The Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 twins are widely regarded as some of the best sports cars of the 2010s. Good-looking, affordable, rear-wheel drive and famously well-handling, enthusiasts love them. But how does the second generation compare? In short: very well.
We had the chance to drive the new Subaru BRZ in both automatic and manual guise and we were truly impressed. Subaru (and let’s be honest, it’s really a Subaru – Subaru makes the damn cars and they have a boxer engine) might have taken an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach with the second-gen BRZ but that’s by no means a bad thing.
While virtually every external body panel is completely different, under the skin, it’s more or less the same car: same fundamental chassis, same external dimensions, you’ll even notice it’s got the same steering wheel as later model BRZs. Also, like the previous generation, the Subaru is the better looking of the two cars. In our opinion.
But it’s not all show and no go. Its roof, hood and front fenders are made from aluminium to lower its centre of gravity, for example. The biggest change is the engine, which is now 0.4L bigger, about 20kW more powerful and develops peak torque at a lower engine speed – and without the big torque fall-off between 3,000–5,000 RPM the old donk had, which resulted from Toyota/Subaru tuning that engine for fuel economy.
On that note: one of the biggest changes the new BRZ has been blessed with is that it’s now wrapped with decent Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber from the factory instead of the Prius-spec economy tyres early examples of the first-gen car were burdened with.
But enough about all that. How does it drive?
Well, it’s an absolute hoot. Rev-happy, nippy and just a bit wild, the Subaru BRZ is full-fat driving fun. You feel like a real fighter pilot driving it: low-slung and dripping in Alcantara, its red-highlighted interior makes even average drives feel like high-stakes missions. It also sounds bloody amazing, something which is helped by a general lack of sound insulation. No sound being piped in here.
It’s also proper fast. As Motor points out, its 0-100km/h time of 6.21 seconds eclipses its more powerful rivals, like the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf GTI and the BMW 128ti as well as performance car icons like the Honda NSX or the Nissan S15 Silvia/200SX.
It’s also much cheaper than any of those cars, with Australian pricing starting from AU$40,290. For reference, that’s cheaper than a Mazda MX-5, which isn’t as fast and doesn’t have a fixed roof (and isn’t nearly as good-looking, but that’s subjective, I suppose).
Unlike the previous gen, which always felt like a bit of a blank canvas that really invited and needed modification (i.e. a big fat turbo), the new Subaru BRZ is an amazingly complete package that doesn’t need to be fiddled with.
Be warned: the Subaru BRZ is not a car for the faint-hearted. The manual box might have a nice, short, notchy throw but the clutch is incredibly heavy – it’s a real workout for your left leg. The ultra-low seating position and aggressively bolstered buckets are comfy but a pain to get in and out of. The rear seats are more or less theoretical; one of my mates got in the back and his legs haven’t been the same since.
But that’s not the brief for the BRZ. It’s not meant to be a luxury car or some V8 monster. It’s meant to be an honest, unadulterated, small sports car that handles like nobody’s business and revs to infinity – and it delivers on that in spades. It’s an enthusiast’s machine that has enough mod cons to be easy to live with (like its great EyeSight driver-assist system, for example) but stripped back enough to appeal to automotive purists.
The fact that it’s also so affordable just sweetens the deal. It’s the best-value sports car in Australia by a country mile. It’s why we also highly recommend picking one up in manual as opposed to auto – not because the auto box is bad (because it isn’t) but because you’ll save extra coin and the car really deserves it.
Waiting lists for this thing are already pretty long, but earlier this month, Subaru reopened its order books for MY23 BRZs. We’d recommend you get in there quick – we don’t see demand abating any time soon.
Find out more about the new Subaru BRZ at Subaru’s online showroom here.