By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.7
The 2016 Subaru BRZ fits precisely the time-honored formula for that perfect little jewel of a sports car: light weight, rear-wheel drive, low center of gravity, perky performance, affordable price, a suspension that sends the tires to reach out and shake hands with the pavement. The BRZ is for what happens between Point A and Point B. This is a sports car you drive every day; weekdays to work, Saturdays at the track, Sundays in the mountains. It carves corners like a paring knife, the engine jumps like popcorn on a skillet, understanding it requires experiencing it. Competitors in this price range? Mazda Miata and what else? Others are faster but cumbersome. Ultimate speed is not the point. Drive it; you’ll know what we mean.
If you’re any kind of enthusiast driver, if you get pumped heading into that favorite on-ramp, the gem-like Subaru BRZ is for you. The styling nails it, the engine has punch and if you aren’t eager to get behind the wheel, there’s something wrong. It’s even easy on gas.
If something in your psyche needs raw horsepower and tire-burning torque, or paying a lot of money is on your list of favorite things to do, you will probably do better with any number of alternative choices. Trouble is, you won’t get to drive the BRZ every day.
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Changes for the 2016 Subaru BRZ are few and all inside, with a new Starlink Multimedia System with a 6.2-inch touch display that includes a vast host of informational, entertainment and cyber-connection functions. There is also Series.HyperBlue, basically a snazzy trim package, of which Subaru will build just 500.
Here’s the formula: light weight, rear-wheel drive, low center of gravity, sufficient horsepower, thoughtful engineering, attention to detail. Here’s the goal: an exquisite driving experience characterized by balanced handling, precise...
... steering, responsive engine, capable brakes, coordinated controls, reflexes like a cat after a string. The 2016 Subaru BRZ delivers a road/car/driver hook-up you will rarely find elsewhere. Look where you want to go, your hands on the wheel follow, the BRZ points there. Simple as that. The snappy 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 200 eager horsepower; just about perfect for the BRZ’s modest weight. And that boxer engine keeps its weight down low, contributing to the stunning overall balance. In the bargain, the BRZ has a decent ride, it’s well-equipped, easy on gas and is livable from Monday morning back to Monday morning. If you’ve never driven a race car this might be as close as you will get.
How could this not be our favorite feature? It’s the reason the BRZ exists. Without the experience it’s impossible to explain. If you’ve lived always with SUVs, pickups and even nice sedans, you still won’t know. Maybe you owe it to yourself. Put the Subaru BRZ on your bucket list.
IMPRESSIVE FUEL ECONOMY
Typically, performance costs fuel economy; that’s not so with the Subaru BRZ. To prove that razor-sharp handling and a wonderful driving experience don’t have to use a lot of gas, the BRZ has EPA highway numbers of 30 mpg with the manual transmission and 34 mpg with the automatic.
The 2016 Subaru BRZ has rear seats but we’d use this little jewel as a 2-seater. Entry and exit might be awkward but, once inside, front-seat occupants will find plenty of room, and the seats offer both comfort and support for long drives or quick corners. It’s not necessarily stylish, but clearly intended for driving. In the instrument pod the tachometer dominates. The steering wheel is a simple affair with a nice thick rim. Pedals have those little holes in them, just like race cars. And the relationship of steering wheel to pedals to shifter is right on the money.
If you park the 2016 Subaru BRZ next to its conceptual sibling, a Scion FR-S, you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference. The fact is, besides some very minor details, the 2016 BRZ and FR-S are near-identical twins, differing only in those details. Subjectively, we kind of like the looks of the Subaru version slightly more, but that’s picking some pretty tiny nits. A long hood, an abbreviated trunk and a squat, planted stance all hint at the BRZ's sporting credentials. And, due to its tidy, athletic proportions, we think it has more presence in the metal than in pictures.
Standard equipment on the 2016 Subaru BRZ Premium trim (the “base” model) includes the comprehensive STARLINK Multimedia System with 6.2-inch touch screen, Torsen limited-slip differential, power windows and mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering column and manually adjustable air conditioning. The upscale Limited adds dual-zone automatic climate control, Alcantara/leather-trimmed upholstery, Keyless Access, fog lights, trunk spoiler, heated side mirrors, heated front seats and illuminated visor vanity mirrors.
The easiest way to add options is to choose the Limited trim level, which can be thought of as a sort of luxury, convenience and trim package. Beyond that, the automatic transmission with paddle shifters is available only on the Limited. There aren’t many options, but there is an extensive list of convenience, trim and performance accessories. The more enthusiastic among us prefer the somewhat minimalist Premium trim and we’d spend the money saved on another set of wheels and tires for track days.
It’s obvious to want more horsepower in a sports car but, realistically, the 2016 Subaru BRZ is so well balanced the way it is that any such desire should be carefully considered. The BRZ is powered by a very reliable and proven 2.0-liter 4-cylinder boxer (horizontally opposed) engine that makes 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque and is quite responsive to throttle input. Thanks to the boxer configuration the engine’s weight is low, which contributes to the BRZ’s low center of gravity and thus its exceptional handling and response. The standard-equipment transmission is a 6-speed manual that shifts like a dream, and optional, in the Limited trim only, is a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters.
200 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 6,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30 mpg (manual), 25/34 mpg (automatic)
The 2016 Subaru BRZ Premium trim has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $26,500, including destination. The Limited trim is $2,000 more, and the 6-speed automatic is another $1,100. The Series.HyperBlue, of which there will be only 500, will be about $28,500. There really are no direct competitors for the BRZ but, if you line it up against roughly comparably equipped versions of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro or Hyundai Genesis Coupe, it will cost somewhat more. However, the BRZ offers an all-inclusive up-level package, while adding options to the others can rapidly increase the price. From us the BRZ gets a BUY rating. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what other buyers in your area are paying for the BRZ. Over a 5-year period, we expect the Subaru BRZ to retain its resale value much better than its American and Korean competition.