The BRZ has a simplistic formula that has made it immensely popular.
The Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 twins are special to enthusiasts around the world, and not just for the simple algorithm of a naturally aspirated engine, a slick shifting 6-speed manual gearbox, and rear-wheel drive setup. This car proved that the formula will still sell in today’s crossover-dominated market. We recently tested the limited edition 2018 Subaru BRZ tS (reviewed here), and suggested that the RS is the best value for those who do not care for added aero and the limited edition factor. We booked a 2018 Subaru BRZ Sport-tech RS for a week to evaluate its proposition; not only amongst the community but also in the sub-$35K sports car segment.
The BRZ painted in bright Pure Red, is an attention-grabber on the street. Its low-slung silhouette greets onlookers with the Pagoda style roof leading to a subtle but functional rear spoiler and dual exhaust tips. The set of Sport-tech RS specific 17” gunmetal alloy wheels looked purposeful, the spokes were spaced just wide enough to allow red Brembo performance brake calipers to peek out and remind of its performance abilities. The BRZ may not have the STI aero bits and the dry carbon wing that the BRZ tS has, but I much prefer the subtle look for daily driving.
All BRZs share the same 2.0L 16-valve, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder Boxer engine with Electronic Throttle Control and Dual Active Valve Control System. It has direct and port injection, and produces 205 horsepower at 7,000RPM, and 156 lb-ft. of torque from 6,400 to 6,800RPM. In the city, the car is able to get up to speed with ease. The BRZ still suffers from the infamous “torque dip”, with a drop in power from 3,000-5,000RPM. It was improved for the 2017 engine update but is still noticeable. Even though 0–100km/h is rated at 7.4 seconds, the BRZ felt faster than the figure suggests from the driver’s seat.
The BRZ Sport-tech RS comes standard with a Torsen® limited-slip differential, mated to a six-speed close ratio manual transmission. It is a joy to row through the gears with the short throw shifter, with precise and notchy operation and is one of the better manual gearboxes in the market.
For every bit of frustration the torque dip causes, the BRZ makes it up with the way it handles. It’s always in character with only one drive mode available. The electrically assisted steering is communicative and precise, leading the car exactly where you point it. The RS is equipped with the same set of SACHS performance dampers as the tS model, and they did an excellent job tightening up the response, offering a firm ride without feeling too harsh on the streets.
The aforementioned Brembo performance brakes did far more than to improve the aesthetics. Brake feel was solid and confidence inspiring; nothing I would not expect from Brembo and definitely one of the best braking systems in its price range. Fuel economy is rated at 8.1L/100km on the highway, and 11.2L/100km in the city. I achieved a modest 9.7L/100km during my week of driving. The BRZ’s fuel tank capacity is rated at 50 litres and it has a recommended minimum of 93-octane fuel.
Stepping in and out of the car requires a bit of acrobatics, as the low roof and heavily bolstered, Alcantara–wrapped seats made for a bit of an awkward move for occupants without prior practice. The seats are quite comfortable once you sink yourself in them, and visibility is excellent despite the high waistline and the low seating position.
Interior design is minimalistic without feeling cheap with soft touch and leather materials in places you would see and touch. Those who plan to drive the BRZ year-round will be delighted to know it comes with heated front seats. The rear, flat-folding seats are limited to small children only as rear legroom is nearly non-existent. The trunk volume is measured as 196 litres; good news is that the opening is wide enough to be useful when I took the BRZ to a round of golf.
The infotainment is a double-din style unit with volume and tuning knob, and short cut buttons along the side for convenient operations. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were welcomed inclusions in the last update, and the touchscreen is easy to use with large on screen buttons in order to minimize distractions while driving.
The 2018 BRZ Sport-tech RS costs $31,695, with no additional options. Shopping experience with the BRZ is rather simple, with no options available and you choose by its trim levels only. The RS tested here is a significant $5,700 cheaper than the tS model, and if you don’t mind losing the STI badges and exclusivity, only needing a purpose-built driving machine, I think the Sport-tech RS is a far better value.
At this price point, the BRZ does have several competitors, such as the Nissan 370Z at $29,998 (reviewed here) and the Civic Si at $28,690 (reviewed here). The BRZ represents a bare bones sports car with upgraded brakes and suspension system when compared to its chief rivals. Shoppers looking for a fun back road carver or autocross toy should give all these choices a test drive before making a decision. Each of these cars has a vastly different personality that makes them unique, but the BRZ has a simplistic formula that has made it immensely popular over the five years it has been on sale thus far.