2016 Subaru BRZ — Skip the automatic transmission

By Jim Prueter

(June 1, 2016) The Subaru BRZ along with its nearly identical twin sibling, the Scion FR-S, was first introduced in late 2012 as a 2013 model. As a point of reference, the Scion, a Toyota brand, was discontinued earlier this year. However the FR-S was rebadged as a Toyota and is now sold as the Toyota 86.

These twin sports coupes were jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru. Subaru contributed the chassis and the engine, a “boxer” flat-2.0-liter four-cylinder that delivers 200 horsepower that is neither turbo nor supercharged. It comes in your choice of a standard 6-speed manual transmission or the optional 6-speed automatic transmission, and most important, it’s rear-wheel drive.

By the way, take my advice and skip the automatic transmission.

The Toyota design studio is responsible for the graceful styling, it looks fantastic and continually turned heads with double-takes that might be partially  responsible because of the gorgeous hyper-blue exterior color. Subaru’s parent, Fuji Heavy Industries in Ota, Gunma, Japan, builds the vehicles. Toyota is a minority partner of Fuji.

The BRZ is sold in two trim levels; a well equipped Premium model that includes navigation, a backup camera, and is only sold with the 6-speed manual transmission for $26,190 including destination and delivery charges. There are a few dealer-installed options such as a rear deck lid spoiler and a fog light kit.

The second trim level is the Limited, our test vehicle at $28,485 that adds Alcantra/leather-trimmed upholstery, keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control and, fog lights. The 6-speed automatic transmission is an additional $1,100.

Other standard features on our Limited trim model include 17-inch black finish aluminum alloy wheels, 215/45 R17 summer-performance tires, sport-tuned suspension, high-intensity headlamps, 6.2 Infotainment system with high-definition radio/CD player, Sirius-XM & USB port w/iPod connectivity, cruise control, tilt-telescoping steering wheel, power windows, locks and mirrors, heated front seats and a rear spoiler.

Inside, our leather trimmed seating was offset by the hyper-blue stitching about the instrument panel, seats and emblazoned BRZ lettering on the upper seat backs. The flat-blade operational switchgear is what you would find in a track car or exotic high-performance sports car. They look and feel great. Sun visors swivel but don’t slide. The BRZ is a four seater with plenty of room up front, but very small rear seats are mostly useless except for a few packages.

The BRZ is actually smaller than it looks, sits extremely low to the ground.  I’m 6-6 tall the roof of the car is just a few inches above my waist. It’s extremely hard to get in and out of especially if you’re parked next to another vehicle.

On the road the BRZ is one of the most fun and engaging vehicle’s I’ve driven all year. A phenomenon I’ve experienced in few cars is that I often had the perception that I was driving faster than I actually was. It was an absolute hoot to drive and felt fas
t, even though it isn’t, particularly.

Now I’ll readily admit that 200 horsepower isn’t much for a sports coupe but the brilliance of this vehicle is that the suspension is so f
antastically tuned, the center of gravity so perfectly assigned, and the engine so high revving with peak torque of 151 lb-ft not achieved until a stratospheric 6,500 rpms, you can slam this car around curves down shifting, up shifting and pushing it around unlike any of the modern super high-performance pony cars wish they could.

Adding to the thrill of driving the BRZ is the fact that it is conspicuously under-tired and actually shod with the same tire that comes on the 2016 Toyota Prius Hybrid. With most of the weight of the BRZ on the front wheels, 54/46 — front to rear distribution of its 2,800 lbs, it’s nearly impossible to get it to understeer. The driving feel of the BRZ is right out of the Mazda MX-5 playbook with the short throw manual transmission just snicking through the gears. 

Bottom line, the BRZ hits numerous sweet spots that the muscled up 500-plus horsepower rocket launchers can’t deliver. In a straight drag race it isn’t even close, the horsepower and torque just isn’t there. But who cares, this car is 40 percent of the price with 80 percent of the fun.

Vital Stats

Price: $26,190 - $28,485
Price as Tested: $28,485
Seating: 4
Engine: 2.0L “Boxer” 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 200
Fuel Economy: 22/30 – City/Highway

Fab Features

Phenomenal handling and steering feel
Comfortable, sporty seats
Loaded with standard features at a bargain price