by Michael Butler
The sportscar world has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade, with some manufacturers producing cars with over 700 horsepower, and the age of small naturally aspirated rear-wheel-drive cars seeming to be all but dead. Toyota, Subaru, and Mazda, however, refuse to give up on the recipe that has provided thousands of smiles, slides, and edge of your seat motorsports events over the years. When the BRZ was first introduced, it was met with slight confusion; why would Subaru build a rear-wheel-drive sports car with a puny non-turbo engine? Well, that question was instantly answered as soon as people got behind the wheel, and the BRZ/86 name has become synonymous with accessible sports cars and is arguably one of the most famous sports cars to come out of the last decade. The 2020 car sees the return of the performance-tuned tS, which adds Sachs shock absorbers, Brembo brakes, and a number of STI chassis braces. Starting at $28,845, the BRZ goes up against the mechanically related Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5 Miata.
The Subaru BRZ has been with us since 2012, and since then it's been at the receiving end of a number of appearance, interior, and chassis updates; but for 2020, the recipe has remained more or less the same, despite growing calls for a turbocharged engine. Subaru USA has, however, reintroduced the tuned tS version, which failed to appear on the 2019 roster. The new tS features an exclusive Ceramic White paint color, Sachs dampers and coil springs, an STI V-brace, and more.
The 2020 BRZ is arguably one of the most affordable and capable sports cars out there. The Limited model starts off with an MSRP of $28,845, excluding a destination fee of $900. You'll pay an extra $1,100 on top of the Subaru BRZ's base price to get the automatic transmission. The high-performance Subaru BRZ costs $2,650 more than the base model, for a total of $34,495, and is well worth the extra dough. Fully kitted, the tS will set you back close to $38,000. The BRZ's age-old nemesis, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, trades in the same ballpark, starting at $27,080 for the Sport model, and climbing to $31,855 for the Grand Touring version. The Club model, which is comparable to the BRZ tS, goes for $30,190. The BRZ is also closely priced to its sibling, the WRX, which offers turbocharged power and all-wheel-drive for only $27,495.
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Modern sports cars place a massive focus on the powertrain, and horsepower numbers of 300 to 400 seem pedestrian at best when you can get 700-hp plus Ford Mustangs straight off the showroom floor. This is why cars like the BRZ and Miata feel like a breath of fresh air every time you climb behind the wheel. Sure there's enough power to get you up to top speed, but the fun lies in maintaining that speed through the corners, and boy does the BRZ deliver. The steering on this car is one of the most direct we've experienced: the quick 13.1:1 steering ratio provides a telepathic response to every twitch of the steering wheel, similar to - you guessed it - a go-cart.
Both the Limited and tS benefit from a Torsen limited-slip differential, which helps to put the power down through slow corner exits, and the optional sport-tuned four-wheel independent suspension - featuring Sachs performance shock absorbers (standard on the tS) - provide excellent performance damping. STI chassis goodies, in the form of a V-brace and strut tower brace, can be found on the tS to stiffen things up even more for sharper handling and responses. Optional Brembo brakes (standard on tS models) are razor-sharp and inspire confidence on and off the track, but the stock ventilated units are also up to the task, but will fade faster around the track. The BRZ is one of the most fun cars to drive fast, period.
The last decade has produced some of the best sports cars the world has seen, from the Hypercar trio from Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren, to the monstrous Dodge Demon and excellent Fiesta ST. The Toyota 86 and BRZ can count themselves amongst the greatest sports cars of the decade, and perhaps of the 21st century so far. What the BRZ has done for the sports car world is to bring the focus back to pure driving enjoyment. There's no hiding behind the massive power of a large displacement V8 or turbocharged four; instead, you have to work for every bit of performance on offer, and therein lies the pure beauty of driving the BRZ. It's not the fastest or most practical, but it's one of the most rewarding. Out on the road, the BRZ is only slightly compromised, especially in hardcore tS mode where the ride can get a bit harsh, but the interior is solid and features most of the amenities you'd expect from a 2020 car such as Apple CarPlay and automatic climate control. But we are disappointed that Subaru doesn't include active driver assistance tech. Starting from $28,845, the Subaru BRZ is a sports car that's one of the most fun to drive in this price range, even if some offer almost twice the power at the same cost.
The Limited model offers you everything you need to have a blast on the road or track and has proven itself time and time again as being a highly entertaining and capable sports car; however, there is always room for improvement, and the performance-tuned tS model offers just enough to keep fans happy in 2020. What the tS lacks in power it makes up for with even sharper handling, stopping power, and a few cool-looking exterior and interior appearance upgrades. The tS, as with the Limited features LED headlights and foglights, but gets a unique Ceramic White paint job and bronze STI alloy wheels. Behind those wheels lurk a set of high-performance Brembo brakes and Sachs shock absorbers. Inside the cabin, the tS gets a seven-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, SiriusXM satellite radio, and eight speakers. The seats feature exclusive red side bolsters and stitching. You also get dual-zone climate control, manually adjustable front seats, and LED interior lighting. For a total price increase of only $3,550, the tS is most certainly worth the extra cash for how much you get and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
When Toyota and Subaru announced that they would be collaborating on an RWD sports car, the motoring world stood up and took notice. Their creation would come to define the modern budget sports car scene and can already be considered a modern classic of sorts, but what is the difference between Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ? From the outside, the front fascias differ slightly, and obviously, the two have their own brand badging. The Toyota also sports a honeycomb mesh grille and angular foglights. The BRZ has an arguably more conservative look. Inside the 86 and BRZ share the same dimensions, and both sport soft-touch materials and leather combination seats. The BRZ, however, has a superior infotainment system. Cargo space is exactly the same. In terms of performance, these two cars are almost identical, but some say the BRZ is slightly quicker off the line and returns marginally better fuel economy, but the 86 beats it in terms of handling and ride quality. Most won't be able to tell the difference, and both base prices are in the high twenties to low thirties. To us, it all boils down to brand loyalty for these competitors.
Two of Subaru's most popular sports cars are also very closely priced, but offer wildly different approaches to performance driving, which makes this competition interesting. The 2020 WRX is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four engine that produces a healthy 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque sent to all four corners. This allows the WRX to accelerate in under five seconds with a perfect launch. Despite its extra weight and power, the WRX will still manage 27/21/23 mpg city/highway/combined in manual guise. The WRX is also the more practical car, offering more interior space and trunk space and is the easier car to live with on a day to day basis, but in comparison to the BRZ feels blunted and soft. We suggest getting the WRX if you need the space, enjoy a good popcorn flavored vape, and appreciate the shove of torque and woosh sound of the turbocharged engine. In a perfect world, we'd take both.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Subaru BRZ: