2017 Subaru BRZ Limited Review

There's gotta be a purist on the Subaru board of directors


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Near-flawless steering and handling, improved interior, design tweaks elevate the looks, small horsepower bump helps, actually sexy in black.
Negatives: Noisy, seats could be better, awkward and small trunk, interior still needs work, infotainment system is still lame, engine still needs more power.
Bottom Line: We love the BRZ purely for its driving entertainment factor and fastback looks, but it's not as powerful or thrilling as it could be. The slightly improved but still cheap interior and low-rent infotainment system also sully the experience. If it's pure driving fun you want without any need for practicality, the BRZ makes an excellent choice. Look elsewhere if you want more.
 View Our 2017 Subaru BRZ Overview
It's shocking in the modern automotive reality that both the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota 86 (formerly known as Scion FR-S) still exist. Where crossovers, pickups, and SUVs dominate, and coupes and sedans are slowly dying, these fastback sports cars are still justified by their manufacturers. This year, the BRZ gets the biggest revisions so far in this first generation. We drove this driver's car for a week. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

9.3

 

If you want to have a crap ton of fun without blowing yourself into the weeds due to too much power, the BRZ is one of the best driving cars for the money.

Ride Quality: A bit more composed and compliant than before but still appropriately firm.

Acceleration: The BRZ is now supposed to be quicker thanks to 5 more horses and revised gearing, but it's still not fast. We love the precise manual transmission, but this thing needs about 20 more horses to be great.

Braking: The upgraded Brembos are powerful and progressive, a great match for the steering and chassis. Scrubbing speed off is easy.

Steering: The already excellent steering gets a better, smaller diameter steering wheel and improved electronic power steering tuning. Turn in is quick, and feedback is superb.

Handling: It's one of the msot balanced cars we've driven, which makes taking it around a corner hard very pleasing, indeed. Body roll is minimal, and the car feels perpetually connected to the road and the driver. It's more composed over rough pavement, and the suspension tweaks keep it more planted.

Technology

5.5

 

These days, even sports cars have to have some sort of of infotainment system, and the BRZ's is passable. We're not enamored with it, but the tech operates as it should.

Infotainment System: The 6.2-inch screen is about as big as you'd expect in a car this size, and it works just fine. Even with the addition of standard nav, it's still a basic system and doesn't support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It also looks dated.

Controls: Volume and climate control knobs are good to have, and the infotainment buttons, which aren't very large, still work pretty well.

Bluetooth Pairing: No issues with pairing, but it's not as fast as systems by Toyota, Kia, Ford, and Hyundai.

Voice Call Quality: Voice call quality is fine with no transmission issues. It is noisy inside the car, and the sound system is a bit hollow.

Styling

8.8

 

Subaru hasn't made any dramatic changes to the BRZ styling, but the overall refinement is more than the sum of its parts. Inside, things get a touch nicer, as well, and the BRZ needed it.

Front: It's hard to notice the difference from 2016 at first glance, but the foglight housings are more dramatic, and standard LED headlights dress up the front end. The fascia is also a bit lower and wider, making it slightly more aggressive.

Rear: LED taillights take center stage, and the light cluster configuration inside has changed, though the overall shape hasn't. The Limited trim now adds a standard rear spoiler, which was once optional, giving it a racy look without the additional cost. We think the car actually looks better without the spoiler, actually, since it's a bit large and obscures the fastback look.

Profile: The profile is largely unchanged except for new, more attractive wheels and a small change to the front fender vent garnish, now with two strakes instead of one. It's a subtle change, but it looks more refined.

Cabin: It's still not remotely premium, but improvements have been made to the Limited with a new 4.2-inch LCD info screen next to the tachometer, smaller diameter steering wheel with better leather, nicely embroidered seats and upgraded dash materials. Every little bit helps.

Comfort

7.3

 

Though you wouldn't want to do a long road trip in this car due to the lack of space, the interior can actually fit six-footers fairly comfortably. Just don't expect it to be remotely posh or liberating.

Front Seats: Grippy and well-bolstered, they could still use a bit more cushioning.

Rear Seats: This is a two-seater in all reality. The small rear seats are barely enough for small kids, and you'll struggle to get a child seat back there.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Though we didn't notice any vibration, the cabin is noisy. Quite a bit of sound is transmitted to the interior, and there's not much sound insulation.

Visibility: You sit low, but you can see well out the front. The rear sightlines are compromised, making the rearview camera a necessity.

Climate: The climate system works just fine, as do the heated seats. We don't imagine many folks will drive this sucker in the dead of winter, though.

Safety

6

 

The BRZ is a pretty safe car, though it missed the two top scores with the IIHS for 2017. It hasn't been tested yet with the NHTSA.

IIHS Rating: It scored a "good" in all the crash tests, except for the small front overlap, where it garnered an "acceptable".

NHTSA Rating: It garnered 5 stars for 2016, so we imagine it will do well for 2017 since it's largely unchanged.

Standard Tech: Aside from airbags, ABS, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, and tire pressure monitoring, there's nothing additional in this set.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

4.2

 

If it's storage and cargo space you want, you're barking up the wrong tree. The BRZ is a sports car, and the rest is an afterthough.

Storage Space: There's only a large center console tub that has no cover. It's big enough for phone, keys, and wallet, but there's no concealment. At least there's a well-sized glovebox.

Cargo Room: There's a mere 6.9 cubic feet of trunk space with a narrow opening. It's enough for a couple of carry on bags or a few grocery bags. At least the load floor is flat.

Fuel Economy

8.5

 

The BRZ isn't what we'd call a fuel-sipper, since that's not its focus. But because it has a small displacement four-cylinder engine, good aerodynamics, and a light curb weight, it actually does pretty well.

Observed: 18.4 mpg

Distance Driven: 211 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove this thing hard pretty much all the time, so our mileage numbers are lower than most owners would net.

Audio

6.5

 

The stock 8-speaker audio system is decent but there's nothing that stands out about the sound quality. The rather noisy interior doesn't help, and there's no upgrade available.



Final Thoughts

We love the BRZ because of what it stands for. It means Subaru cares about driving enthusiasts, and the WRX/STI don't have to stand alone anymore. With the 2017 model year, it's certainly better when it comes to handling and composure, but we would love it even more with a bigger power jump. That being said, the BRZ offers great sports car thrills at a great entry price.

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