Subaru BRZ review – New updates for 2017 refine the fun coupe, but only slightly - Engine and gearbox
Blessed with an excellent, involving chassis, but feeble engine and poor tyres prevent the BRZ from achieving greatness
Engine and gearbox
The BRZ’s power delivery might seem odd in this day and age, and that’s matched by the engine’s unusual layout. You won’t find the ubiquitous in-line, turbocharged four-cylinder under the Subaru’s bonnet, instead there’s a naturally aspirated 2-litre four-cylinder boxer engine.
Rather than having all the cylinders in one line, with each piston having their own journal on the crankshaft, the BRZ’s cylinders are laid flat either side of the crankshaft. A pair of opposing pistons then use the same crank journal meaning each movement counteracts one another creating a balanced and smooth engine.
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One of the other benefits of this cylinder arrangement is that it keeps the engine very low and flat and helps reduce the car’s centre of gravity. As it’s so flat it can also be mounted further back in the chassis, almost encroaching into the transmission tunnel, to help weight distribution. Flat engines are something Subaru has championed for some time, and each of its cars is fitted with either a flat-four or flat-six.
The BRZ comes with a six-speed manual as standard and it’s the transmission choice that we’d opt for. There’s a satisfyingly mechanical feel to the changes, and while the lever looks fairly tall the throw through the gate is as tight as they come.
The six-speed automatic comes with the obligatory paddle-shift manual mode. It’s not a bad gearbox, but its slightly unenthusiastic responses don’t match the immediacy of the rest of the car and it takes away a degree of control and involvement. For a car that is all about immersing you in the pure thrills of driving and exploiting each mechanical element for your enjoyment, an automatic gearbox simply isn’t appropriate.
With either transmission, drive is sent to the rear wheels through a Torsen limited-slip differential. At this price point, there aren’t many other vehicles that give you the desirable combination of a naturally aspirated engine, a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive with a locking diff.