By Joe Bruzek on April 16, 2013
Cars.com's long-term ownership of the 2013 Subaru BRZ aims to answer many questions about living with the spritely sports coupe year-round. Its winter proficiency was put to test right off the bat and impressed us, but we also wanted to know whether editors could adapt to the BRZ's quirky touch-screen stereo and navigation after repeated exposure.
After five months of ownership, the stereo and navigation system have been a thorn in drivers' sides. The 6.1-inch touch-screen lacks the refinement of other factory systems with its aftermarket style. Worst of all, there's no avoiding the inconvenience because every 2013 Subaru BRZ comes standard with the problematic stereo and navigation.
"The main complaint is the lack of a physical 'skip' button to skip through tracks or radio presets. In any other Subaru that wouldn't be the biggest gripe because they come with steering-wheel controls for that," says Cars.com Managing Editor David Thomas.
Without steering-wheel audio controls — no BRZ has them — drivers are forced to use the ill-performing interface for basic stereo functions. The BRZ's tiny virtual buttons are hard to use while driving because of a lag between switching screens as well as an overall lack of refinement in how the system reacts to inputs.
"I've come close to rear-ending someone as I hunted for the tiny skip control on the touch-screen because my shuffle picked a song I wasn't in the mood for," Thomas continues.
When it came to route guidance, the BRZ's navigation system offered good voice command directions alerting drivers when a turn approached. Drivers called out the navigation's outdated graphics, but the map has some perks; well, a perk. Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder says, "The map seems to be better than many at showing street labels on nearby roads."
Otherwise, editors noted the navigation system proved exceptionally difficult when inputting destinations as well as using the system midroute to cancel guidance, which put off many to using the system all together. There's only one dial for the stereo, which impacts navigation because drivers are forced to press a virtual zoom button instead of a knob or dial.
"After a frustrating time using the BRZ's navigation on a trip from Chicago to central Wisconsin, my smartphone will now be the only working GPS in the BRZ," says Cars.com editor Joe Bruzek.
There is an alternative, however. Four out of five Cars.com editors polled for impressions said they wouldn't miss the navigation by choosing the BRZ's less-expensive FR-S twin and its standard stereo (physical buttons and no touch-screen). One editor who stood out said any navigation is better than none, and that may be true for the directionally impaired.
If we picked the FR-S to avoid the problematic stereo and navigation, the BRZ's heated seats would be sorely missed in our northern climate.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe