The Car Connection Subaru BRZ Overview
The Subaru BRZ is a small, nimble two-door sports car.
The BRZ is a competitor for the Nissan 370Z and the Mazda MX-5 Miata, but even Porsche's Cayman follows the same lightweight, razor-sharp formula. It is one of the best economical sports cars on the market, and it's the only Subaru to be sold in the U.S. without all-wheel drive.
The Subaru BRZ is mechanically identical to the Toyota 86 (nee Scion FR-S). In 2018, Subaru slightly differentiated the two cars with a BRZ tS variant tuned by its in-house performance division, STI. Although Subaru stops short of calling it a "BRZ STI," the new version is focused on track performance, with some compromises in road comfort.
MORE: Read our 2018 Subaru BRZ review
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 from our colleagues at 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 6-speed manual transmission or an automatic with the same gear count. Power comes from a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-4 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 seat back folds forward.
The BRZ has earned some of the best safety ratings among sports cars, with "Good" ratings in most test categories from the IIHS, except the difficult small overlap front crash, where it earned an "Acceptable" rating. 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 headlights, and a Torsen limited-slip differential. The Limited models get leather-and-faux suede upholstery and heated seats plus dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition, 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 sells in such small volumes that extra variants may not be worth the added cost.
All 2015 BRZs received wider exhaust outlets and a new shark-fin antenna design. Subaru also offered a limited-edition Series.Blue package for the 2015 model. It brought 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.
The BRZ added a new infotainment system and a standard rearview camera for 2016. The BRZ added a Performance Package on manual-equipped, Limited-trim cars for 2017, including a revamped suspension tune, new wheels, and other updates. All manual-equipped cars received a slight power bump, to 205 hp, while automatic BRZs were unchanged in output. A slight styling revamp accompanied those changes, with a slightly lower front end and a new spoiler among the changes.
For the 2017 model year, the BRZ's twin is getting a name change. The Scion FR-S became the Toyota 86, as Toyota shut down its Scion brand.