Fast Take: 2019 Subaru BRZ Raiu Edition

Words by: Adam Allen

What is it?

It’s a BRZ- which you are undoubtedly well acquainted with by now-but with more attitude. This limited-edition model is distinctive from more pedestrian BRZ’s with its Cool Grey Khaki paintjob, various STi bolt-on body accoutrements, unique dark alloy wheels and a short shift kit. It shares some tasty hardware with other high-end trims such as a Torsen limited slip differential, Sachs performance dampers and generously sized Brembo brakes. Fun fact: this is the only car Subaru currently sells that lacks their signature Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, and it sends power to the rear wheels exclusively. While we do appreciate AWD for its impressive traction, a superbly balanced sports car like this does exceptionally well with only the rear wheels being driven so we didn’t miss the added engagement of the front wheels whatsoever. Even with the high degree of exclusivity- only 100 units are earmarked for Canada- this is still one of the purest sports car experiences available. Light, tossable and high strung are all fitting adjectives to describe what it’s like to flog the BRZ, even after 7 years on the market relatively unchanged.

What’s it like inside?

Like we said, not much has changed since the BRZ hit the streets years ago. The only flourishes on display here are some red stitching on the dash and door panels, but the austere vibe remains the same- this is a cockpit that won’t distract from the main goal of the BRZ, and that is to serve up copious amounts of driving pleasure. The seats are geared towards holding oneself in place during spirited driving but they won’t beat you up and are comfortable enough for long trips. The driving position is spot on and the relationship between deriver and steering wheel, pedals and shifter are exactly what you want them to be. There are rear seats, although you’ll pretty much be using them as a place to put your stuff because they’re far too cramped to accommodate even the most flexible human. Another miscue- the infotainment is far from being easy to use while underway and is not very intuitive. Why be distracted by changing a radio station when you should be looking ahead to the next apex of the twisty roads you’ll be carving up anyway?

What’s it like to drive?

Even with all the Raiu-specific bolt-ons, the BRZ is still a car meant for those with enthusiast bent. The chassis is bred to deliver quick responses to your inputs and there are few cars this side of a Mazda MX-5 that deliver on that mandate so faithfully. You can really exploit the limits without worrying about landing yourself in jail; this is a car that relishes momentum and so driver skill is paramount at getting the most out of the BRZ. It’s so accomplished that complaints about a lack of power are not particularly unfounded, and we’d love to see that this car would be like with another 100 horsepower. The familiar 2.0 litre boxer four- one of last engines thusly sized to be without a turbocharger these days- delivers satisfactory shove but does not sound thrilled in doing so. This is not a sonorous engine by any means folks, and you need to work it hard to extract the speed you want. It’s also very busy on the highway, frenetically spinning to over 3,000 at cruising speed, a product of its short gearing. The good news is that it’s still mated to a manual gearbox as standard equipment, but we found the short shift kit to be somewhat imprecise, especially when downshifting from third to second gear. Some of us remarked that with its super low ground clearance it would be a chore to drive in the winter, but others disagreed. Owing to its exemplary balance, a good set of snow tires would allow this car to shine in all four seasons.

Why you should care:

Automotive enthusiasts are a fickle bunch, and for years the chorus clamouring for more horsepower has reached a fevered pitch. The chassis could certainly cope with the aforementioned extra 100 ponies (or more) but Subaru and Toyota had remained firm on the 2.0 litre Boxer four’s output. Recently, however, it was announced that the BRZ/GT86 twins are going to live to see their second generation, and it’s been rumored that there will be a turbocharged engine of similar displacement under the hood. No matter which of the two companies donates an engine to the cause, it will have a significant increase in power relative to what’s available now. Here’s the rub- there will still be those who bemoan the loss of the gruff flat four, saying that what it lacked in urge it made up for in character and essence of sports car purity- using the harmonious combination of driver skill and chassis pedigree to keep up forward motion, not relying on a glut of horsepower. If that best describes you, then act fast- you don’t want to miss out on this car in its current state. The Raiu Edition seems like a fitting farewell to the generation that started it all and based on the heads it turned while in our care we think this is the one to have. But the biggest reason of why you should care? That a car like this- one so supremely focused on driver fulfillment, one that shares pretty much zero parts with any other Toyota or Subaru- even exists in in this era of economies of scale and cost cutting. While we love the current offering now, we can’t wait to see what the future holds.

2019 Subaru BRZ Raiu Edition — Specifications

  • Price as tested: $35,445
  • Body Type: 2+2 passenger coupe
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Engine:  2.0 litre horizontally opposed 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  205 @ 7,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 151 @ 6,600 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,270 kg (2,800 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 9.8L/100km (23 mpg)