After six months of considerate, contemplative car shopping, I've just bought a slow, thrashy-sounding Subaru that doesn't have AWD. Its back seats are useless, its interior is just on the right side of 1996, and it is 63 bhp down on my last ride (the totally bonkers 2nd-gen Mazdaspeed3). Yes, the Scibaru Chimaera gets a lot of hate here on Oppo for all these reasons and more! And by more, I mean specifically, it gets bashed for costing the same as a used Cayman but not being as good:
Don't you know how much Cayman you could have bought for $26k?! -@EverySingleOpponaut
Look. I don't want to be a dick about this, but NO MORE! Seriously, I've had it up to here. [Gesture violently to the point I've had it up to.]
A Cayman S was on my shopping list. I test-drove a nice example of a 2007 Cayman S that was in my price range. Let me tell you, the Cayman is the best car I've ever driven in my life. But I didn't buy it, because I'm 22 and I know what it costs to replace the clutch on a Cayman S; I know how long its expensive performance tires last (hint: not long); and I know how much insurance costs (hint: all of my money). For your $25-30k, you will only find pain in the embrace of a Porsche Cayman. Well, pain and massive debt.
The BRZ is a $26,000 car; a used Porsche Cayman S is a $26,000* car.
*Plus several thousand dollars per year in consumable parts that are WAY more expensive than they should be, several thousand dollars a year to insure this car because apparently men under 25 all crash into everything all the time and so I have to pay for their mistakes, which, what exactly is the deal with that, while we're on the subject? Oh, plus several thousand dollars when the faulty seals on the Intermediate Shaft bearing crack and let engine oil into the bearing, and then the bearing explodes and its innards spill into the engine bay, destroying the valves and necessitating a total engine-out rebuild. Speaking of "engine-out," get real used to hearing those words from your mechanic, because it's going to happen a lot. YMMV.
If you can afford a Cayman S above the $30k line, then I urge you to find one and buy it. It's a sharp, compliant, German rocketship, and it oozes quality from every pore.
The BRZ is not quite the car that even a 7-year-old Cayman S is. But it's probably 75% the car that the Cayman is, and 75% of perfection is still pretty damned good in my book. It feels fast; at the end of the day, that's really all I care about. It feels much faster than it really is, and that quality alone justifies the purchase for me. And the interior is shockingly nice, if you look in the right places! I mean, the factory head unit makes me want to stab someone, and there's no center armrest. But the steering wheel is a VW-grade quality object, the shifter is doing a decent Honda S2000 gearbox impersonation, and the seats are better than all of the seats in my apartment. It turns heads, too—in this lovely shade of WR Blue, it garners comments and inspires amateur photographers just about everywhere I take it.
And it comes with a 6 year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. So when the head gaskets finally go The Way Of All Things Subaru, I won't be left holding the bag.
But there are some questions remaining. Will I eventually decide that it really does need more power and supercharge it? Will the interior develop a maddening series of squeaks and rattles that give me a flashback to my Mazdaspeed3? Will it shake me to pieces on the 1,700 mile road trip I'm taking from Denver to Raleigh this fall? Should I have just waited for the MkVII GTI to come out and purchased one of those instead?
Short answer: I'll let you know.