Every so often, I get to review a real sports car, and it's always a fun experience. When Subaru brought out the BRZ sport coupe back in 2012, it was a serious departure from the company's tried-and-true formula. Subaru built its reputation on all-wheel-drive sedans, wagons, and SUVs, but here was a racy little sport coupe with rear-wheel-drive. It went against everything Subaru buyers had come to expect, and it was glorious.
The BRZ has always been a classic momentum sports car, which means it has a comparatively low horsepower engine and relies on great handling to go fast. From the beginning, the BRZ came with a 2.0-liter engine that offered 197 horsepower, or 205 horsepower in some configurations. That was plenty of power most of the time, but we enthusiasts wanted just a little bit more.
Now for the first major redesign of the BRZ, we're getting what we wanted. Subaru chose the 2.4-liter engine out of its SUV lineup and tuned it to produce 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, and then mated it to an improved 6-speed manual transmission, or a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The new BRZ is still a rear-drive configuration, with a standard Torsen limited slip differential. With the manual gearbox, the BRZ will hit 60 MPH in just 6 seconds, and it's only a half-second slower with the automatic. As a suspension and handling aficionado, I was more interested in the new developments in the chassis and running gear. Subaru gave me more than I expected, or could have asked for in this area. The new BRZ has been fine-tuned with a few carefully selected improvements.
First, the new chassis is 50% more rigid than the old car, and lateral rigidity is improved by 60%. What that means in driver's terms is that the car's body isn't flexing when you take it into a corner. That delivers more precise wheel direction and weight transfer, giving your tires better contact with the pavement.
Next, the BRZ suspension got some important tuning. Subaru opted for firmer bushing materials, which again limits the suspension's motions to what you direct them to be with the steering wheel. Subaru also changed the rear sway bar mounts to the body instead of to the rear suspension subframe structure, taking advantage of that increased chassis rigidity to keep the BRZ flat in cornering.
Finally, Subaru tuned the springs and shocks for greater traction. It's well-known that Toyota's GR86 sport coupe is substantially the same car as the BRZ, but one area where the two companies diverge on their designs, and in the performance of the cars, is in the spring tuning. Subaru opted for a softer spring in the rear, and a firmer spring in the front. This selection helps the BRZ maintain rear traction in cornering, and allows weight to shift rearward to help the drive wheels maintain traction under acceleration. The result is that Toyota's car is more likely to deliver a little oversteer in hard cornering, while the Subaru stays more planted. To test this, we visited Lime Rock Raceway Park in Connecticut, and drove the BRZ on the 1.5-mile racing circuit and a smaller and more extreme handling course. I was able to get the BRZ to slide the rear end to get some oversteer, but it had to be very intentional. Of course, there's a lot more to the BRZ than just a track racing car. The new model gets newer and more comfortable seats, and Subaru's advanced EyeSight adaptive cruise control and safety system is included with the automatic transmission. By the way, the automatic does just as well on the race track as the manual.
On the dash, all BRZ models now get an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Advanced driver assistance features on the Limited trim include blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic assistance.
On the public roads, the new BRZ is a pleasure to drive. It's got that little more power that owners wanted, and the suspension is firm, but not too firm. This car is comfortable and rides more smoothly than you would expect for its size. The 2022 BRZ is a triumph of engineering and design, and well worth your consideration if you're interested in a sports car.
With the price range running just below or above $30,000, there's very little reason not to buy the upscale Limited trim, which also comes with 18-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport tires. The Automatic transmission adds $1,500 to any trim level, and there are good reasons to choose this option. You get the adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and automatic reverse braking along with the paddle-shifted transmission. On the other hand, sports car purists get to save a few bucks while enjoying one of the last manual transmissions available on the market. Either way, the 2022 Subaru BRZ is a great choice, and it will be available in early fall at our area Subaru dealers.
2022 Subaru BRZ Limited
Base price: $27,995
Price as tested: $31,456
Type: Sport coupe
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder (228 hp, 184 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 20/27
Overall length: 167.9 inches
Curb weight: 2,835 pounds
Final assembly: Gunma, Japan
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