WHITE KNIGHT

BRZ tS joins the MOTOR garage for an extended stay

SN

THIS ISN’T YOUR typical long-term test. We’ve dedicated enough words to the Toybaru twins in this magazine, including an 86 long-termer a couple of years back, that most readers should have a pretty good handle on what they’re like to drive. As such, this introduction will be the only time we’ll discuss the S on-road behaviour and day-to-day liveability of our new BRZ tS.

The reason for this is that each successive update will cover a different motorsport discipline. It’s getting more and more difficult to enjoy performance cars - and driving in general - on the public road. Even a car like the BRZ, which definitely sits towards the more leisurely end of the performance spectrum, can easily find itself in contravention of the law when driven enthusiastically.

The easiest way to avoid any trouble with the constabulary is to take it off the streets. Every weekend around Australia there are dozens, if not hundreds, of club-level motorsport events catering to virtually every taste and budget. Over the next few months we’ll hopefully bring a few to your attention and assess their viability for those of you whose financial reserves struggle to match their enthusiasm.

IN THE COMING MONTHS WE’LL ASSESS SOME OF THE CLUB-LEVEL MOTORSPORT EVENTS THAT HAPPEN EVERY WEEKEND AROUND OZ

But first, the BRZ. We chose the Subaru because it’s - hopefully - the perfect car to answer the question we’re asking: can you compete in a variety of weekend motorsport events with a stock-standard car without spending a massive amount of money? The tS variant could’ve been tailormade for this test.

A standard BRZ or 86 is already a very enjoyable package, but the brakes can be a bit marginal on some tracks and the standard Michelin Primacy tyres are crap. In fact, in researching this assignment, we discovered some events ban the use of the standard low-grip Toybaru tyres due to the racket they make under hard use.

The tS overcomes this with Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres wrapped around 18-inch wheels, while adding Sachs dampers, STI springs, body bracing and plenty of cosmetic garnish like a rear spoiler, red seat belts and the like.

It costs $39,894 as a manual and $41,894 as an auto, $5904 and $4404 more than the standard and Premium grade BRZs respectively.

Testing duties have kept me out of the BRZ’s driver’s seat more than I’d like, which suits the other MOTORheads just fine - it’s never difficult to find a taker for the Subie’s keys at day’s end. This has actually been beneficial as the tS arrived with just 45km on the clock, not ideal for a car that’s going to be used enthusiastically over its life with us.

The BRZ makes driving fun. Any driving. The steering wheel is set lower than I remember but the driving position is otherwise excellent with pedals perfectly placed for heel-toe downshifts - just the thing to liven up a dull commute. The gearshift is a bit notchy, hopefully it frees up with time, the ride is firm but fine and the steering just superb. Seven years on, this is still one of the better EPAS systems around. You can easily notice the extra tyre grip, too.

The biggest downer is the engine. There’s a massive dip in the torque curve between 3500-5000rpm, just where you spend most of your time in day-to-day driving. Whether the BRZ’s relative lack of grunt - it’s not that slow, but it feels slower than it is - counts against it on track will probably depend on the track we choose, but more on that in a future update.

Still, the aim of this is to improve the bit behind the wheel, not the bit under the bonnet. See you next month, when we end up feeling a bit dusty. - SN

TIFOSI DREAMING

MOTOR blags two weeks with the ‘every day’ Ferrari

YOU’D HAVE to be a few slices short of a full margherita pizza to drive a Ferrari GTC4Lusso T on a daily basis. We should know - we’ve just done so, for two weeks, so that you don’t have to. The things we do for you...

Billed as the most practical car in the Ferrari range, the GTC4Lusso promises to accommodate four passengers in comfort and luxury, with enough space in the boot for a few soft bags (or a fifth passenger if need be). A facelift of the FF, the new name harks back to the 330 GTC and the 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso, cars that claimed to combine performance and luxury. Four means four seats.

The name switch also permitted a new variant to enter the range (FF stood for Ferrari Four - four seats and, restrictively, four-wheel drive). With a 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8, the rear-wheel drive GTC4Lusso T sits $75K downrange of the stonking 6.3-litre, all-wheel drive V12, the V8 promising almost as much speed but with more fuel range.

Ferrari says GTC4Lusso customers drive their cars 30 per cent more than the typical Prancing Horse owner. And so what better Fezza in which to plonk our bums for this special MOTOR Garage cameo.

One of the first things you notice living with the GTC4Lusso is it’s big. At nearly two metres wide, scything through Melbourne’s tighter streets can be an anxious affair, if you have any awareness whatsoever of those giant, fragile-looking 20-inch forged wheels. Then there’s the fact it costs $500K, and that the muppet next to you in the old Magna with all four windows down is about as interested in staying in his lane as he is the fact you’ve got beads of sweat breaking on your forehead. There is a constant foreboding sense that someone, at some point, is going to veer straight into you mid-text message. And you swear that that geezer in the Land Cruiser deliberately put half a wheel in your lane right in front of you. Relaxing? Not all the time.

AT TWO METRES WIDE, SCYTHING THROUGH MELBOURNE’S TIGHTER STREETS CAN BE AN ANXIOUS AFFAIR

Never mind the fact every sentient creature with two eyes and a neck stares right at you as if your horn is stuck on - even when piloting their own automobile right beside you. Sometimes, they get a camera phone out, but it’s okay, they still have at least one hand on the steering wheel.

It’s truly a relief to get the big Ferrari out of the city confines and into the countryside. Quiet, with beautiful interior materials and outstanding ride comfort (in the quaintly named “Bumpy Road” mode), the GTC4Lusso is Comfortable with a capital C. But well built? About that.

Now, it feels a bit cruel to rib a Ferrari for build quality - you buy it for the performance, not the interior. It’s not a Rolls-Royce. However, Ferrari has made it its business to startle customers with its vehicles’ prices, just the same way Rolls-Royce does, and so the Italian stallion does not deserve a hall pass any more than any other car.

The interior materials all feel very expensive - you will not find a cheap bit of plastic or carpet anywhere - but Ferrari is still chasing its lederhosenloving foes for how it’s all bolted together. That’s not to say the GTC4Lusso feels poorly built, but the tolerances here and there aren’t as tight, and it would be interesting to see how it would wear over a lifetime.

A few items on our test car (which sported less than 6000km on the odo) failed or never worked to begin with. The passenger exterior door handle wouldn’t work, requiring opening from the inside only. The Stop/Start, though we didn’t really mind, malfunctioned regularly. On one hot day, the airconditioning was not cold. At all.

Refinement remains an opportunity for Ferrari as well (though we have heard the brand has made leaps and bounds in this department in recent years). While the GTC4Lusso is quiet and well isolated from vibration, the aircon fan can get quite loud, and there’s a noticeable gear whine from the rear end beyond 100km/h, fortunately easily smothered by the decent JBL stereo.

No complaints about the back seats, however - effectively two buckets, they’re supportive, comfortable, and spacious, owing to that three-metre wheelbase. Two adults could sit back there for long stretches in fair comfort. Who knew Ferrari could do back seats?

Would we buy a GTC4Lusso as a daily? To answer logically, no, we’d probably buy a twin-turbo V8 Porsche Panamera Turbo - better built, nicer interior, not much slower, better handling, and more than $100K cheaper. But the emotional - the Italian - answer is, the Porsche wouldn’t make us feel the way the Ferrari makes us feel. It never gets old seeing that Prancing Horse in your garage. And for some, to get that kid-like giddy feeling on a daily basis is worth any extra cost or compromise. - DC