The Subaru BRZ is a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car that provides nimble handling and spirited performance at an affordable price. Co-developed with Toyota (which sells its own variant as the Toyota 86--formerly the Scion FR-S), the BRZ was designed to buck the trend of increasingly heavy, technologically complex vehicles and instead provide a pure, driver-focused experience.
For the latest model year, the BRZ has been refreshed. The powertrain has been upgraded to produce a few more ponies (and a quicker sprint to 60) and the suspension has been revised. A new Performance package is also available.
Weighing in at just 2,762 pounds for the manual transmission model, the BRZ is one of the lightest sports cars on the market - it undercuts the mass of the Porsche Cayman by 160 pounds and is around 800 pounds lighter than a V6-equipped Ford Mustang. The low weight pays off in the realm of fuel efficiency and, more importantly, handling.
The BRZ - which stands for "Boxer Rear-drive Zenith" - rides on a unique platform that shares little with other Subaru and Scion models. The rear-wheel-drive configuration allows the boxer engine to be mounted low down and close to the center of the car. This helps to create a near 50/50 weight distribution as well as an extremely low center of gravity, which Subaru says is among the lowest of any production car at just 18.1 inches.
Design-wise, the BRZ features traditional sports car proportions with a long hood and a short rear deck. Only minor details, such a unique grille and distinct wheels and taillights, differentiate the BRZ from the mechanically identical Toyota 86.
The two cars also share an interior, which is simple and performance-focused thanks to touches like well-bolstered seats and a central tachometer in the instrument panel. The rear seats are best used for short trips or carrying luggage, while the trunk provides 6.9 cubic feet of stowage space. With the seatback down, the cargo area can hold two standard golf bags. Those who enjoy slalom or track events can also fold the rear seatback and have room for four wheels, a helmet and basic supplies and still have room for the front passenger.
The BRZ comes standard with a 6.2-inch touch screen that groups the entertainment, connectivity, and navigation functions into a single unit. The screen runs Subaru's Starlink infotainment system, which provides access to apps like Aha radio. Starlink can also help keep Subaru owners stay connected to the social network via Facebook and Twitter news feeds in audio.
Subaru Engine, Toyota Technology
The BRZ utilizes a Subaru 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder motor with a Toyota D-4S fuel injection system, which uniquely combines direct injection and port injection technology. A direct-type fuel-injection system, which sprays fuel directly into the combustion chambers rather than upstream into the ports, provides a cooling effect in the cylinders, enabling the use of a sky-high 12.5:1 compression ratio to extract maximum energy from the fuel. In light- and medium-load conditions, the system's port fuel injectors help produce precise combustion, increasing performance and efficiency.
Power is provided by a 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated flat-four engine that makes 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. The four spins the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with shift paddles and a rev-matching function. Unlike all other vehicles in the Subaru lineup, the BRZ is rear-wheel drive only. A limited-slip differential comes standard with both transmissions and the final drive ratio has been shortened for quicker acceleration.
BRZs with three pedals return 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Selecting the automatic raises those figures to 25 and 34, respectively. The coupe tips the scale at approximately 2,800 pounds.
Trim Level Breakdown
The BRZ is offered in two trim levels - Premium and Limited.
The BRZ Premium includes a generous helping of standard kit, including a navigation system, a rear-view camera, an eight-speaker sound system, aluminum pedal pads, a leather shift knob and handbrake, a tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel, HD Radio, Sirius satellite radio, a six-speed manual transmission, a Torsen limited-slip differential and 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 205/55/R17 all-season tires.
The upmarket BRZ Limited adds leather-Alcantara upholstery, heated front seats, a rear lip spoiler, foglights, keyless access and start, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights and slightly meatier 215/45R17 summer tires.
New for this model year is a Performance package. Available exclusively on the Limited model with the six-speed manual, it includes Brembo brakes with larger rotors, SACHS shock absorbers and a unique 17-inch aluminum wheel style.
The BRZ comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, front seats designed to protect occupants against whiplash, electronic traction control and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The BRZ doesn't have any direct competitors - the Mazda MX-5 Miata provides a four-cylinder rear-wheel-drive experience, but only as a convertible. The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro are priced similarly but both have much more power - and much more mass.