2017 Subaru BRZ Quick Review: The Perfect First Sports Car

When your kid asks you to buy him a Mustang ... get him this instead.

Subaru

Welcome to Critic's Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today's edition: the 2017 Subaru BRZ Limited with Performance Package.

The Subaru BRZ has always felt like something of the odd man out in the Subie lineup. Unlike its 86/GT86/FR-S sibling, which fit into the disjointed Scion lineup as well as any of the oddball cars Toyota corporate tried to cajole millennials into thinking were "cool," the BRZ is worlds apart from the rest of Subaru's fleet. It's the only model without all-wheel-drive; the only two-door; the only one co-developed with another automaker. 

But that distance from the rest of the cars wearing the Pleiades badge don't make it any less of a hoot when you hurl it down a back road—especially when it comes with the Performance Package, like the one Subaru dropped off at The Drive's office. Between its Sachs struts and shock absorbers, and a center of gravity that puts your butt crack mere inches above the asphalt, the BRZ hustles down winding country lanes with a verve that brings to mind some of the world's great sports cars...

...at least, until you floor the gas pedal. 

Subaru

The Pros:

  • The BRZ handles like a dream. It drives like the car Colin Chapman would have built if Japanese scientists had resurrected him and told him to build a car out of the joint parts bins of Toyota and Subaru, or else they'd disconnect the pumps and send him back to oblivion. 
  • It's surprisingly good in town, too. The engine may not make all that much torque, but what it has is right there; it plateaus between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, right in the sweet spot for bopping around local roads. Combine that with a sensitive throttle, and the BRZ feels zippy and energetic when bopping through traffic or trying to beat the light
  • It looks good. Sure, the details may not be as elegant as an Aston Martin or as aggressive as a Challenger, but the basic shape of the BRZ is pure, old-school sports car: long hood, muscular fenders, compact greenhouse, taut tail. 
  • The new infotainment system is miles better than the old crap Subaru and Toyota used to shoehorn into these cars. Granted, it still looks like an aftermarket head unit when it's powered down, but at least now you don't want to pull a Mark Fields and punch the sucker out of frustration.
Subaru

The Cons:

  • This ain't a long-distance cruiser. The cogs are too short and tightly-spaced; sixth gear gets you 22 miles per hour for every 1,000 rpm on the tach, which means you're well in the boxer four's drone zone by the time you hit highway velocity.
  • The more you wring it out, the more you want more power. Not a lot, mind you...just an extra 50 or 60 ponies at the top end, to make chasing the revs higher all the better.  Even something like the RX-8's 228-hp Wankel would be a hoot. 
  • You'll have to explain to everyone who recognizes the badge that no, this is the one Subaru that doesn't have all-wheel-drive. 
Subaru

Pay no attention to the way that screen awkwardly intrudes into the tachometer.

The Subaru BRZ, Ranked:

  • Performance: 4/5
  • Comfort: 3/5
  • Luxury: 2/5
  • Hauling people: 2/5
  • Hauling stuff: 3/5
  • Curb appeal: 4/5
  • “Wow” factor: 2/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5
Subaru

If you don't buy your BRZ with one of these, you are an idiot.

The Bottom Line:

The Subaru BRZ may not be the car I'd buy for $30,000...but I'm damn glad that it exists. It's a salute to all the less-appreciated aspects of automotive performance that are all-too-often neglected in favor of high-tech wingdings and heavy-duty horsepower. It's proof that at least one (well, two) of the planet's major carmakers haven't lost sight of the virtues of cheap speed and simplicity.

The BRZ, really, is the perfect first sports car—the ideal vehicle for someone who's just discovered that driving is more than a way to get from A to B. It forces a driver to learn technique, rather than letting them go power-mad with every flex of their ankle. Hand an inexperienced driver the keys to one of the other rear-wheel-drive cars you can get for the Toyobaru's price, like a Camaro or Mustang, and...well, we know what tends to happen. Give them this Subie, however, and those awkward car show exit crashes are much more likely to turn into tasty drifts than into viral crash videos.

By the Numbers:

  • Price (as tested): $28,465 ($29,660)
  • Powertrain: 2.0-liter flat-four, 205 horsepower, 156 pound-feet of torque; six-speed manual; rear wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 21 city, 29 highway
  • 0-60 MPH: 6.2 seconds (Car and Driver test, non-Performance Package model)
  • Approximate number of bowling balls you can fit in the trunk: 38. (Don't ask.)