Overview: Subaru’s BRZ, which was co-developed with Toyota and also has been sold as a Scion—it will be transitioned to Toyota’s 2017 lineup after Scion dies—first appeared for the 2013 model year. Inexpensive, rear-drive, and a ball to drive, the BRZ technically has no direct competitors, unless you count low-end versions of the larger, heavier Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro or perhaps the smaller Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster. The BRZ is set apart by its ultra-low center of gravity (attributable mainly to the boxer engine), its affordable MSRP, and its daringly oversteer-friendly chassis tuning.
What’s New: Not much has changed for the BRZ since we completed a 40,000-mile long-term test of a 2013 model. There have been mild suspension tweaks and a few special-edition cars, including the Series.HyperBlue model we drove for this review. (This special edition adds $2655 to the base price.) Otherwise, the sports coupe has remained basically the same animal. For 2016, Subaru’s latest Starlink infotainment system, complete with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, solves one of our biggest gripes with the BRZ. The previous head unit was terrible, suffering from tiny buttons, both virtual and real, as well as laggy response. The new setup is simpler to use, and while the onscreen buttons still could be larger, their number has been reduced and they’ve been spread out.
We could start and end this discussion by stating that the BRZ is a lightweight, sharp-handling, rear-drive sports coupe that comes standard with a manual transmission. (A surprisingly decent automatic is optional.) The chassis is nicely balanced, while the seating position drops the driver’s body square to the pedals and steering wheel, both of which make tackling a track or a twisting back road easy work. Even with relatively little power, the BRZ can coax its tail into a drift at nearly any speed. And the BRZ even returns reasonable fuel economy.
Compared with a Mazda Miata, the interior is capacious, at least for those up front. The two rear seats are severely lacking in legroom unless front passengers smash their chairs far forward, so they’re best used like a Porsche 911’s rear seats—as a stowage area. The front seats are grippy, offering great support without being constricting. Sightlines in most every direction are clear and open, save for the rear-three-quarter view, where thick C-pillars obstruct the driver’s vision. Although shallow, the seven-cubic-foot trunk is usefully shaped; it can be expanded by folding down the rear seatbacks.
What We Don’t Like: The BRZ’s greatest negative, intrusive noise, isn’t so much a stumble as it is a consequence of one of our favorite things about the car, its low weight. Efforts to drive down the BRZ’s mass (and cost) in development mean that it features very little in the way of sound deadening, lending the coupe a thin-walled feel. Tire, wind, and engine noise combine to become a constant hum on the highway, and there’s so little sound attenuation inside that braking sharply at low speeds stirs up sloshing sounds from the fuel tank that are audible inside the car. Another consequence of the light weight is that crosswinds can blow the Subaru around.