You might get a sense of déjà vu the first time you spot the new 2022 Subaru BRZ. The little sports car gets a major makeover this year but retains the basic dimensions and looks of the original model. It also picks up most of the design cues of the similarly new 2022 Toyota GR 86 with which it shares most of its underpinnings.
But It’d be a big mistake to dismiss the new Subaru at first glance. Like the Toyota, the new BRZ has a heck of a lot going for it. And, in a world gone mad for SUVs, it could keep at least some buyers in the sports car market.
As with the original sports car, the 2022 Subaru BRZ is the product of a joint development effort teaming the little automaker up with its Japanese big brother, Toyota. In today’s world, the money-saving partnership helped the two companies justify the development of the second-generation sports cars. As with the original versions, Subaru led the engineering side of the project, Toyota taking primary responsibility for exterior and interior design.
There had been plenty of speculation about where the project would go, especially in terms of the powertrain which, skeptics have long lamented, desperately needed a bit of a boost. Both of the sports cars, it turns out, are motivated by a new Subaru boxer engine punching out 228 horsepower, a more than 20% improvement.
Like the GR 86, the Subaru BRZ gets some modest, though appealing, design updates, starting with the newly integrated ducktail spoiler. But the basic “sports car purity,” as Subaru describes it, carries over, as I learned during a long day of driving both on public roads and at the challenging Lime Rock Park raceway in Lakeville, Connecticut.
The obvious question is whether there are any differences between the new BRZ and the GR 86, at least beyond the badging. There are, though they’re subtle and will likely be missed by those who don’t push the cars up to their limits. The focus is largely on handling, the Subaru featuring higher spring rates, different damper and stability control settings, aluminum front knuckles, rather than steel, and hollow versus solid rear stabilizer bars.
The 2022 BRZ’s dimensions are only slightly revised, the 2+2 stretched by less than an inch overall, while the sports car sits 0.4 inches lower. The wheelbase is 0.2 inches longer than the outgoing model. The emphasis, the automaker stressed, has been on emphasizing the extremely low center of gravity that gave the original model such dynamic handling.
There are functional side vents to reduce aerodynamic drag, meanwhile, especially around the front wheels and the side sills. This also helps enhance downforce. Aero is further improved by a small rear fin, along with the integrated “ducktail” spoiler that replaces the optional wing found on the first-generation BRZ.
While most buyers won’t notice, the BRZ’s hood is now aluminum, as are the roof and fenders, helping bring weight down to an efficient 2,815 pounds for the base trim and 2,881 for the BRZ Limited with an automatic transmission. The center of gravity has been lowered, ever so slightly, as well.
Depending upon grade, you’ll get 17- or 18-inch wheels and tires. And a dual exhaust adds another sporty touch.
Technically, the 2022 Subaru BRZ is a four-seater. There are a pair of barely usable rear seats that in an emergency could be used to carry children or a couple of adults you don’t have strong feelings about. More often, owners typically fold them down when they need to expand the cargo compartment. That’ll let you squeeze in two golf bags or, if your prefer, four track tires and a jack.
Appropriately, the BRZ — like the GR 86 — retains a driver-centric design, with a reconfigurable 7-inch digital gauge cluster that automatically changes layout depending upon driving mode. There’s also an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen on all models.
There’s a nicer level of refinement with the 2022 makeover, with much-needed new amenities. Material choices have been upgraded, especially on the Limited versions. Depending upon trim, you can get a leather-trimmed tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The base model has fabric seats, the Premium offers leather trim with Alcantara inserts. The steering wheel and center-mounted hand brake, meanwhile, are leather-wrapped.
The BRZ’s new seats proved to be not only comfortable on public roads but more supportive when whipping around Lime Rock’s new Autocross course. At the same time, they’re a bit lighter than in the old car. Engineers not only improved handling by lightening the new BRZ, but they improved visibility by thinning the sports car’s A-, B- and C-pillars.
If there was one thing fans of the original Subaru BRZ craved it was more power. The first-generation sports car could feel anemic, especially on launch. And you really had to work the gearbox to execute a high-speed pass.
The new engine is transformative. Boring out the Subaru boxer engine to 2.4 liters bumps the pony count to 228, up from the old engine’s 205 hp with a stick and 200 with the automatic transmission. Torque, meanwhile, climbs to 184 pound-feet of torque, up from 156 with the 6-speed manual, and 151 with the 6-speed automatic.
Transmissions carry over for 2022. The automatic features paddle shifters and blips the throttle for smoother downshifts. All models come with a limited-slip differential and send power to the back wheels.
Sticking with the relatively flat boxer design was essential for maintaining the low center of gravity offered by the original BRZ — which happened to have the lowest CG of any vehicle on the market. It’s lost that crown this time, but only to the Porsche 911 GT3, putting it in fine company.
As for fuel economy, the BRZ gets 20 mpg City, 27 Highway and 22 Combined with the manual gearbox. The automatic brings that up to 21 City, 30 Highway and 25 Combined.
Safety and Technology
As with its Toyota sibling, much of the Subaru GR 86’s technology emphasizes performance. In Sport, the reconfigurable gauge cluster pops a G-meter that gives you a sense of how you’re handling turns, braking and acceleration.
There’s also an active noise system that subtly enhances the boxer engine’s exhaust note. It varies depending upon your driving mode.
The infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as HD Radio and satellite radio. One welcome change: The rearview camera now displays on that screen, rather than in a small corner of the rearview mirror.
There are seven airbags, and what was already a well-equipped standard version of the Subaru Eyesight advanced driver assistance suite adds new features including blind-spot detection with lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as steering responsive headlights.
It doesn’t take long to appreciate the improvements made to the 2022 Subaru BRZ. While it was always a fun little car to toss around, it has gained markedly both in performance and handling.
To start with, there’s a lot more power across the board. And it comes on much faster than before, with the low-end grunt that the earlier model was sorely lacking. Launching from 0-60 now takes 6.5 seconds with the automatic gearbox, a full 1.5-second improvement. The manual’s time drops to 6 seconds, according to Subaru, a 1-second improvement. And the factory numbers are, if anything, conservative.
The suspension upgrades also are obvious, especially out on track. There’s noticeably less body roll than on the old model. But there’s also a bit less of it with the BRZ as compared to the Toyota GR 86, due to some of the suspension differences between the two models.
I had the opportunity to put the BRZ through its paces on both of Lime Rock’s tracks, the traditional road course, as well as its newer Autocross circuit. The predictability the sports car offered was particularly welcome. You knew precisely what to expect going into a corner, something that helped me increase my times with each lap.
The use of the limited-slip Torsen differential — which moves power between the back wheels where you need it — also enhanced the BRZ’s manners, both on Lime Rock’s tracks, as well as on the winding public roads we took from hotel to the track and back.
Of course, it also helps to have good tires. The base BRZ comes shod with Michelin Primacy HP rubber, the premium edition with Michelin Pilot Sport 4. The two tires have truly distinct characteristics, as became especially apparent on the Autocross circuit. The Pilot’s tight grip came in sharp contrast to the Primacy tires which allowed me to drift my way around the winding course.
2021 Subaru BRZ specifications:
|Dimension||L: 167.9 inches/W: 69.9 inches/H: 51.6 inches/Wheelbase: 101.4 inches|
|Powertrain||2.4-liter 4-cylinder Boxer engine; 6-speed manual/automatic transmission|
|Fuel Economy||16 mpg city/24 mpg highway/19 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $27,995; As tested: $29,595 including $960 handling and delivery fee|
|On-Sale Date||Available in October, but can be ordered now|
Things have changed quite a bit since the original Subaru BRZ made its debut a decade ago. Back then, small cars commanded a solid share of the U.S. market. Today, it’s an SUV-centric world and demand for sports cars has tumbled sharply. Without the ability to share development costs, it’s all but certain both Subaru and Toyota would have walked away from the market.
There are some downsides to the arrangement: most notably the lack of visual diversity between the BRZ and GR 86. That said, the two models have plenty to offer for their price, and both have gotten major improvements for 2022. The second-generation Subaru, in particularly, is more attractive, more feature-laden and a lot more fun to drive, whether on track or on public roads.
And it remains reasonably affordable, starting a $27,995 for the Premium model with a six-speed manual transmission, and $30,495 for the better-equipped automatic package. The top-line BRZ Limited starts at $29,595 with a stick, $32,495 for the automatic. Add another $960 for delivery fees.
Clearly, in this age of SUVs, little sports cars aren’t for everyone, but the 2022 Subaru BRZ seems sure to retain loyal fans and even find new buyers among those who want more than just another plodding SUV. With the 2022 makeover, the BRZ clearly defines the old adage that the whole is better than the sum of its parts.
2022 Subaru BRZ — Frequently Asked Questions
When can I buy the new 2022 Subaru BRZ?
The 2022 Subaru BRZ will begin rolling into showrooms in late October or early November, though you already can place your order with dealers directly, or online. Pricing will start at $27,995 plus $960 in delivery fees for the BRZ Premium model with a 6-speed manual.
How fast is the 2022 Subaru BRZ?
Launching from 0-60 now takes 6.5 seconds with the automatic gearbox, a full 1.5-second improvement. The manual’s time drops to 6.0 seconds, according to Subaru, a one-second improvement. Top speed is 145 mph.
Why is the 2022 Subaru BRZ still not turbo?
Three reasons: weight, size and cost. A turbo would add weight, especially to the nose, throwing the BRZ off balance and raising its center of gravity. It would be tough to squeeze into an already tightly packed engine compartment. And it would add a lot of cost to what is meant to be an affordable sports car.