With work, family commitments, friends, hobbies, and kid’s activities, it seems like we’re always on the go. That makes it hard to appreciate everything we have at home. I recently had the chance to spend a week with a Subaru BRZ. But instead of taking it on an epic road trip, I decided to explore some of the history of my current hometown, Parkville, Mo. The punchy little sports coupe shuttled me to various local landmarks, and gave me a chance to appreciate some of the cool sights we have right here at home.
In this picture, I’m driving the new BRZ into Parkville on Highway 9. Parkville was named for George S. Park, who operated a steamboat landing there off the Missouri River in 1838. Subaru, meanwhile, began producing aircraft in 1915. They were a major supplier of Japanese planes during World War II. Their first car arrived in 1954, but they didn’t sell vehicles in the United States until Malcolm Bricklin brought them here in 1968.
Above the BRZ’s taillight is Mackay Hall, Parkville’s most recognizable landmark. The hall is the centerpiece of Park University, a beautiful 138-year-old, 800-acre campus with some 1,600 students on the grounds. This building reminds me of a castle, or maybe Big Ben, or even the clock tower on Back to the Future. The BRZ also reminds me of a couple of things. The BRZ is a joint venture between Subaru and Toyota, so you shouldn’t be surprised that Scion sells a nearly identical car called the FRS. But the BRZ reminds me even more of an old Nissan 280Z. It’s a small, light, rear-wheel-drive sports car, and it even sort of looks like one. Whenever I would bring this up to people, they would agree with me immediately. The BRZ is definitely Z-like.
A prominent, but more recent addition to Parkville is the Nationals Golf Course. Designed by golf pro Tom Watson, this beautiful course hosted a PGA event in 2003 and 2004. The statue, tipping his martini glass to the BRZ, is Parkville’s most famous resident, Bill Grigsby, who was a popular broadcaster for the Kansas City Chiefs. Grigsby passed away in 2011, but he is still highly regarded around town. You have to be a member of the Nationals to partake in all they have to offer, and the BRZ also carries its own exclusivity. I don’t think I encountered one person that knew what kind of car it was before I told them or they looked at the badge, and most people were surprised that a Subaru left the factory without all-wheel-drive. It is certainly a departure from anything we’ve seen from Subaru in the past.
You’re looking at one of Parkville’s brand new Ford Police Interceptors. Parkville doesn’t have much crime, so the police have a lot of time to stalk speed offenders. While it is obviously possible for you to become a target in the BRZ, this car is not what I would call blazingly fast. It has a 2.0-liter flat-four Boxer engine set far back under the hood. It was good for 200-hp, which is adequate considering the car’s 2,760-lb curb weight. That engine is wound up tight all the time though. First gear is almost worthless for everyday driving, and the tach will be hummin’ at 3,400-rpm while going 75-mph in 6th-gear. This is no lopey old muscle car. The BRZ is a high-strung machine.
The sun shines on Missouri River as it winds its way next to Parkville’s English Landing Park, and the BRZ really shines when the road starts to wind. This car really does have a nice balance. You want to cut a corner hard? This car’ll do it. Want to drift the rear end out a bit? That’s also pretty easy to do without much drama. The six-speed manual gearshift clicks from gear-to-gear beautifully, and there’s no question that this is a fun car to drive hard.
Small things often result in compromises. Parkville only has about 2,000 households, so there are some things you kind of miss. From my house, it’s a bit of a drive to get to the Applebee’s on Barry Road or find a do-it-yourself car wash. This isn’t the center of commerce, so most people I know have a significant commute to get to work. The BRZ is also very small. If you want to cram someone in the backseat, you’ll need to move the front seat up past the point of being comfortable. The touch screen “buttons” on the infotainment system are so small that it’s hard for your finger to hit its target when dealing with the moderately choppy sports car ride. But if you want the ideals of a small town, or the excitement of a lightweight sports car, these are the types of things you’ll learn to deal with.
The Subaru BRZ is a departure from the normal cars that I get a chance to test here, and exploring my hometown is also a bit unusual. They both provided me with a fun experience for a week. Photos below, or click this link for a nicer version.