5 April 2022

The new Subaru BRZ: the perfect car for doing the fabled 'Cotter Run'

| James Coleman
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Subaru BRZ

Breezing along in a BRZ (or is it the Toyota 86?) Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Germany has the Nürburgring, but the ACT has the fabled ‘Cotter Run’.

Most agree it comprises Cotter Road and Uriarra Road, a tight and twisting ribbon of tarmac draped over the bushland west of the Molonglo Valley.

Head to the Weston McDonald’s car park at about 10 pm and you might even see it on car windows as a decal, thick white graphics tracing its route. People wearing backward caps and sneakers with enormous tongues (on the shoes, not the owners) will also be hanging around, talking in very loud tones about how ‘fully sic’ it is.

The road attracts all sorts of cars and motorbikes, but perhaps none more so than what I’m in – a Toyota 86.

Subaru BRZ

You’ll be glad to hear the sparkly blue paint comes at no extra cost. Photo: James Coleman.

Before you point out the badge is, in fact, blue and it clearly says ‘Subaru’ on the back, the Subaru BRZ is almost exactly the same car as the Toyota 86.

Boffins from both companies put their heads together in 2005 after Toyota purchased a 10 per cent stake in Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, and they’ve only snuggled closer ever since.

At the time, Toyota was cleaning out its closet of beige cardigans and mothballs, desperately trying to find their sports car credentials which had gone missing after the demise of the Celica and Supra.

READ ALSO The all-new Isuzu D-Max: the Tonka truck for grown-ups

As for Subaru, they were more than happy to go along for the ride.

Toyota put its hand up for the planning and design, while Subaru would take care of the boring engineering stuff. Both the 86 and BRZ would be built in Subaru’s Gunma plant in Japan.

Once people had finished falling off chairs with excitement over the news that the cheap and cheerful sports car was finally returning, buyers immediately started scheming about how they could do it better.

It was underpowered, they said. It didn’t have a turbo. It didn’t bottom out on every pebble. It didn’t have a rear wing the size of an ironing board. Heck, it didn’t even have smoked LED rear lights.

So the oversized-sneaker wearers donned their backwards caps and set to work ‘improving’ each and every one, such that it’s nigh impossible to find a stock-standard Toybaru on the second-hand market now. They’ve all been ‘modded’ in some way.

The boffins in Japan know this, which explains why they didn’t spend much time on the exhaust system – they knew it would be ripped out and replaced soon after the car left the dealership. What’s the use of engineering a state-of-the-art exhaust system if it’s just going to be rusting out behind a shed tomorrow?

But this is fine because I’m starting at the gateway to the Cotter Run in the new suburb of Wright. Not too many years ago, this was an empty paddock, but more than 3000 people call it home today, and a cannon blasting through the suburbs would be antisocial.

Besides, press a button marked ‘Sport’ in the centre console and the situation improves ear-tingling-ly enough to match the two-door coupe profile and suede-trimmed sports seats.

There were online rumours the new BRZ would score a turbocharger, but this has turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking. But the engine is now bigger, a 2.4-litre with four cylinders arranged in Subaru’s traditional boxer configuration.

Red stripes, suede, and yes, an automatic. Photo: James Coleman.

The 0-100 km/h claim of 6.3 seconds is from Toyota but I don’t mind. This car isn’t about all-out speed and the Cotter Run doesn’t necessarily favour the fastest either. It’s about corners.

Therein lies the car’s piece de resistance. A Ferrari might be one thing, but out here, I would prod the pedal and be immediately propelled through trees, fences, a cyclist’s bottom and into prison. The BRZ’s party tricks lie within the speed limit, so you can make the most of it most of the time.

I set off on the run with a healthy dose of fear, but it only took a few kilometres before I had warmed up. The suspension expertly treads a fine line between firm and comfortable, the steering is nicely weighted, and despite carrying a little over a tonne, it certainly sticks to the road. It’s a proper sports car. Which brings us to the gearbox …

Not a Toyota at all under the bonnet. Photo: James Coleman.

A manual version is available, but for nearly $4000 more, you can get a six-speed automatic.

Many will immediately throw up at this and, on the Cotter Run, it was occasionally in the wrong gear at the wrong time but much like the noise, hitting the ‘Sport’ button improves this by letting the engine rev higher. This also frees up my concentration to better avoid trees.

Here’s the truly crushing news, though: the first batch of 500 BRZs have already been snatched up, so Subaru Australia is now asking people to register their name online to make sure “you’re amongst the first to find out about future allocations”.

That’s a pity. But it’s worth the wait.

Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

2022 Subaru BRZ Coupe S automatic

  • $43,990 (plus driveaway costs)
  • 2.4-litre ‘boxer’ four-cylinder, 170 kW/249 Nm
  • 6-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-100 km/h in 6.3 seconds (estimated).

Visit Subaru Canberra for more information.

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ChrisinTurner1:48 pm 20 Mar 22

The replacement of the factory mufflers with versions that may not meet the ACT noise regulations should not be encouraged by Riotact.

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