2024 Subaru BRZ tS First Drive Review: Cheap Thrills

The tS makes the most of the BRZ formula but doesn’t fix what isn’t broken.

byAdam Ismail|
Subaru
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As far as sports cars go, the Subaru BRZ is a pretty unserious one, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. It starts a hair over $30K, it has just enough power without getting anyone into trouble, and it has a friendly face. So what happens when you punch it up ever so slightly, as the company has done with the new 2024 Subaru BRZ tS? You end up with a coupe that’s a little bit better, at least for those who must have the best.

To understand why, let's discuss what differentiates your ordinary BRZ from a BRZ that's been "tuned by STI," as we have here. The automaker's performance division has worked its magic on the dual-mode Hitachi front dampers exclusive to this model. Spring rates haven't been tweaked any compared to the regular car, but the new hardware is designed to mechanically adjust to road surfaces for a serviceable ride even on subpar asphalt. The rear shocks aren't Hitachi parts, though they've been massaged to jibe with the front suspension. Finally, the new top-dog BRZ also benefits from larger brake rotors and pads, all supplied by Brembo with tasteful gold calipers to match.

2024 Subaru BRZ tS Specs
Base Price$36,465
Powertrain2.4-liter boxer four-cylinder | six-speed manual | rear-wheel drive
Horsepower228 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque184 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm
Seating Capacity4
Curb Weight2,846 pounds
Cargo Volume6.3 cubic feet
Quick TakeLight improvements make the BRZ tS the one to buy if you're planning on ride and handling mods anyway.
Score8/10

That's pretty much the extent of performance-minded alterations STI has lavished on the second-gen BRZ. Inside, you're treated to some blue stitching and red tS logos; in all other facets, though, the cabin is pretty much identical to a BRZ Limited's. Even the tire and wheel pairing is the same, with the factory 10-spokes we know well dressed in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. And unlike the first-generation BRZ tS, you won't find an adjustable carbon fiber wing impeding your rearward visibility, nor has the chassis been further braced for good measure. Subaru told us it didn't go quite as hardcore this time around in the interest of keeping the sticker down.

So the changes here are subtle, and the accompanying price bump is reasonable. Ergo, the tS isn't a low-run spec anymore—Subaru is building these in typical numbers—and including destination, the 2024 BRZ tS is $36,465. That's $2,650 more than a manual Limited, and $5,150 more than the base trim with a six-speed. It's still the most expensive BRZ on offer but not by a whole lot.

The 2024 Subaru BRZ tS, right, alongside the 2024 Subaru WRX TR in front of the Targa Florio's old pit building. Subaru Subaru

With all this in mind, Subaru sent us on our way to sample the BRZ tS in Sicily of all places, on the roads of the Targa Florio. This was the same venue where I had the opportunity to test the new WRX TR, and even though they're very different types of sports cars, I had a great time in each. To be more specific, I had a slightly more comfortable experience in the WRX, but the BRZ tS is roundly the better driver's car. The steering feels much more natural and satisfyingly weighty, the shifter is crisper, and of course, ~2,800 pounds coupled with a low center of gravity in a rear-wheel-drive sports car virtually guarantees a good time.

Plus, those Hitachi shock absorbers really do handle poor terrain well. I should know, as the roads of the Targa are pitted at best, and absolutely falling apart at worst. In fact, on two separate occasions on our route, the road was entirely gone exposing jagged gravel underneath, and the BRZ actually climbed these mini trails with relative ease, completely devoid of wince-inducing underside scraping noises. For more typical use cases you're far more likely to encounter in a small sports car, the new mono-tubes exhibit less oil flow during low-speed cornering, which helps even out the ride in such situations.

But then many of these characteristics are also true of the regular BRZ, and here's where we start to venture into potential trouble. I can't say for certain whether the tS is truly different or better enough to justify another $2,650. Sure—that's hardly life-changing money, but it's money I'd rather have than not. If you see yourself installing bigger brakes and uprated suspension, it's not a bad price, especially when the factory's doing it for you. But as someone who's had plenty of enjoyment in the regular second-gen BRZ and Toyota GR86 alike and found their rides comfortable enough, I'm not totally convinced.

Also, feel free to lump me in on the positive side of the eternal Toyobaru debate: The second-gen's 2.4-liter boxer, with its 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque at 3,700 rpm, actually does contribute enough push now. The old car's failing was beyond a lack of motivation; it was exacerbated by the fact that you could only access most of what it had to offer by making a lot of noise and burning a lot of gas all the time. Even with no powertrain changes to speak of, the tS still delights. Of course, such an upgrade would definitively make the tS the main attraction of the range, but the show we've got is plenty entertaining already.

You can consider all this a knock against the tS or—if you're the glass-half-full type—a resounding endorsement of the car the existing BRZ already was, which is brilliant. I think the latter is a perfectly reasonable read. The only other car under $35,000 with the capability to thrill like any BRZ or 86 is of course the Miata, but I'd never ask a Miata to be my only ride. I reckon you could make life work, or at least do normal life things, with a BRZ. Especially when you put the rear seats down, which frees up a surprising amount of cargo room. And as far as creature comforts go, it's worth pointing out that for the first time in 2024, manual BRZs get all the EyeSight driver-assistance tech that the automatic builds do. Second-class citizens no longer.

The BRZ tS is no revolution, and it's certainly not the BRZ anyone must buy. What it really is, is one more rung on the ladder for owners who desire the apex of the world's most well-rounded, affordable compact sports car. Like the roads of the Targa Florio, long may it live on.

Adam Ismail

Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: adam.ismail@thedrive.com

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