Model Tested: Subaru BRZ Limited HZE
Engine: 2-liter, horizontally opposed DOHC 4-cylinder; 205 horsepower; 156 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: 6-speed manual
EPA Ratings: 21/city, 29/highway, 24/combined
Base Price: $27,645
As Tested: $28,465
Overview: The Subaru BRZ is a no-frills sports car delivering a high-revving powerplant, nimble handling and almost-perfect balance with minimal compromises for comfort. It’s all about the driving experience. The nearest competitors are its twin sibling — the Toyota 86 (formerly the Scion FR-S) — and the Mazda Miata MX-5.
Walkaround: The confident profile looks like a hatchback but instead has a small trunk, enhancing body stiffness. The clean, contemporary silhouette showcases a long, low hood; low beltline; wraparound glass; flared fenders; arched roof; chiseled flanks and flamboyant, five-spoke wheels. The look is finished with LED headlamps and flanking LED foglights.
Interior: The cabin — neither all that comfortable nor versatile — is all business, with lots of hard plastic. The dashboard is well organized, with easy-to-read (even with polarized sunglasses) red/orange instrumentation. Our Limited model test-driver featured a 4.2-inch gauge cluster with readouts for oil and water temperature, battery voltage, a stopwatch for lap times, G-meter, braking-force and a steering-angle indicator. The bucket seats are sporty and comfortable for commuting but as we found on a road trip to Spokane and back, they need more lumbar support. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped. Controls for audio and navigation are touchscreen-only, requiring concentration for simple acts — like tuning the radio. The trunk has a pass-through, but not a lot of space.
Under the Hood: Like its sibling Toyota 86, the BRZ utilizes Subaru’s 2-liter horizontally opposed 205-horsepower, four-cylinder powerplant with Toyota’s fuel injection. The engine design — unique to these two cars — allows it to be mounted low to the ground for excellent center of gravity weight distribution. The short-throw six-speed manual gearbox is precise and perfect for this car. There is also a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, sport mode and downshift rev-matching.
Behind the Wheel: The Subaru BRZ has outstanding driving dynamics — especially on winding roads. The front-rear balance is excellent, with handling predictable and confident. Steering is fast and communicative, the suspension tight and compliant. However, road noise and a bumpy ride become tiring — especially on a trip.
Bottom Line: There’s almost no competition for the Subaru BRZ — except the Toyota 86 and MX-5. If you want an affordable, true sports car, the Subaru BRZ is hard to top.