First impressions – BRZ

First impressions on my new car? The clutch is so soft …. as i pulled out of the dealer. Also, hmmm this car is pretty slowish. Even though i was running in the car, i could tell that it wasn’t a torquey car. Thirdly though, wow manual again after how many years without? So fun just to be shifting and clutching. Overall it felt ok. Ok and cheap. Spoilt with the interior of the Audi, the plastics on the switches left me rather unimpressed. I didn’t really need to be though as i knew the aim of the car is completely different and so is the price point. Still, the position is absolutely perfect. Telescopic reach on the steering wheel combined with perfect pedal positioning meant that anyone interested in driving will find this a nice place to be in. You feel like you are in the car rather than sitting in a bus. I got in my friends Fiesta ST and first thing i thought was BUS. The position was so upright compared to the BRZ.

So the next day after acquiring the car, i drove through RNP. I haven’t driven through this place in probably 2 years (i normally ride through more now) but over the next few weeks i probably drove the car through it 5-6 times. I just wanted to kinda get a feel for the new car and that seemed like the only accessible place. I never drove it hard as the car was still breaking in but i didn’t baby it excessively either. Giving plenty of revs here and there and generally got a good feel for the car.

The BRZ definitely cornered well. To me i realised that they were able to use relatively softer damper/springs as the centre of gravity on the cars are so low anyways. What this means is they would get a car which didn’t roll excessively in corners and handled bumps very well. In fact, the BRZ handled bumps SOOO well my wife was pleasantly surprised that it was quite comfortable. The previous car she sat in was Kev’s S15 which i purchased and that scared her with the roughness and just the overall nature of the car. The BRZ she warmed up to quickly though as she found it comfortable, smooth and “not dangerous”.

It was so good that i changed my plan’s slightly on the BRZ. I almost did not want to mod it to ruin that perfect usability for everyday driving and to this date i am still very hesitant. I drove the car everyday and to everywhere and generally wanted to USE the car day in day out. I purposely went to pickup furniture in the car just so i can use it for stuff that it wasn’t meant to do (which it handled with aplomb). That was one of the best qualities of the car. I also found the car super approachable from day one performance wise. You feel like you have driven the car for ages and you are keen to try out almost everything. So approachable was the car that i had to refrain from clutch kicking the car in the middle of corners through RNP on my 2nd day out. Coming out of corners on a wet day remains a hard task with self control needed to not try and get sideways.

GOOD:

1. Very accessible performance in a approachable manner

2. Perfectly focused on the driver with all the little things

3. Very dailyable and useable (carried furniture, bikes, drive into any driveway)

BAD:

1. Not torquey

2. Engine seems a little characterless vs vtec engines

3. Interior quality

BRZ

So towards the start of this year, i purchased a new car, the Subaru BRZ.

I deliberated over the choice prior to purchase for many month and like anything i purchase, usually i put in a good amount of “thought” into it as well.

It always starts at carsales. You go on it just to have a peep. A peep turns into a browse. A browser turns into an addiction. Soon enough you are searching terms like te37, voltex, ce28n blah blah ….

Before i knew it, i decided i needed a sports car in my life. The Allroad is a perfect daily car. It is honestly a car i will most likely keep for a very very very long time (the depreciation scares me to sell anyways + the shape will be timeless). Still, i wanted a sports car again, i needed a sports car again.

The Porsche GT3 is my dream car. I knew it wouldn’t be happening anytime soon so i thought about it and decided that i wasn’t going to be sportcarless for the next 5 years or however long it takes me to get the GT3. I started looking at carsales and quickly drew up a list of candidates. In no particular order.

1. GTR35

2. M3 E92

3. BRZ

The GTR35 can be had for around $90k now but from my research, the gearbox was keen to have issues. Especially with the sensors. Basically, i realised that unless you buy a brand new GTR35 from AUS dealers and then never mod it and rely on warranty alone, be prepared to sideline another 10-15k for gearbox “strengthening” when it does go. Often GTR35 owners have being stranded on the side of the road because their gearbox went into limp mode and the idea of a 100k+ car on the side of the road was pretty ridiculous. That and rotor replacements are super expensive as you would expect and a 1750kg car wearing through 20″ tyres in what 285-305 was definitely not going to be a cheap affair to track. Basically, i figured that i didnt have enough money to own the GTR35 comfortably. $90k? You probably needed $110-120k to comfortably buy/maintain/track a GTR35 prior to modding. No thanks.

The M3 E92 was a better proposition. Firstly it was much cheaper. You could find examples earlier on in the year for $70k and unlike the GTR, the gearbox was not known to crap itself. The V8 M engine was also decently reliable from all reports as well. Plus it was a RWD car that was loaded with features as well. Gps, lcd screens, idrive, electronic seats, etc etc plenty of goodies to keep you happy for the daily commute. So why didn’t i go for it? Well the timing wasn’t so right. The 70k example i found was a imported one from UK and it looked a little “dodge”. I nearly put through a $500 RACV inspection but my 6th sense was telling me NO. If you are trying to buy the cheapest example, then once again, you probably do not have enough money to play with this car. Interestingly enough, over the next 3 month, i would see the same car (it was slightly modified with lip/diffuser) in the area and it looks super super hot. The car also had some crappy wheels slapped on it obviously as  something for the car to roll on so i would have spent $5-6k on a set of 19″ te37sl’s shod with Rs3 rubber so really it was a $75k+ car.

If the timing was different though and i was looking to buy a sports car RIGHT NOW, i think i might have ended up with the M3. Looking at Carsales over the last couple of weeks, the prices of M3 have dropped into the 60-65k mark comfortably for examples with around 50,000 kms. Surely due to the arrival of the new M3 and M4.

This leads me to the BRZ. It was the no brainer type of choice. I always knew it but i wanted to prove myself wrong by trying something more adventurous (M3, GTR35). Reason won at the end of the day. The biggest point of differentiations are that the BRZ would be brand new. No looking into history of previous owner, no worrying, trouble free motoring with 3 years of free servicing? Smart choice indeed. Also the other point of difference is it is a significantly cheaper car to buy/own/mod. You are looking at a purchase price of mid-high $30k’s and the upkeep of the car is free as it comes with 3 years of free servicing.

I also liked the car. I was following the development of the car way before the car was released into AU market. To all accounts, it sounded like a car which any car enthusiast would like to drive/own. Recently i started playing GT5 and GT6 and noted that my garage was littered with various examples of the 86/brz modded slightly differently.

Dated June 2012 a screenshot of Toyota Au’s FB announcement on how much the car would cost.

Sure there are 86’s everywhere on the road, but, that type of thing never really worried me too much. I mean i buy the car becuase i drive it and because i like it. I wont stop buying a car just because everyone else has one. To the contrary, i find it better as i knew that aftermarket support for this car would be incredible and it is always good to have a variety of owners on one car just to break up the cop’s perception on the owners of certain vehicles.

So a little before my birthday as a present to myself i found a white BRZ in stock in a local dealer. This was back when it was still fairly rare to find BRZ’s in dealers as they were operating on a web retail model, so i decided to harmlessly drive down and check out the car. Big mistake. It seemed like even though the car was pretty much selling itself, the sales people were still quite negotiable on a deal and having seen it IRL i really liked the car. Sure it looks awkward from certain angles i still liked it heaps due to the classic shape of the car and how low slung it was. So after a not so happy wife + one day later, i went to pick up my new BRZ. It had 18kms on the clock after i picked it up but i took this picture at 97kms.

Time to blog again?

I feel a sudden need to blog again.

I tend to go through phases of blogging and non blogging and i feel like its enough time away and i wanna rant again.

 

Tired

Got back last sunday from a month long euro trip. It was amazing and i have many pics and stories to tell. For now though i need rest …. even though i have a race coming up next weekend!!!!

Seatpost comfort

Interesting. Surprise is the FSA with no inherent design to be comfortable ends up being comfortable. Shame the test didn’t include the syntace p6 hi-flex though.

Flashed

Hardtail’s have always had a spot in my heart. Whilst the latest and greatest dually will age in 2-3 years, the hardtail will always have a place in history. Living with a hardtail though is a completely different story. With dually’s so light now and so sorted, it becomes harder and harder to pick a hardtail as your go to weapon for a long weekend away at Canberra.

If only hardtails were more versatile and not as narrow minded in execution.

I have had a couple of hardtails and progressively better and better ones. One of the worst i experienced was the giant xtc alloy. That was partly my problem as i built it with some 560mm handlebar a 80mm left over fork from somewhere and then decided to strip the cushion off a slr flow saddle rendering my ass useless for sitting duties immediately after one ride. That bike was the very definition of oldschool alloy and holy crap it was bumpy. I mean if you were a road engineer and wanted to pave a smooth road, you could use the xtc as a kind of measuring tool. Ride over a section of road and if your ass doesn’t distingerate, you have done a good job of paving the road.

Then i had the voodoo steel ss-rigid and that was fun. Steel is real and for sure it was nice and supple. Nothing like the xtc.

Then i built up a proper weightweenie scale which kinda hinted at what a hardtail could be. It was really really good to ride in flowy singletracks. I reckon it would have left my niner for dead on the simpler trails and it was just fast everywhere and especially after accelerating out of corners. I think that bike was built to 8.5kg’s and the most astonishing part was how it was so light but still so comfy. This was the start of a new chapter for carbon hardtails utilising specific carbon construction to build in flex comfort. It is all the craze now for road bikes as well and you know what, i can’t argue with it. It made the hardtail actually bearable to ride.

Still, i let it go because i forsaw the death of the 26er race bike. Luckily i got rid of it when i did and recouped some $$ because it is probably worth around $1000 now ….. That and the fact that i was never going to take it to all of the trails. It was always going to be a smoother trail bike.

I remember i blogged a while back that the only two hardtails worth considering at the time was the scale and the flash because both pioneered the comfy carbon concept. Both had engineered flex into the frame/seatpost to take the sting out of the hardtail experience. Fast forward to today and i have finally been flashed.

Is it really as good as i thought it would be? This is the first hardtail in a 29er format i have ridden (the 5 minutes on the niner air 9 doesn’t count). When i first started riding the 29er jet 9 carbon it was a revelation. How can such little suspension travel be capable of so much? I commented on certain trails that i felt just as confident as riding my mojo hd but with the speed of the asr-5c. With that in mind, i was anxious to find out what the flash f29 would be like. In my mind, the theory of applying 29er wheels to what would be scale speed would surely mean the versatile hardtail that i have always dreamed of?

Cut to the point. The 29er wheels has just as much effect here on a hardtail platform as it did on a jet 9 carbon dually and maybe enhances the hardtail ride more than just versatility. Hopping on the flash there was none of the sketchy race bike feel that most 26er hardtails exhibit. The steering is faster than the niner for sure but nothing that would be classified twitchy. Snaking down the singletrack the flash handles tight singletrack better than the niner. It probably is due to more weighting on the front of the wheels plus the tighter headangle which results in better turn in but for a few short sections i had a glimpse of the weapon this bike would be on a singletrack infested trail.

Was it comfortable? Oh yes it was. No less than the scale and maybe even a little more comfier due to what i believe to be the bigger wheel size and also the enve carbon rims absorbing some of the small bumps. This is the most comfortable hardtail bike i have ever ridden. No bull. On normal terrain, i honestly at points of my ride asked why i needed a dually. Then i came across some proper square rocks and understood clearly that even though this is the most comfortable hardtail i have ridden, it is still a hardtail. Rocks still highlight the fact that it is a hardtail. That is something you can never hide. The bumps are masked with a more softer sting but if you are not ontop of it and not in the best condition, it can be annoying as it throws off your pedalling rhythm and make your body work harder to negotiate the terrain.

This part has not changed. A good hardtail rides better the fitter you are. If you were say in peak form and a machine, you could easily power over those rocks and reap the other positive effects of a hardtail. If you are a little weak and have being off the bike quite a bit or you are not so technically minded you could be spending a lot of energy just balancing the rear end of the hardtail vs ploughing over stuff. I didn’t spend too long setting up the lefty yesterday, a quick sag checking and not even paying too much to the rebound, i headed out to the trails this morning.

Surprisingly, it all feels fairly smooth. I am reminded constantly that it is only 90mm of travel but the damping is good and controlled with repeated bumps being controlled and the fork not being overwhelmed. Over smaller bumps, the fork is setup relatively taut but i reckon the silicon grips + enve wheels take a lot of the sting out of bumps. What is very interesting to me is i could feel the stiffness in the lefty setup. It was very similar to the feeling i had on the enve wheels when i first started riding it. Either that or it is the enve wheels at work here again but the whole front end felt 100% solid. No flex at all. Point it where you want and it will go there pretty much and it is more noticeable on off camber ground.

The bike came with such a high-end setup that nothing much is needed but hey, there is always room for improvements and further tailoring right?

I love the sisl crankset but at 175mm it is too long. I can feel it and my knees felt it after the ride. Not only this but i am over 2 x front setups. So what will most likely happen is a x.0 type 2 (clutch mechanism) rear derailleur will be called on for 10spd shifting so i don’t have to chuck away the xx cassette/xx shifters and it will be paired with a set of 170mm xx1 crankset without a chain guide. This should net an even lighter setup than the xx1 complete groupset and for a bike so fast it should be fine with a maximal gear of 32-36t.

1x is a must and a clutch derailleur is a must too.

The other thing id like to change is the handle bar height. I still feel that it is a little too high for optimal weighting so i will be calling on a leonardi racing stem to bring the cockpit right down. Slam your stem eat your heart out.

More review as it comes but so far all i can say is 26er’s hardtails in a short travel format is all buy dead to me now.