2017 Subaru BRZ new car reviews

The internet has doled out a lot of mixed opinions on the BRZ and its twin, now called the Toyota 86, since their launch a few years ago. We've seen them succeed at a national level in autocross and now it's time to test out the 2017 version.

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David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I’ll cut to the chase on this one: Don’t be surprised if one day there’s a BRZ regularly parked in my garage. I have become a huge fan. In fact, I think that Mrs. Editor pretty much expects me to come home with one in the near future. (Make mine WR Blue or Dark Gray, please.)

Not enough power? I fully admit that faster cars exist. Heck, I own some. You know, I’m happy with the balance of the BRZ. On track it’s right in my comfort zone, where on the street I can have some fun without needing triple-digit speeds. Add a turbo from the factory? Okay, but now you’re also adding extra weight, complexity and price. I’m looking at reality here, not the pipe dreams of those who aren’t serious shoppers.

Not smooth enough? I have owned Hondas. I have owned and lived with plenty of Subarus. I like the fact that this feels like a Subaru when you fire it up. As a friend once said when discussing his preference for the 911’s 915 gearbox over the later G50 ‘box, Do you want it to shift like a Porsche or like a Camaro? It’s okay for a car to have some personality.

Styling? I think it looks upmarket. I wish it were a hatchback, but since we all know that they don’t sell I’m happy with this. Again, I’m being realistic, not a dreamer.

Why not a (insert hopped-up econobox here)? I’m no stranger to these and have owned plenty of cars sporting the letters Si, SE-R, GTI and so on. There’s something different between a tuned-up front-driver and something like this—different driving dynamics, different seating position. I’m looking at the driving experience, not just lap times. If I wanted to just go really fast, I’d buy another sport bike.

Closing thoughts? It reminds me of my old 240SX, down to the seating position, performance and driving experience. The gearbox feels awesome, and pedal placement is spot-on.

Yeah, this could happen one day.

Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Associate Editor

“It’s got Prius tires! It’s underpowered! It’s too expensive! It’s too cheap! Ur dumb if you buy the BRZ! Ur dumb if you buy the FRS!”

The internet has doled out a lot of, well, internet onto the BRZ and its twin, now called the Toyota 86, since their launch a few years ago. I’m not sure I can tell you anything you don’t already know–it looks good, it’s underpowered, the tires aren’t very sticky, and the chassis is awesome.

So, I’ll tell you what all that means to me. Honestly, I “get it,” but I don’t have any desire to own one. There’s an annoying hole in the torque curve somewhere around 3500-4500 rpm, and it makes a moderately powered car feel like an underpowered one. The chassis (though awesome, neutral, and easy to drive) brings with it more road noise than there should really be in a car that’s closing in on $30,000 with a decent stereo.

The interior is nice, but not great. I think this would be a perfect stage rally car, but that’s the problem: Subaru’s WRX starts at just over $1000 more than a base BRZ, and it has all-wheel-drive, four doors, and 268 horsepower. And yes, I can hear you shouting: "Dude, that’s not a sports car, it’s a boost buggy!” Fair enough, which brings me to my second point: A Mazda MX-5 Miata costs about the same money, and it’s a better sports car than the BRZ. The back seat on the BRZ is useless, anyway, so I say drop the top, tell your friends to stay home, and enjoy your Miata.

If you like the BRZ, buy it–it’s a great car. But it’s not my great car.

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jsquared
jsquared HalfDork
2/21/17 5:12 a.m.

Quoting Tom: "The internet has doled out a lot of, well, internet onto the BRZ"

I know this is beating a dead horse, but it does need a turbo variant. Preferably when the second-generation car comes out with better F/R weight distribution. The engine is only 2 cylinders long, and it's 55/45?! But seriously, it is not unreasonable to think that Subaru could sell a turbo version with 275HP and better springs and brake calipers for under $33k. Heck, if the WRX is only $1k more than this, and the STI sells for mid-30s while having two extra differentials to upgrade as well as the AWD electronics to go with it, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a similar but less-complex jump in specs for a similar-or-slightly-less jump in price. A WRX engine, WRX brakes, STI/SPT springs/shocks from the factory, and bingo. A 275HP sub-3000-lb car for low $30k's... It would trump the Miata performance-wise and be close to 370Z territory, if not level with it (and the Cayman). The only worry I think is that they are dealing with a small market, and too close to $35k, you're creeping into base Mustang GT/Camaro SS territory.

You can turbo a base BRZ for the theoretical $4-5k difference, but then you're looking at lots more power and no money left for brakes or spring/shock combo. There is no 275-300HP turbo kits because the cost to do that isn't much less than the 350-400HP kits. The factory can do it cheaper, especially since it is basically swapping Legos to them.

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
2/21/17 8:21 a.m.

The engines in the twins do not have any margin for increased loads. Fine if you want to self warranty, but without a completely different engine, it would not work.

By the time all the incremental upgrades were made, the result would be a car that weighed as much as theHyundai and yet still lacked the hp to compete in the porker class.

The value proposition for the twins is light weight and the ensuing chassis dynamics . If that is not something that you value over surplus power, it is not the car for you.

Snrub
Snrub Reader
2/21/17 8:25 a.m.

There have been rumblings of a second generation car, so perhaps your wish will be granted. :) I wonder if raiding the parts bin for a varient of the n/a 2.5L would be the cheapest way for the manufacturer to go. Staying n/a would probably mean they could continue using the same transmission, and probably diff. Cooling system upgrades would be minor. A turbo setup means lots of changes and additional costs that they probably couldn't justify with such a low volume car.

Brian
Brian MegaDork
2/21/17 9:50 a.m.

I have only sat in a scion, but I liked it. If I was to join the chorus of more power, I would prefer the H6 over boost.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce UltimaDork
2/21/17 9:51 a.m.

Are the incremental changes enough to make it competitive in CS? It sure looks like the NC has an edge over the earlier cars though it's not necessarily a big edge.

captdownshift
captdownshift PowerDork
2/21/17 10:22 a.m.

In reply to Brian:

I'm with you, a relatively low displacement, rev happy (well for a pancake motor) H6 if possible. something like a 2.8L churning out 240-260hp.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/21/17 10:23 a.m.

Power is not always the answer. A 280zx turbo was a whole lot faster than a 240z, but it was less fun. The BRZ / FRS appeal has to do with it's light weight, frisky chassis, and simple / affordable nature. There are plenty of 300hp+ ground pounders out there. I'm glad the Frisbee twins exist exactly the way they are.

It's not a perfect car, but it ticks the boxes that are most important to me. If I was shopping for a new sports car, it would be between the Frisbee and an ND MX-5. I'd probably go with the Frisbee, as the ND's trunk has shrunk so badly--- it's no longer even remotely practical.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
2/21/17 10:37 a.m.

I've sometimes been pretty hard on my old BRZ, but the truth is that it is a few simple tweaks away from being a very nice car. I disagree a bit with you Joe. I will say what the car needs is a bit more torque and drive-ability. I remember my old 2.2 Subaru having a good midrange, where the BRZ falls kinda flat. I would think a bump in displacement with maybe 20 or 30hp and a corresponding torque number would do wonders in real world usability.

And like I've said here before, an option for much nicer seats would have made it more difficult for me to turn it loose. I would have paid a lot more to have had a better option. I think Subaru is missing out on a population of older guys that would like the car and buy it.

I'm not that old, but as a daily driver for me, it was not working. If it were only a toy that was an autocross or track car, I would have liked it much better. Ironically, as the prices have dropped on the early cars, I'm looking at one for just that purpose. Plus I think it has been reclassed into possibly an overdog.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/21/17 10:54 a.m.

^^ I hear you Dave, and I'd also like a more willing power plant in the Frisbees. I still love them as they are---- but a more eager rush to redline would make me happier.

I found the seats comfy, but sometimes I wonder why automakers don't jus copy VW seats from the mid- late 80's and call it a day. Those sport seats (made by RECARO) were fairly light, simple to adjust and just about perfect.

Robbie
Robbie UltraDork
2/21/17 11:38 a.m.

So regardless of whether or not the BRZ has enough power, why is it that so many people complain about lack of power? Seems like other enthusiast cars do not get nearly the hate.

In my mind there are VERY few cars that wouldn't be better with 100 more HP.

cmcgregor
cmcgregor Dork
2/21/17 11:39 a.m.

I think that it's precisely because the chassis is so capable. It's fun with stock power, throw on coilovers and wide sticky tires and a supercharger and change nothing else - and it still works.

EDIT

And an oil cooler. You're gonna want an oil cooler.

Cotton
Cotton UberDork
2/21/17 12:22 p.m.
Robbie wrote: So regardless of whether or not the BRZ has enough power, why is it that so many people complain about lack of power? Seems like other enthusiast cars do not get nearly the hate. In my mind there are VERY few cars that wouldn't be better with 100 more HP.

For me it was the power delivery and the roughness of the engine. For some cars the engine just doesn't match the chassis well, and this is one of them. I wanted to like the FR-S, but after I drove it I walked away liking the car, but really disliking the engine.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
2/21/17 12:36 p.m.
Robbie wrote: So regardless of whether or not the BRZ has enough power, why is it that so many people complain about lack of power? Seems like other enthusiast cars do not get nearly the hate. In my mind there are VERY few cars that wouldn't be better with 100 more HP.

It's because the engine doesn't really do anything until north of 4500rpm. So the lack of midrange really hurts it as a DD.

I've owned a BRZ for 2.5 years now.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
2/21/17 1:41 p.m.

I dunno. You guys have probably driven more cars than I have, but I've not found the mid-range lacking. Yes there is a noticeable increase in thrust above 4,500 but by then you're driving like an shiny happy person.

jstein77
jstein77 UltraDork
2/21/17 1:47 p.m.

In reply to racerdave600:

I'm with you, Dave. 205 Hp would be fine if there were 200 ft-lbs as well, but 156 is pretty pitiful in a 2800 lb. car.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
2/21/17 3:34 p.m.

Here's what I'm talking about:

Can you spot the sad part?

ae86andkp61
ae86andkp61 HalfDork
2/21/17 3:44 p.m.

In reply to jstein77:

D-o-w-n-s-h-i-f-t

The reason I bought my FR-S was specifically because it wasn't like anything else on the market. I've never understood the mindset of "Car A would be a whole lot better if it had XYZ to be more like/more competitive with Car B." Why the heck haven't you just gone and bought Car B already? If I wanted a 370Z, Genesis coupe, or V-6 Mustang, I would already have one. If the twins were turboed or had a bigger six, I wouldn't have bought one. I wanted a Miata with a bit more interior room and a real roof, and I'm pretty happy so far.

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
2/21/17 3:50 p.m.

Because the Miata makes sense, even though the RX-7 has existed in the past, there's not been much comparison of the two by the enthusiasts.

The Frisby twins, for some reason, are compared to the Supra and WRX/STi.

It really should be considered the tin top Miata many wanted.

racerdave600
racerdave600 SuperDork
2/21/17 4:15 p.m.
ae86andkp61 wrote: In reply to jstein77: D-o-w-n-s-h-i-f-t The reason I bought my FR-S was specifically because it wasn't like anything else on the market. I've never understood the mindset of "Car A would be a whole lot better if it had XYZ to be more like/more competitive with Car B." Why the heck haven't you just gone and bought Car B already? If I wanted a 370Z, Genesis coupe, or V-6 Mustang, I would already have one. If the twins were turboed or had a bigger six, I wouldn't have bought one. I wanted a Miata with a bit more interior room and a real roof, and I'm pretty happy so far.

I went directly from a 370Z to the BRZ. There were things I liked in each car, but the BRZ, to me at least, needs a few things to make it usable in my life. The problem is that there are only a few coupes out there, so they get compared a lot. No doubt the 370 was better at everyday life, but it was also close to $20k more expensive and I'm not forgetting that.

The BRZ excelled at being a great drivers car, but with a few tweaks, it could be soooo much better. I think that's what a lot of us are lamenting about. I didn't expect it to have the hp of the 370, but I did think it needed a bit more torque for modern real world driving. My commute or going to the store is not the same as running an autocross or track event, and this is where the twins fall a bit short. Sure I'm nit picking, but I so wanted to like one well enough for long term ownership. There are things about it that work so well, it makes me want to kick Toyota and Subaru in the rear for not finishing it.

Snrub
Snrub Reader
2/21/17 5:20 p.m.

Regarding the torque dip, haven't some of the aftermarket tunes resolved that issue? If so, then I don't entirely understand why Subaru can't fix it. I don't claim to really understand the benefit of having the mixed direct and port injection system either. Maybe it improves fuel economy by 5%, but does is it a worthwhile trade off for power delivery in that kind of car?

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed SuperDork
2/21/17 5:27 p.m.

I think all Subarus need to be "bumped" up. The BRZ needs the Forester XT 250 hp motor, the Forester XT motor should be at around 280 hp, the WRX should be around 320 hp and the upcoming redesigned STi should be at least 350 hp to compete with the Focus RS. Now if Subaru would just call me and ask for my advice the world would be a better place. Oh and I also think that Mazda should offer a hardcore Miata like a Type R for instance with a turbo and 230-250 hp. Ya....I know..... it would likely be at $40K but I can dream.

bigev007
bigev007 Reader
2/21/17 6:22 p.m.

In reply to Snrub:

Mixed injection fixes carbon buildup issues, but still has the power and economy benefits of direct injection

TucoRamirez
TucoRamirez Reader
2/21/17 7:13 p.m.

My main annoyances are the easily damaged paint and minimal front ground clearance. Better paint than a white NA Miata though. Low power keeps my inner delinquent in check, on straight roads, and sadly, on twisties when passing. I've grown fond of the crickets.

Brett_Murphy
Brett_Murphy PowerDork
2/21/17 10:17 p.m.

I'm wondering how many people complaining about the BRZ have driven a non-turbo rotary. It sounds like half the fun is keeping it at a boil to get to the power.

What's that old quote? People buy horsepower but drive torque?

Vracer111
Vracer111 Reader
2/22/17 3:57 a.m.

I'm fine with the stock FA20... other than the issues which required replacing the original ECM with the updated version in my FR-S. There's always OFT and Ace header if you want to correct the dip and gain decent hp/lbft...but then that messes with emissions and inspection testing/passing.

Rather than mess with the motor power, I'd rather change the rear gearing to 4.56 and have a lightweight flywheel while running on smaller diameter 205/45-17 tires (preferably the new Continental Extremecontact Sports.) The new heads and intake manifold in the '17 have a revised power delivery and the rear end gearing is further improved from the previous MY's...

For an 'underpowered' car, the FR-S is quick in turns on decent tires because of that nice chassis. Coming home from the Rolex 24, after filling up in Tallahassee, on one of those nice 270 degree rollercoaster turn feeders onto I-10, I was already at the top of 3rd gear and thinking about going to 4th for the last turn bit, but glimpsing the speedo... Oh Boy, already going way too fast! Had to slow down quite a bit to get down to highway cruise speed. The chassis was planted as could be and was willing for more. Car is a riot to drive with it's 'underpowered' motor, just keep the annoying and retarded traction/stability control 'off' - especially if not on the stock tires. The '17 may have fixed the issue though.

IMO, if the car had the significant bump in power 'everyone' wants from the factory, it would be going against the reason it was built in the first place. If it had a Turbo motor, then I would have NEVER considered getting one.

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