Subaru BRZ

2016 Subaru BRZ

The Subaru BRZ is pure, and that cant be said about many cars. Toyota and Subaru developed a rear-wheel-drive coupe that delivers a true sports car driving experience, while keeping it simple and affordable. It has succeeded like no car since the Mazda Miata.

The trick is defining, let alone achieving, that true, pure part. Design-wise, what that meant was balance, the top priority. Weight distribution. Direct steering. Tossability. Take that chassis and bolt in a responsive and high-revving engine, a tight gearbox. Then step aside and hear the cheers for the fun you have brought back.

The BRZ is a 2+2, which basically means 2 passengers + 2 packages. Its in its fourth year, as being the oddball rear-wheel-drive sports car in the Subaru lineup of all-wheel-drive vehicles.

Seat-of-the-pants handling makes the BRZ a blast to drive. It makes you forget your front-drive sport coupes, sweet but detached from the road. If you want to be delighted by the act of driving, down in the trenches, the BRZ or its clone, the Scion FR-S.

The BRZ is powered by a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, called an H4 or boxer engine. Because the pistons are horizontal, the engine can be mounted lower and farther back in the chassis, something that racecar builders constantly chase to find the magic of balance and handling. BRZ brings that low center of gravity, one of the lowest in any automobile made today.

The engine has direct injection but isnt turbocharged; it makes a nice 200 horsepower, and is eager to rev through the six gears in the standard manual transmission. The throw is short and precise, sports-car purity achieved. However, automatic transmissions are a reality, even in racing now, so the BRZ makes one available, and it gets our approval. Paddle shifters, sport mode, and downshift rev matching.

Its a well-developed and efficient engine, and with the BRZs light weight, 2800 pounds, this sports car delivers 34 miles per gallon on the highway. And though the chassis is light, its high-tensile steel and ring-like body structure help to earn a five-star crash-test rating from the NHTSA.

For 2016, the touch-screen and infotainment systems, previously pretty poor (low priority), have been hugely upgraded. The 6.2-inch touchscreen controls HD Radio, satellite radio, CD, Bluetooth audio streaming, and iTunes tagging, with a USB and auxiliary port. Its also compatible with smartphone apps for Aha, Pandora, Stitcher, and more. Also for 2016, a rearview camera is standard.

The 2016 BRZ features a special edition of 500 cars, called Series HyperBlue.

2015 Subaru BRZ

The Subaru BRZ is a fun, affordable, rear-wheel-drive sport coupe thats small, nimble and tossable. Its fun and easy to drive on a race track.

For 2015, Subaru BRZ gets a revised suspension that makes it even more stable in hard cornering. Also new is the 2015 BRZ Series Blue edition, which will be limited to 1,000 units in the U.S. Other minor changes for the 2015 BRZ lineup include a shark fin antenna that replaces the outgoing pole-style antenna, and a revised interior trim.

Built in cooperation with Toyota, the Subaru BRZ is very similar to the Scion FR-S.

Subaru BRZ is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine that makes 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The standard 6-speed manual gearbox is way fun, carefully designed like the rest of the car to be that way. Theres an optional 6-speed automatic, which comes with paddle shifters.

Like the FR-S, the seats and the engine of the BRZ sit lower than most cars, resulting in a low center of gravity that equates to excellent handling with very little body roll. The suspension is firm and hugs the road, though some may find it a little harsh for road trips or daily driving.

Rear-wheel drive is a modern first for Subaru, which has dedicated itself to the beauty of all-wheel drive. With no drivetrain to the front wheels, the engine could be located farther rearward, which means better balance and handling. And the BRZs light weight of 2762 pounds, using high-tensile steel in the frame with an aluminum hood, adds to the cars agility. In short, it is a classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports machine.

Skilled, experienced drivers can throw the BRZ around aggressively, thanks to non-intrusive stability control that has five levels, including one for track driving. The summer performance tires that come standard would handle the track just fine, but enthusiasts who want to swap out for sticker tires will be pleased to know the BRZs trunk, with its fold-flat seat, will hold a set of four mounted tires.

Styling of the Subaru BRZ is attractive but not over the top, and some of the eye-popping colors available on the Scion FR-S are not offered.

Back seats are small and are best left to children or gear. This is primarily a two-seat car. The interior is simple and comfortable, with the focus clearly on the driving. Fabric seats are rugged and stylish, with excellent bolstering. Alloy pedals and red-stitched leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are cool. We especially liked the tachometer mounted in center that includes a digital readout for speed thats very easy to read.

However, the Subaru BRZ, like the Scion FR-S, lacks certain convenience features such as steering-wheel mounted controls, and some buttons on the dash dont light up at night. That means extra distraction when trying to change the station or toggle through menu items. Also, the touchscreen looks more like an aftermarket edition, and the interface isnt easy to use.

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 2015 Subaru BRZ is 22/30/25 mpg City/Highway/Combined, and 25/34/28 mpg for the efficient 6-speed automatic. One important thing to note is these numbers are achieved using Premium gasoline, which lessens the BRZs overall affordability over time. But if you want a sports car, youre likely willing to buy Premium gas.

The most direct competitor to the 2015 Subaru BRZ is the Scion FR-S. Although its a convertible, the Mazda Miata MX-5 is the closest rival when it comes to the track, though we think the BRZ and FR-S handle just as well. Base models of the pony cars are around the same price point: Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and the much larger Dodge Challenger.

2014 Subaru BRZ

The Subaru BRZ, an all-new sports car, has been very carefully designed to be a winner by Toyota and Subaru engineers and designers, working largely together. There was a clear purpose in mind: make an affordable sports car without luxury add-ons or mega horsepower, but that is still state of the art when it comes to efficiency in the powertrain and chassis. It took a clean sheet of paper to do that.

The Subaru BRZ is rear-wheel drive, and its rear-wheel-drive layout is a key aspect to what makes it great. The BRZ a 2+2 coupe, with jump seats in the rear for children or stuff like gym bags.

The engine is a new 2.0-liter with the latest direct port injection, making 200 horsepower normally aspirated. The standard 6-speed manual gearbox is way fun, carefully designed like the rest of the car to be that way. There's an optional paddle-shifting 6-speed automatic, if you don't want to deal with a clutch pedal. It's the only option for the car, beyond two models, Premium and Limited.

The suspension is tight; it negates the bumps and hugs the road, and doesn't transmit anything harsh or jarring. The handling is more flick-able than any sports car out there, including the Mazda MX-5 (although not counting the nearly identical Scion FR-S because anything we say about the BRZ is also true for the FR-S). Between the suspension, turn-in from a quick steering ratio, and manual gearbox, the BRZ offers almost as much pure sports car fun as the MX-5, as long as you don't need the wind in your hair and no back seats to feel like you're driving a sports car.

Subaru boasts about the low center of gravity making the BRZ special, and rightly so. The center of gravity is 1.9 inches lower than that of the Porsche Cayman. The whole car, including the new engine, was designed with that in mind. A low center of gravity, along with balanced front-rear weight distribution, is what makes that excellent handling.

We got good seat time on some of our favorite twisty roads, and had a ball. Later we drove the BRZ on Oregon back roads at an event called Run to the Sun, hosted by the Northwest Automotive Press Association. We drove as aggressively as we dared, with no worries about losing control, also thanks to the standard non-intrusive stability control that has five levels, including one for track driving. The BRZ will be a blast at track days or autocross events. In fact, the interior was designed with room to carry four tires, with the seatbacks of the rear jump seats folded flat. The standard summer performance tires are fine on the track, but some track-day drivers and most autocross drivers go for stickier rubber so they'll be able to drive to the event on the street tires and change over to the race tires for the event.

Rear-wheel drive is a modern first for Subaru, a company that's been totally all-wheel drive almost forever. With no drivetrain to the front wheels, the engine could be placed farther rearward to achieve better balance; the engine is 9.5 inches farther back than the 2.0-liter engine in the Subaru Impreza. And the engines are slightly different at the intake manifold and oil pan, so the BRZ engine could also be mounted 2.4 inches lower than the Impreza's. The BRZ's light weight of 2762 pounds, using high-tensile steel in the frame with an aluminum hood, adds to the car's agility.

The styling doesn't turn heads, unless maybe the BRZ is a flashy color, for example copper like the Scion FR-S comes in. If the BRZ's lines resemble any other car, it might be the same-sized Nissan 370Z, or the Mazda RX-8, a car that might be the best comparable. The BRZ is super low, with a roof height of only 50.6 inches, or .8 inches lower than that of the Porsche Cayman. From the side, its distinction is in the humps on the fenders harboring 17-inch wheels and tires. The roof has a wide groove, and that adds distinction, and the sideview mirrors are sharpened, which is also neat; but there are some cheap plastic bits on the sides and nose of the car.

The interior is tight, simple and comfortable. That's tight as in design, not lack of space. There's no apologizing for the fabric seats, which are rugged and stylish with excellent bolstering. Little kids will love the two seats in the back. Navigation is standard and blessedly simple. Alloy pedals and red-stitched leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are cool. We especially liked the tachometer mounted in center that includes a digital readout for speed that's very easy to read. In fact, the speedometer redundant.

Fuel mileage is good, with the 6-speed manual delivering an EPA-estimated 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined, and the 6-speed automatic bringing better numbers, 25/34/28 mpg. But that's on Premium fuel, because of the high compression ratio of the direct port injection engine, so fuel cost isn't as good as mpg appears.


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