2022 Subaru BRZ First Drive: Better Than Before, A Legit Sports Car Around $30,000
Following years of hype and car show concepts, the first-generation Subaru BRZ hit showrooms in 2012. Co-developed with Toyota (which initially sold it as the Scion FR-S), the BRZ was aimed at delivering a modern compact “driver’s car” at a reasonable price and hit the nail on the head. A new generation of sports car enthusiasts took to the so-called “Toyobaru” twins for what they were meant to be: affordable, reliable sports cars.
The 2022 Subaru BRZ hopes to continue that relationship, adding a fresh design and a larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder boxer engine to keep things interesting.
As was the case with its predecessor, Toyota handled much of the planning and design of the new joint-venture sports car while Subaru took on engineering and manufacturing at its plant in Gunma, Japan.
Before anything else, the 2022 BRZ is a looker. The front end is much improved from its slightly awkward predecessor and the drawn-in cockpit box gives an illusion of wider hips (despite width being unchanged over the previous car), giving the whole car a more athletic aesthetic. The rear is tidied up, too, now featuring an integrated spoiler between the taillights. The “double-bubble” roof panel bumps are a clever nod to vintage racers and are the icing on the BRZ’s well-baked cake. Altogether, the handsome new car is only an inch longer than the previous BRZ, with most other dimensions only negligibly different (0.39-inch wider rear track, 0.39 inch lower roofline).
Inside, the interior plastic can come across as a bit cheap in places and the rear seats are really a glorified parcel shelf unless the driver is closer to five feet tall than six. With 6.3 cubic-feet of storage, the BRZ can fit four wheels and tires for track day fun—or perhaps even a mountain bike—with the seats folded down. But those quibbles disappear once you pull away from a stop.
Enthusiasts simultaneously praised the original BRZ’s old-school handling and feel while bemoaning the 2.0-liter Boxer engine’s lack of torque, with the full 151 pound-feet available at a peaky 6,400 rpm. The new car features a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated boxer engine with Toyota’s D-4S fuel injection system. With its larger bore, it produces 228 horsepower at 7,000 rpm (23 more than the previous model, and 28 more in automatic transmission models). More importantly, it achieves its maximum 184 pound-feet of torque a staggering 2,700 rpm sooner—at 3,700 rpm.
The 15% increase in torque is one thing; being able to access it nearly 3,000 rpm earlier than the previous car is a revelation. Moreover, with the bored-out 2.4-liter making 23 extra horsepower, it’s now possible to use the throttle in addition to the steering wheel to make corrections mid-corner. The result? Bigger smiles and faster corner exit speeds.
The BRZ’s four-wheel independent suspension sees McPherson-type struts up front and a double-wishbone in the rear with an anti-roll bar. A limited-slip differential is also standard on all 2022 BRZ models. The same four-wheel disc brakes are found across the 2022 BRZ line: 11.6-inches up front, 11.4-inches in the rear.
Happily, the steering is every bit as direct as that of the previous car. Its electric assist is a little light across the board, but it instantly translates inputs to the front wheels. Perhaps more crucial is the chassis with which it’s paired, which moves as a singular unit in the same moment the wheel is turned. As a result, in autocross and on track, the BRZ is one of the very few new cars that can make “doing the dance” at the limit of adhesion fun—and easy. This intuitive adjustability is the thing that makes good sports cars great, and it’s going out of style faster than stable weather patterns.
There are some nits to pick if one really wanted to, however. The automatic transmission’s sport mode is improved, and it’s blessedly not a CVT, but we heartily recommend the manual. And while we get the need for a suspension that doesn’t rattle your fillings on daily basis, a little more stiffness would arguably be well within the purview of a dedicated sports car like this one. Things can sometimes feel slightly floaty through high-speed transitions.
Gas mileage is good, but not great, at an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city and 27 highway with the manual transmission and 21/30 with the optional automatic.
The truth of it is, it’s hard to find fault with the 2022 BRZ. It fixes the torque issues of the previous model while sharpening up the looks and holding onto that car’s delightful balance. All of that while managing to stay at a starting price of just under $30,000. It does what it sets out to do, and does it exceptionally well.
The 2022 BRZ starts at $28,955 for the base-model Premium with a six-speed manual transmission, including a $960 destination fee. With the available six-speed automatic transmission, the BRZ Premium prices out at $30,555, adding 18-inch wheels (the base has 17s with all-season tires) shod in grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. The top-line BRZ Limited starts at $31,455 with a manual transmission and $33,255 with an automatic.