There's an abundance of small, usable sports cars on the market at the moment, and the 2019 Subaru BRZ is one of the better ones. The BRZ takes an old-school approach to fun with a lightweight body, rear-wheel-drive layout, peppy engine, and small overall design. Luckily for enthusiasts on a budget, the BRZ won't break the bank with its affordable price tag. Also lucky for enthusiasts is the fact that the BRZ puts driving pleasure above all else.
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2019 Subaru BRZ Overview
What's New for 2019
The 2019 model year sees the introduction of a new limited-edition BRZ Series Gray model. As its name implies, the special-edition sports car comes with a bespoke gray paint scheme, black 17-inch wheels, black badges, and black exterior mirrors. Subaru has also updated the seven-inch infotainment system in the Limited trim, adding the ability to make over-the-air updates through wi-fi. The system now comes with “Tune Mix” and “Sports Flash.” The former mixes music from preset channels, while the latter provides owners with updates on specific sports teams of their choosing.
Choosing Your Subaru BRZ
Since it first came out in 2013, the BRZ has had to make do with a 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder engine. It's rated to make 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque with the six-speed manual transmission. Opting for the available six-speed automatic gearbox brings power down by five hp and lb-ft of torque.
Compared to other sports cars on the road, the BRZ may sound underpowered, but it weighs just 2,800 pounds. That means the two-door coupe can get to 60 mph in roughly 6.2 seconds. While not exactly quick by today's standards, that's still respectable and more than enough to have a good time every day. The BRZ's scant weight also gives the sports car excellent handling characteristics that few can match.
The other great thing about the lightweight design and small engine is fuel efficiency. Fuel economy for the BRZ is rated at an EPA-estimated 24 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, and 27 combined with the automatic transmission.
There are two available trims:
If the Subaru badge bothers you, or you manage to find a better deal at a Toyota dealership, the latter sells an identical model to the BRZ, which is called the 86. While we usually tend to lean toward the cheapest trim available when it comes to sports cars, the ability to get some creature comforts and even more performance draws us to the 2019 Subaru BRZ Limited. We'd tick the box for the available Performance Package and be content with one of the more enjoyable sports cars on the road.
2019 Subaru BRZ Review
What's a Toyobaru, anyway?: This is Subaru's version of the sports car co-developed with Toyota. The 'Toyobaru' twins (its sibling being the Toyota 86) eschew the size and complexities that seem to bloat most modern sports cars, and instead offer a slimmed-down waistline, unadorned interior, and nimble handling. All in all, it delivers.
Purpose-built interior: Don't expect leather or massaging seats here - this is a sparse cockpit rather than a lavish cabin. Materials don't try to hide their back-to-basics roots, and the monotonous expanse of black everything would make Henry Ford proud.
The backseat is there in the most technical sense: yes, there are seats in the back. But they're more for helping drop insurance premiums rather than anything else. Even children won't want to stay there long. We'd just keep the rear seats folded flat, or otherwise use them as an upholstered shelf that happens to have two seat belt anchors.
If this were a family car, all of the above would be demerits. But this isn't a family car - it's a driver's car through and through, and for those looking for uncompromised focus, the BRZ succeeds in its mission. Good visibility, low center of gravity, and well-bolstered seats give the car a sense of old-school purity and purpose. What it doesn't have in features or quality, it makes up for in adherence to that old, almost forgotten dogma of honest simplicity.
Nimble handling: The ace hiding up the BRZ's wheel well is how admirably it manages itself in the corners. With bigger, heavier cars, there's more drama and delay, even if it's only measurable in milliseconds. The 2,800 pound BRZ, by contrast, feels almost clairvoyant on winding roads. Approach, turn the wheel, and bam — the nose is pointing in the direction it was intended.
Partial credit for this can go to that boxer-style four-cylinder engine under the hood. The design splays the pistons out horizontally across from each other, in the process spreading the weight across a greater area and placing low in the chassis.
Despite this, the engine leaves us wanting. It makes a meager 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque, and the power just isn't there to keep up with the nimble chassis. The key to speed with this car is maintaining momentum - lose it and you're back at square one, which sits 9.3 seconds from 60 mph. As good as the handling is, a healthy jump in power would make for an even more invigorating experience.
A performance value: A lot of good sports cars sit out of reach for many enthusiasts, especially the younger set. The BRZ helps rectify this by carrying a price tag that's within reach for those not trying to take out a mortgage for a new performance car. A base Premium trim stickers for $25,795, while the nicer-trimmed Limited can be had for $28,645.
By contrast, a ragtop Miata begins at $25,730. This is the BRZ's closest competitor, not so much in apparent similarities - after all, one's a convertible two-seater and the other a four-seater hardtop - but in ethos and philosophy. Both are light, nimble, and low on power but high in smile-inducing fun.
You can try to compare a Mustang or Camaro, but their added heft and longer shadows make them feel more like grand tourers than lightweight sports cars. To pit either of the American coupes against the Subaru would only serve to highlight the disparity in their respective intentions.
Final thoughts: Cheap analog sports cars were once taken for granted rather than heralded and evangelized. But dastardly things like changing tastes and market effects and good business sense have established a new world order in this latest century. It's conspired to make something as seemingly mundane as the cheap rear-drive BRZ a rare bit of sparse unpolished sanctity in an era intent on luxifying everything from sub-compacts to heavy-duty trucks.
Some might not like the crudeness of the BRZ. Others might find fault with the rather mediocre fuel economy or lack of space or some other objective measure. These are all valid flaws, yet the rectifying of these flaws would undo the whole delicate knot that makes the BRZ as special and worthwhile as it is.
More money can buy a better sports car, but there are few sports cars as simple and visceral as the 2019 BRZ.