A product of Subaru's joint venture with Toyota, the low-slung, four-passenger BRZ coupe sticks tenaciously to classic sports car virtues: namely low weight, petite dimensions, and rear-wheel drive. It’s a refreshing—even charming—formula that places agility and driving joy above brute force.
When the BRZ debuted for 2013, Toyota’s Scion brand offered a nearly-identical FR-S. Now, for 2017, the Scion brand is history but Toyota has renamed its version of this sport coupe the 86.
What's New for 2017
In addition to revised styling, the 2017 BRZ gets a number of modifications that aim to improve handling and performance. Engine output with manual shift is now 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque (each figure up by 5). The final drive ratio on manual-shift models has been lowered to quicken acceleration. A new $1,195 Performance Package for the manual-shift Limited includes Brembo front/rear brake calipers and bigger rotors, SACHS performance shock absorbers, and 17-inch black alloy wheels.
Front bumpers have been redesigned, below full-LED C-shaped headlights. A new pedestal-style rear spoiler is standard. Springs and dampers have changed, with more chassis reinforcement added. New 17-inch alloy wheels are standard, as is Incline Start Assist. Only 500 examples of a new Series.Yellow model, priced at $29,695, will be produced.
Choosing Your Subaru BRZ
Every BRZ carries a 2-liter four-cylinder engine, now producing 205 horsepower, paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Limited-trim models have the option of a six-speed automatic. The BRZ can travel from 0 to 60 mph noticeably faster with manual shift, but the automatic boosts fuel-efficiency—from 25 mpg combined to 28 mpg. To bolster handling, you get a limited-slip rear differential and summer performance tires on 17-inch alloy wheels.
The trunk is predictably puny, but cargo space really opens up when you fold down the rear seat. That’s no great loss, since it’s too small for average-size passengers anyway.
The BRZ is available in three trim levels this year:
As usual, Subaru offers no factory options for the BRZ, except for the Performance Package. Numerous dealer-installed accessories are available.
The automatic transmission interferes with performance more than we expected. The manual is a better choice unless fuel economy is your chief concern. Note that Series.HyperBlue production is limited to 500 units, so don't hesitate if you can't live without its striking looks.
Since BRZ's debut in 2013, fans and critics alike have been begging for some updates, but the automaker resisted until now. For 2017, the BRZ gets a slight uptick in power, an updated look, and a new Performance package.
Are these changes enough to keep the fans happy and the critics quiet?
Pricing and Equipment
The Subaru BRZ represents one heck of a value in the sports car segment, mostly due to its simple design. It starts at $26,315 and comes standard with a respectable number of features, including:
17-inch alloy wheels
Automatic LED headlamps
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Eight-speaker audio system
Buyers looking for additional features can opt for the Limited model, which starts at $28,465. The Limited trim also has an available Performance package ($1,195) that adds black alloy wheels, four-wheel Brembo brakes, Sachs performance dampers, and a retuned suspension.
The 2017 BRZ gets a nice horsepower boost to 205 ponies on models with the manual transmission. Automatic models remain at 200 horsepower. What’s more, this engine is plenty happy to hit the higher revs. We found the six-speed manual transmission to be precise and easy to use when ripping through the gears.
Rev-happy 2-liter boxer engine
Precise six-speed manual transmission
Well-tuned steering and suspension systems
Low torque output has plagued the BRZ since its debut, and this continues with the 2017 model, which produces just 156 pound-feet (or 151 pound-feet with the automatic). This low torque doesn’t lend itself well to quick acceleration, meaning you have to hang in the 4,500 to 6,500 rpm range to have real fun. While many folks crave the old sports car formula, the BRZ seems to rely a little too heavily on this. It lacks any real modern performance bits.
Low torque output
Reduced horsepower with auto transmission
Old-formula sports car
The upright driving position makes for great vision on the track. We also noted that, for its class, its 6.9 cubes of cargo room is respectable. Sure, you won’t want to take a cross-country trip in it, but it’s fine for shorter trips.
Upright driving position delivers great visibility
Roomy front seats
Decent cargo room for its class
While the front seats have plenty of room, the rear seats are tiny and offer only 29.9 inches of legroom. This would cramp even young children. The audio system’s lack of physical buttons makes it hard to operate by feel.
Tiny rear seat
Very firm front seats
Audio system lacks physical buttons
The Most Pleasant Surprise
The BRZ’s handling on the track is nothing short of incredible. Sure, it’s an old-style sports car, but this is somewhat refreshing in competition. The engine is also tuned for track use, as it seems most comfortable at higher revs.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
Subaru should just make the BRZ a two-seater. It's quite clear that only the front-seat occupants matter to this tiny sports car. The rear seat is utterly useless for anyone over eight years old.
The Bottom Line
The BRZ is exactly what Subaru intended it to be: a tried-and-true sports car that follows an old-school formula. This doesn’t lend itself well to competing against modern sports cars, but it does fit certain niche buyers like a glove.