2013 “Sciobaru” BRZ/FR-S

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It has taken almost 25 years but – finally – someone has figured out how to build a better Miata.

Well, someones.

Subaru – and Toyota.

The union has resulted in brilliant and most unusual (for their respective parents) offspring: the Subaru BRZ (subject of this review) and its fraternal twin, the Scion FR-S.

It’s the first rear-drive car Toyota has put out in years. And it’s the first non-AWD car Subaru has put out in decades.

They both do everything the much-beloved Miata does – only better. And they give you several things the Miata can’t – such as back seats.

And a boxer engine.

Well, there is one thing the twins can’t do for you: Muss your hair. Because – for now – the BRZ and FR-S are only offered in hardtop coupe form. A convertible version is probably inevitable, though. Because once word gets out about the endless goodness of this car – well, these cars – demand will make it so.

Miata, move over.

It may be all over.


The BRZ (and FR-S) are sports cars. 190 proof, no-nonsense, no BS, real-deal sports cars. Like Miata – only so much better. Low-mounted flat-four boxer engine and 200 hp. Driving dynamics you have to experience to appreciate – after which you will be sorely tempted to sell your oldest daughter to a Saudi sheik – if that’s what it takes to get the $25k or so it takes to acquire one of these things. The best automatic transmission on the market. Yes, a six-speed manual is standard – as it ought to be – but the automatic in this car – anticipatory (and rev-matched) double downshifts, spot-on upshifts – is just as good. Maybe better.

God, I could go on and on.

Prices start at $25,495 for the base (but very nicely equipped)  BRZ Premium with six-speed manual. The same car with the optional six-speed automatic starts at $26,595. There’s a step-up Limited trim with more luxury and technology equipment, including high-end leather/suede interior, dual-zone climate control and heated seats. It starts at $27,495 for the manual version, $28,595 with the automatic.

The BRZ is priced just a notch above the functionally identical Scion FR-S, which starts at $24,200 and tops out at $25,300.

Though neither car is available – yet – in roadster form, the obvious target is Mazda’s Miata ($23,720-$30,350) which has been the hegemonic ruler of the affordable sports car world since its introduction back in 1989.

The BRZ and FR-S are also likely to deeply cut into sales of higher-end sport roadsters such as BMW’s Z4 – $47,350 to start – for which you could almost a BRZ and an FR-S.


The works. The BRZ (and FR-S) are brand-new models.


What’s not?

If handling and fun to drive were translated into IQ, this car would rate genius.

No, super genius.

Superbly good six-speed automatic – if you swing that way.

More interior space than Miata.

34 MPG on the highway – with the optional automatic.

No “chick car” issues.


No convertible – yet.

30 MPG on the highway with the standard manual.

A bit beefy (2,762 lbs. vs. 2,480 for the convertible Miata).

Probable dealer mark-up.


From the Subaru side of this collaboration comes the 2.0 liter flat-four “boxer” engine that’s standard equipment in both the BRZ and the Scion-badged FR-S. This engine produces 200 hp – 33 hp more than Miata’s also 2.0 liter four cylinder engine. But far more important than how much more hp the BRZ and FRS offer is how the hp is produced.

The Mazda’s engine is a conventional in-line four, with its cylinders all lined up in a row and upright. The Sciobaru’s engine has pairs of cylinders laid on their sides (horizontally) opposed and mounted low. This puts the weight of the engine lower in the chassis – and also spreads it out more evenly – both of which confer advantages when it comes to handling. (Ask any Porsche driver.) It also permits a very low hoodline – a visibility and aerodynamic advantage.

So far, so good.

Ditto the BRZ/FR-S’s gearboxes – both the standard six speed and the optional six-speed automatic – which (in Sport mode) does anticipatory throttle blip double downshifts, among other tricks.

Everyone who’s read about the Sciobaru drivetrain knows how good it is. Brilliant, actually. Especially in a car with a $24k price floor.

But, there’s a catch – 282 of them, actually. That’s the difference in curb weight between the “twins” and the Miata: 2,762 lbs. vs. 2,480 lbs. The Miata is appropriately weighted – the Sciobaru isn’t. It’s nearly 2,800 lbs. empty – and with a 200 pound driver in board it’s over 3,000 lbs. That is heavy for such a little car – for a sports car.

It’s the reason why, despite its significant power advantage over the Miata, it’s a dead heat between the two as far as acceleration. Both cars get to 60 in just under 7 seconds (with manual transmission; the automatic versions of either car are a few tenths slower).

If the Sciobaru weighed the same as the Miata, it would smoke the Miata. And the fact is, the Sciobaru ought to weigh less than the Miata – because it (the Sciobaru) is a hardtop coupe and hardtops usually weigh less than convertibles – because they don’t need the extra body reinforcement to make up for the loss of roof structure.

Mazda’s ace in the hole, despite the Miata being an older design (and arguably, a less sexy design) is that it’s – somehow, miraculously – not a fatty.

So how come the Sciobaru is (for what it is)? My guess is it was designed to anticipate the next round of government crashworthiness standards – which usually means more mass (and so, more weight).

The current Miata may only be a lightweight for now. It will be interesting to see whether the next Miata porks out, too.

One other thing. The manual BRZ (and FR-S) is not a little bit less fuel efficient than the same car with the optional automatic: 22 city, 30 highway vs. 25 city, 34 highway. Of course, you pay about $1,000 more to get the extra 4 MPG on top.

One other thing: Subaru (and Scion) urge premium fuel only. Regardless of transmission. The Mazda Miata is ok sipping regular.

One more thing: Check out the location of the oil filter. It’s right there in top of the engine – making oil filter changes an almost no-tools-required job.


Every once in a blue moon, a car comes along that does for jaded car journalists – who routinely get to drive all sorts of new cars, including exotics – what going for a ride in an F-18 probably does for other people.

The BRZ is such a car.

I did not want to surrender the keys. I have toyed with buying one. That almost never happens. It happened this time.

I’ve driven every sports car – just about – that’s been sold during the past 20-something years. Everything from kit car Lotus 7s to the BMW Z8 Alpina. In between there have been S2000s and NSXs, MR2s, Exiges and Caymans. Z4s – and many Miatas. All of them in their own ways, outstanding cars.

But all of them, in their own ways, limited in one way or another. Sometimes, more than one way.

Some – like the Alpina and Z4 and Cayman – are rich men’s toy’s. Which is great if you’re rich but not so much if you’re not.

Some – like the S2000 – are terrible at anything less than full scream.

There is a reason why they’ve all failed. Only the Miata has endured.

And the BRZ is better than the Miata.

The boxer engine, for starters. It’s something you don’t encounter in the run-of-the-mill. In-line fours, you do. Nothing wrong with the Miata’s engine. It is peppy enough to be fun – and it has proved itself to be all but unkillable. But it is also nothing special. The Sciobaru’s boxer engine is. Listen to it growl. The sound is like nothing else. So also the fruits of the layout: Crouched low – spread out – vs. a centrally mounted lump of metal. The resultant balance that’s achieved has to be experienced to be believed. This is a car that will challenge you – even if you happen to have an SCCA license in your wallet. But at the same time, it is not a difficult or intimidating car for the person who hasn’t got an SCCA license in his wallet. In this respect, the BRZ is very much like the Miata – and very much unlike a car such as the old Honda S2000, which was brilliant at speed, in the right hands – but frustrating and not much fun otherwise.

Like the Miata, the BRZ could be a daily driver. Its engine – though a sweet little thing when you call upon it – is just as happy at 2,000 RPM as it is at 7,400 RPM.

It’s not unreasonably thirsty – and it’s not unreasonably pricey, either.

It can also be teamed up with what I will state for the record – as someone who has driven just about everything – is perhaps the best automatic transmission on the market. And more than that – an automatic that’s suitable for a sports car. Everything about this transmission is sporty – starting with the shifter, which looks and even operates as close to a manual stick as it’s probably possible to get. The gate moves left-right (and up-down) very much like it would move if you were selecting one of six manual gears. Just behind the shifter lever are the important buttons: Trac off, Sport (or Snow) and – most important, VSC Sport. Press to engage – and disengage most of the electronic intervention. And engage anticipatory (and rev-matching) double downshifts, as when decelerating hard just before entering a turn. Whatever your right hand and left foot would do in a given situation given a clutch and driver control of gear changes, this unit will do for you better – and quicker. There is no slop, ever. No lag time in between shifts. No premature (or late) shifts, either.

Just perfect (and perfectly timed) shifts. Every time.

You can control the action manually if you like via the steering wheel mounted paddle controls, but – trust me – this transmission is smarter than you are. It is also beyond merely “better” than the optional automatic in Miata. That car must be ordered with the stick – or else you’ve ruined the car. With the BRZ and FR-S, you can go either way – and not be disappointed.

This is not only unusual. It is unprecedented. At least, at this price point. The Porsche Cayman’s “PDK” dual-clutch automated manual is superb. As it should be in a car that starts at almost $52k.

At this price point – or within $15k of it – there’s nothing that can touch it.

Now, some reviewers have bitched about the 7 second-ish 0-60 times. That a new Mustang V-6 is much quicker – which it is. In a straight line. But the BRZ driver will have his say when the road is no longer straight. God help the Mustang jockey trying to keep up. That goes for the V-8 Mustang, too. It’s a big, beefy, brawny car that handles very well… for a big, beefy brawny car. Even though I personally wish the BRZ were 300 pounds lighter, a new Mustang (the V-6 Mustang)  is almost 700 pounds heavier. It also almost two feet longer (188.1 inches vs. 166.7) , nearly four inches wider through the hips (73.9 inches vs. 69.9) and five inches taller (55.6 inches vs. 50.6). It – and cars like it (Camaro, Challenger – even the Hyundai Genesis coupe ) are huge cars in comparison. And, they feel it.

It’s not that they’re oafish. Just big. Heavy. A handful.

The BRZ isn’t.

The same’s true of the Miata, of course – which accounts for much of its perennial appeal.

But now we come to the fork in the road.


Anyone’s who has driven the Miata probably likes the Miata. It is a very likable car. But it has two problems – or at least, problems relative to the BRZ and FR-S.

The first is the much-discussed “chick car” thing. Like it or not – and fair or not – the Miata is harder for a guy (especially a big guy) to drive. He looks a little silly, first of all. It’s not as bad as driving a white VW Rabbit cabriolet. But it’s something like that.

And some guys care about that.

No such worries with either the BRZ or the FR-S (which has somewhat different exterior cosmetics but the same general shape).

There are some derivative styling affectations I would have left off had it been up to me – such as the Aston Martin-ish side vents (trim plates, really – because they’re not functional). But they don’t look silly – and that’s what’s important. Meanwhile, the subtle double speed humps along the roof look very good. The three-piece rear airfoil, too. It’s not over-the-top (WRX Sti) but – to my eye – just right. And the car’s overall squat is perfect.

No chick car issues here.

And even if the chick car thing (as regards Miata) isn’t something you care much about, you probably will care about the Sciobaru’s superior interior.

Obviously, the back seats are useless. For carrying passengers. But you’ve got interior cargo capacity for stuff that you don’t have in the two-seater-only Miata. Plus a bigger trunk on top of that: 6.9 cubic feet vs. 5.3 in the Miata.

The Miata does post more front seat legroom (43.1 inches vs. 41.9 for the BRZ/FR-S) but the measurement that matters more – if you’re not-small – is shoulder room. The Sciobaru has 54.5 inches vs. 53.2 for the Mazda. This is very noticeable if you’re a fairly big guy, as I am. The Miata’s not claustrophobic. But it is a bit tight.


I mentioned the major flaw with this car – as I see it: It’s a few hundred pounds too heavy. But inspect the thing and you’ll discover they tried to keep off the beef. The hood, for instance. It is literally almost paper thin. You could bend it in half by hand. You – not Arnold Schwarzennegger. This car will get hurt badly if it ever hits anything other than the slipstream at 100 MPH. Or rather, your wallet will. This is a fairly common problem with all late-model cars: Extremely thin and dent not-resistant panels – designed to fold and so absorb the energy input during “first contact.” But, wow – this one’s papier-mache thin, almost.

Be very careful raising – and closing – the hood.

More power is needed. Or, less weight (somehow). A true sports car’s primary qualification isn’t how quickly it gets to 60. But the BRZ/FR-S ought to be quicker than Miata, given an almost 40 hp advantage.

One way to possibly fix this might be to offer a “delete option” for AC – and make the fixed front quarter glass moveable. That alone might take 100-150 pounds off.

Finally, there’s the roof issue. Or rather, its lack of absence. One of the Miata’s chief draws is its drop-top. People just like a roadster. Something about warm summer days, the wind in your hair.

I expect this will be addressed soon. Probably, Subaru-Toyota wanted to wait and see what the reaction to the Sciobaru would be before going whole-hog and committing to a convertible.

This car – these cars – are going to be such monster hits as it is that I have no doubt a drop-top is already being prototyped. Give it a year.

Maybe, less.


Triple aces. Home run. Top of the heap. The Duke of New York and A Number One.

It’s hard to see how it could get any better – though 230 hp and a convertible top would be great place to start.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. Literally bought (as in made the down payment, traded in our other car) a BRZ Limited in October of last year….demand was REALLY high at the time and (long story) the dealer in CA who was to ship it to our dealer in AZ, sold it out from under us to someone willing to buy the car for $7K over MSRP.

    We got lucky….as I was researching a new set of wheels/tires, I came across this:


    While the incidences of failures have subsided, it seems Toyota/Subaru’s “solution” was to loosen the parameters in the ECU to combat the problem.

    We ended up buying two cars instead….one for DD duty (2012 Mazda 3) and one for pure fun (2008 Lotus Elise SC).

    We still like the BRZ/FRS….and actually are contemplating trading the Mazda for one….but in terms of pure driving experience, the BRZ/FRS doesn’t hold a candle to the Lotus (especially with the supercharger) and used ones with low mileage are in the same ball park price wise….though I’ll readily admit the Lotus is an enthusiast’s car; it ain’t practical.

    • Hi Sean,

      I love the Lotus, too… as a track-day car.

      It’s a really tough car to live with on the street. It reminded me in many ways of the original AC Cobra (not the much more civilized kit cars). Or a Sunbeam Alpine Tiger (anyone remember that one?)

      A nice middle ground is a Miata – amped-up with MazdaSpeed parts, etc.

      These cars are very liveable on the street – and incredibly good on the track, too. They are among the few cars you can literally drive to the track, on the track – and then to work on Monday.

  2. Eric,

    Thank you for the review. I’ve been wanting this car for a while, but for a few reasons it would be better for me to wait until 2014 – or maybe even 2015.

    My question is this: you said the back seats are useless for passengers. But what about those little passengers? Specifically, babies in car seats? Is there enough room for a car seat in one of these?

    (I suspect I know the answer, but I hope I’m wrong.)



    • Hi Travis,

      The back seats are absolutely kid-viable. The main problem isn’t the seats – it’s that there’s literally no legroom for backseat passengers. But this is not a problem as far as fitting a child seat (or a small kid) back there.

      In fact, the ability of this car to handle a kid makes it much more viable as a full-time car than, say, a two-seater like the Miata.

      Go check the car out – I think you’ll agree.

    • Travis, Have you looked at an RX-8? It’s got functional rear seats with access by “suicide” doors. If you’re looking for a sporty car that carries kids it might be the ticket. Of course it’ll have to be a used one because Mazda discontinued it last year, but still plenty of fine ones on the market. Gas mileage sucks though. But who knows, the 8 may even be collectible some day (rotary engine and all that).

  3. Saw the Toyota version at the local dealer when I took my Taco in for service.

    There is another car that it reminds me of……. much more than a miata.

    Want to guess what car………..?

    The last generation Turbo Mazda RX7. Similarly small, sleek and swift looking. A much better car to resemble than a miata.

  4. Unfortunately, they cheaped out on a strut front suspension and an udjustability limited rear multilink for the Brz,Frs. Might be OK for the street but hinders trackday performance overall.

  5. Say what you will about Nader, but at least he had the courage to stand on stage with Ron Paul and make a commitment to unifying the anti-corporate elements of the left and the libertarians. Can you think of any other lefty who has made similar concessions? I can’t.

  6. I’ve been, as others have said, waiting for your review. I’m glad I waited. This is one of the few cars I’d even consider buying currently. Nothing else withing 20 grand that’s even appealing. However, I do think the HP is a bit light. Might have to wait for the next upgrade 🙂

    • Thanks, Damon!

      There is a more powerful version on deck – probably 2014 with availability in summer 2013. Meanwhile, there’s the aftermarket for the current (200 hp) version. Probably, there’s another 20 easy-to-access hp without even going to a turbo. Intake/exhaust, reprogram the ECU…

      But – believe me – the as-it-sits car is outstanding as it sits!

  7. The horizontally opposed or so-called boxer engine makes sense.

    Too bad that slimy lawyer killed the Corvair. It just might have evolved to become a truly great car.


    In 1950 I learned to drive in a ’37 Ford coup with a 60 hp V-8 engine. Automatic transmission? Whut’s thet?


    Now that I’m a Geezer with a replacement left knee I admit to preferring an automatic transmission.


    • Sometimes I think people like Nader exist to punish innovation and doing something different. I feel that in large part that’s why in large part we have government regulation. To stop people from doing things differently. Furthermore many corporate types are very risk adverse. Punish them for allowing innovation and they’ll punish the engineers who innovate. Soon innovation isn’t happening. Products outside the comfort zone don’t happen.

      • This is just speculation on my part, based on what I know about Nader:

        Either he is merely a cynical shyster who exploited an opportunity to profit at the expense of others. Or he is (consciously or not) a genuinely bad, perhaps even evil person – one who hates the freedom of action represented by mobility (cars) and sought actively to limit, even destroy it to the extent he could.

        • Dear Eric,

          I suspect it’s the latter.

          Ralph Nader’s mentality is, I believe, similar to that of Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber. Both harbored deep-seated hatred for technology, and the market freedom that makes advanced technology possible.

          They were/are “Clovers writ large.”

          Nader was shrewder. He chose to work within the system. Nader adopted the same approach as Ellsworth Toohey, the arch villain in Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead.”

          Nader’s coercion was “legitimate.” As a sharp lawyer he knew exactly how to harness the coercive machinery of government to bully others.

          Kaczynski was less sophisticated, at least in his methods. He gravitated toward direct action that was not merely coercive, but also illegal.

          Nader was too savvy to ever allow himself to end up like Kaczynski.

          • @BrentP:

            It’s an amazing coincidence, isn’t it, that so many “terrists” and would-be assassins have ties to the military’s psych arm.

            Ted K–well-known, MK-ULTRA victim
            Sirhan Sirhan–drugged
            Timothy McVeigh–under “care” of army psychiatrist
            James Holmes–the Aurora “shooter”, a trifecta of mind-control themes…under care of army psychiatrist, father in the CIA, and himself a student of mind-control techniques.

            I’m now certain that real, spontaneous terrist attacks are the very rare exception–and the vast majority are government-instigated, planned, and executed.

            BTW–we’re on the countdown to the next false flag. People are waking up; the PTB need a distraction very badly right now to line the sheeple up again.

          • Dear Brent,

            Hadn’t heard that Kaczynski was another “Manchurian Candidate.”

            I have no doubt that “our” gubmint has no qualms whatsoever of setting loose all manner of mad dogs on the public.

            I simply had not hear that Kaczyinski was one of them.

            Thanks for alerting me to this possibility. I’ll look into it.

          • Dear Methylamine,

            I’ve been reading online speculation that Phoenix, Arizona may be Ground Zero (literally) for the next Project Northwoods/9/11 style false flag operation.

            The suspected date: this Christmas Day, less than two weeks from now.

            It’ll certainly be interesting to see how that plays out.

            The actual date isn’t really that important. What matters is that it is sure to come.

          • Yep, government and the military is nothing but organized crime under color of law.

            I say this as a five year Navy veteran.

            The accounts of CIA mind control victims — e.g., Unshackled, A Survivor’s Story of Mind Control; Vatican Ratline — are heart-wrenching and disgusting.

    • Much as I dislike Nader, what really killed the Corvair was poor timing. The 1960s was the era of cars with more (and more) power, as well as more and more choice. A Mustang, for example, could be a virtual one-off custom – as ordered by the buyer.

      The Corvair was limited by the nature of its layout. The flat six could never compete with the big V-8s (or even the small ones) as far as power/performance.

      Now, had GM brought forth the much-improved second generation (1965-’69) Corvair – which had a sleek body and a Corvette-like IRS suspension among other things – as a new car for the 1973 model year, when the market has shifted back toward economical smaller cars, I suspect it would have done very well.

      The true tragedy in re Nader is not the death of Corvair as much as it is the inhibition of radical design. GM was badly burned by the whole episode. And probably other automakers decided to stick with more conventional designs as a result of seeing what happened to GM.

  8. I’ve owned my 2002 miata since new. It’s showing its age, but I still love the car. It helps to have an everyday car to complement it. The BRZ/FR-S is the first car that made me consider replacing my miata.

    But…. I’ll keep the miata, and $25K.

  9. Why, Eric, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you gush like this. It’s nice to see that you do still have some spirit left in you after experiencing two decades worth of clover-induced dullness in the New Car. I think it’d be fun for all of us if you bought a BRZ or FR-S and give us an update on occasion. That way those of us who can only afford to live vicariously can get in on the action.

    And btw, out in the Bay Area where I live until last year, the Miata is also perceived as being a gay man’s car. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m just sayin’.

    Thanks for the fun and inspiring review.

    • Yeah!

      I was talking with Dom recently about the issue that plagues us both… space. The lack thereof.

      We both need new buildings. I am close to finishing up our “guest house” – a two level small building with an upstairs loft and downstairs showroom for my bikes. This will free up space in my garage, enough for one more car…

      The BRZ is big fun – at a not-big price. Though I wonder what the current transaction price (after dealer mark-up) is… from what I gather, you’ve got to get in line and place an order. Forget about just buying one off the lot.

      Might be better in six months or so….

  10. Eric,

    I’ve been waiting for your review on the BRZ/FR-S for a while now and it did not disappoint. It’s good to hear from you that this car lives up to the massive amount of hype it has received. The FR-S has been selling like hotcakes since it’s introduction. FYI the convertible model has been confirmed even though there is no ETA yet.

    A turbo STI version of the BRZ with around 250-300hp is very close to production as well. I’ve been saving my FRN’s for a while and this car looks to be the ticket for me.

    My old 92 Sentra SE-R had a 2 liter 4 banger that revved to 7500rpm and a close ratio transmission. What a FUN car it was…I miss that car dearly and have been looking for something that gives me the same type of driving experience.

    This car seems to be the answer for me. The fact that it’s RWD is just icing on the cake.

    • Hi Pedro,

      You won’t be disappointed by the car, either! Even a few hundred pounds too heavy and with “only” 200 hp, this car is by far the most enjoyable car I have driven in years. In part, because I know I could afford one. And not only that, I could drive the thing every day.

      Remember the NSX? I will never forget it. Test drove it back in the ’90s. Incredible. But also completely unrealistic.

      The S2000? Over 5,000 RPM the thing was the four-wheeled equivalent of my two-stroke crotch rocket. But both suck if you’re not pouring the coals to them.

      I’m pretty jaded in that I have had the good fortune to drive literally thousands of different new cars of every type imaginable. It is hard to get me excited – really excited – about a new car.

      This one did, though!

        • It’s true!

          A beautiful machine is a lot like a beautiful human body. The parallels (and inspirations) are well-known. Just look at an E-Type Jaguar, for instance. It’s obvious what was on its designer’s mind.

          Not necessarily sex, mind – rather, the beauty of form.

    • Hi Pedro–

      I had a 91 Sentra SE-R, too! What a riot that little car was. I’m so sad I traded it in; I should have just kept it. It would have lasted forever and been a fun project car for my kids one day.

      Maybe I should rent a garage somewhere and buy up a few pre-’96 cars, prep them for storage, and bring them out when it’s Mad Max time 🙂

  11. Put a twin turbo on it, and it also will be awesome in a straight line. They can then push the base price to at least $30K, and it will be well worth it. Not exactly a spiritual successor to the Supra. But Toyota might regain part of a devoted buyer segment that they just walked away from.

    • You know that’s in the hopper! If Subaru/Toyota doesn’t do it, the aftermarket will.

      I have no doubt there’s an easy 50-75 hp additional just waiting to be tapped.

  12. You are right that these cars are going to be hits. A few months ago I went to test drive a BRZ at a San Antonio dealer and was told that would be nearly impossible. All of the orders to date were made sans test drive. People know how good the WRX is and have confidence that Subaru has hit a home run.

    • Yeah –

      Expect no mercy at the dealership… though the upside is these are not low-volume cars. I think anyone willing to wait a little while will be ok.

  13. Eric,

    As a Miata owner I have to agree with your observation that Miata + automatic = FAIL.

    Not having driven the BRZ/FR-S I can state with confidence that your liking the automatic is pure heresy.

    My real question is: How long before the Clovers decide that a manual transmission is “distracted driving”?

    I may have just planted a bad seed…

    • “My real question is: How long before the Clovers decide that a manual transmission is “distracted driving”?”

      I don’t think that could ever happen. I think any fool could be convinced that rowing your own gears helps to eliminate distractions. Try holding a cell phone or changing radio stations while driving in stop and go traffic, ya know.

      I have always thought that if automatics were rare, there would be far fewer accidents on the road.

      • Ditto –

        Learning to drive a stick (when you’re just starting out) not only requires one to master higher-order skills, it also imparts (my opinion here) more respect for the car and for driving. You don’t just throw a lever in D and push down on a pedal. Literally, almost anyone can do that. It takes next to no competence as a driver. Which is why – my opinion – it seems there are so many incompetent drivers.

        But mastering the balancing of clutch engagement and gear selection forces the driver to become involved. To pay attention. This all by itself arguably makes a given person a better driver.

          • To learn how to drive I was taken to parking lot and had to drive three on the tree. No AT’s to get warm up to it. No floor shift car with an easier clutch and smoother shifter… nope. Right from not driving to three on the tree.

            The result of that and blood on the highway driver’s ed was that I taught myself how to drive after I got my license. I read and learned things few americans ever bother with.

            Spot on Eric. It enforces smoothness, discipline, and paying attention. Can’t use a phone easily either. Both hands and both feet are required to drive (special controls aside). One of these days I may get around to writing about how the AT is the root of all driving evil. If were allowed one indulgence of a cloverish law it may be a ban on the automatic transmission 🙂

          • I learned in my dad’s 4-speed Pinto in the junior college parking lot, but our driver’s ed classes were automatics.

            I miss driving a stick.

          • Good memories. I was taught out in the boonies far from civilization in a classic Honda Civic CVCC. Five Speed no less. The old man had little patience for me but I persevered and at the age of sixteen got the damn license. Its been thirtyfour years hence and I miss that little car and the shifting.

            Now for the Pinto… I have to laugh because my buddies in High School drove that around while we “cruised” the Sonic. In the back I’d be wedged in there laughing my ass off. It was a lot of fun.

        • Driving in yur-up cities and you will discover that a manual is a must so that one can actually CONTROL their car in traffic. In yur-up, sometimes you can’t tell roads from sidewalks…sometimes they are one in the same.

          All men should know how to drive a manual transmission. If you don’t, rent a car with a manual and learn…Or take a trip to yur-up since most rentals are stick…You will no doubt be an irritant to the yur-up drivers but work hard to not be.

    • I have always preferred manuals in a sports car, for all the obvious reasons. But I wasn’t kidding – or exaggerating – about the excellence of the BRZ’s automatic. It’s the first time in my 20-plus years of evaluating new cars that I a willing to state that opting for the automatic will not ruin the car.

  14. Great review, Eric.

    Currently, I am waiting for the Abarth convertible to hit our shores in Q1 (and have been waiting for two/three years). You liked the Abarth. It seems that you think the BRZ near ideal.

    I want a stylish, light, economical, well-handling, reliable, fun car with a rag top.

    Would you wait for the BRZ convertible?

    I like Subarus; I bought the WRX STi when it first came out, and it was great fun (though a bit loud on the highway and over bumps) (and practical; I towed my small sailing boats with it) for 160K miles.

    • Hi John,


      Several factors come into consideration when stacking up the Fiat vs. the BRZ:

      Layout –

      The Fiat is FWD, the Subaru (and Scion) are RWD. All the obvious pros – and cons – of each layout.

      Price –

      The Abarth coupe is priced starting around $22k. This is already about $3,500 less than the base price of the BRZ coupe. I’d expect a comparable price gap as regards convertible versions of each, with the Abarth convertible probably starting around $25k – and a convertible BRZ probably closer to $30k.

      The Wait –

      The Abarth convertible is already confirmed for 2013; I only expect a convertible version of the BRZ/FR-S to become available. No one really knows, though. Probably not before 2014, in any case.

      Subjectives come into play here, too The sense of “feel” one car gives will appeal to one person – less so to another person. I would want to test drive both before committing if I were looking to buy.

      For myself (having driven both – well, the hardtops) I’d choose the BRZ, but only because for me, the RWD layout is to be preferred in a performance car. That plus the magnificent boxer engine does the trick for me.


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