The Car Connection Subaru BRZ Overview
The Subaru BRZ is a small, nimble two-door sports car that is mechanically related to the Toyota 86.
The BRZ is a competitor for 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 BRZ and 86 enter their second generation for the 2022 model year with heavy updates rather than full redesigns.
MORE: Read our 2022 Subaru BRZ review
The new Subaru BRZ
Changes for the 2022 model year include a tweaked design, a stiffer suspension, a larger engine with more power, and a small lineup that offers the choice of sticky or slippery tires.
The car is slightly bigger. The wheelbase grows 0.2-inch to 101.4 inches, overall length increases about an inch to 167.9 inches, and height drops a half inch to 51.6 inches.
The design is an evolution of the outgoing model. The low-set trapezoidal grille remains with a slightly different shape and it's now flanked by taller front air intakes. New air vents behind the front wheels replace upper gills and send air from under the hood along the sides where the car features larger lower sills. The fastback shape resolves into a built-in duckbill spoiler.
Inside, the look is simplistic, with a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen that complements the horizontal lines of the dash and a new 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster with a choice of screens. A small-diameter steering wheel, aluminum pedals, and sport bucket seats with available leather upholstery and synthetic suede inserts fit with the car's sporty theme.
Under the hood sits a new 2.4-liter flat-4 that makes 228 hp and 184 lb-ft, up from 205 hp and 156 lb-ft in the outgoing car. The additional torque comes on earlier and helps push the car from 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds, according to Subaru.
Buyers have a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic has downshift rev matching and uses yaw sensors to hold lower gears during hard cornering.
Subaru bolsters the chassis for 2022 with adhesives instead of welds, a stiffer front crossmember, stronger shock and steering rack mounts, and a rear anti-roll bar that is mounted to the body instead of the rear subframe. That bar is softer to help keep the tires planted, and Subaru now offers models with slippery Michelin Primacy HP tires and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. This change makes the car more adept at autocross and track duty, while the base tires still allow controlled drifts.
The base Premium model with the manual transmission comes with no active safety features. Moving up to the Limited gets adaptive headlights, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. The most safety equipment is offered as standard on the Limited model with the automatic; it adds automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, reverse automatic braking, and lane-departure warnings.
Subaru BRZ history
Introduced as a 2013 model as a collaboration between Toyota and Subaru, the Subaru BRZ 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 originally sold in two models, Limited and Premium that continue into the second generation. Both came with a choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or an automatic with the same gear count. Power came from a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-4 that benefited from Toyota direct and port fuel injection system. The manual gearshift and clutch were nicely weighted, while the auto gearbox came with steering-wheel paddles and rev-matched downshifts. The engine was 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 boasted what one of the lowest centers of gravity of any model on the market. 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 managed to deliver on its focused promises.
At just 50.6 inches high and about 166 inches long, the Subaru BRZ began as a compact model and continues in that vein. It's sporty character was highlighted by its short overhangs and flared fenders. With 2+2 seating, the tight cabin offered very small rear perches, barely usable for adults, if at all. Its trunk was also small, though the rear seat back folded forward to open up useful cargo space.
The BRZ 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 came with a five-mode driver-selectable stability control system. Side-curtain airbags and front pelvis and torso bags were also included. The structure built on the automaker's Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame system that established a strong reputation for safety in its other models.
Premium models included 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 added leather-and-faux suede upholstery and heated seats plus dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition, fog lamps, and a rear spoiler. There were no option packages for either model.
The BRZ remained essentially unchanged since it was launched and no turbocharged STI edition ever materialized—much to the agony of enthusiasts.
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.
In 2018, the BRZ added a tS variant that was tuned by in-house STI, but kept the same power. A high wing, 18-inch wheels, and upgraded suspension were part of the popular package.
In 2019, Subaru added a limited-run Series.Gray appearance package, but largely kept the coupe the same from prior years. A tS model returned for 2020, when Apple CarPlay and Android Auto became standard. The BRZ skipped the 2021 model year.