The cynics among us thought the Subaru BRZ and its near-identical Toyota twin, the GT 86, we’re doomed. These compact, lightweight, and modestly powered rear drivers enjoyed agile handling and easy check ability. They left us smitten, even if they seemed increasingly out of step as the years passed while the world tripped out on mega-horsepower and 23-inch wheel and tire combos.
Mercifully, the world isn’t as SUV-minded as we’d feared, and both cars eked out an existence. Seems the first generation of the Scion/Toyota/Subaru coupes led to 125,000 salesmen closing deals on them, which is an exhausting thought, but that number cleared the way for another generation. Those 125,000 buyers weren’t just any customers, but Toyota and Subaru’s youngest buyers. At barely 30 years old, those folks are right in the demographic erogenous zone that makes carmakers happy. The thinking is that these young customers will stay loyal to the brand for another 50 years.
So, the allure of youth is why the Toyota-bodied, Subaru-powered twins are reborn. The conjoined companies—Toyota recently upped its stake in Subaru to 20 percent while Subaru acquired 0.3 percent of Toyota—went for a second generation. And having just driven the Subaru variant, the 2022 BRZ, to and around Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park road circuit and its new autocross track, we say hallelujah. This twin has returned to scratch an itch that enthusiasts never tire of scratching, and it’s better than ever.
The key to the new BRZ’s success is that it fixes a lot of the issues we had with the original without affecting the purity of the original. It’s still extraordinarily svelte by modern standards despite additional content and safety equipment. Weighing in at a claimed 2815 pounds in its lightest form. A new aluminum roof with a double-bubble form for extra headroom helps as did the engineering team’s heroic effort at resisting the congenital industry temptation to make everything bigger in the second go-around.
In fact, the BRZ is better in all the ways you’d want it to be. The body structure is stronger and more rigid for better handling and safety—a whopping 50 percent jump in torsional stiffness. Outside, it’s beefier looking and more handsome, if still a bit generic and familiar in the taillights and headlights.
Looks and rigidity are important, but the biggest difference is under the aluminum hood. The old 2.0-liter flat-four is replaced by an enlarged 2.4-liter flat-four similar to the three-row Ascent’s engine but without a turbocharger. Quicker than before, the naturally aspirated engine’s 228 horsepower is now available across the board. Previously, the manual made 205 and the automatic was rated at 200. But it’s the 184 lb-ft of torque at 3700 rpm that gives the car a midrange surge that the old car’s 156 lb-ft at 6400 rpm couldn’t provide. The new engine should drop 60-mph times below 6.0 seconds for the standard six-speed manual. Expect 7.0 seconds flat for the optional six-speed automatic. Acceleration is acceptably brisk, and the power delivery is without the hiccups of the 2.0-liter, but leaving the Ascent’s turbocharger in place sounds like even more fun. Let’s make that standard limited-slip Torsen differential work for its money!