boxer engine a lot to make things happen, red-lining it to points you’d never consider in a larger-displacement engine, but it can still be speedy at highway speed, and is fantastically nimble in all settings.

My best description: BRZ is like telemarking. You have to earn those turns, you have to put a little more effort into it, and you have to be patient, just like a tele skier’s knees — treat it right, and all of its qualities make it a hoot to drive. Though the cabin is not enormous, the inside of the roof is also scalloped to allow you to drive with a helmet on the track. Why not?

Long and lean, BRZ is one low-set, low center of gravity GT machine. It’s also a bit like getting into an undersized sleeping bag and looking at your toes — the long, wide, flat hood and the large arches over the front wheels are about all you can see out of the front. Many drivers realistically won’t enjoy trying to get into the very sporty, even shoulder-bolstered seats; the tiny rear seat is a nice addition, but is not particularly welcoming to adult passengers.

As an in-house custom job, the Series.Blue edition does mean a lot of fancy extra bits, including a very low-to-the-curb air splitter up front, some pronounced aero work along the rocker panels and at the rear corners. Carbon fiber-style trim on the inside also goes hand in hand with, on my tester, a black-and-blue color scheme (blue leather seat edges and steering wheel highlights, blue stitching absolutely everywhere).

And there’s something gloriously charming about the BRZ’s nothing-but-basics interior. Unlike most cars nowadays, it’s an environment where the trunk release button is a big deal, one of just a handful of buttons — with even the AC functions consigned to just a few toggle switches.

Subaru’s older flatscreen navigation system remains impenetrable, but you’ll enjoy the BRZ’s properly scaled sound system.

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