These days, any buyer with a penchant for performance will find a cavalcade of sports cars on the market that are ready to devour road courses and crush the quarter-mile. But a quick look at the window stickers of these road machines and the old trope rings true: Speed costs money - how fast do you want to go?
Luckily with the Subaru BRZ, there's no exorbitant entry fee. Starting at well under $30,000, the cheap and cheerful BRZ puts a smile on the face through the age-old trick of combining light weight, rear-wheel-drive balance, and a willing chassis. Fun and affordable, the BRZ is a breath of fresh air in a market where most sports cars run for a respectable yearly salary.
What's New for 2018
The biggest news for 2018 is the new tS package, which will be limited to only 500 units. Short for "tuned by STI," the tS includes a number of suspension tweaks, such as specially tuned coil springs and dampers, along with stiffeners for the front subframe and chassis. Under the hood, buyers will find a V-brace for additional rigidity, and an upgraded brake system handles stopping duty. To visually differentiate the tS, exclusive lightweight 18-inch wheels and a number of cosmetic touches are also accounted for, including a manually-adjustable carbon fiber wing that provides downforce as well as stylistic panache.
ALl 2018 BRZs now have a one-touch signal stalk, heated mirrors and a 'Track' mode that will banish the traction control and stability control systems unless the need for their intervention is dire. On the top two trims the Subaru Starlink infotainment and navigation system, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, is now standard.
Choosing Your Subaru BRZ
All BRZs - even the new tS - make do with a naturally aspirated, 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer-style engine. With the standard six-speed manual transmission, this motor makes 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque. Match up the boxer-four with the available six-speed automatic, however, and power output falls by five horsepower and five lb-ft of torque - another reason to stick with the three-pedal, short throw gearbox. While the power output may sound underwhelming, it is important to remember that the rear-wheel-drive BRZ weighs a scant 2800 pounds. That gives the car a lithe and tossable quality that larger and heavier cars lack - even those with significantly more power.
EPA-estimated fuel economy varies for each of the three available trims, but buyers can expect up to 24 miles per gallon city and 33 highway with the auto transmission and 21/29 with the stick shift.
A smattering of exterior hues are available, including the Subaru classic WR Blue Pearl (you're out of luck on the gold wheels, though). The interior follows the old Henry Ford mantra - any color you like, as long as it's black.
It should be noted that Toyota sells a carbon copy of the BRZ, called 86. The two cars are wholly identical but for a few comfort and convenience features and badging, so it may be worth it to cross-shop the 86 and see if a better deal can be brokered at the Toyota dealership. The few dollars saved by getting the 86 could fund that first set of autocross wheels and tires that you'll be sure to want after spending some time in this low-buck, lots-of-fun sports car.
The 2018 Subaru BRZ presents a classic sports car shape along with a willing engine and a terrific manual transmission. It's a bantam fighter that delivers excellent handling, although the rear seat shouldn’t be seriously considered for passenger use.
The 2018 Subaru BRZ is a four-passenger sport coupe that comes in three trims: Premium, Limited, and an all-new tS model limited to 500 units. The BRZ is rear-wheel drive and comes with a horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine paired with either a manual or an automatic transmission.
Our pick of the three trims is the Limited as it brings in features we like, including Subaru Starlink multimedia with navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. You’ll also find keyless entry, push-button start, Alcantara/leather-trimmed upholstery, and automatic climate control.
We didn’t select any options, the BRZ is nicely equipped as is. This means the manual is our choice because, well, that’s the whole reason for buying this car.
Model: 2018 Subaru BRZ Limited
Engine: 2.0-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine
Output: 205 hp (200 hp with the automatic)/156 lb.-ft. (151 with the automatic)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 21 City / 29 Hwy
Base Price: $29,305 (including an $860 destination charge)
Best Value Price: $29,305
The Subaru BRZ Premium has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It's a Boxer design and that means the cylinders are arranged horizontally for optimum balance and handling. This engine makes 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Reduce these numbers by five if you choose the automatic. Power is sent to the rear wheels by means of a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.
We find the BRZ one of the best cars in the business, excelling in all things steering, handling, and manual shifting. You’re not about to impress many people at the drag strip with its power, but you’ll find it a hoot to drive as you make your way down twisty roads, when carving corners, or pounding the track. The quick-shifting manual transmission combined with its equally fast steering will bring a smile to your face. A Torsen limited-slip differential delivers improved handling and grip.
Interior and Exterior
Subaru took a familiar design with the BRZ and boiled it down to a compact size. It has the look of a sports car, but not the power. Its proportionately long hood and small cockpit combined with its sporty stance make this model a looker.
Here, you’ll find a sharp profile, steep nose, sculpted flanks, and a falling roofline. A gaping grille, wraparound LED taillights, an available spoiler, and a diffuser are additional highlights. Even the wheel selection brings its own drama. Not a square inch of sheet-metal is wasted with this small coupe.
Inside, the BRZ offers room for four on paper. The front seats are snug, yet supportive, while the rear seats are ideal for cargo, not humans. The driver-oriented cockpit makes room for tall drivers and holds a passenger comfortably as well. We think people with track-designed driving on their minds will simply fold down the rear seat to accommodate a full set of track wheels and tires. For everyone else, the expanded storage space is welcome for week-long trips away from home.
The Best and Worst Things
Although not a sports car, the Subaru BRZ offers enough elements of one to give owners a taste of what’s available. Chances are you’ll be satisfied with the BRZ as it is or perhaps it will whet your appetite for a Porsche 911 or something more affordable, such as a Dodge Challenger.
We don’t like a car advertised for something it isn’t: a four-seater. Then again, we suppose insurance has something to do with offering a second-row seat.
Right For? Wrong For?
Shoppers who are exploring compact performance models from Ford, Volkswagen, and others would do well to put the BRZ on their shopping lists. A big plus is its rear-wheel drive.
For hardcore enthusiasts, the BRZ doesn’t match their needs. Sure, it's fun to drive, but if you’re looking to blow the wheels off the competition, you won’t. So look elsewhere.
The Bottom Line
The 2018 Subaru BRZ is nearly everything it says it is and that’s just fine for certain types of drivers. A turbo version seems highly unlikely, but that’s not an issue for owners who place an emphasis on balance and handling.