A beautiful northern California day trip is even more fun in the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS.
Say you find yourself in San Francisco with a couple hours to kill.
You’ve done some city things. Maybe you saw an iconic Beach Blanket Babylon musical revue last night, followed this morning by comfort-food breakfast at Ella’s in Presidio Heights.
It’s one of those gloriously sunny Bay Area days, and suddenly a quick shot out to the coast seems like the only thing to do.
Especially when you’re holding the key to a Subaru BRZ.
This particular BRZ is the tS (tuned by STI), of which only 500 were offered for 2018. The tS is the purist’s BRZ – an already sharp-handling car dialed in for maximum agility. A host of tweaks gives the BRZ tS a distinctive feel, and the coastal course we’ve plotted will demonstrate how this special performance variant highlights all that’s good about the BRZ.
We start at Mission Dolores Park, which affords an expansive view of the city and bay. Scenery-struck tourists and swarming Ubers means it’s a slow putter toward the highway, which gives time to get acclimated to the cockpit. The Alcantara-upholstered seats are embroidered with tS identification, and the ample side bolsters are accented with red leather. It’s stylish, and there’s plenty of room for even a tall driver to work.
Mission Dolores Park. Photo: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock
We pick up Interstate 280 heading south. Traffic is light, and the vehicle coasts into an easy cruise. Despite its emphasis on sport, the BRZ is still settled enough to comfortably drive your mother – and a long weekend’s worth of luggage – to the airport.
We exit toward Pacifica and CA Highway 1 along the coast. Pacifica is a town with wide-open views that can clear your head in an instant, particularly after leaving the congested city. A quick stroll down the Pacifica Pier gives a sense of how the fish are biting, and down the road at Pacifica Beach, you can see how the waves are treating the surfers.
Pacifica. Photo: Trent Waterman / Shutterstock
Today the water appears lightly rippled, like the curvy lane that heads uphill toward the coast. Here you begin noting the information coming to your fingertips through the steering wheel, which connects to the 18-inch wheels of the tS, a first for the BRZ. The wheels are a lightweight STI design mounted to 215/40/R18 Michelin® Pilot® Sport tires. Working up to higher speeds points up the meaty footprint the BRZ tS plants on the road.
The road peaks and curves to the left, and then you’re headed toward Devil’s Slide, a promontory adjacent to a former stretch of California State Route 1.The route was completed in 1936 but destroyed by mudslides shortly thereafter and suffered similar landslide-related calamities in the following decades. The slides became so persistent that the state shut down the route in 2013, replacing it with the Tom Lantos Tunnels, which take us behind the precarious cliffs.
Devil’s Slide. Photo: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock
The beauty is breathtaking when you emerge, with clear blue skies and sunshine reflecting from the water in that magical California glow. Devil’s Slide became a World War II observation site for its commanding views, and it’s in those sweeping curves that the STI-tuned SACHS dampers reveal themselves, with their extra measure of rebound control.
Then our path takes us through Half Moon Bay, with its wide-open straightaways that beg for a burst of acceleration from the 205-hp SUBARU BOXER engine. Subaru loyalists know very well the sound of a horizontally-opposed engine, and the BRZ tS loves to rev. The upgraded brakes use Brembo rotors and four-piston front calipers, and they clamp this BRZ down to effortless stops.
Half Moon Bay. Photo: bteimages / Shutterstock
Now it’s time to head back to San Francisco, so we head to CA-84 to return to Interstate 280. The tight curves and sometimes drastic elevation changes on CA-84 make it a particular pleasure in a well-tuned car, and they show the BRZ tS to full effect, even at speeds that plan for the possibility of a cyclist around the next curve.
It’s in that restricted environment that drivers realize just how firmly in hand one can hold the BRZ tS. The BRZ is already notable for its light weight and ultra-low center of gravity. The tS maximizes the performance of the already impressive BRZ platform.
The STI carbon-fiber spoiler adjusts manually for improved downforce on track days.
When we pause at a scenic overlook before we hit the highway, the STI carbon-fiber spoiler garners a lot of looks. It’s more than just an aesthetic, though – it adjusts manually for improved downforce on track days.
The tour has been a blast but, as I prepare to head home, I’m already thinking about my next destination. And, it occurs to me, that’s probably the best part of owning a car as fun as the BRZ: Your favorite drive is likely the one you’re planning next.
Check out the all-new exclusive 2019 Subaru BRZ SERIES.GRAY.
Upgraded brakes use Brembo rotors and four-piston front calipers for effortless stops.