Some cars are designed with their chassis and engines paired to specific ideal transmissions.
Cars like the Ferrari 488 GTB and Mercedes-AMG C 63 have engines that send such explosive power that they must be coupled to sophisticated gearboxes, such as the F1-derived seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed automatic, respectively.Their true potential can not be extracted using manual gearboxes.
Being a manual transmission operator and fan myself, I would not want to drive a six-speed manual 488 GTB as I will constantly change gears unnecessarily.
On the other hand, there are cars that were engineered to offer a driving experience that puts numbers and performance figures off the table.
Case in point, the Subaru BRZ. After a couple of years on sale with the sole automatic transmission option, the low-slung coupe is finally offered in Malaysia with a stick shift option.
You read that right, folks.
The introduction of the three-pedal six-speed manual was part of the features for the facelifted BRZ, brought by Motor Image.
Other enhancements include full-light-emitting diode headlights surrounded by C-shaped LED daytime running lights, LED indicators, LED fog lights and more angular U-shaped spoiler.
There are also redesigned side slits on the front fenders, new 10-spoke 17-inch wheels and new LED tail lights.
The updates crept into the cabin as well, as drivers now get a new multifunction steering wheel, refreshed instrument cluster and a new 4.2-inch colour multifunction display.
The BRZ also receives new springs and dampers for its suspension, along with larger anti-roll bars for better response and stability.
There’s basically nothing flashy inside the BRZ’s cabin. What’s in there are basically what you need.
I suggest if you are to drive this car with enough focus, you won’t complain the lack of features like tablet-sized touchscreen for the infotainment.
Seating position is on point — easy to be adjusted to the optimum height and steering angle — giving you the sense of full car feel and control.
The new steering wheel is much better to look at and hold too, comparedwith the pre-facelift car, which looked rather dull.
Weaving through dense Petaling Jaya traffic was not too much of a hassle as the car has decent outward visibility, despite being close to the ground.
But the suspension of the BRZ felt pretty stiff though at low speed, especially through PJ’s “excellent” road surfaces.
On the first few corners of Ulu Yam climbing towards Batang Kali from Sungai Tua, Selayang, the BRZ starts to show its forte.
Here, you’ll know that the Subaru BRZ is balanced at every measurable aspect.
Yes, 200 horses is not much by today’s standards, but the car’s kerb weight, chassis and responsiveness translate to a pretty adequate power-to-weight ratio.
Just enough power to keep you at pace, but not too much that would get you into trouble.
The horizontally-opposed four-banger sends its power in a linear but honest and raw manner. Pulling from mid-range of its engine rev will bring a sweet intake noise into the cabin.
And as you approach the redline, operating the crispy row-your-own gearbox gives you a kind of satisfaction.
However, I found that the exhaust note is a tad too quiet to my liking. Of course, there are many aftermarket upgrade options out there for the exhaust.
Being a road car, I suspect the BRZ uses road-spec flywheel as upshifting too fast results in slight clutch slip as the engine rev takes its time to match the next higher gear.
On downshifting before a turn, heel-and-toe can be executed naturally. It is as if the engine response, throttle and gearing are developed to deliver just that, although throttle input requires some effort to get used to.
Utilising larger anti-roll bars now, there’s still slight body roll through the corners, but just at the right and pleasant angle.
While not making the car wobbly, body roll is progressive and it makes good use of tyre capability, enough to tell the driver how much more the car can cope before it reaches its lateral grip limit.
The supportive sports seats and beautifully-weighted steering completes the confidence-inspiring experience for the driver.
If you don’t keep your momentum towards corner exits, you’ll say that the Subaru BRZ is underpowered.
But, the overall balance of the car actually teaches the driver to brake just enough, applying gentle input, carry just the right amount of momentum and get connected to the car.
The Subaru BRZ is not just a proper driver’s car, it is the art of just the right amount of everything.
And yes, get the car with a manual transmission. The six-speeder is really the highlight. It’s half of the whole driving experience.