By Joe Bruzek on August 27, 2013
Our long-term 2013 Subaru BRZ routinely slogs through Chicago's epic bumper-to-bumper traffic, so we're thrilled whenever the chance arises to leave the city, pop the shifter into 6th and set the cruise control to highway speeds.
The BRZ's appearance gives little indication it would succeed on road trips. There's no way the sports coupe should be comfortable with its low-profile tires, a low ride height, short wheelbase and cramped-looking interior. None of those problems prevented our editors from taking the BRZ on road trips, but did their spines return intact?
Spending hours in the BRZ isn't painful for the same reason we don't mind grinding through rush-hour traffic: the seats. Every editor who's spent extended time in the car — whether in traffic or on the highway cruising — praised the BRZ's Alcantara-clad butt-huggers.
"I think the seats went a long way toward keeping me comfortable," says Cars.com editor Bill Jackson, who spent roughly eight hours road-tripping in the BRZ. "I don't like seats that are too soft, and, ideally, I like a heavily bolstered seat that supports a lot of my body."
The BRZ's front seats are heavily bolstered and firm, but not uncomfortably so, with support in the right places. Stepping up to the top Limited trim level over the base BRZ Premium adds heated, leather-bolstered Alcantara front seats. Cars.com editor Robby DeGraff spent 400-plus miles in those seats:
"What surprised me was how comfortable the seats were, even after hours upon hours of driving. They don't look that comfortable but once in that driver's seat, I felt snug and sound," says DeGraff.
Even though the front seats make the stiffly sprung BRZ more tolerable on long drives, its signature athletic, fun-to-drive demeanor impacts ride quality. Jackson encountered bumpy stretches of highway in his time road-tripping in the BRZ. "On the roughest stretches, yes, I did feel like I was catching air in the BRZ, but I never felt uncomfortable or like I was about to break the car."
"The BRZ is a high-strung car on the highway," says Cars.com editor Joe Bruzek. "It's great fun with such communicative steering, but double griping the steering wheel on the highway grows old after a few hours of keeping the BRZ from darting around."
Bruzek also grew tired of the road and wind noise. "Some roads it can glide along silently, while others require drowning out the road noise by turning the volume knob to 11," he says.
Almost as important as driving comfort on road trips is having enough room for all your gear. The BRZ doesn't disappoint with its folding rear seats.
"All the trips I've taken the BRZ on were multiple-day stays where I brought food, a cooler, luggage, slow cooker, folding chairs and more. When the trunk alone wasn't enough, the folding rear seat allowed excess luggage to spill into the passenger compartment," says Bruzek.
The most quantifiable evaluation of the BRZ as a road-tripper is fuel economy and the BRZ impresses; it's not hard to exceed the EPA's 30 mpg highway rating. Our highest-recorded mileage of 35.94 mpg from fill-up calculations and 37.3 mpg from the trip computer came from DeGraff's road trip. Fill-ups are frequent with the tiny 13.2-gallon tank, however. The most fuel we've put in the BRZ at one fill-up was 11.25 gallons of premium. Most don't mind the small tank, which gives us further reason to find a curvy off-ramp on the way to the pump.
At the end of their individual road trips, could our editors have kept driving? "Three to four hours is about as long as I'd want to spend road-tripping the BRZ," Bruzek says. "It's not from seating comfort, but rather with how high-strung the car rides."
Jackson was more than happy to hop in the car again for a longer trip, "I'll put it this way: If we can figure out a way to carry skis in that car, I'd gladly volunteer to drive it to Denver this winter."
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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