2024 Subaru BRZ tS, WRX RS save the manuals

Two enthusiast-focused flavours spice up the Subaru BRZ and WRX for 2024 — and you can only get them with three pedals
Two enthusiast-focused flavours spice up the Subaru BRZ and WRX for 2024 — and you can only get them with three pedals

by Nick Tragianis | May 10, 2024


The mid-to-late aughts were a magical time for Subaru. You could walk into a dealer and drive out with a sports sedan, a thinly veiled and barely street-legal rally car, one of three wagons, and a weird-looking pickup thing, all with three pedals and hood scoops. I’m sad those days are over, but two new models joining the lineup this year — the 2024 Subaru WRX RS, and the 2024 Subaru BRZ tS — keep that spirit alive.

The current-gen BRZ and WRX debuted two years ago, one to much fanfare and the other to … a lot of angry people on the internet. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which one’s which, but once you filter out all the noise, one thing is clear: both the WRX and BRZ are stellar driver’s cars right out of the box, without breaking the bank. I didn’t think it would be possible to improve the original recipe so soon without resurrecting the dearly departed WRX STI, but here I am, about to eat my retro-cool Subaru Rally Team Canada hat. Pass the salt and pepper.

The second-generation BRZ is one of those rare cars that improves upon every shortcoming of its predecessor, and that’s saying a lot because the first-gen cars were pretty sweet to begin with. And yet, two years into its run, Subaru has sharpened the formula by bringing back the tS trim — short for Tuned by STI — and with it a whole host of performance-focused upgrades.

No, this isn’t a full-fledged BRZ STI, but it follows a similar formula as the last BRZ tS: leave the mechanicals alone, and tweak the hardware that connects to the road. What you don’t get is a power bump: the normally aspirated 2.4-litre Boxer four-cylinder engine still puts out 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque — that’s more power than a Bugeye WRX! — and it’s paired only to a six-speed manual transmission.

What you do get is a whole host of chassis and suspension upgrades. The most noteworthy of which is a pair of Hitachi dampers up front that are adaptive and mechanical. In a nutshell, they use two different oil channels that open up depending on how much load is placed on the suspension. Under lighter loads — say, managing body roll in a corner, or the front end pitching upwards while accelerating — the dampers operate in the low-frequency range as they filter out any unpleasantness. But throw a pothole or a mid-corner bump into the mix, and as the piston inside the damper travels further, it opens up a second lubrication channel, thus letting in more fluid to better absorb those harsher imperfections, and Bob’s your uncle. It’s a clever trick that offers the flexibility of adaptive dampers without the complexity of being electrically adjusted.

In addition to the trick dampers, the BRZ tS also receives a brake upgrade all around. The gold Brembo calipers — four-piston units up front, and two-pots out back — are a nice little throwback to the Blobeye and Hawkeye WRX STIs, clamping down on upsized 326- and 316-millimetre front and rear rotors. Last but not least, the BRZ tS wears 18-inch wheels finished in “dark grey” according to Subaru — they look black to me — wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires.

And of course, there’s the visual dress-up. Long gone is the neat but arguably overkill adjustable carbon fibre rear wing. This successor is much more subtle; there’s the requisite tS and STI branding, blue interior accents, and … well, that’s basically it. The ’24 tS flies under the radar; debadge it, tint the windows, swap the wheels out, and the only giveaway you’re driving something a little more special are the gold Brembos.

The 2024 WRX RS similarly embraces subtlety. Again, Subaru left the powertrain alone here — its 2.4L turbo-four pumps out 271 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, paired only to a six-speed manual — instead focusing on the hardware keeping the shiny side up. Supersized Brembo calipers and cross-drilled rotors peek through 19-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza S007 summer tires — fun fact: the same rubber you’d find on certain Aston Martin DB11s, because of course it is, Mr. Bond — while tweaked power steering and suspension bits sum up the mechanical upgrades. And proving that the WRX RS is a serious race car for the road, there’s a sunroof delete and a pair of exceptionally well-bolstered Recaro seats up front.

OK, calling either the BRZ tS or the WRX RS a “serious race car for the road” is a big stretch, but all these otherwise piecemeal upgrades work together to meaningfully spice up these cars’ sporting credentials. Right away upon settling into the WRX RS, the upgraded Recaros felt vastly more supportive and comfortable than the standard WRX’s chairs. Plus, the sunroof delete adds a smidge more headroom. Talk about a win-win.

On the road, the RS doesn’t feel far removed from its slightly less enthusiast-focused siblings. I’m still not a big fan of the shifter — it’s better than the GTI and Golf R’s shifter, but throws still feel a touch long and rubbery — and the 6,000-rpm redline still comes hard and fast. Don’t get me wrong, the WRX RS is punchy and fun to wring out, but you best keep an eye on the tach when you rip through the gears.

But the WRX RS’ steering does feel a smidge more precise and communicative than the standard Rex, the upgraded rubber and Subaru’s bread-and-butter AWD system work in tandem to provide tenacious grip especially in the wet, and the upgraded Brembos scrub of speed real quick and resist fade very well, even after repeated hard stops. I’m not sold on the upsized wheels; Subaru says the RS rides little better compared to the standard WRX, but the 19s and rubber-band sidewalls feel harsh. Considering these Brembos are a parts-bin upgrade from the outgoing STI — and the base cars came with 18s — they should’ve stuck with that.

Honestly — and this might be a spicy take — I enjoyed the BRZ tS more. You can manhandle the WRX RS like a ham-fisted buffoon and still look like a hero, but the BRZ tS requires a more delicate and skilful touch. Scrub off as much speed as you can, turn in just in time to nail the apex, and feather the throttle so that the Michelins have just enough grip without losing the rear end, and the BRZ feels more rewarding when you perfect the racetrack foxtrot. The BRZ’s steering feels more natural, the shifter more crisp and direct, and the higher redline — not to mention the smoother torque curve — means you can keep your hands on the wheel and your mind focused on the next corner (and out of the gutter).

When it comes down to brass tacks, you won’t have to fork over a pretty penny to take advantage of the new hardware. The BRZ tS will run you $36,295, and the WRX RS $41,895 before destination fees, taxes, and all that fun stuff. Granted you do give up some creature comforts particularly on the WRX, such as built-in nav and heated rear seats, but that’s not a lot of money considering how much these upgrades would run if you started with a lesser trim, went the aftermarket route, and ultimately voided the warranty on your brand-new car. It also bears mentioning that these two now come with Subaru’s full suite of active driver assists, including adaptive cruise control. That’s right, Subaru finally figured out how to make EyeSight work with three pedals.

The 2024 Subaru BRZ tS and 2024 Subaru WRX RS are two different tools to complete one job. The BRZ is a utility knife with a fresh blade to carve through apexes, and the WRX is a sledgehammer to beat them into submission. But despite this, they both have more in common than you think: they’re both fun, engaging, and the only way you could get them is with three pedals. Maybe I shouldn’t be so sad after all.


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About Nick Tragianis

Managing Editor

Nick has more than a decade of experience shooting and writing about cars, and as a journalism grad, he's a staunch believer of the Oxford Comma despite what the Canadian Press says. He’s a passionate photographer and loves exploring the open road in anything he gets his hands on.

Current Toys: '90 MX-5 Miata, '00 M5, '16 GTI Autobahn