I Bought A New Subaru BRZ And Immediately Took It To Laguna Seca

My brand-new Subaru BRZ is Motor1's newest project car.

Subaru BRZ Laguna Seca Subaru BRZ Laguna Seca

I’ve had my brand-new Subaru BRZ for two weeks now, and I’ve answered only two questions about it. Repeatedly.

“Aren’t you worried about the oil pressure problems?!” Car Man Number One says, clutching his pearls.

“Why would you sell a Honda Civic Type R for…” Car Man Number Two says, pausing to gag, “a BRZ?

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After allowing Car Man Two a moment to vomit into a nearby hedge, I calmly repeat my thoughts. The second-generation Subaru BRZ is one of the greatest sports cars ever made, despite an unfortunate aptitude for exploding.

I chronicled my journey with the Civic Type R, from my first track days with the car, all the way through podiums and track records in Gridlife and Global Time Attack. It was a fabulous, capable car. But from the first track session in the CTR, I knew I wanted something else. I wanted a pure sports car, not Frankenstein’s hot hatchback.

The ingredients of a good sports car are generally simple, but as the idiom goes, less important than the sum. It’s about the precise measurement and preparation of humble parts into a cohesive whole. Many cars have tried what the BRZ tries–manual transmission, rear-wheel-drive, naturally aspirated–but not all have reached transcendent greatness like the second-generation BRZ. Any number of Porsche 911 GT3s, gated manual Ferraris, and BMW M cars certainly have achieved it, but almost none have done it for the BRZ’s base price: $31,315.

Sell On Friday, Race On Sunday

For various boring financial reasons, I found myself in a brand-new six-speed 2023 BRZ Limited in World Rally Blue on January 16, 2024. I planned to wait longer, but the right car was in stock, and I had one objective: Get the BRZ’s flat-four broken in and ready for a track day at Laguna Seca with Socal Drivers Club on February 2.

There were a few items on the list before I could give the car a good rip on the track:

Step 1: Do not go above 4,000 rpm or full throttle for the first 1,000 miles
Step 2: Break-in oil change
Step 3: Install oil cooler, camber bolts, brake pads, and brake fluid
Step 4: Protect the paint

The first bit was simple enough. For the first 1,000 miles, I drove the car like it had half the horsepower, light on throttle, preserving every last bit of momentum, and plotted routes that offered variations in speed. Varied loads and conditions are good for engine break-in, and on highway stints I made sure to shift gears frequently to vary the RPM. Within a week, the car had traveled the requisite miles, and I got straight to modding.

I made a stop with the boys over at Counterspace Garage (CSG), a small LA outfit that specializes in the BRZ and GR86. Founders David Leung and Mike Kang know these cars as well as anybody, and they offered advice and sold me parts. I got a Jackson Racing oil cooler from them, their in-house CSG Spec CP brake pads, some Endless RF-650 brake fluid, and Whiteline camber bolts. They also offered their input on the oil pressure issue and told me not to worry about it much.

As far as protecting my investment, and being frank with the fact that I’m going to track it at least once a month, I hit up XPEL for input on how to keep the BRZ’s paint nice. They offered to help with a roll of Tracwrap, which I installed in my garage in an afternoon. It’s a temporary paint protection film (PPF) that is sufficiently thick to protect the paint, but isn’t precut or shaped to a specific car like XPEL’s normal PPF. For the purposes of a time crunch, the Tracwrap worked beautifully, especially with some strategic cutting. It worked exceptionally well for the hood, well enough that I might just leave it on, but the bumper certainly looks a little rough.

With new parts in hand, I freeloaded some lift time off of my friend Will to install the parts. The oil cooler required some disassembly of the front end but was otherwise simple, while the pad swap took all of 15 minutes. A nice serviceability touch by Subaru was the usage of the same 14mm-headed bolts for both front and rear brake calipers, and the parking brake is a drum hidden in the middle of the rear brake discs.

No bullshit retracting caliper tools or a scan tool needed, just some channel locks. Then, the camber bolts simply replaced the standard strut bolts, and I set them to maximum, which should’ve netted me around -2 to -2.5 degrees of camber up front. We were ready for Laguna Seca.

Everything I Ever Wanted

Finally, I had a chance to breathe with my new car. I drove the car 300 miles from my base in Los Angeles to Monterey for my track weekend. There’s something lovely about packing up and trundling to a track day, the floor jack rattling in the trunk, tools weighing the rear of the car down, and a race helmet as your only passenger. The BRZ isn’t the quietest or most luxurious thing, but nails the old virtue of simplicity.

Nothing about it frustrates me. There’s no bullshit touch controls or driver’s assist systems beeping at me. It has knobs, buttons, a steering wheel, a shifter, and just the right amount of sound deadening that makes it liveable but not overweight, at just over 2,800 pounds. It carries four wheels and tires, tools, and gear for a track weekend. The 2.4-liter boxer engine is no vocalist, but it’s smooth, torquey at low RPM, and has a deliciously non-linear powerband that builds aggressively after 5,500 RPM. And it’s the first time I’ve felt zero buyer's remorse about a car. It’s a delightful, simple machine.

Driving it on Laguna Seca’s crisp new tarmac just deepened my love. The steering wheel is thin, and Subaru’s steering calibration allows it to wriggle in the hands and communicate the tires’ remaining reserves of traction. I mentioned earlier that the BRZ does things almost no other modern car does, and it’s just that: communication. It rolls, pitches, dives, and is feeding you constant information about what each tire is doing.

Driving the BRZ is like driving a giant traction circle. Where some cars make it difficult to maximize the in-betweens of cornering (i.e. brake roll-off and throttle pick-up points) the BRZ makes it as easy as a coloring book. It’s the ultimate low-buck driver training tool with a warranty. Besides the Miata.

But this is just the start. My BRZ didn’t stay stock for long, and the rest of the journey will play out here on Motor1. Folks, we have ourselves a project car.

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