Subaru BRZ — Driving enjoyment on a budget

By Jim Meachen

(August 14, 2022) Driving the 2022 Subaru BRZ took me back to a time long, long ago when I coveted an affordable new sports car, and the 1975 Datsun 280Z fit my budget and my need for a moderately priced cutting-edge machine. The 2022 Subaru BRZ is much like the '75 280Z in as much as both are — and were — desirable and affordable for those of us with a limited amount of money to realize our motoring dreams.

The 1975 280Z had sticker price of about $5,000, and that's probably close to our BRZ's test car price of $31,455 in 2022 currency. Although the BRZ can be purchased with a six-speed automatic, our test car came with a bigger fun factor — a six-speed manual. The Z-Car had a four-speed manual, and it was the first Z to get a fuel-injected inline 6-cylinder engine. That was a big deal in my thinking.

The modern BRZ has the edge in horsepower and performance with a 2.4-liter BOXER 4-cylinder making 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Z-Car's 2.8-liter inline six-cylinder made 149 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. With some slick shifting, it could do about 7.8 seconds from 0-to-60 and could hit 16.2 seconds in a quarter mile. Doesn't sound like much compared to cars 45 years later, but remember that was in the days when engine performance was retarded even in the so-called muscle cars.

Size-wise the Z -Car at 173 inches in length with a wheelbase of 90.7 inches is about the same size as the BRZ, which stretches out 168 inches with a 101.4 inch wheelbase. The biggest difference is the the Z is a two-seater, the BRZ has a small rear seat. Both cars are driven by the rear wheels, a notably departure from the standard all-wheel drive in all Subarus.

I found the BRZ — a fraternal twin to the Toyota GR86 — was not only fun to drive doing the chores of life, it provided weekend entertainment on my usual winding-road test track. Its straight ahead performance through easy-to-shift gears is measured at a satisfying 5.5 seconds from 0-to-60 and at 13.9 seconds/101 mph in a quarter mile.  

Gas mileage in combined city/highway driving for the Z-Car was around 20 mpg. The BRZ improves on that number, EPA-rated at 20 city, 27 highway and 22 combined. Unfortunately, the BRZ requires the more expensive premium gas, the '75 Z-car ran quite well on regular.

The 2022 BRZ kicks off the second generation with numerous improvements including updated entertainment, driving and safety technology. The original BRZ came to market in 2013 with a 2.0-liter flat four that makes 205 horsepower and just 156 pound-feet of torque. The updated engine elevates performance and the fun factor with 228 horsepower (a 23 horsepower gain and an increase of 28 pound feet of torque over the previous-generation).

The original BRZ took four years of development, numerous concepts and prototypes, and considerable hype before it went into production as a 2013 model.  Most car reviewers felt the compact sport coupe of a decade ago was well worth the wait. It was praised for its superb chassis, communicative steering, light curb weight, and fun -to-drive quotient.

But it had its downsides — it wasn't particularly fast and it was noisy inside. This new generation has made big improvements in those areas while retaining its fun-to-drive nature. A caveat, the noise level at highway speeds is still higher than we like.

Ride quality is firm, but livable for something that handles so well. Steering is eager, with response instant off center with the right amount of sensitivity. The steering allows you to place the car where you want it through a turn with the just-right suspension and grippy 18-inch Michelin Pilot sport summer tires. At the same time the six-speed manual is very precise making road carving through the gears very enjoyable.

We found the interior comfortable and easy to enter and exit, not something you can say for a lot of sports cars. In fact, writing partner Ted Biederman emphasized that he was impressed with how easy it was to get into and then haul an aging body out after a drive. And we found the bolstered seats comfortable even after a two-to-three hours behind the wheel. The cabin is spacious for front seaters, and we talked with a very tall reviewer who reported that he had no problem reaching a good driving position.

The interior is conservatively designed with infotainment screen mounted low on the dashboard enhancing forward visibility, with an interface that is easy to understand and has rapid response times. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment along with SiriusXM compatiability. We like that Subaru has included physical knobs for volume and tuning functions as well as several hard buttons. Two USB ports in the center armrest proved useful.

Unfortunately, the full suite of safety technology is inexplicably unavailable as standard equipment in with the manual transmission, but standard with the automatic. Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and rear emergency braking can be ordered as options.

The BRZ comes in two trim levels — Premium and Limited — starting at $28,990. Our Limited test car with manual transmission carried a bottom line of $31,455.

— Ted Biederman contributed to this review

2022 Subaru BRZ


Base price: $28,990; as driven, $31,455
Engine: 2.4-liter flat 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 228 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 184 pound-feet @ 3,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 101.4 inches
Length: 167.9 inches
Curb weight: 2,835 pounds
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 6.3 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (premium required)
EPA rating: 20 city, 27 highway, 22 combined
0-60: 5.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota GR86, Mazda MX-6 Miata, Ford Mustang EcoBoost 4-cylinder

The Good
• Extremely fun to drive
• Good front-seat space
• Attractively priced

The Bad
• Louder-than-we-like interior

The Ugly
• Tiny back seat