When I first heard Subaru had redesigned its BRZ sports car for 2022, I was prepared to be disappointed. Not because I didn't think the changes weren't needed, but because I thought they might undermine the original concept of the affordable back-to-basic sports car first introduced in 2012. Which sporty cars haven't gotten larger and less fun to drive over the years?
But to my surprise the newest version of the BRZ is a no-compromise improvement. It looks a little more mature, but is still low and sleek on the outside, and refreshingly simple on the inside. The engine has more power and the upgraded suspension improves handling without degrading the ride. And the BRZ is still one of the only vehicles on the planet available with a six-speed manual transmission for serious enthusiasts.
The BRZ was and still is an offbeat model for Subaru. It is their only vehicle that does not come standard — or even available — with all-wheel-drive. But that does not mean the company is not sharing its other technologies. The 2022 version includes Subaru's EyeWatch safety system, which is among the most advance available.
Although technically a 2+2, the hardtop fastback styling is instantly recognizable as inspired by such such earlier sports cars as the Triumph TR6 and Datsun (now Nissan) Z-cars. Although that eliminates top down, fun-in-the-sun driving, it is much more practical in the wet Pacific Northwest, where it rains most months.
Subaru and Toyota cooperated to launch the original BRZ and closely related Scion FR-S. They started at around $25,000 and topped out at slightly more than $30,000. When Scion when out of business in 2016, it was rebranded the Toyota GR86, which was also redesigned for 2022. They now start at around $27,000 and come fully equipped at around a very reasonable $32,000.
Both cars feature Subaru "Boxer" flat-4 engines. The original 2.0-liter versions generated between 197 and 204 horsepower. The new engine is the company's 2.4-liter version rated at 228 horsepower. Although that is not much by today's standards, given how smaller the BRZ is, it is more than enough to overcome the underpowered reputation of the original version, especially with the manual transmission that allows drivers to maximize the broad power band.
The suspension has also received some important tuning. Among other things, Subaru has changed the rear sway bar mounts to the body instead of to the rear suspension subframe structure, taking advantage of 50% increase in rigidity to keep the BRZ flat in cornering. The springs and shocks have also been tweaked for greater traction. The result is more precise steering and even flatter cornering.
Of course the BRZ and GR86 are not the first retro sports cars on the market. Mazda beat them back in 1989 with the wildly successful Miata MX-5 sports car, which is now in its fourth generation. It was joined by the mechanically similar Fiat 124 that was released in 2016. Both are available as convertibles and priced about the same as the Subaru and Toyota. Despite their affordable origins, they are all serious sports cars — which means hard to get in and out of, cramped interiors, and occasionally punishing rides as trade offs for the fun.
The MX-5 and 124 are both more refined than the BRZ and GR86, which have a rough-and-tumble feel that is more in character with the early sports cars that inspired them. That offers enthusiasts a genuine choice among the affordable sports cars on the market. After spending a week with the redesigned 2022 Subaru BRZ, I suspect many will appreciate its more visceral feel. Try it and see,
2022 Subaru BRZ Limited
Base price: $27,995
Price as tested: $31,456
Type: Sport 2+2
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder (228 hp, 184 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 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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