Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 6, 2022
The Subaru BRZ is the identical twin to the Toyota GR86. Both share the same platform, engine, and interior bits, and even come with the same instrument cluster graphics. But discernable differences add a unique personality to each. The BRZ is equipped with its own headlights and bumpers, giving the front end a smiley face compared to the GR86’s angry demeanor. That must make the Subaru the happier twin, right? Well, the GR86 also makes do with an exclusive, raised ducktail spoiler, compared to the BRZ’s more traditional tapered trunk lid.
There are differences underneath the epidermis too. Both keep the same rear-wheel-drive layout but the BRZ is tuned with stiffer front springs and softer rear springs than the GR86, which should result in a dartier front end and a calmer, grippier rear axle. You can read our full review of the 2022 Toyota GR86 here but out on dry city streets, the only discernible difference we could detect between the pair was the BRZ’s stiffer front springs and what seems to be a slightly quicker steering ratio. It doesn’t seem to require as much rotation of the wheel to get the front turned, which was actually one of our criticisms of GR86. Because every minuscule movement rotates the front so quickly and without delay, the BRZ feels more playful at low speeds. That being said, it’s a small nuance and both steering examples breathe sentient life into the drive. It’s just rare that we hop into a car and instantly feel so connected to the machine, and the crisp feedback and fidelity that both provide make it effortless to find harmony with the road.
The suspension in the BRZ is similarly compliant, stiff at low speeds yet supple as the numbers rise, and is completely usable as a daily driver. The Subaru is just as likely to let its tail slide out when flirting with the tires and when we throw it around a corner at speed, it takes the same amount of time to get it sideways. Both feel lively and snappy at the limit, and you can palpate just when the rears are about to give.
The average driver (us) likely won’t feel any disparity between the Japanese monikers unless your butt dyno is calibrated by Max Verstappen or if you’re tracking them back to back. So when people ask us which one they should buy, there really is no correct answer. The decision between the two ultimately comes down to brand loyalty and the emotive appeal of the exterior. That should give you the comfort to revel in the rest of this magnificent package.
The shared 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder is a peach and is one from the Subaru stable. It delivers 228 hp and 184 lb-ft, a significant 23 hp and 28 lb-ft more than the outgoing BRZ’s 2.0-litre engine. It might not seem like much but the extra torque and the fact that it comes on earlier at 3,700 rpm make all the difference in the way the BRZ now behaves. It no longer feels like you have to climb a mountain to get any kind of forward propulsion, the mid-range is now full of gusto, and the second to third gear rip is one of the most satisfying.
You still want to keep the needle hovering above 3,000 rpm for accessible thrust, and there’s little value in exploring past 7,000 rpm where the BRZ begins gasping for breath. It’s a more characterful and robust engine than the Mazda MX-5’s, though not as polished, refined, nor as rev-happy as it wanders around its powerband. Hammer it hard though, and the BRZ will reach 0-100 km/h in a swift 6.3 seconds, nearly a full second quicker than before (7.2 s).
Even offering the option for three pedals is a rarity in today’s world - a necessity for some, a delicacy for others, and an unknown concept for the majority. Toyota and Subaru have been keeping this method of rowing gears alive longer than most, yet they’ve ensured that the BRZ isn’t a difficult vehicle to pilot, adding to its beginner’s appeal. Shifter travel is precise and short, with a mild tinge of notchiness but maybe we’re just being picky after experiencing the masterstroke and perfection of the Civic Si shifter. The clutch bite point is consistent and forgiving, and while the gearing isn’t particularly tall, it rewards precise shifting at the correct RPMs.
The pedals are perfectly positioned for heel and toe maneuvers, and the foot well doesn’t feel as cramped or as narrow as the MX-5. In fact, the whole cabin feels spacious for my slender six-foot figure, and the driving position is excellent: low down yet with excellent outward visibility. We do wish the steering wheel would telescope more towards the driver, though. Of note, Subaru’s EyeSight includes adaptive cruise control, automatic reverse braking, and other driver assistance features, but are only available with the automatic transmission due to obvious reasons.
In the end, what matters is which of the Toybaru twins speaks to your heart. Whether it’s the badge or the unique paint colours, you’re still getting the same fraternal driving experience. With that, both deliver engagement and driver involvement in spades. And when priced under $35,000, it’s hard to find a better performance bargain than this pair. Simply choose your poison.
Model: 2022 Subaru BRZ Sport-Tech
Paint Type: World Rally Blue Pearl
Base Price: $33,495
Price as Tested: $33,495
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,265 / 1,775 / 1,310
Curb weight (kg): 1,285
Engine: 2.4-litre flat-four
Horsepower: 228 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.9 / 8.7 / 10.5
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.9
Tires: 215/40R18; Michelin Pilot Sport 4