The original BRZ was a story of unrealized potential. This time, Subaru nailed the case. Say hello to the winner of ENGINE Inaugural Sports Car of the Year competition for 2022 – the Subaru BRZ
A resounding success can be a double-edged sword, raising questions about how to produce a compelling following.
Some become slaves to a winning formula, while others dare to experiment at the risk of alienating their fan hearts. The best artists, however, retain the elements – and the fans – that made them successful in the first place while subtly elevating the entire canon of work.
The 2022 Subaru BRZ follows suit. The original pair of compact sport coupes from Subaru and Toyota represented a bold commitment to pure driving and impressed the PCOTY panel in 2012, but not enough to claim victory. He was also beaten by the reigning VW Polo GTI champion in that year’s Bang For Your Bucks competition, SCOTY’s spiritual predecessor. A few well-documented flaws have limited its ambitions, but the new, improved car is belatedly back with answers.
The biggest flaw in the armor of the original car was the infamous low-end torque hole. “The old car was good, but it just needed more engine,” says Enright.
The new BRZ gives us just that, now powered by a bigger 2.4-litre flat-four producing 174kW/250Nm, delivering a very welcome increase in output. However, Subaru didn’t resort to a simple bore-and-stroke job, as the new FA24 engine uses a different engine block, revised internals, and a new direct-injected and ported induction system.
From the first press of the accelerator, the horsepower and torque improvements are instantly evident. It lacks the rushing rush of some of the turbocharged competitors, but it’s a much more flexible unit with new levels of low-end tractability. Indeed, it no longer needs to wring its neck to make meaningful progress and it picks up the pace with lovely linearity and the same slightly oversized feel as the 2.0-litre MX-5 engine.
“It’s so much more than just a new engine,” Trent notes, and he’s right. Framing the second-generation BRZ as a restyle with a bigger engine understates its talents. Indeed, in many ways, the headlines surrounding the new Subaru BRZ don’t tell the whole story. There is real depth to the development of this new car. A revised version of the existing chassis sees torsional stiffness increased by 50% and lateral stiffness by 60%.
Steering and clutch action are also more like the MX-5, with a slightly slower ratio (13.5:1 versus 13.1:1 in the original BRZ) and less inherent weight . For my part, I miss the light weight in the hands of the original car, but the resounding conclusion among the jury is an overall feeling of nimbleness and nimbleness.
Slower steering feels counter-intuitive as more dynamic, but it’s barely noticeable and just requires a bit more input for the nose to react. In practice, quick direction changes are smoother, with oversteer corrections more natural and intuitive.
Still, the chassis developments and power increases are only as good as the contact points with the road. In that respect, the 2022 BRZ’s vastly improved Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires are transformative over the famed old Michelin Primacy rubber.
The result is increased confidence to push harder and harder, while being supported by good mid-corner traction. Indeed, Luffy’s top speed through the first high-commitment corner was faster than rivals like the GR Yaris Rallye and i30 Sedan N. The braking system seems noticeably less assisted than the previous generation, requiring an effort of pedal harder for maximum braking power. . Given the increased pace, those familiar with the original car may be caught off guard. In practice, however, the pedal is ultra-progressive and very forgiving for those who still practice left-foot braking.
However, prosaic improvements are not enough to win at SCOTY. Unlike the PCOTY procedure, the most affordable area was even more closely fought.
With much-publicized improvements in speed, power and mechanical grip, there was reason to worry that the expected new coupé had lost its playful character. The on-road component was all we needed to dispel those concerns. Even with all systems on, the BRZ gives frequent hints of neutral. There’s a playful fluidity to the car that only the MX-5 and Focus ST could match. And yet, the BRZ, more than any other car at the SCOTY this year, was the one the judges most wanted to come back to in order to continue peeling off its dynamic layers.
He just has an inexhaustible appetite to drive. It feels sturdy, like it’ll never let you down and is an even more engaging and engaging car to drive fast than the original. Even Subaru’s Active Sound Design is more successful than you might imagine. The way the cabin soundtrack stretches out from about 6500 rpm is more reminiscent of the howls of Hondas and the very tight inline-fours of the past than the typically rather industrial bass tones of the boxer engines of Subaru.
“When you’re driving really hard, you really feel like there’s some kind of private party going on in the cabin,” Bernie said. While the BRZ was expected to succeed on the road, some judges had expressed concern that the normally aspirated coupe might feel overshadowed by Phillip Island’s size and speed.
In straight-line testing, the BRZ performed well, stopping the 0-60 mph time in 6.21s, beating the Focus ST (6.44s) and matching Volkswagen’s Mk8 Golf GTI. It is a marked improvement over the original car which ENGINE never tested below seven seconds. The quarter-mile time of 14.24 seconds is extremely respectable and only sheds a few tenths of a second to the much more powerful Hyundai i30 Sedan N.
While the 1:54.41 time around Phillip Island didn’t threaten any lap records, what Racelogic’s telemetry doesn’t show is the smile factor. The BRZ is playful and hugely engaging, but it’s also predictable and approachable. Luffy calls it “a very borderline easy-to-drive car”, with Trent saying “she wants to work with you to get the most out of it”. It’s telling that, on different occasions, more than one judge exclaimed that there was more than a hint of Porsche in the tactility and consistency of the BRZ’s checkweights.
A soft brake pedal after more laps than any other car here was the only criticism, and is virtually the only dynamic flaw carried over from the breakout original. In every other way, there’s an immersive sense of durability and eagerness to the BRZ – it just wants to keep going.
So what separates it from the rest? From an engineering standpoint, the Subaru does little to innovate and many of its dynamic strengths – movement on corner entry, mid-corner buy, steering fidelity, etc. – can be found in isolation elsewhere in the SCOTY domain. The Focus ST comes close to delivering the playfulness and low-speed involvement of the BRZ, getting a vote for the top spot, and the i20 N, while bubbly and infectious, misses out on those last few percent of fit and global commitments. The BRZ has always felt like giving the avid driver more limit management options.
As a whole, Subaru’s second-generation BRZ emerges more than the sum of its parts and responds to previous reviews with a rare, direct focus while losing none of what made it great in the first place. This is no small feat in itself.
Hyundai’s N division deservedly gets a lot of praise for its five-year track warranty, but one look at the BRZ’s easily accessible oil filter, almost as if it’s on display, testifies to a rare level of consideration from engineers for the home mechanic enthusiast. The cabin has been nicely refreshed and the driving position never feels out of alignment, cramped or compromised. This consideration in itself is important, and one that some SCOTY contenders overlook.
There are still some utility issues such as the token rear seats and the small trunk that seems to only act as a receptacle for the full-size spare wheel. Given the driver’s seat gain, however, much of that will likely be a peripheral concern.
Bernie summed it up best by thinking about what PCOTY is. According to our guest judge, it is a question of knowing “what does the car bring to the buyer? The Subaru BRZ will bring you a lot of money,” enthuses Bernie. “He’s going to feel like your best friend.”
After five days of testing and a long discussion with the judge, it was Subaru’s sports coupe that dominated everything. It’s masterfully executed and a worthy winner of the inaugural Sports Car of the Year contest, marking Subaru’s first invitation to ENGINE very top table.
Ten years ago, the joint venture of Subaru and Toyota hit our shores. The new BRZ is not content to rectify the weaknesses of its predecessor, it keeps its untapped promise, the narrative arc of the project finally completed. The result? A pure, fresh and total testimony to the pleasure of driving.
“This BRZ represents a really significant update. Momentum is high in just about every area”
“I’m still amazed that such a fun and capable sports coupe is so affordable. Buy one”
“The interior has been significantly improved in terms of quality and functionality. The BRZ needed this”
“The FA24 has enough that you no longer have to search for torque with every gear change”
“A riot! I was blown away that I was unhappy with the previous generation of this car”
Luffy’s point of view
“The BRZ is incredible. It’s all about the driver. A car that’s borderline easy to drive but rewards good driving.”
|0-400m||14.24 sec at 164.91 km/h|