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2018 Subaru BRZ: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2018

As the only 2-wheel drive vehicle in the company's lineup of cars and SUVs, the 2018 Subaru BRZ is a bit of an oddity. Part of a joint venture with Toyota, the BRZ is mechanically identical to the Toyota 86. Though it lacks the powerful turbocharged engine of its WRX stablemate, the BRZ has a certain charm all its own. With its high-revving 2.0-liter engine and neutral balance in the curves, the BRZ appeals to a more nuanced driver, one with the skill set to make the most of what the BRZ's brilliant design has to offer.

The BRZ isn't for everyone, however. Although it has a small back seat, the BRZ's cabin is really only fit for two passengers, and technophiles probably won't be impressed with the lack of a high-powered audio system. But if you're looking for a fun sport coupe with great road manners, a wonderful 6-speed manual transmission and sleek good looks, the 2018 Subaru BRZ deserves at least a couple of test drives.

What's New for 2018?

For 2018, the BRZ gains a new tS trim featuring a specially tuned suspension, a more rigid chassis, 18-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, a carbon fiber rear spoiler plus unique interior trim including black Alcantara sport seats with red leather bolsters. The Limited and tS gain a new 7-in STARLINK audio system featuring navigation plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The Premium gains heated side mirrors and all models now feature one-touch lane change turn signal and headlight auto on/off with wiper feature. Finally, to celebrate Subaru's 50th anniversary, a special 50th Anniversary limited edition is offered wearing Heritage Blue exterior paint, unique wheels and custom interior trim.

What We Like

Balanced chassis; communicative steering; comfy front seats; seductive styling; reasonably well-equipped for the price

What We Don't

Engine could use more power; lack of high-output audio system; cramped rear seat; no advanced driver assist or collision avoidance systems

How Much?

$26,455-$36,000

Fuel Economy

The Subaru BRZ is powered by a 2.0-liter boxer engine, meaning its pistons lie on their sides in a horizontally opposing configuration. The normally aspirated 4-cylinder generates 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque with the 6-speed automatic transmission and 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque when equipped with the 6-speed manual. With the manual, the BRZ earns an Environmental Protection Agency estimate of 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. With the 6-speed automatic, fuel economy jumps to 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy. The tS with the 6-speed manual earns a slightly lower 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

Subaru offers the 2018 BRZ in three well-equipped trims: The Premium, Limited and tS. There's also a 50th anniversary model based on the Limited trim due later this year. Both the tS and 50th anniversary are limited editions with only 500 of each being produced. All trims come standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. A 6-speed automatic with manual shift control is offered on the Limited and 50th for an additional $1,100.

The BRZ Premium ($26,455) brings air conditioning, cruise control, heated power mirrors, 1-touch up/down power windows, power door locks with a remote fob, a leather-wrapped tilt-telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, a 65/35-split folding rear seat, a limited-slip rear differential, HID headlights, LED headlights, a rear spoiler, 17-in alloy wheels and a 6.2-in high-resolution single-gesture touchscreen audio system with Subaru STARLINK, SiriusXM radio, a single-CD player, eight speakers, USB/iPod control, Bluetooth streaming audio and phone connectivity.

The BRZ Limited ($29,305) adds LED fog lights, Alcantara and leather seat inserts, push-button start, illuminated sun-visor vanity mirrors, 7-in STARLINK audio with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, dual-zone automatic climate control and the Cold Weather package, which adds heated front seats and heated side mirrors. A 6-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters is optional, while cars equipped with the manual transmission offer a Performance package that adds 17-in wheels, Brembo brakes and SACHS performance dampers.

The BRZ tS ($34,355) adds STI-tuned front and rear SACHS dampers and coil springs plus flexible V-braces in the engine compartment. Also standard are a set of lightweight STI 18-in wheels, Brembo brakes and exclusive interior and exterior trim pieces including a carbon fiber rear wing, a unique rear bumper plus red leather bolstered black Alcantara sport seats. The Limited's LED fog lights are removed.

The BRZ 50th Anniversary ($31,740) includes all the features of the Limited, plus unique Heritage Blue paint, contrasting silver stitching on the seats and shift boot and silver seatbelts.

The BRZ offers a modest trunk that measures 6.9 cu ft. and can be expanded by folding down the rear seat backs.

Safety

Every BRZ comes standard with anti-lock brakes, electronic traction, stability control and six airbags, including front, front-side and side-curtain. In government crash tests, the BRZ scored four out of five stars in the frontal crash test and five stars in the side-impact and roof-strength tests.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the BRZ top marks in every test except the front small-overlap crash test, in which it earned an Acceptable rating.

Behind the Wheel

With only 156 lb-ft of torque, the BRZ isn't going to deliver the same neck-snapping acceleration as its WRX or WRX STI brothers. Thanks to its lightweight chassis, though, if you're willing to get the revs up over 5,000 rpm and really work the 6-speed manual, the BRZ will bring a smile to your face every time you take it for a spin. Driving the BRZ reminds us of another old favorite, the Mazda RX-8. Wonderfully neutral in the curves, with precise steering, great brakes and tenacious traction, the BRZ is the kind of car you want to push through winding mountain roads for hours on end.

Best of all, for everyday drivers, the BRZ is easy to live with. Its ride isn't too harsh or jarring, the gas mileage is pretty good and its maintenance schedule is no more expensive than that of the average family sedan.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Ford Mustang -- The Mustang can't match the BRZ's handling, but its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine does offer more power and its interior more features.

2018 Chevrolet Camaro -- Like the Mustang, the Camaro offers more power and a more masculine look than the BRZ, but it's also noticeably heavier, offers poor outward visibility and is less agile when turning. The 2018 Camaro also offers a turbocharged 4-cylinder or V6 engine option.

2018 Toyota 86 -- Nearly identical to the BRZ, the Toyota 86 offers a few more options, brighter colors and a larger dealer network.

Used Nissan 370Z -- A 2012-2016 Nissan 370Z is a sleek, 2-seat rear-drive sports car that offers better performance, a more powerful engine and the option of a convertible model.

Autotrader's Advice

Unless you absolutely can't live without heated seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay or an automatic transmission, go with the base Premium trim over the Limited. It has everything you need to enjoy what the BRZ is all about, plus you can use some of the $2,000 savings to replace the underwhelming audio with a nice aftermarket system. If you can't drive a stick, however, you'll have to move up to the Limited, as the Premium doesn't offer an automatic transmission.

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2018 Subaru BRZ: New Car Review - Autotrader