by Jake Lingeman
The first Subaru BRZ was fantastic. It and the Scion FRS-turned-Toyota 86 were a return to mildly powered, rear-wheel-drive sports cars like the original Datsun Zs and old MGBs. With their matching four-cylinder engines, they slotted a rung below the new Nissan Zs and two rungs below our favorite V8 American pony cars, at least in power. But for the fun factor, they almost couldn't be rivaled.
The last BRZ was fun and excellent, but we would have never called it thrilling, with an engine that sounded like a garbage disposal and that was gutless in the midrange. But this new version packs a 2.4-liter Boxer engine with 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque - up 23 hp and 28 lb-ft on the old one - making it a blast on twisty back roads, epic on long autocross courses, and pretty damn good on the road course, if not scarily fast. Its biggest competitors are the Toyota GR 86 and Mazda MX-5 Miata, but as a 2+2 coupe with rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox, comparison can be drawn to the entry-level Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang too.
The BRZ in its original form was a brilliant concept with flawed execution, but this update takes it to another level. Subaru might have even beaten the Mazda Miata at its own game.
The 2022 BRZ is technically all-new and now in its second generation. Once again co-developed with Toyota, it employs a heavily revised version of the old platform. It follows the same recipe as the old car, which means a Boxer engine in the front, a six-speed transmission in the middle, and power only to the rear wheels. The main criticism against the first-generation 86/BRZ was a lack of grunt, which Subaru hopes to fix with a newly developed 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated flat-four engine. It produces 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. The latter is a 15% increase and the most crucial figure related to this new budget performance car.
See trim levels and configurations:
We're not convinced the new Subaru BRZ sports car looks better than the old model. It was a proudly Japanese product and had a few design elements that could only have originated from the land of the rising sun. The new model is a blend of other designs. The rear looks like a scaled-down Acura NSX, while the front is generic sports car; swept-back headlights, large air intakes, and power bulges on the hood. It comes standard with LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Limited trim adds 18-inch matte gray alloys and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires. The rear end also boasts an incorporated spoiler, though it won't be long before the first fixed-wing options hit the aftermarket scene.
Images of the Subaru BRZ coupe are misleading. Thanks to the overall design, it looks much larger than it actually is. The overall length is 167.9 inches, and its width is 69.9 inches. The track at the front is 59.8 inches, while the rear track is 61 inches. All of this is situated on a 101.4-inch wheelbase and the BRZ stands 51.6 inches tall. Subaru claims the BRZ is the lightest car in its segment, with curb weight starting at 2,815 lbs for the manual Premium model. The Miata twins are much lighter, but they don't fall under the "RWD 2+2 sports coupe" classification Subaru insists on using for the BRZ. The Limited trim weighs 2,835 lbs in manual guise. Oddly, the six-speed automatic doesn't come with a hefty weight penalty. The Premium trim with a slushbox weighs 2,864 lbs, while the Limited model weighs 2,881 lbs.
While Subaru is yet to launch the configurator, it appears the 2022 BRZ will be available in seven colors. We suspect some of these will be premium paid-for options, but expect Crystal Black Silica and Crystal White Pearl to be default no-cost hues, along with perhaps Ice Silver. Other available paints will include Magnetite Gray, Sapphire Blue, and the two most interesting choices, WR Blue, and Ignition Red.
Let's get this out of the way: this is not a numbers car. We know the Hyundai Veloster N and Honda Civic Type R drivers will point and laugh at the BRZ's acceleration and top speed figures, neither of which have officially been claimed by Subaru. As Agent Smith said in The Matrix, "it is inevitable."
Firstly, the BRZ does not use forced induction, which will be a bone of contention because it would be the easiest way to increase the 228 hp/184 lb-ft output. But does the power need to increase? We don't think so. In this car, it's not so much about the power but more about the way the power is delivered. And the new motor has a huge chunk of mid-range torque, which means a sub-six-second 0 to 60 mph sprint is entirely plausible. Power is sent to the rear wheels exclusively giving a pure sense of performance with driving dynamics unhampered by all-wheel drive and added weight. The BRZ prides itself on being an experience car, which is why a manual is standard, and we can't help but feel this is one of the best experiences around.
The charm of the BRZ comes down to the old adage that says it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than drive a fast car slow. The previous generation had a naturally-aspirated flat-four, which was one of the main arguments against it. But we always disagreed. We drove both the standard and aftermarket turbocharged versions of the previous model, and a turbocharger ruined the balance.
But the old engine suffered a few core issues. The main one was a dearth of torque, particularly in the midrange where there was a gaping hole where torque actually dipped before increasing. Then there was the sound it made, which was far from pleasant. But the new motor is bigger and better. It now displaces 2.4 liters and hits peak torque at 3,700 rpm. Figures from the new engine are 228 hp at 7,000 rpm and 184 lb-ft of torque. Two gearbox options are available, manual or automatic, both with six forward ratios.
On the backroads of Connecticut and New York, the new BRZ is a joy to pilot. Power is low enough that we didn't feel in real danger but high enough to make the narrow roads challenging and fun. We drove an automatic version (with the less sticky tires) to the track and found the programming in sport and track modes great for holding gears until the last possible second. When using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, we noticed that the BRZ seemed to cut power a split second before the digital needle hit the indicated digital redline on the digital tachometer, which was annoying. When we arrived at the legendary Lime Rock Park race track to tackle the autocross course, we stayed away from those shifters, letting the automatic transmission do the work while we concentrated on sliding around gracefully on the super tight course.
On the road, on the short track, and on the big track, the extra power was welcome. Though Subaru added a few pounds with safety equipment, its power to weight ratio is better than last year. It feels really close to perfect. We'd still aim for the manual, though, as this is a car mean to integrate driver and machine, and the manual does that perfectly.
Subaru has moved the seats a few millimeters closer to each other and lower to the floor. The hip point is actually lower than the center of gravity, which makes you feel like part of the vehicle's chassis when strapped in. It has 50% more torsional rigidity and 60% more lateral rigidity, making for an aggressive handling/ride balance and quick changes of direction. So quick, in fact, your pilot got a little woozy on the muggy New England day.
The base tires are Michelin Primacy measuring 215/45 R17. The upgraded Limited trim comes with lower profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber measuring 215/40 R18. We'll note that on the way out to the track, another driver bent two of those bigger wheels on one side after diving through a pothole. However, we'd still have no problem daily driving this, even on rough midwestern roads.
The suspension setup is the same as last year, with independent MacPherson struts, coil springs and a stabilizer bar in front, along with double wishbones and another stabilizer bar in the rear. Weight balance is 53/47 front to rear.
In our first autocross event, the BRZ would slide to our heart's content, but we'll note that even in track mode with the traction control off, if you push the angle too far, the nannies still step in to save you. The best portion of the track featured an uphill hairpin turn, which allowed for super slow speed, super smoky drifts. As much as we like sticky tires, this car is decidedly more fun with the Primacy rubber.
On the full Lime Rock course, we did use BRZ with the stickier tires, and on some of those 75-mph, flat-out corners we appreciated the extra rubber. There wasn't a ton of road feel in the steering wheel, but because we felt so connected to the chassis we could tell when the car was about to slip.
With a larger engine, it's to be expected that the gas mileage of the 2022 BRZ won't be as good as the first generation. Fair enough, it's a necessary compromise for more power. Still, the BRZ is relatively light on gas, consuming 21/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined in automatic guise and 20/27/22 mpg with the preferred six-speed manual. A 13.2-gallon gas tank is standard regardless, affording a maximum range of around 330 miles in mixed conditions with the auto and 290 miles with the manual.
It was pretty apparent that Subaru and Toyota cut corners with the previous model's interior. It had all of the features a car needed at the time, but the material quality was poor. At least the layout was spot-on, so you could reach over and adjust the temperature without taking your eyes off the road. The new car uses the same recipe but with the significant controls now fitted even closer to the driver. The adaptive stability control buttons are located close to the shifter, exactly where you want them. The same goes for the climate control and the volume knob on the touchscreen interface. Our favorite interior feature is the all-new digital instrument cluster. In normal mode, it displays a circular tachometer and a primary speed readout. It also has a neat G-force indicator to the left, so you can see how hard you're cornering. The tachometer changes to a linear graph in track mode, and it illuminates bright red once you breach 7,500 rpm. Instead of G-Force, it gives you battery voltage, and oil temperature. But the biggest improvement is greater overall quality.
The BRZ will fit two folks in front in either leather or suede seats. They have decent bolsters, but in a car this sharp we'd like even more. Maybe they could add a third, racier option for the coming years. They are soft and adjustable, though only in a few directions, but were great on the road.
There are two back seats, like last year, but they're only suitable for children, child seats or an adult sitting side-saddle. Like the GR86, the BRZ has just less than 30 inches of rear legroom and 33.5 inches of rear headroom. That's why it's a 2+2 and not a genuine four-seater.
But that's not what those back seats are for. They're for folding down, sliding four race tires and a helmet in, and driving to the track. It'll also fit two sets of golf clubs. If you want something fun with real utility, you'll still have to get a hot hatch.
To keep costs down, Subaru and Toyota didn't spend a lot of money on various interior options. We think most owners simply won't care or replace the seats with aftermarket buckets as soon as the car arrives.
The base model, dubbed the Premium, comes with black cloth upholstery with red contrast stitching and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shifter, and parking brake boot. The more upmarket Limited boasts Ultrasuede upholstery with red leather accents. In both Subaru BRZ models, Brin Naub Nubuck-like material is used to trim the instrument panel and doors.
The main interior trim is still hard and soft plastic, depending on where it's located. It looks fine but feels cheap, although not as cheap as the last-gen. To make this car affordable, costs had to be cut somewhere. At least it's all nailed together properly, so there are no annoying rattles or squeaks.
The BRZ's trunk is only 6.3 cubic feet, but you can increase the size by folding the rear seats down. Subaru doesn't officially report how much extra space you get when you do, but it has retained the first-gen's ability to fit a full set of four wheels with racing tires into the trunk/rear seats. Most people will likely use the BRZ as a two-seater since the 2+2 seating configuration doesn't provide nearly enough space in the rear.
Inside the car, there's a small glove compartment, center armrest storage, and a couple of cupholders, but it's far from as practical as a hot hatch. The rear seats have a small storage area between the seats.
Like before, the BRZ comes with lots of features as standard. It has keyless access, a push-button start, dual-zone climate control, heated exterior mirrors, USB charging ports, and welcome lighting. To improve the sporty feel, Subaru adds a seven-inch digital instrument cluster with a special track mode to improve shifting times. You also get Active Sound Control, which pipes engine noise into the cabin, but it sounds pretty natural.
Subaru's award-winning EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is only available with the optional automatic transmission. It includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure intervention, sway warning, and lead vehicle start alert. The Limited comes as standard with blind-spot detection, lane-keep assist, steering responsive headlights, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Both models have an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, and a trial subscription to SiriusXM. As opposed to the newer SUVs from the company, this one is laid out in landscape format and has real controls for climate underneath as opposed to integrated ones.
As for operation, it worked fine the little we used it. Apple CarPlay was flawless and the icons are big enough to hit while driving. The screens seem to switch fast enough and the navigation could grab GPS better than our phones, which was important considering there was barely a signal between our hotel and Lime Rock in the mountains.
The 2022 BRZ sports car is all-new with no recalls or complaints against its name, but as a new arrival, its reliability still remains to be seen. The previous model was a highly dependable car. Throughout its entire life, it was recalled twice in 2013, another two times in 2018, and once in 2019.
The BRZ will likely maintain Subaru's generic limited warranty of three years/36,000 miles, powertrain warranty of five years/50,000 miles, and general wear item warranty of three years/36,000 miles.
Since it's brand new, neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has yet had the opportunity to review the Subaru BRZ. The previous model received ratings from both institutions, so it's only a matter of time before this information is available.
Both cars have obligatory safety features, including seven airbags, LED lights, a rearview camera, ABS, tire pressure monitoring, and adaptive traction and stability control.
The Premium does not have any driver assistance features but the Limited at least adds blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and headlights that move with the steering wheel. The full EyeSight safety suite is only available on models equipped with an automatic transmission. It adds adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure intervention, sway warning, and lead vehicle start alert.
If you don't need space for four occupants or kids, you should trade whatever you're driving for a Subaru BRZ right now, no matter what climate you live in. It's that good. It was almost a perfect car before, and though we're not power junkies, the additional ponies make this vehicle feel like a Lotus. Okay maybe not that sharp, but it's certainly in the medical tool realm, as opposed to a farm implement like a Mustang or Camaro.
It is the first year, which always brings a few problems, but the base price is perfect at $28,955. Anecdotally, we know a few people with the first year of the first generation, and they've been problem free.
As for the competition, the stellar VW GTI is within a few hundred bucks but is far less fun despite being quicker in a straight line. The biggest rivalry will come from the roofless Mazda Miata. It doesn't have rear seats and its trunk is much smaller, but as a like-for-like driving experience, it's pretty damn close. That's perhaps the biggest praise here, though, as the previous BRZ wasn't up to the same standard as the Miata. This new one, however, is the Miata's biggest challenger in decades.
The price of the Subaru BRZ is one of its most attractive attributes in the US. The BRZ Premium has an MSRP of $27,995 with a six-speed manual and $29,595 with a six-speed automatic transmission. The top-spec Limited retails for $30,495 with a manual gearbox and $32,295 with a self-shifter. The cost of the Subaru BRZ excludes the $960 destination charge in all configurations.
The 2022 Subaru BRZ is available in two trims: Premium and Limited.
Both models use the same naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter flat-four engine producing 228 hp/184 lb-ft output. The power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. A Torsen limited-slip differential is standard on all models.
The Premium ships standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, keyless access, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, heated exterior mirrors, USB charging ports, welcome lighting, a seven-inch digital instrument cluster, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and Active Sound Control.
The Limited model adds 18-inch alloy wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, blind-spot monitoring, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and active headlights. Ultrasuede upholstery and heated front seats make it feel a little more upmarket.
Once you add the automatic transmission, it unlocks Subaru's Eyesight safety package comprising adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure intervention, sway warning, and lead vehicle start alert.
A few options are available for the BRZ, but it's predominantly a fuss-free vehicle. The options are summarized as selecting the six-speed automatic gearbox which then adds paddle shifters, the full EyeSight advanced safety suite with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, high beam assist, and reverse automatic braking. Everything else available is a dealer-added accessory.
There are two trims for the 2022 Subaru BRZ, Premium and Limited. The manuals start about $1,500 less than the automatics, but even without that price difference, we'd recommend them for the layer of involvement they add to the experience. The main question becomes, "do you want a slippy BRZ or a grippy BRZ?"
The BRZ Limited adds those bigger wheels with the better tires, along with extra safety features. We don't care about the latter, but rather the tires that change the experience so much. For our money, we'd get the manual base car with the less aggressive tires. The point of this car is fun, and those Primacys are much more fun than the Pilot Sport 4 rubber. If you want something that'll lay down hot track times, get the Limited, or step up a notch or two on the sports coupe ladder for a car built for lap times, not fun.
Some people said they could tell the subtle handling and performance differences between the previous-generation 86 and BRZ. Those people were lying. However, a comparison between the new ones may prove slightly different as Toyota used several different suspension components in their pursuit of a sharp driving experience. The Toyota has different steering knuckles, stabilizers, bushings, springs, and ECU tuning, and Toyota wanted it to be a sharper, harsher car than the slightly more comfort-oriented BRZ. We still say you'd have to drive them back to back to notice the difference. Aside from those elements, both have the same 228 hp and 184 lb-ft and the same gearbox choices, even the available rubber options are the same. Minor tweaks are brand-specific. The Subaru has red stitching on the seats, for example. The Toyota has nice GR badges on the steering wheel and starter button. But they're the same car, right down to the safety features that are only available once an automatic gearbox is equipped.
The exteriors are different.
The car you choose will come down to brand preference, and both brands enjoy a strong following in the USA. The only other thing that could have an impact is pricing. The BRZ used to be the more expensive of the two, but Scooby's new pricing structure is quite aggressive and likely to close that gap. At the time of this writing, Toyota hasn't published pricing for the GR 86. Either way, we'd recommend a test drive of both to see which you prefer.
If the BRZ is a bit on the small side, don't worry. Subaru also offers the WRX at a similar price. You won't get the tail-happy antics or that razor-sharp track driving experience, but the WRX comes with its own set of unique skills. It has a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four delivering 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That's a lot more torque than the new 2.4-liter NA flat-four can muster. With just 228 hp/184 lb-ft on tap, the WRX's power and intelligent AWD system put it ahead when it comes to outright speed. Since it's a sedan, it also has a usable rear seat and a big trunk. The WRX is the car you upgrade to when you decide to expand the family. For everything else, the BRZ is a more engaging experience.
There's an all-new WRX coming out for 2022, but at the time of this test drive, no details had yet been confirmed. It's expected to utilize a turbocharged version of the BRZ's 2.4L.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Subaru BRZ: