BR-Zee? More like BR-Wheeee!

2022 Subaru BRZ more fun than should be legal for $31K

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NEW marketing slogan for the 2022 Subaru BRZ: you’ll be surprised by its usefulness!

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NEW marketing slogan for the 2022 Subaru BRZ: you’ll be surprised by its usefulness!

That’s not intended as a derogatory statement, by the way. Many purpose-built sports cars wear their lack of utility — “We build cars for you to DRIVE, not to carry your useless stuff!” — as a badge of honour. Indeed, there’s something honest and authentic about the Mazda MX-5 barely fitting a pair of overnight bags or a Boxster where your golf clubs need to ride shotgun.

Speaking of golf clubs… my son and I awoke at the cottage the day of our planned golf outing, and expecting the BRZ to be just such a purpose-built sports car, I was a touch surprised to find the rear seat — a term I use optimistically, as you’ll see later — folds. Both sets of clubs fit.

I had visions of taking all the clubs out of the bags and laying all of the cargo in separately, or going in separate vehicles, or leaving the BRZ at the cottage and taking our personal car.

With the Porsche crowd, certainly many 911 or Boxster customers have their Cayennes or Macans for those times when utility is needed. Such is the freedom that money buys.

Which brings us back to the BRZ, also known as the GR86 on Toyota lots. So, is it a Subayota or a Toyobaru? Neither Toyota nor Subaru will say. Much of the car starts out as a Subaru, including its 2.4-litre boxer motor that turns out 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Specs are similar between the two, even if Toyota calls the motor a flat four and not a boxer.

The combination of this torquey little motor, which peaks as early as 3,700 r.p.m., six-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive is way more fun than you’d expect for a car that starts at just a touch more than $30,000. The shifter is smooth, short and with well-defined gear positions. You almost will it into the right gear. For those who like to heel-and-toe their downshifts, the pedals are in good positions, too.

It is so well-balanced it eats corners for breakfast and comes back for more. Kick it just a bit too hard and you’ll get the rear to break free, but in a predictable, easily recoverable way. Press it hard into a corner and you can almost feel the rear end sit down, but very nearly level, and simply do exactly what you want it to do.

It’s also one of only a handful of sub-$40,000 cars that allow you to completely cancel the stability nannies, using the Track mode button on the centre console. That button also changes the IP from a speedo-dominated display to a tach-dominated setup. Speed is reduced to a digital readout at the bottom, which is how most track-bound drivers prefer it, since shift points and turn-in speeds are generally calculated by revs, not by speed.

The interior is well laid out, save for the cupholders, which are almost in the back seat. The audio and infotainment unit, while well-integrated into the dash, reminds very much of the standard double-DIN decks that were oh so common back in the day. It works well — this isn’t a criticism — and it also suggests that to a creative installer, a custom sound system isn’t out of the question. It’s a marked departure from many new cars, which integrate the audio system so much that a custom job, beyond adding perhaps a subwoofer and amplifier, is all but impossible.

That use of what seems like a standard, double-DIN head unit also precludes Subaru’s tendency to put as many functions as possible into the display screen. For example, the WRX I’m driving now, as well as the Outback and Forester driven earlier this year, put many functions, including climate and heated seats, into menus in the large infotainment screen. In the BRZ, everything that’s not audio, navigation or communications is in a discreet control outside the screen. Lovely.

The nicely padded parcel shelves behind the front seats — optimistically called rear seats — are there for use in a pinch, but nobody on the side of the car with a rear-seat passenger is going to be comfortable. It is, practically speaking, a two-seater.

As with all Subaru products, opting for the Eye-Sight suite of features (lane-keeping assist, radar cruise control, etc.) requires selecting an automatic transmission. But unlike other Subaru products, the automatic in the BRZ actually is an automatic, rather than the CVT typically offered. As mentioned, the BRZ is a rear-driver, the only departure in Subaru’s lineup from its highly regarded Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.

It is difficult, when you approach the vehicle from the standpoint of its intended purpose, to find fault. It’s low, and not necessarily kind to aging joints on entry or exit, but that also contributes to its excellent handling.

This is a car that grows on you. With every hard-hit corner and equally hard exit, that smile grows each time. That it does so relatively economically leaves you smiling at the pump, too.

kelly.taylor@freepress.mb.ca

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter

Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.

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