The Subaru BRZ - for those of you who have been trapped in a cave in British Columbia since before the car's debut as a 2013 model - is a small sports coupe as affordable as it is handsome and athletic. It sprang from a joint venture with Toyota, which offers a fraternal twin called the Scion FR-S.
With the BRZ now in its third model year, Subaru decided that some tweaks were in order, notably a suspension revision designed to make that sports car's undercarriage handle the bumps a little better. It also came up with a limited-edition BRZ called Series.Blue.
In the car business, there's nothing like a limited edition to add interest to an aging model.
Only 1,000 Series.Blue models will be offered in the U.S., 500 of them blue and 500 white. They are available only with six-speed manuals. This limited edition is a $1,795 package that raised the test car's $27,695 base price to $29,490. It includes a number of sporty cosmetics, such as 17-inch black alloy wheels, red brake calipers, leather-trimmed seats, and faux carbon fiber on the dash, as well as functional features such as a series of under-car spoilers that reduce wind resistance.
What the Series.Blue hardware does, largely, is amp up an already delightful driving experience. The BRZ is, first of all, a really grabby styling exercise. With its muscular haunches and a runner's forward lean in the starting box, it looks as if it's going somewhere standing at the curb.
The interior is another expedition into nifty design, augmented a bit in this case by the sporty Series.Blue styling touches.
The front seats are well-bolstered to keep centrifugal force from unseating you during a joust with a fast turn. The backseat is less useful. In fact, it is useless unless its occupants are the size of Ken and Barbie's infant children.
Now that we've belted into that comfortable, supportive driver's seat, it's time to see why we put the tester on our dance card.
This rear-drive sporting machine's handling is superb, as it turns out. The car has great balance, stays flat and composed in ambitious corners, and gets you to feeling you're a better driver than you are. Firm sport suspension and performance tires contribute to that feeling, and so does strong structure. The latter reduces the unsettling changes in front-end geometry occasioned by structural flex.
(Strong structure also has safety consequences. The BRZ is a top pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety by virtue of its roof strength and resistance to side and front impacts.)
The BRZ's steering is precise and offers good road feel for an electrically assisted system. Braking is ample. A limited-slip differential enhances traction.
The 2-liter, 200-horsepower engine in the BRZ may not sound blistering. But in a car that weighs less than 2,800 pounds, it provides enough power to furnish fun. That fun is enhanced by a precise six-speed manual. At least, it's a joy for Luddites like myself, who delight in slick-shifting manuals.
By the way, that direct-injected, four-cylinder engine gets the BRZ from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in about 6.5 seconds, which puts it in close company with two of its three coupe and roadster competitors: the Mazda Miata and Scion FR-S. The Hyundai Genesis gets the job done in a follicle over five seconds.
Dominick Infante, Subaru's communications chieftain, told me his company and Toyota dipped into their parts bins to develop the BRZ/FR-S, with Subaru contributing the chassis engineering and design of the horizontally opposed engine.
2015 Subaru BRZ (Series.Blue).
Base price: $27,695.
As tested: $30,285.
Standard equipment: 2-liter engine, six-speed manual gearbox, rear-drive, limited-slip differential, extensive safety array and a number of amenities, including navigation system, keyless access and start, heated front seats and mirrors.
Options: Series.Blue package includes leather-trimmed seats, black alloy wheels, red brake calipers, faux carbon fiber interior trim, and under-car spoilers.
Fuel economy: 22 m.p.g. city, 30 highway (premium fuel).
Handling: Top drawer.
Ride comfort: Reasonable.
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper.
The Ben Key: four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.