Refreshed styling, (slightly) more power
What’s it like to drive?
Good question. We drove right-hand-drive BRZs at Fuji Speedway, about an hour and a half south of Tokyo. It was shrouded in fog with an off/on drizzle. Those aren’t the greatest conditions for testing a new car, not to mention it had been years since I’d driven Fuji.
Still, we learned some things, or at least the latest BRZ reinforced what we already knew: This is arguably the car business’ last best hope for a fun, inexpensive sports car. It puts an exclamation point on the notion that a car without a gazillion horsepower or a six-figure sticker is fun to drive.
The flat-four is still buzzy, and the redline remains 7,000-plus rpm for a reason: Rev it and be ready to shift quickly and often, and the car is still a hoot. Besides, the exhaust note sounds a lot better above 5,000 rpm than below. Crank it up!
The all-around balance that has long made the BRZ so confidence inspiring and fun was intact, with the car even sliding around on the slick track surface. The steering made direction changes happen right now, and the body control felt excellent.
The 5-hp increase was basically unnoticeable, especially in the conditions. We’ve heard the gripes over the years about how the car needs more power and that Subaru should do a turbo version.
Nah, here’s the problem: Adding a turbo version means wider tires and a revised suspension, leading to potentially losing the easy, controllable tail happiness. Slap a ginormous STI wing on the back, and all of a sudden this is a completely different (and no doubt much pricier) proposition. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say it’s to Subaru’s credit it left this car’s old-school fun intact.
The BRZ’s boxer-four keeps its 2.0-liter displacement but has a new camshaft, cylinder head and valves, as well as a new aluminum intake manifold and redesigned exhaust manifold for better air flow. Horsepower is up 5 to 205 with the six-speed manual, and the final-drive ratio goes from 4.1:1 to 4.3:1. Subaru also raised the stability control system limits so you can cut the chassis loose a bit more.
The 2017 model’s exterior is largely unchanged, save for a front bumper redesigned to make the car look wider and a bit more aggressive -- it’s also mounted lower, helping aero a bit. Headlamps, fog lamps and rear lights are now LED.
The two trim levels, Premium and Limited, have a 6.2-inch touchscreen, in-dash CD player with eight speakers, smartphone integration and a backup camera. The Limited has dual-zone automatic climate control, while the Premium’s is manual. A new Limited feature is the 4.2-inch LCD multifunction display just to the right of the tachometer, giving readouts for lateral gs, gas pedal position, braking force, steering angle, oil and water temps, and battery voltage. There’s also a stop watch so you can record lap times. The Limited’s Performance Package is also new for ’17 and includes Brembo calipers and larger rotors front and rear, Sachs performance shocks and unique 17-inch aluminum wheels. Start Assist is now standard across the board on manual-equipped cars; it holds the car on inclines so you don’t roll into the driver behind you