2017 Subaru BRZ LimitedPosted on March 20th, 2017
Sports car gains in power and performance
By Nina Russin
In many ways, the two-seat BRZ is very much a Subaru; in others, a bit different. The platform, developed jointly with Toyota (the Toyota version is the 86), is the only rear-wheel drive car in Subaru’s model line-up. That said, Subaru’s inherently-balanced boxer four-cylinder engine, updated for more horsepower and torque in 2017, is the car’s heart and soul. When equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, the engine develops 205-horsepower and 156 pound-feet of peak torque, for better low-end acceleration.
The BRZ is very much a Subaru with its focus on safety and versatility. It is comfortable enough for the daily commute, with important safety features such as LED headlamps and a rearview camera. Standard satellite radio and Bluetooth interface make the minutes sitting in rush-hour traffic go by faster. Fuel economy is also quite good. Although the EPA estimates average gas mileage at 24, we got over 28 on our test drive of about 150 miles. That included time in rush-hours at the height of Phoenix, Arizona’s Spring Training baseball season.
Best of all, the BRZ is affordable, with pricing for the base Premium model starting at $25,495. The upscale Limited tested starts at $27,645. Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, Subaru Smartlink that adds smartphone integration with Pandora, Aha, Stitcher and iHeart Radio and Bluetooth streaming audio. A LCD information screen next to the tachometer enables the driver to access performance information including lateral Gs, accelerator pedal position, steering angle, oil and water temperature and battery voltage. Final MSRP is $28,465.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week I put the Subaru BRZ through its paces, on surface streets and highways in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler, Arizona, the 10-freeway going south of town and rural roads through the foothills of the San Tan Mountains to the southeast. The peppy two-seater handled all-of the above challenges with aplomb, making all a bit more fun, thanks to the car’s sport-tuned suspension, large wheels and crisp six-speed manual transmission.
Owners who like to spend weekends at the track will appreciate controls on the center console that disable the traction control and engage a track mode that raises stability control thresholds. A limited-slip differential keeps the car tracking straight during hard acceleration.
Exterior styling is revised with a new front bumper, LED front lamp assembly and rear spoiler. Together they give the car a wider, more planted look while the spoiler enhances high-speed vehicle stability.
The more powerful engine delivers exactly what the former model needed, more growl off the line, while maintaining the excellent front-to-rear weight balance the car is known for. Gears on the six-speed manual transmission have enough range to function well is traffic, so the driver doesn’t have to shift constantly in stop-and-go situations.
Steering feedback from the electric power steering system is excellent, delivering plenty of assist at low speeds with positive on-center response on the highway. A four-wheel independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts up front and double wishbone design in the rear absorbs bumps in the road while a strut tower brace and stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis rigid for good cornering.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires come standard. In the desert-southwest summer treads work fine year-round but buyers in colder climates should consider a separate set of winter tires. Brembo brakes stop the BRZ in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the car’s perimeter is good. Since there is no B-pillar, over-the-shoulder visibility is excellent. The rearview camera eliminates blind spots around the rear pillars and beneath the back glass when the driver shifts into reverse. I was-able-to adjust the driver’s seat high enough for a clear forward view. At night LED headlamps project brighter beams of light than halogen with less drain on the battery. Daytime running lamps and LED fog lamps make the vehicle more visible in low light conditions.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing wind noise. There is some significant engine and tire noise, but that’s to be expected for this type of vehicle. When the driver digs into the throttle, the BRZ’s exhaust responds with a pleasing belch.
The BRZ interior is all about the driver, in keeping with the car’s performance focus. The rear seats aren’t really-big enough for rear passengers, but provide some valuable extra storage space inside the cabin and keep insurance premiums down. I found the driver’s seat easy to adjust, with good bolstering for more aggressive driving. Alcantara seat inserts keep occupants in place during hard cornering.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. Heated front seats and mirrors are a standard feature that denizens of cold-weather climates will appreciate. Dual zone climate control keeps occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
Although the trunk isn’t especially large, it will hold the weekly groceries or some luggage. The car isn’t practical for buyers with active lifestyles needing to carry larger gear. Subaru’s crossover vehicles: the Crosstrek, Outback and Forester are better choices.
The Subaru BRZ comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, hill start assist, daytime running lamps, rearview camera, LED headlamps and fog lamps and tire pressure monitoring.
The restyled, more powerful BRZ is rolling into Subaru dealerships nationwide.
Like: An affordable sports car with a high level of standard safety features and enough versatility to function well as a daily driver.
Model: BRZ Limited HZE
Base price: $27,645
As tested: $28,465
Horsepower: 205 HP @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 156 lbs.-ft. @ 6400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 21/29 mpg city/highway