The Subaru BRZ has been on sale since 2012 which would appear to make it a fairly old car. Thing is, the simple and relatively timeless recipe of a modestly-powered coupe with rear-wheel drive is a concept that has real legs, delivering big fun at reasonable expense, so it still feels fresh. The BRZ range underwent a wash and brush up in 2017, with this tS model subsequently introduced as the flagship variant.
Subaru has long resisted radically increasing the BRZ’s power output and, true to form, the tS features a sharpened dynamics package but nothing extra in terms of kilowatts, the 2.0-litre flat-four engine still cranking out 152kW and 212Nm.
The BRZ tS borrows a lot of its tech from the Japan-only BRZ STI Sport. The dampers have been upgraded and are twinned with STI coil springs, while there’s also a flexible V-shaped brace and draw stiffener to improve the BRZ’s rigidity and steering acuity.
The brakes have been upgraded with Brembo calipers while Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres deliver a lot more grip than the old Michelin Primacy HP rubber that the BRZ was first supplied with. As a result, the car grips a lot more than it slips, which will probably attract some who want precision, but disappoint those who prefer lairy slides at the drop of the right-hand pedal.
There are some cosmetic changes as well, with a revised front bumper bar, tS badging, black 18-inch alloys and a black rear spoiler. Inside there are splashes of STI trim, with logos on the steering wheel and starter button. Red seat belts and seat accents help lift the cabin.
- The BRZ feels delightfully ‘analogue’, with great steering and suspension that really connects you with what’s going on at the tyre contact patch.
- The seats are supportive and the steering wheel feels great. The pedal spacing and manual gearbox action also offer plenty for the enthusiast to enjoy.
- The styling changes are well-judged, with the tS’s upgrades looking nicely integrated rather than making an old shape look as if it’s trying too hard.
- Pricing remains reasonable, with the manual car wearing a list price of $39,894 while the auto is a bit pricier at $41,894.
- The engine, while never particular tuneful, sounds purposeful as you run it towards the redline, adding to the drama involved in driving the tS quickly.
- The Brembo brakes – four-piston up front and two-piston calipers at the back – really bring the relatively lightweight BRZ to a halt quickly, helped by the added grip of the Michelin Pilot tyres.
- Like the rest of the BRZ range the tS benefits from the latest range of updates, including a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.
- Safety equipment includes seven airbags, a rear camera and an improved two-stage stability control system. The BRZ was rated an ANCAP five-star car back in July 2012.
- The ride quality is firmish without lapsing into harshness.
- The tyres make the car feel less playful than the original BRZ. This distances it in feel from its Toyota 86 sibling, but some will feel the car has lost something of its mojo as a result.
- The BRZ’s engine has always been a bit of a weak link in the package and the latest digital dash displays only serve to remind you that there’s a sizeable hole in the car’s torque curve.
- The lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel can compromise you driving position.
- Taller drivers will feel a little pinched by the lack of headroom.
- Subaru has done a great job in removing weight from the car but some customers will be dismayed by the tinny-sounding door and bootlid slam sounds.
- There’s no autonomous emergency braking (AEB) package available at any price.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Subaru BRZ tS offers a fairly rare blend of qualities. It’s a focused, rear-drive coupe that you can pick up for less than forty grand. Other competing attractions for your money include the Mazda MX-5 RF GT, which is the closest philosophical rival at around $4k extra, model for model, with its cousin the Abarth 124 Spider also worth a look.
Otherwise you’re into front-drive hot hatches for your jollies, with the Renault Clio RS220 Trophy and the Hyundai i30N looking prime contenders. Alternatively, you could meander across the floor of the Subaru dealer and test the capabilities of the all-wheel drive WRX for much the same price.