By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 7.6
The 2017 Subaru BRZ is both an anomaly in the automaker's lineup and a gem of a sports car hiding in plain sight. With its rear-wheel-drive layout, the BRZ coupe is the only Subaru that isn't all-wheel drive. That rear-drive configuration, combined with its 2+2 seating, lightweight design and roughly $26,000 starting price, also makes the BRZ among the few affordable compact-sports coupes available for today's generation of driving devotees. Lightly updated for 2017, the Subaru BRZ remains one of the least expensive ways to have some of the most fun for performance enthusiasts on a budget. Sure, you can get more power in a Camaro and open-air thrills in a Miata, but the BRZ offers balance and dynamics that few others can touch.
If the thought of a small, rear-wheel-drive coupe with a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine, heavenly manual transmission and lightweight design gets your blood running, run to take a test-drive in the 2017 Subaru BRZ. Sleek design and rear seats that can at least hold gear are icing.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2017 Subaru BRZ has been updated with front and rear styling tweaks, a new steering wheel with built-in audio/phone/cruise-control buttons, chassis reinforcements and revised springs and dampers. Manual-transmission models get a slight bump in power. A limited-edition Series.Yellow model is also available for 500 buyers.
The 2017 BRZ offers some of the most joy that can be had in a car costing less than $30,000. Just don't expect tire-incinerating power or straight-line performance that will...
... smoke rivals. That's not the BRZ's thing. Sure, with 200-odd horsepower its flat-4 engine makes this Subaru coupe quick enough. But the BRZ's real gifts are the way it corners -- and the way it makes you feel doing so. If carving roads, wringing out an engine for all its worth and manually shifting through gears is your idea of fun, you'll smile every time you start the BRZ. We appreciate the revised suspension tuning and extra horses under the hood in manual-transmission models, but the biggest difference with the 2017 model is not seen but felt at its cornering limits. The BRZ's stability control threshold has been increased, enabling you to slide the tail with less intrusion from the safety system.
Once you have the convenience of a steering wheel with built-in controls for audio, cruise control and Bluetooth, it's hard to go back. Thankfully, one of our few nits with the past BRZ has been rectified for 2017, with a steering wheel that boasts all these functions.
According to Subaru, the vast majority of BRZ buyers prefer the standard 6-speed manual transmission over the optional 6-speed auto. We can understand why they buck the trend. The BRZ has one of the best manuals around, and certainly at this price point. Easy, crisp and engaging, it just feels right.
The 2017 Subaru BRZ coupe can technically seat four passengers, but take one look at the diminutive rear seats and you'll likely just use them for extra storage. This isn't unusual for a coupe -- the larger Camaro and Mustang are the same way -- and at least adds to the BRZ's everyday practicality, especially since the rear seats fold to hold longer items passed through the trunk. Up front the seats are well bolstered for the kind of sporty driving the BRZ entices, and controls are easy to reach and use. We’re real fans of the new steering wheel.
If you park the 2017 Subaru BRZ next to its Toyota sibling, the 86 (formerly the Scion FR-S), you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference. The same could be said for a 2017 BRZ vs. a 2016 model. Slight revisions are there, but it takes study to find them, such as the modestly redesigned bumper and LED headlights. This isn't a bad thing. We've always been smitten with the BRZ's tight, sleek and aggressive looks. The car sits low, is well-proportioned and has creases in all the right places. Standard twin tailpipes and a new aluminum spoiler finish the tail end.
The 2017 Subaru BRZ remains available in two main trims: Premium and Limited. Premium models -- yes, that's the base form -- include Subaru's Starlink 6.2-inch touch-screen multimedia display with 8-speaker AM/FM/CD system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB/auxiliary ports, rearview camera, manual driver's seat with height adjustment, Torsen limited-slip differential, 17-inch wheels, cruise control, and leather-wrapped shift handle and tilt/telescoping steering wheel. BRZ Limited models add an Alcantara-and-leather interior with heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED fog lights, security system, push-button ignition, a new 4.2-inch color instrument display, and red interior accents.
The 2017 BRZ's option list is relatively short. If you want an automatic-transmission BRZ, you'll have to get the more expensive Limited trim and option it. Other add-ons include the Performance Package available on manual-transmission BRZ's that bundles black alloy wheels, Brembo brakes and Sachs front and rear shock absorbers. The BRZ's options are nice, but in reality even a base Premium model is recommendable as this coupe's dynamic performance is its biggest draw. For real buffs, the 500-run Series.Yellow BRZ is based on a Limited model with performance package and adds interior accents and a bold yellow exterior paint color.
Just one engine is available in the Subaru BRZ, but it's been slightly tweaked for 2017, at least on manual-transmission models. It is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that is horizontally opposed, or a "boxer" or "flat" design. This layout allows the engine to sit lower in the vehicle, which means a lower center of gravity and thus better handling. The manual-transmission version receives new cylinder heads, valves, camshaft, aluminum intake manifold and redesigned exhaust manifolds. Aside from the lower price, better engagement and slightly increased horsepower, another reason to opt for a manual model is it boasts a sweet red intake manifold. Pop the hood and check it out. All BRZs are rear-wheel drive, just as divinity intended a sports car should be.
200 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm (205 horsepower in manual-transmission models)
151 lb-ft of torque @ 6,400 rpm (156 lb-ft in manual-transmission models)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 mpg (manual), 24/33 mpg (automatic)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Subaru BRZ has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $26,315 for a base Premium model. The higher-trim Limited BRZ starts at $28,465. If you want an automatic-transmission Subaru BRZ, you're looking at $29,565, while the Performance Package for manual models is an extra $1,195. The limited-edition Series.Yellow model will debut at $30,515. Aside from its Toyota twin the 86 that starts at $27,120, direct competitors to the BRZ are few. For comparison, though, the Chevy Camaro and Nissan 370Z start higher than the BRZ, while the Ford Mustang and Mazda MX-5 Miata are slightly lower. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their BRZ. Subarus have a reputation for strong resale value, and while it trails other Subaru models, the BRZ is expected to hold its value well in its relatively small segment.