Much ink has been used to praise the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ collaboration since its release last year. But while the 86 had the choice of the GT or GTS versions from the start, the BRZ twin has been rolling with a single-spec option . . . until now.
The BRZ S sees the popular sports car fitted out with a bunch of goodies from Subaru Tecnica International, the brand's performance arm.
Some of the tweaks are cosmetic, such as the front, side and rear under spoilers, boot lip spoiler and pretty great 17-inch black alloy wheels. They do give the BRZ a more menacing, even sportier look which many will like. But it's the technical stuff that will likely hold more interest for those thinking of grabbing a vehicle such as this.
Chiefly, you'll get a lowered suspension and quick-shift gearbox (manual only) which combine to enhance the BRZ's already great driving dynamics.
Is it all worth an extra $7995 ($7195 for automatics) above the list price? No, probably not. But those who already have BRZ and want the extras can have them retrofitted.
And this is a fun car to own, of course. It handles brilliantly and the engine - Subaru's Boxer - is great. No, its 147kW isn't ridiculous but it strikes the right balance of being able to push the car without feeling it's going to suddenly slip out of your control.
It delivers its max power at 7000rpm, too, so it almost begs you to drive it enthusiastically and make it wail like a banshee.
The short-shift manual gearbox is great, the brakes responsive and the stiff clutch requires you to get in on the fun by giving it a hefty boot when changing gears.
Of course, taking a car like this around a track is one thing, living with it can be quite another.
The BRZ is easier to live with than you'd think. Despite driving it hard (up to the speed limit, mind) I still got a fuel consumption of less than 9.0L/100km, which is admirable, and the sports seats are comfortable and heated.
That said, there are the expected pitfalls. The back seats may as well be a shelf - I could barely force my hand between the back of my seat and the rear seat - and a spare takes up most of the boot.
Coarse surfaces can cause a harsh and noisy ride in the cabin. Speaking of which, despite the comfy seats and nice red stitching, the cabin has flaws. Though in theory you should always have two hands on the wheel, in reality peak-hour traffic means that isn't always the case; take your left arm off the wheel in the BRZ and you'll be resting it on a combination of cup holders and the hand brake.
After paying extra for the S model, you'd be forgiven for bristling at the thought of having to fork out $1739 more for sat-nav, particularly when the 86 GTS has it and a drive-away price roughly $5000 less than the BRZ S, despite lacking none of the driving fun.
But ultimately, this isn't a car for folks obsessed with practicality or worried about going slow so as to not scrape spoilers. It's for those who love driving and want to have some fun on their daily commute and the odd day at the track - and the BRZ S will certainly provide that.VERDICT
The S version enhances the BRZ's already considerable driving pleasure - whether it does so enough to justify the price hike over the standard version or the Toyota 86 GTS is debatable.SUBARU BRZ
Price: $45,145 drive-away
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Safety: Five stars