- Classic sports-car look
- Lean, balanced driving feel
- Standard navigation system
- Narrow cargo opening and small trunk
- Fussy touch-screen audio controls
- Busy, noisy ride
The 2014 Subaru BRZ can be every bit as thrilling as more powerful, more expensive sports cars. Its light weight, direct steering and excellent suspension make it a blast to drive.
The Subaru BRZ is a two-door coupe designed for real car enthusiasts. In its second model year, and essentially unchanged from when it was launched, the BRZ is lean, light, and as balanced as a sports car should be--it's so good at gripping corners, it bears comparisons with cars costing twice as much. The focus on driving dynamics all comes with a pricetag that's in the mid-$20,000 range, which makes the Subaru sports car as affordable as a Miata, or as the nearly identical Scion FR-S.A 180-degree turn away from the detached driving experience of a luxury coupe, the BRZ two-door is for drivers who want to be delighted by the act, not for those who treat it like a chore. It has more in common, in some ways, with the back-to-basics sports cars of the past--yet it's a modern machine with all of the safety and technology features you'd expect in a new car today. That includes the integration of Aha Radio in the standard navigation system for 2014.
Subaru's 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter horizontally opposed ('boxer' or 'flat') four-cylinder engine can squirt you eagerly from corner to corner provided you keep it revving high, though it'll never be confused for the big-displacement V-6 and V-8 engines you'll find in some other two-doors. The precise, short-throw six-speed manual is what we recommend, but those who want an automatic won't be let down by the six-speed auto, with its steering-wheel paddle shifters, sport mode, and downshift rev matching. But the reward of the light construction and small engine is great fuel economy—up to 34 mpg highway.
The BRZ is a popular choice for weekend track excursions, and for that there's not only a DSC Sport mode for the stability control but also a full-off mode. A Torsen limited-slip differential also helps give the rear wheels surer footing out of corners either on the track or on tight, curvy roads. Taller drivers will even be able to fit a race helmet on, and the rear seatback folds forward to fit extra wheels or gear.
It's quite simply a hoot to drive, with its steering, handling, and low-slung, seat-of-the-pants driving feel a big part of it. Communicative, quick-ratio steering, combined with suspension settings that are taut but just compliant enough allow you to enjoy the tight corners, read the road surface with your hands, and get a sense of where the BRZ's dynamics are headed before the tires lose adhesion.
Unfortunately, the BRZ isn't all that comfortable or versatile beyond that. While the ride feels fine on the backroads or around town—and we like the rather upright driving position—it tends to get a bit busy and noisy on pockmarked freeways, and the front seats are a bit too firm and could use more adjustability. Trunk space is good enough for a carefully packed weekend trip, but the load opening is quite narrow. And those back seats you see? They're just a tease, and only good for a child seat...maybe.
The BRZ is already proving the worth of Subaru's lightweight ring body structure, which takes advantage of high-tensile-strength steel; it's earned a set of 'good' ratings from the IIHS, and the federal government has given it a five-star overall score.
Considering the engineering and focused performance capability you get with the BRZ, it's pretty impressive that this sports car starts at $26,265. But a look at the BRZ's feature set makes it all the more impressive. Most notably, a touch-screen navigation system comes standard, but we wish its fussy audio controls were a bit easier to access. Again considering the price, it's all quite forgivable, and we tend to think of this small Subaru as one of the performance bargains of the decade—and, perhaps, an instant classic.