- Even more of a good time than the original
- Better engine, excellent driving dynamics
- Light weight
- Agricultural engine (by modern standards)
- NVH still has room for improvement
- Not quite as much fun as Toyota’s GR 86
“For pure, unadulterated driving delight, the BRZ packs a knockout punch.” That’s but one example of the praise we heaped upon the original Subaru BRZ rear-wheel-drive sports car nearly a decade ago. Now freshly on sale in its long-awaited second generation, we’re enthused to say, well, the same thing.
The 2022 Subaru BRZ, again developed with Toyota alongside its MT Car of the Year-contending GR 86, rides on a revised version of the previous chassis, but it features elements of the newer Subaru Global Platform (SGP). In a nutshell, this delivers increased rigidity—Subaru says torsional strength increased by 50 percent—that allows for stiffer suspension mounting points and stiffer suspension settings for its front strut/rear control arm setup while also delivering better ride quality.
Enthusiasts have wanted more grunt since the BRZ first arrived, and the new car’s engine displacement increased from 2.0 to 2.4 liters, delivering a corresponding output of 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft versus 205 and 156. (The old BRZ’s 5-hp deficit when opting for the automatic transmission is a thing of the past.) Those numbers don’t represent massive bumps, but the torque curve is broader and gives drivers a notably punchier, more usable powerband. As technical director Frank Markus said: “I’m not in love with this engine’s sound, but it certainly performs a million times better than the old one. I’m not even certain it needs a turbo anymore. This is major progress.”
Arguably more significant, neither Toyota nor Subaru turned their purist drivers’ weapons into bloated, gadgetized caricatures of themselves, with the BRZ delivering an even higher level of fun than before. “My goodness, they made it better!” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. Like all our judges, he worried that Subaru would somehow lose the car’s spirit, but everyone discovered it only improved the BRZ.
“Steering feel and brake feel are both exemplary for a car with this mission statement,” Markus said. At the same time, this version feels more mature than the model it replaces; once again, it’s the less tail-happy of the BRZ/GR 86 duo, with a more planted rear and newfound grip. That said, although the BRZ will absolutely oversteer, our COTY judges ultimately found the Toyota’s additional eagerness to rotate the more involving and fun setup—but we’re talking minor differences here.
You won’t be surprised to hear the judges all preferred driving the engaging, positive-feeling, easy-to-use six-speed-manual version to the mostly competent but less sporty six-speed automatic. The latter fails to deliver the sharp downshifts afforded by heel-toeing the three-pedal version, which is made easy thanks to the pedals’ placement.
The new BRZ still has some quirks. As with the original, the engine retains an agricultural feel and sound. Additionally, our test cars exhibited more buzz and vibration than the GR 86s, though there is less of it than in the first-gen version. And while we don’t administer big demerits to grin-inducing sports cars for non-driving-focused elements such as cupholders, our judges found it odd the automatic model gets a second drink slot where the manual version does not. “I understand it might get in the way of shifting,” buyer’s guide director Zach Gale said, “but wouldn’t manual-transmission enthusiasts have small things to store there, too?”
Never mind that, though; the new BRZ is a winner, even if it isn’t our 2022 Car of the Year. Indeed, we’re splitting hairs, but the biggest strike against it, as more than one judge noted: The GR 86 is better.
View every 2022 Car of the Year contender here
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