New & Used Subaru BRZ: In Depth
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The Subaru BRZ is a compact, rear-wheel-drive sports car. Its emphasis on light weight and direct handling make it a suitable competitor for the Nissan 370Z and the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and if you're pushing the limits of price, the Porsche Cayman.
It's an unconventional addition to the Subaru lineup, as the only vehicle the brand sells without standard or even available all-wheel drive. But that's beside the point: The BRZ is one of the best economical sports cars on the market, along with its U.S.-market twin, the Scion FR-S. The two cars were developed jointly with Subaru and Toyota both having input throughout the process and each responsible for different elements.
MORE: Read our review of the 2015 Subaru BRZ
Without question, the Subaru BRZ has proved to be a fun and capable car, even on the world's toughest circuits, earning itself a spot on the 2013 Best Car To Buy nominee list at our sister site, Motor Authority.
The BRZ was introduced for 2013 and originally sold in two different models, both of which remain available. Both the Limited and Premium trim levels offer a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an automatic with the same gear count. Power comes from a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated boxer four-cylinder engine that benefits from a combination of direct and port fuel injection. The manual offers good weighting, while the auto gearbox features steering-wheel paddles and can rev-match downshifts by blipping the throttle. The engine is set very low in the chassis, especially when compared to Subaru's other offerings, which have to clear front-mounted all-wheel-drive gear.
While the BRZ was intended to be as light as possible, it also has what Subaru says is one of the lowest centers of gravity of any current production model. The engineers targeted the Porsche Boxster for that measurement as well as the overall handling. With its sport-oriented suspension tuning, quick steering, summer-performance tires, and Torsen limited-slip differential, it manages to deliver on its focused promises.
At just 50.6 inches high and about 166 inches long, the Subaru BRZ is a compact model—a point enforced by its short overhangs and flared fenders. The BRZ's 2+2 seating, with the tight cabin offering very tight rear perches, is barely usable for adults, if at all. Its trunk is quite spacious however, and the rear seatback folds forward.
The BRZ has earned some of the best safety ratings among sports cars, with 'good' ratings in every test category from the IIHS, as well as Top Safety Pick status. It includes a four-channel ABS system, Brake Assist, and a five-mode driver-selectable stability control system. Side-curtain airbags and front pelvis and torso bags are also included. The structure itself builds on the automaker's Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame system that has established a strong reputation for safety in its other models.
Premium models include voice-activated navigation, satellite radio and HD Radio tuners, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, HID headlamps, and a Torsen limited-slip differential, while the Limited models get leather-and-Alcantara (faux suede) upholstery and heated seats plus dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, fog lamps, and a rear spoiler. There are no option packages for either model, though standalone choices include dealer-installed accessories such as additional trim or an auto-dimming mirror with garage-door opener.
The BRZ has been essentially unchanged since it was launched, and no turbocharged STI edition has materialized--much to the agony of enthusiasts. There have also been rumors of a BRZ-based sedan or convertible that could come from either Subaru or its Toyota/Scion partners, but it seems the reality is that these models els in such small volumes that extra variants may not be worth the added cost.
All 2015 BRZs get wider exhaust outlets and a new shark-fin antenna design. Subaru is also offering a limited-edition Series.Blue package for the 2015 model. It brings together an STI aero package, black-painted STI wheels, special World Rally blue paint (white is also available), and some unique interior finishes with a healthy smattering of blue trim, but no extra power or performance changes. There is an STI logo on the engine start/stop button, but that's about it.
No changes have been announced for the 2016 BRZ yet, although its FR-S cousin will be getting a new audio system, a standard rearview camera, and new bright interior trim that will close the options gap slightly between the two models.
A recent concept has had Subaru talking about offering an STI-tuned model for the United States. A BRZ tS (which stands for "tuned by STI") is already available elsewhere, and some form of that package may be brought here. It would include modified suspension, aerodynamics, and interior, although it likely would not come with any more power.
Although the BRZ has sold in relatively low volumes since its release, and there have been relatively few changes to the package in that time, it sounds as though Toyota and Subaru are planning a second generation of their joint sports-car venture. It is hoped that the next version will offer slightly more power, and possibly more styling differentiation between the models from each maker.