I bought a new car this year. I wasn’t really looking for one, but I think this one came looking for me.
I confess, I’m a bit of a drifter. Not so much in terms of lacking a purpose, but rather in that I like to drive sideways. That would probably explain why I have a penchant for rear wheel drive cars, and also why my interest was piqued by the launch of the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ.
I was curious, because Toyota hasn’t built a decent rear wheel drive car in years, and Subaru built its reputation on its renowned AWD system. This new car seemed to be an anomaly – curvaceous and beautiful, it looked nothing like Subaru’s legendary WRX, although it was apparently developed by Subaru engineers. It also appeared to have little in common with other Toyota products – usually boxy, economical benchmarks of practicality, or rugged workhorses.
I spotted a Toyota 86 in our local dealer’s used car lot, and asked Flip, the salesman, to bring it around for a test drive. This was my first mistake. It had around 10,000 kms on the clock, and was in neat condition, shiny silver. Flip handed me the key and I went for my usual test drive, across the bridge to Atlas Road, left, towards the R21 and back. I thought to myself, “this is fun…” I gave the key back to Flip and told him I’d think about it.
I did more than think about it. I spent some time on the net, and discovered that whichever badge these cars wore, they have a Subaru soul. Like the STI, they have Boxer engines and LS diffs, and the same symmetrical design under the skin. I started comparing the 86 and the BRZ – my second mistake.
A few weeks later, we held our annual Media Day at Zwartkops Raceway, and this was where I made my biggest mistake. I drove a BRZ. At this point, I should make another confession: I have always loved Subaru, although I’ve never owned a Subaru road car. There’s a certain passion that infuses the brand and flows through Subaru owners, dealers and staff members. This passion is a rare commodity, akin to the fervent admiration that occurs with the more exotic brands. It’s almost impossible for the mainstream manufacturers to inspire this type of passion across their model ranges – for example, it’s easy to get excited about a Nissan GTR, less so about a Tiida.
I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had a number of special cars as daily drives. I like cars with a bit of character – my favourite cars include a red Citroen 2CV and a black Renault Clio V6. The BRZ captured my imagination in a way that the 86 couldn’t quite match. Maybe it was the Subaru developed performance exhaust that emphasised the Boxer heartbeat. Perhaps it was the excitement glittering in the eyes of the Subaru salespeople when they spoke about the car. I told myself it was the 5 year / 105,000 km maintenance plan that came with the BRZ. Whichever it was, a pearl white BRZ now lives in my garage.
It’s not about the power – 147kW doesn’t easily get the adrenaline pumping. It’s all about the love of driving. Settle into the sports seat and appreciate the way it supports you, just so. Push the start button and watch the needle on the rev counter do the Scooby loop. Reach for the gear lever and enjoy the fact that it sits in exactly the right position. Relish the short stroke and the perfect ratios in the six speed ‘box. Test the low centre of gravity and balanced weight distribution through the corners – and yes, switch off the safety stuff and let it drift, just for fun….
Photos by Taryn Miles