2020 Subaru BRZ

By June 8, 2020

The 2020 Subaru BRZ, like its near-twin the Toyota 86, is a sports car that was designed to bring back the simplicity of sports-car driving. It hits its mark with nimble and precise (but decidedly loose) handling thanks to light weight and superb balance, and not too much power.

For 2020 Subaru brings back the track-day-prepped tS model, with just 300 versions to be sold in the U.S., all of them white with bronze wheels. Otherwise there is only one model, the Limited, which for 2020 gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with other desirable features.

The styling of the BRZ is as sharp as ever. Technically it seats four people, but the two people behind the bucket seats will have to be very small. However with the back seats dropped, the trunk can hold four tires. If you don’t do track days, that’s a lot of room for road trips.

The engine is a Subaru 2.0-liter flat-4, with horizontally opposed cylinders, which enable better balance and a lower center of gravity in any car, but in a sports car it’s especially effective. It makes 205 horsepower (200 with the automatic). Modest, controllable horsepower is what Subaru intended for the car.

The transmission is a 6-speed manual, as it should be, or a 6-speed automatic, to appeal to more people. Gas mileage with the 6-speed is 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined, and 24/33/27 mpg with the automatic. The tS gets a bit less, 20/27/23 mpg.

The BRZ gets four stars for frontal crash tests and five stars for rollover safety from the NHTSA, and the independent IIHS has given it a “Good” rating in every crash test except the small front overlap test on the driver’s side, where it scored “Acceptable.”

No active safety equipment such as automatic emergency braking is available.

Model Lineup

For $29,745 including destination, standard equipment on the BRZ Limited includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 17-inch wheels, leather and Alcantara upholstery, heated front seats, and a 6-speed manual transmission. The 6-speed automatic transmission costs $1,100 more.

A performance package adds Brembo brakes, Sachs shocks, and unique wheels for $1,195, which is not bad as a compromise, if you want to do an occasional track day, but not regular ones.

Compare that to the tS at $32,395, which goes farther in chasing performance for frequent track days, with stiffer dampers and springs, Brembos, and bronze 18-inch wheels mated to Michelin Pilot Sport tires.

Exterior

The BRZ has just the right small coupe proportions, with a bubble-roof profile, wide stance with appropriate fender flare, and short overhangs. LED headlamps make it look modern.

The tS comes back with a wing that’s significantly smaller than it was in 2018.

Interior

The low-slung cabin is clean and simple, with a bare, wide, and flat dashboard housing just the infotainment screen, climate controls, and vents. The gauges are straightforward as they should be, with only the information you need for sports-car driving, and the round steering wheel is right.

Material quality is generally good, although some hard plastics appear.

The sporty seats have thick bolsters. Head room is good thanks to the bubble roof, and outward vision is impressive.

Technically the BRZ seats four, but, practically, just keep the tiny rear buckets folded flat for packages and stuff. With it up, in the trunk, there’s just 6.9 cubic feet of cargo space; with it down there’s room for four wheels with tires.

Driving Impressions

The 2.0-liter flat-4 is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and rear differential, making it the only rear-wheel-drive Subaru. A 6-speed automatic transmission is also available, but it does steal 5 horsepower, bringing it down to 200.

The engine has a nice little growl, but with only 156 pound-feet of torque to go with the 205 horsepower, it takes a lot of work and gear-shifting to keep it in the powerband.

Wonderful balance and playful driving dynamics help make up for the lack of power. The BRZ is known for being fun and easy to toss around, while the suspension is compliant enough for a nice ride. That’s not the case with the track-focused tS, with its stiffer springs and dampers.

Final Word

The 2020 Subaru BRZ takes an old-school tack to modern-day performance. The handling is fun and engaging, and the power is right for that purpose. Behind the bolstered front bucket seats, there’s a lot of room for bags—or extra tires for the track days it craves.

 

—By Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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