Ready For Action
The BRZ is a challenging car to give an opinion about. The simple reason is that there are many factors, albeit all are complicated.
For one, it's not 100% Subaru as this was accomplished in collaboration with Toyota; the latter's version being the 86, or GR86. It's also not 100% a Subaru in the traditional sense; only the rear wheels are being driven, not all. The changes are also not revolutionary; if anything, it's more of an evolution.
Don't get me wrong though: after spending a few days with the 2022 BRZ, I can honestly say I enjoyed it. I'm of the opinion that many of the things that Subaru (and Toyota) could improve and make better, they did. But what is clear to me is that they had some constraints, and let me explain why at the end.
The BRZ name first came about 10 years ago. It's hard to believe that the BRZ nameplate is a decade old now, but it is. Actually, I was at the local launch of the first Subaru in the Philippines without an all-wheel drive. I was also there when Toyota launched the 86 in Subic just a few months prior to Subaru. This time, it's Subaru's turn to launch first.
Walking up to it for the first time, I can say that I like the changes they made to the car. The front looks ready to slice through the air with the way the aero bumper and the hood blend together. The new headlights look sharp, as does the lower bumper. There are no foglights, but that's alright; I like the lines of the lower bumper and intake as is.
The profile of the vehicle hasn't changed much. Yes, the dimensions may have changed, but it still looks like a proper low-slung sports coupe, and the lines seem better than before. I even like that little vent just aft of the front wheels; it's fully functional to draw air out of the wheel wells and the brakes.
I like the cleaner design of the rear, along with that ducktail that has been incorporated into the trunk lid. Personally, the only thing I would change is the wheels. Given that this car is in a proper shade of Subaru's blue, I would have preferred gold on the wheels. It would have been such a Subaru combo.
The interior has likewise changed. The dashboard is new, as are many of the buttons, dials, and features. The climate control system has changed; the design is still similar, but the screens and dials have become a bit bigger. The audio system is new; it's a far cry from that old audio system we've seen in the previous generation thanks to things like Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The audio quality is just alright though.
Of course, there are some things that are very familiar (if not exactly the same) as before such as the steering wheel, the traction control panel, and a few others. The version we're driving is the automatic, which is why it has only two pedals instead of three and why the gearstick is that gate-type and not an H-type. It does have paddles on the steering wheel, but what I'm really more interested in is that new instrument cluster - it's fully digital, and somehow mimics the look of the pistons and crank of a boxer engine.
If the space has improved, it's not really that obvious. I would state that there are improvements with the headroom, the ergonomics, and so forth, but the space seems to be the same. There's also the barely usable rear seat. I mean if you're going to have someone sit there in the +2 rear seat then they better not be tall. It's really best for kids (and even has child seat anchors) or just for bags.
The rear seats can also fold down to expand the trunk space which is nice, if not necessary. Like before, the full-size spare really limits the trunk of the BRZ. They don't even try to cover it; instead, there's a cutout to let the spare through. It's good enough for some groceries or maybe a few rather slim bags for a weekend away, but that's about it.
No, the BRZ is definitely not a vehicle that fits the definition of practical; as such, we cannot judge it by the same yardsticks we use for other vehicles. What it is, however, is a pure driving machine. And it starts not with the engine, but with the monocoque.
Subaru (and Toyota) worked to really enhance the rigidity of the vehicle. And we're not talking a few percent here and there; we're talking a 50% improvement in rigidity overall. They say the front of the vehicle is also stiffer by more than that. They even reinforced the shock mounts. The wheelbase is slightly longer (+5), the track is wider (for nimbler handling), and they also worked on retaining that near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution front and rear. Yes, Subaru (and Toyota) really made sure their engineers worked on the vehicle.
But the main criticism of the BRZ (and 86) has always been the engine. Even in 2012, the chassis was already very capable, but the engine was kind of a letdown. Yes, it had 200 horses, but it didn't feel quick. The chassis could definitely handle more. Thankfully for the new one, the engine is much better: instead of a 2.0-liter boxer four, this one has a 2.4-liter boxer four. Instead of 200 horsepower, this one has 237. Torque is also up to 250 Nm.
I know some are wondering: Why not a turbo? That's very much a valid question, as Subaru's engines are known for being very receptive and very capable of handling turbocharging. The reason is easy to understand: it's about balanced control.
Even in automatic trim, the BRZ is a lively machine. The steering is precise. The suspension manages the body well. The tires are a good match for the car. Overall, it's an engaging car to drive around the bends. You can really find that balance in the corners for speed without fear of going over. Such is the measure of control. Once you start tickling that limit, the traction and stability control systems will even let you have fun kicking and holding the tail out a little bit before stepping in.
On the straights, it's not incredibly fast. That much is clear. But it sounds good and, quite frankly, the power is just right. I feel that they found the right balance for engine power in the BRZ. A turbo - especially a peaky and laggy one - will just disturb that control. Of course, that's up to you if you want to add a turbo later on, but what I would probably focus on before even adding power is upping the brakes. I think the BRZ could be so much better if it had more powerful anchors to dive on. And my pick will always be the manual for the BRZ; the automatic is good, but a good old-fashioned three-pedal is the way to go.
There are a lot of compromises though. As I said, don't expect good space. But what is really clear is that you shouldn't expect comfort in the BRZ, especially on less than desirable pavement. In EDSA, it's not good, but that was to be expected. Fuel economy is OK: 7.2 kilometers per liter in the city and 14.2 km/l on the highway if you're being efficient. But if you're looking for efficiency, maybe a sports car isn't for you.
The second-generation BRZ is a better car than the one it replaced. I think they did listen to their customers for the shopping list of things to work on for the new generation. Of course, I don't think many BRZ units will remain in this improved stock form. A lot of owners treat the BRZ and 86 as modern equivalents of the Civic SIR, as there is an extensive array of tuning options and customization combinations.
But as is, I already like it, and I can't wait to see how the other brother, the GR86, will feel. Truth be told, it's hard to distinguish the two just by the way they drove. It's splitting hairs, and I have a strong feeling these new-generation Toyobaru twins will be the same way.