4.24.2016

Limited Edition: The 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue
The 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue.
Okay, first---about the headline (and caption).  No, it's not a typo.  Subaru has named its limited edition of the BRZ sports coupe the Series.HyperBlue....that's "Series-dot-capital H-Hyper-capital B-Blue'.  And it is a limited edition, with only 500 being made this year.


Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue
2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue.
Now, as we pointed out in our review of the 2015 Subaru BRZ Series Blue, the BRZ itself is kind of a limited edition, though of the unplanned kind.  Subaru only managed to sell 5,296 of them in 2015, which was a 29.4% drop from 2014's sales.  The identical except for trim, badging and stereo system Scion FR-S took a 25.3% hit at dealerships last year compared to the year before, but managed to sell almost exactly double the number Subaru did, at 10,507.

When poor, hapless, soon-to-be-extinct Scion (the FR-S will live on in 2017 as the Toyota 86) sells two times more of the exact same thing that you do, you need to find a way to make your product stand out a bit more.  Hence, the Series.HyperBlue.  Which, to be honest, is all about appearances and all revolves around the exclusive HyperBlue exterior color.

I had thought HyperBlue was pretty much the same as Ford Grabber Blue  (or Volvo's Rebel Blue) until a Mustang in actual Grabber Blue drove past me in Sonoma County.  HyperBlue is actually a shade lighter and Navigator says she sees some lavender in it (Navigator has a finely tuned eye for color).

CA 128 from Winters to Rutherford
CA 128 from Winters to Rutherford (source: Google Earth)
Sonoma County, you say?  Yes, it was another quick run (out on Friday, back on Sunday) to Navigator's ancestral home in Mendocino County, which meant not only going through Sonoma County, but another pass on our favorite stretch of road in those parts, CA 128...especially the section (highlighted on the map above in what looks like HyperBlue) from Winters to Rutherford in the Northern Napa Valley...40 miles of twists and turns through canyons and over mountain passes south of Lake Berryessa.  It's a road made for a car like the Subaru BRZ, and the car did not disappoint, hugging every last curve while gently whispering in the driver's ear that another five or ten miles per hour would be just fine.

As with all Subaru BRZs, the Series.HyperBlue is powered by Subaru's 2-liter, 200-horsepower four-cylinder boxer engine.  Sufficient power, but not gobs of it by any means.  The BRZ is about handling and maneuverability, with a low center of gravity and rear-wheel drive, which allowed the engineers to put the engine further back than in any other Subaru...and that puts more of the weight closer to the center of the car.

You can get a BRZ with an automatic transmission, but...really...why?  The short-throw six-speed manual is a delight and choosing the right gear yourself is a chunk of the fun in a truly sporty car.  I say "fun" rather than "efficiency" because automatics these days (thanks to the level of computerization) are actually able to make more efficient choices.  The automatic-spec BRZ has an EPA estimate of 25 city/34 highway.  The stick?  22/30.  But the $1,100 you save by choosing the stick offsets some of that fuel cost.

Interior view of 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue
2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue interior.
The HyperBlue carries over into the Alcantara-trimmed interior of the Subaru BRZ Series.Hyperblue, with HyperBlue stitching on the seats, steering wheel, shift boot and parking brake handle, as well as the center console knee pads, door trim and floor mats.

Instrument panel for 2016 Subaru Series.HyperBlue
2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue instrument panel.
For 2016, Subaru BRZs get a new touchscreen multimedia system called Starlink. It includes a better-sounding audio system and a welcome rear-view camera, but the one in our tester was more trouble than a car full of Kardashians.  Plug in the iPhone...it plays for a few minutes, then tells me the connection is gone....never to return.  Tried a second iPhone.  Same deal.  Switched to Bluetooth streaming for the iPhone.  Better, but often the title/artist display didn't update as the songs changed. Listening to Steely Dan's "Bodhisattva" while seeing Nat "King" Cole's "A Blossom Fell" on the display can mess you up.

So switch to the awesome Subaru Starlink app, Mike, and enjoy aha, Stitcher and Pandora.  Yeah..about that.  Go to the iTunes app store and look up "Subaru Starlink".  One star out of five from some very steamed Subaru loyalists who thought the app would make them as deep-down happy as the car.  Highlights from the reviews:

"Sluggish, non-intuitive and completely useless."

"One of the most underwhelming and poorly designed apps that I have ever used."

"I would give zero stars if I could."

Even the maligned, reviled, downright hated Honda Link has managed to bump itself up to two stars...just in time for Honda to bail out in favor of Apple and Android Car Play systems.

Oh, well, there's always good, old-fashioned radio, right?  AM and FM..and thankfully, Northern California in general and Sacramento in particular have some very good radio stations. Tragically, the BRZ's Starlink system can't even get that right.  Try switching from AM to FM (or vice-versa)...it's a three-count before anything happens, and at "two", you're sure nothing's happening, so you take your eyes off the road and a hand off the wheel, which is what we're supposed to be avoiding in the first place and...

Look, the 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue is a great car.  Base price (with six-speed manual) $27,690.  No options, everything standard. Add $795 destination and delivery and it's $28,485.  Drive it on a great two-lane and it will take the rest of the day for the grin to come off your face.  Just don't reach for the radio. All the entertainment you need is in the pedals, steering wheel and out the windshield.

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