2022 Subaru BRZ Limited 6M review by Ben Lewis

When it comes to driver’s cars, we love a brand that stays true to form. Oh, sure the newest Porsche 911 is huge compared to the original, but when it gets down to brass tacks, it’s still a sports car, pure and true.

Back in 2013, Subaru and Toyota worked together to create a sports car, and the BRZ and FR-S respectively were huge hits – serving up the true sports car credo of front engine, rear wheel drive, in a tight responsive package. A bit larger than a Miata, a bit smaller and lighter than something like a Nissan 370Z, it hit the sweet spot.

So, when Subie and Toyota announced an all-new 2022 BRZ and now re-named GR86, we were excited, and yet cautious. Would it be another home run or sophomore slump? We had initial good vibes testing automatic versions of both models, but if you’re really a sports car afficionado, it’s gotta be a stick. So, we’re thrilled to finally review a manual transmission Subaru BRZ. Does it deliver the goods? Let’s find out!

Muscled Up and Smoothed Out

Well, it looks like during the pandemic, the BRZ was hitting the weights to stay in shape, and the new design is definitely showing more muscle, with a look that feels more cohesive as well.

Which is not to say the Subie has gotten fat – despite having a larger engine, the ’22 is withing 20 lbs. or so of the original, thanks to extensive use of lightweight components, including a new aluminum roof.

Up front there’s a lower, wider grille, prominent boomerang intakes and sharp LED headlights with signature driving lights. That wider grille has a smile to it, too. Promising great fun.

Swing around to the side and you’ll find a true sports car stance, with cool features like a small greenhouse, swept back C pillar, and cool functional fresh air vents behind the front wheels that help direct air from under the hood and fenders. Finishing off the aero is a small ducktail spoiler on top of the rear hatch. What really catches the eye are the prominent lower side sills and gorgeous 18-inch alloy wheels that are unique to the Limited model.

Out back, boomerang-shaped LED lights finish the grown-up look, while the lower rear fascia with two massive exhaust pipes sticking out reminds this is a serious performance vehicle.

Finishing off the look on our tester was a handsome WR Blue Pearl paint job that really turned heads.

Pure Driver’s Cockpit

 The interior remains a pure driver’s environment – and it’s surprisingly comfortable, too.

Open the door, and you’re impressed by how low the seating position is, close to the ground and similar to the Miata. It feels much more spacious than the diminutive Mazda, with a wide horizontal sweep of the dashboard and center console breaking up the driver and passenger slots clearly.

While there are a lot of dark plastics here, you get some visual pop in the red trimming on the Ultrasuede trimmed front buckets, along with some nice red stitching throughout the cabin. Those seats are excellently shaped, and with a rear seat that is really only for the smallest of kids, you can get the fronts far enough back that even taller drivers will fit comfortably.

And it’s worth the effort, with a fat leather-wrapped steering wheel fronting a nice digital dash display with a 9,000-rpm tach and digital speedo readout. You can program the display to the left of the tach for the info you’d like – we recommend the g-meter for driving fun, but you can also call up all sorts of other info.  

Info-tainment is handled by an 8-inch touchscreen with all the latest goodies, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as rear vision camera and on Limited models, and additional telematics.

Climate is adjustable by large circular controls below the screen while a row of neat little rocker switches at the bottom let you call up needed things like defroster, recirculation mode and the like. Speaking of keeping you cool, there are large vents – perfect when you’re tackling the twisties and working up a sweat. Heated seats are a nice touch as well on chilly mornings.

Like we mentioned, those rear seats are barely seats at all, but if you have little ones, you might be able to get by in a pinch. More useful, the rear seat folds down and gives you a surprising amount of cargo space. The trunk opening is not huge, so you’ll have to fiddle a little to get items in, but still, compared to something like a Miata, this is a sportwagen!

Start Your Boxer Engines

OK, the reason you go for a sports car is all about the drive. Does the Subie deliver?

Oh yes. Yes, it does.

Under the hood, is a new 2.4-liter Subaru “Boxer” engine that replaces the previous 2-liter unit. Horsepower is up 28 to 228, and more importantly, torque is up from 156 lb.-ft at 5600 rpm, to 184 lb.-ft at just 3700.

From the get-go, the engine serves up plenty of low-end power and makes for an easy and tractable commute. Good things happen when you give it the gas and the engine pulls hard across a linear powerband – it sounds especially sweet as it gets to the 7,000 rpm redline.

We’re glad we got a go in the 6-speed manual. It’s a honey, with a slick, direct mechanical feel that’s perfectly balanced, and a joy to snick from gear to gear. The clutch take up is light and easy, and if you’re thinking about getting the auto because you deal with a lot of traffic, we say drive the stick first – it will surprise you with its livability. By the way, the automatic is a real deal auto, works great and, is not a CVT.

Subaru has done a lot of fine tuning on the chassis, starting with 50% greater rigidity, to help the suspension work with greater precision. That new engine even lowers the already low center of gravity for enhanced steering response. Except for something like a Porsche Cayman, nothing responds more quickly to the helm than a BRZ.

A light touch on the wheel and you easily switch lanes, but crank it over and the Subie dives into corners and pins you to your seat. The steering feel is excellent and nicely weighted – it’s easy to be precise in the BRZ.  

The grip is phenomenal too, thanks in part to the standard Torsen limited slip differential – with our Limited’s Michelin Pilot Sport tires, we were pulling close to 1g in turns! (Yes, we used the factory G-meter). Slow is as good as the go, with excellent, linear braking feel.

Considering how low you sit and the high cornering limits, the ride is impressively supple – you could easily take long trips in the Subie. On those long trips you would notice a fair amount of road noise due to the stiff chassis and those large 18-inch rims. But most enthusiasts will find it a small price to pay for all the fun you can have. Turning up the 8-speaker audio system helps.

Other things help, on every drive. The outward visibility quite good, unlike other sporting coupes, while our tester’s standard Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Assist gave the added confidence you want – especially when slicing and dicing traffic or pulling out of crowded parking lot between behemoth SUVs.

  Do I Get Bang for my Buck?

You bet! The 2022 BRZ Premium starts at just $28,595. With all the performance goodies, 17-inch alloys, Dual-zone climate control and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard it’s a great value.

Stepping up to the Limited trim like out tester begins at $30,495, but features added goodies like  leather/Ultrasuede upholstery, 18-inch alloys with Michelin Pilot Sport tires, heated front seats and LED steering-responsive headlights. We think that’s money well spent. Add in $960 for Destination, and we rang the bell at $31,455.

The most obvious competitor is the Subie’s near-identical twin, the Toyota GR86. A comparable model comes in at $32,095. So, the BRZ sneaks by with a bit of a savings.  

A comparable Mazda Miata RF would come in at $35,750. You do have a power-retractable roof, but no rear seat. The Subaru is definitely more comfortable in the day-to-day. Both are great cars; you just have to decide your priorities. The all-new 400 horsepower Nissan Z is also worth a look – but starting at over $40,000 it’s a much more expensive proposition.

Pure driving thrills, everyday livability, and grins guaranteed. The 2022 Subaru BRZ Limited is the perfect affordable sports car!