Car Chooser
Car Chooser

2022 Subaru BRZ S owner review

David Festa
  • RWD, manual, sports coupe for under $50k
  • More power with out a turbo
  • Lots of incremental improvements have made a much better car
  • Engine noise and lack of exhaust drama
  • No option for a better audio system
  • Missing the GR86 duck tail spoiler

About the Subaru BRZ

David Festa purchased this Subaru BRZ new with additional options for $47,245 (including all on-road costs). David Festa would buy this car again because: “I would buy again because the days of dedicated sports coupes with rear-wheel drive, naturally-aspirated engines, and manual gearboxes are limited and I want to enjoy them while I can. It is the anti SUV.

Before the turn of the millennium virtually every manufacturer had an affordable sports coupe. Toyota Celica and MR2, Nissan 200SX, Honda Integra and Prelude, Mazda RX7, Alfa GTV, Fiat Coupe are just a few that come to mind.

Even Holden had the Calibra. Ferrari and Lamborghini were the poster cars but an affordable sports coupe was what I really aspired to. And as old fashioned as the layout is, the BRZ is the best 1990s sports coupe you can buy today. I like a hot hatch as much as the next person but I love that this car is designed from the ground up for driving enjoyment, and is not just a modified shopping trolley.

I previously owned a base 2015 GT86 and after waiting more than a year from the first reveal I found the experience of seeing the new BRZ in person a bit surreal. Years ago I used to sleep in the doctor’s on-call room in the nurse’s quarters of the old Preston and Northcote Community Hospital in Melbourne.

The same building is now an upmarket hotel and it feels bizarre walking through the place. The walls, foyer and swimming pool are all in the same place but barely recognisable. Everything is the same only better. I have the same experience with the BRZ.

You can see the same basic shape of the old car but everything has been updated. The wider rear track makes the haunches more curvaceous, the design details are more cohesive, and the aero slashes on the side are now functional. All the hard points are the same but absolutely everything has been improved. Kudos to Subaru for making so many changes and all of them positive.

Often when a car is updated there are some changes for the worse; just look at the cost-cutting in the new Golf GTI interior or its horrendous new user interface. I loved the old BRZ and I love the new BRZ even more. If for whatever reason you did not like the previous model then you may not like this one either.

There have been multiple incremental improvements rather than any radical changes, and in a lot of ways it remains substantially the same car. Only much, much better. To me it feels more premium and well made, like an expensive power tool, but in no way luxurious or opulent. A BMW or Porsche this is not. “

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

It’s way too early to judge. It’s always a worry buying the first of a new series but I am not expecting too many problems as this is effectively just an update of a previously very reliable car. The last model did have a few early problems such as valve spring issues and a power steering recall but overall the previous BRZ/86 has proved pretty much bulletproof.

In the previous 86 I owned for three years I only had to top up the oil once between services and that was after a track day. I was impressed that during that track day where lots of the cars around me were over heating and suffering all sorts of problems but my 86 never missed a beat.

I see no reason not to expect the same level of reliability from the new car, and of course there is the peace of mind of a five-year warranty.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

If 2020 will be remembered as the year of COVID then 2021 must have been the year of long car waiting lists. I put a deposit down on the BRZ in May 2021 and have been eagerly anticipating it’s arrival ever since. Being one of the first in Australia the new BRZ does turn heads.

I know that this is largely due to the novelty factor and likely to be short-lived but for now the attention is fun. Also with this car there is none of the intimidation that can be associated with a more expensive prestige car and strangers seem happy to come up and start a conversation.

The joy of owning something special is sharing it, and so far the reaction of others has been all positive. But the real reason I bought this car is because I love driving, and I love driving this car. There is a near-perfect seating position with excellent steering feel, pedal weight and placement, precise handling and immediate throttle response.

The way the whole car communicates, responds and rewards makes every drive feel special.

How has the purchase and aftercare experience been with your car?

I feel like I must have been the easiest customer the salesperson ever had. As soon as I read on CarExpert that Subaru was talking orders I went to the local dealer and put down a deposit.

I knew exactly the specification and colour I wanted, and as a preorder with no trade-in there was no haggling over money. The only thing for the salesperson to do was keep me informed and let me know when the car arrived. Picking it up was the quickest exchange I have ever had buying a car as I am sure the salesperson realised I knew more about the car than she did.

I remember when I bought my Golf R the salesperson person took it as a matter of pride to show me absolutely every feature on that very complex car. After more than an hour I was ready to fake a heart attack just to get out of the showroom!

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

Given the level of engineering involved I consider the BRZ outstanding value for money. Also at a time when Toyota (and others) have added a few features then substantially increased the price of new models such as the Yaris and Corolla, the BRZ has been completely revised and improved and yet remains similar in price to the previous BRZ Premium model.

This is also the first time in my life I have paid full list price for a car. Given that the BRZ was preordered so early and the first delivery of 500 sold out before they even arrived in the country, there was obviously no room for negotiation.

Added to this is the fact the Subaru dealer we went through, for better or worse, now runs an agency model and all cars are sold at a fixed price.

I ordered the range-topping Coupe S as even though the extra $2100 only gets you better seats, I did like the way they looked. Manual of course because really unless you are physically incapable of pressing a clutch the manual is the only way to go. I also added the STI short shifter at $827.45 because you would wouldn’t you?

More controversially I went the whole hog and added the “Popular Bundle” which consists of ceramic paint coating, interior protection and window tinting for $2000. After a lifetime of warning people against getting sucked in by dealer add-ons I was pleasantly surprised by Subaru’s competitive pricing, not to mention the convenience of having all this done at the point of purchase.

It was also pleasing that the World Rally Blue Pearl paint was a no cost option. I was not happy about paying extra for floor mats. Come on! I hate that. Who leaves a dealership with their feet touching the floor of the car? Floor mats are not an “option” and car dealers should not insult their customers by charging extra for them.

Just add the $180 to the price of the car with out the sham of having to order them as an extra. Sorry, bit of a pet peeve for me, rant over.

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

In the past the BRZ/86 has been criticised for being too underpowered to be a real sports car. Personally how a car handles is much more important to me than the traffic light drag race.

Having said that who would say no to more power, and Subaru has delivered. The new “big-bore” 2.4-litre engine is a huge improvement and although the BRZ is no rocket it can now hold its own on the performance front. To give some perspective I have a list of power to weight ratios below

  • Mini Cooper S JCW: 119.6 kW/t
  • Previous BRZ:122.4 kW/t
  • Fiesta ST: 123.4 kW/t
  • Hyundai i20N: 123.7 kW/t
  • Golf 8 GTI: 127.8 kW/t
  • MX-5 ND GT: 135 kW/t
  • Hyundai i30 N hatch: 135.6 kW/t
  • Subaru WRX: 136.1 kW/t
  • Focus ST: 136.8 kW/t
  • 2022 BRZ: 139.3 kW/t

Of course all the cars listed with turbos would blow the BRZ out of the water with their mid-range torque. You do have to work harder in the BRZ but the performance is there.

Independent testers in the USA are consistently getting 0-60mph times below six seconds and quarter mile times in the 14s. I never felt my previous 86 was lacking when I was really on it and stayed above 5000rpm but it could feel lethargic in traffic when you fell into the dreaded mid-range torque dip.

The new car has much more torque across the rev range with the engine feeling more tractable and eager in daily driving, and there is also extra urge at the top end. Another point of reference for me is the BRZ having surprisingly similar performance figures to my favourite car of all time, the Ferrari Dino 246GT, and that is good enough for me.

Fuel economy is not great and you have to use premium 98 octane but this is no surprise with such a highly-strung engine. I am getting around 10L/100km in mixed urban and country driving.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

I’m sure Paul Maric would be able to wax lyrical about the virtues or otherwise of the user interface but personally this is not what I look for in a car like this.

Generally I am more than happy with the upgraded tech offered. There is Apple CarPlay with an 8.0-inch screen and pretty much everything else I could need. The digital instrument cluster is clear and concise, although given the infinite possibilities of a screen I wonder why car makers do not offer more than two views.

The stereo is not bad but not great either. It is better than the previous 86 but that is a very low bar to set. The option of an upgrade would be nice.

The main deficit is that Subaru’s advanced safety and driver assist systems are only available in the automatic version of the BRZ. Other car makers such as Volkswagen can adapt their systems to work on manual cars and I would have thought Subaru, especially with Toyota backing, could have done the same.

Another obvious absence is the lack of parking sensors even as an option. I wonder if this is a symptom of the worldwide computer chip shortage.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

The handling of the BRZ is universally praised for good reason. It really is the best handling car you can buy short of Porsche money. The real surprise for me is how supple and liveable the ride is now. After owning an early base model 86 I can only say the ride quality is vastly improved.

The BRZ now soaks up the worst broken urban bitumen and speed bumps, and also remains composed at speed on rough country back roads. Now not only is the BRZ a lithe tearaway on a winding mountain road but also a capable, comfortable cruiser.

There are high levels of road noise but I choose not to rate this as a negative as others have done but rather reflect on what this represents. The noise is a result of the stiff chassis and sticky Michelin rubber. The alternative would be to load the car up with heavy sound deadening material, adding weight and reducing performance.

Complaining about the road noise is a bit like complaining about the low seating position not giving a commanding view like an SUV when a low centre of gravity is the whole point of a sports car.

Do you have any additional comments about your car?

More important than anything mentioned so far is the concept of fit for purpose. The original BRZ/86 fulfilled a lot of the requirements I look for in a car. It was a fun, nimble, rear wheel drive car that was affordable and could be used as a daily driver. But it was not perfect and when I heard an update was coming I had a number of improvements I wanted to see:

  • More power of course but no turbo as this would add weight, complexity and cost. Check, thank you Subaru
  • A less intrusive traction control system that was not an instant killjoy when things got interesting. Check again, Subaru
  • More refinement but retain the raw fun and playfulness. Another check, thank you Subaru
  • Better, updated cabin with modern tech. Check, thank you Subaru
  • Reduced weight for better handling (ie the Lotus principal). What we got instead was a raft of improvements such as increased engine size and chassis rigidity yet no significant weight gain. I am counting that as a win too. I especially consider the aluminium body panels and roof a good effort.

Not on my list but upgraded anyway are things like improving the already very comfortable seats, improving the already excellent gear shifter and lowering the already low centre of gravity. Subaru really thought about what would make this a better driver’s car.

Even the brakes which, when I read would have the same disc size and calipers as the previous car, worried me they may be inadequate have turned out to have better bite and feel. And reports from the US say that a simple upgrade of brake fluid and pads make them surprisingly resistant to fade on track.

Of course like everything in life there are some faults. Although generally roomy the much-upgraded cabin still has a lack of useful storage compartments for day-to-day bits and bobs, the fuel economy is worse, and then there is the engine noise. The characteristic BRZ/86 drone remains.

It is still loud and gruff and sounds like an old man shouting at you to get off his lawn. I sometimes wish longingly for the melodious warble of an Alfa Romeo twin-cam or some of the exhaust theatre of my son’s i30 N. I wonder how much the BRZ engine noise is artificially generated by the dashboard speaker, and how much better it would sound with this system disconnected. I might have to find out.

Everyone talks about the BRZ versus GR86 thing. The differently-styled front ends do not worry me one way or the other although most people seem to prefer the 86. There are some interesting suspension differences. I could pretend my decision was based on reports that the BRZ is more precise and stable at speed while the GR86 has a more “playful” rear end.

Does this mean the BRZ is a sharper driver’s car and the GR86 is better suited to hanging donuts in a McDonald’s car park at 3 o’clock in the morning? I think the reality is that any difference in handling is so small you would have to drive both cars back to back to notice.

For me the decision was easy as the BRZ beat the GR86 to the Australian market by several months so that is the one I bought. I do however like the GR86 duck tail spoiler and wish this was available on the BRZ.

Apart from the ubiquitous hot hatches there is very little else to look at when cross-shopping. Alternatives for a manual, rear-wheel drive sports coupe in the $45k range are limited. The MX-5 was simply not an option as it barely fits me and there is no way my six-and-a-half foot tall sons can shoe horn their way into one.

A Mustang or Nissan 370Z lack the driving finesse I was looking for. I could have explored a used car option a bit more but we all know the market is crazy at the moment. BMW M2s are still priced out of this range. An old Porsche Cayman or BMW M3 would be a lot of fun but probably not as a daily driver.

I have already done the older classic thing and found I was constantly worrying about something expensive going wrong or adding too many kilometres. I can tell you I am enjoying the reassurance of a five-year warranty.

I always felt a nagging guilt driving a well-kept older car hard, almost like I was consuming a precious finite resource, but I have no qualms at all about thrashing the BRZ mercilessly.

Of course I have only had the BRZ for a few short weeks and all of these observations are merely a first impression. I look forward to learning more about this car as the layers of experience are peeled back. A road trip to Tasmania with some good friends beckons.

In the meantime if you see a blue blur rushing through the hills around Healesville do not hesitate to come over, say hello and start a conversation.

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Show Breakdown
Technology 8
Reliability 9
Ride & Handling 10
Price & Features 9
Purchase & Aftercare 9
Performance & Economy 9.5
Ownership Experience 10
MRLP $40,190
Top Line Specs
5 ★
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