2022 Subaru BRZ First Drive: More Power, More Torque, More Fun on Track

“Raise your hand if you thought we’d make a second generation of this car,” said the product planner for the 2022 Subaru BRZ. I was among a group of eighteen automotive media and roughly four of us raised our hands as the presentation began. The joint sports-car project between Subaru and Toyota first went on sale for the 2013 model year, and Subaru has sold about 42,000 BRZs since then. For reference, they sell an average of 177,000 Outbacks per year. To say the BRZ is “low volume” is an understatement.

And yet here we were, about to hop in fresh examples of the new 2022 Subaru BRZ for a scenic drive to Lime Rock Park. The historic racetrack was to be our setting for a full day of testing the lightweight, rear-drive car where it shines best.

Our forty-minute drive from Troutbeck to Lime Rock gave us some brief street driving impressions. Our day was mostly spent between Lime Rock’s main 1.7-mile road course and their paved “autocross” circuit. Unlike any autocross I’ve experienced, Lime Rock didn’t just pave a square parking lot and set up some cones. It’s more of a supersized kart track, with elevation change and plenty of tight, fast turns – no sea of orange cones here.

2022 Subaru BRZ Lime Rock

Basics of the 2022 Subaru BRZ

One of the most common complaints about the outgoing BRZ was with its engine. Even with a mid-cycle update, the old boxer four still exhibited a “torque dip” that never quite went away. It was a lively enough engine, though I said in a review of the sibling Toyota 86 that “the ideal car would have about 230 horsepower” compared to its 205. For 2022, Subaru grabbed an Ascent crossover, yanked its 2.4 liter turbocharged boxer four, unbolted the turbo, and stuffed what was left into the BRZ’s engine bay. It produces 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque from its naturally-aspirated cylinders.

That power and torque flow through the same two transmission options as before, a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Subaru said roughly 75% of their BRZ buyers pick the manual, so efforts went into improving its shift action. The torque-converter automatic is basically unchanged. Regardless of transmission choice, power flows through a standard Torsen limited-slip differential out to the rear wheels.

2022 Subaru BRZ engine

Subaru spent a good bit of time talking about handling. The 2022 Subaru BRZ was set to be heavier than the outgoing car by 165 pounds, so engineers found as much weight to pull as possible. They removed 143 pounds from the new car, and the ’22 BRZ hits the scales with a ten to twenty pound weight gain over the old model. Curb weight is in the mid-2800 pound range, and Subaru claims the 2022 BRZ’s power to weight ratio is 12.3 pounds per horsepower compared to 13.6 lbs/hp for the old car.

Center of gravity was another focus, helped out by an aluminum roof skin and the car sitting about 0.4″ lower than before. Subaru also moved the front seats inboard by 0.3″, which helped with the “yaw moment of inertia” – basically, the car should rotate better than before. Every vent on the body is functional, as are the little bits of aero up front and the small duckbill spoiler on the trunk lid.

2022 Subaru BRZ Lime Rock

The 2022 Subaru BRZ vs the 2022 Toyota 86

As with the outgoing car, the 2022 BRZ has been developed in partnership with Toyota. Subaru claims they lead the engineering and production of the platform, but the two cars are set up differently given each brand’s focus. The 2022 Subaru BRZ has different spring rates (7% higher up front, 11% lower out back) and sway bars (0.3 mm larger and hollow front, 1 mm smaller out back) compared to the 2022 Toyota 86.

Dampers and power steering are both tuned differently, and the Subaru features aluminum front knuckles where Toyota uses steel – something Subaru changed to help reduce unsprung weight. Finally, Subaru changed their rear sway bar mounting location, mounting it to the BRZ’s unibody where the 86 uses the rear subframe.

Where Subaru’s buyers are a younger crowd that mostly prefer the manual transmission, Toyota’s 86 sells to an older buyer who is more likely to prefer the automatic transmission – more than half choose the two-pedal option. Given the data, it’s easy to see why the two companies would set their “twins” up differently.

2022 Subaru BRZ Lime Rock

Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions in the 2022 Subaru BRZ

I started my day at Lime Rock in a 2022 BRZ Limited (the higher trim) with a six-speed automatic. Though Subaru doesn’t sell near as many automatics as they do manuals, the transmission is still programmed well enough.

On the autocross course, I was pleased to find the transmission only changed gear in manual mode when I asked. It will let you bounce off the rev limiter as long as you want, great for those moments where it’s faster to just hit the limiter for a moment instead of upshifting and immediately downshifting again.

2022 Subaru BRZ gauges

On Lime Rock’s main circuit, the automatic let me down a bit. Shifts are just slow enough to be annoying, even in Sport mode, and I had to pull the shift paddles early to ensure I wouldn’t run out of gear and smack the limiter mid-corner. Gearing is long, which makes the automatic 2022 BRZ feel a bit slow out of a corner. Peak torque comes in at 3,700 rpm, and the Ascent-derived boxer engine produces peak horsepower at 7,000 rpm. Spending time at the top half of the tachometer is where the fun happens, and the automatic just makes it a bit harder to keep the (digital) needle pointed that high.

By comparison, the manual transmission really brings the car alive, with shorter gearing than the automatic that helps the new 2.4 liter stay in the most useful part of its power band. For 2022, Subaru modified the shift linkage to improve shift feel – and it worked. Gone is the notchy, recalcitrant shift action of the outgoing car. The new shifter just works.

2022 Subaru BRZ manual transmission

On Track With the 2022 Subaru BRZ

Every 2022 BRZ I drove was on the grippier Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires that come on the Limited trim, and we did not change tire pressures throughout the day. They got hot as the August day wore on, and by mid-afternoon, I was flinging a red manual BRZ through the autocross circuit with 48 psi of air in the rear tires. At that sort of hot tire pressure, any short wheelbase car will get a bit loose, and our afternoon “autocross” was more of an amateur drift challenge than anything else.

Regardless, the BRZ’s chassis is a fantastic partner. Subaru claimed between 50 and 60 percent improvement in rigidity, depending on lateral or torsional. The car is stiff, but not excessively so. Our autocross course included some off-camber turns that intentionally upset the car a bit, and it was oh-so-easy to catch and correct (or hold) a slide if induced.

On the main Lime Rock road course, the BRZ was an easy car to drive quickly. Factory aero helped keep the chassis planted over crests, down the front straightaway, and under heavy braking.

Steering, long a “Toyobaru” hallmark, offered great feel, as did the brakes. Neither were over-boosted or artificial. ABS was not required to slow the car, but worked effectively when used. Factory brake pads and fluid both faded throughout the day, with the pedal getting loooooong toward the end but still stopping well enough. I’d recommend – as with most sports cars – some high-temperature fluid and perhaps a more aggressive brake pad if you plan on tracking the BRZ with any frequency.

Final Thoughts

While I did get about an hour of seat time with the 2022 BRZ on the street, I’ll conduct a more comprehensive street review of the car once it’s in our local press fleet and I can spend some quality time with the car in daily-driving scenarios.

I was a fan of the first-generation Subaru BRZ (and its siblings) but found the cars lacking in a few key areas – power, power delivery, and shift feel. It was all so close and still quite good, but had room for improvement. The 2022 Subaru BRZ addresses all three of my complaints from the outgoing model, while still coming in at a totally-reasonable price point. The lower-trim manual-transmission BRZ Premium costs $28,955 including destination, and a six-speed BRZ Limited will run you $31,455 including destination. If you’re part of the 25% of automatic buyers, you’ll add $1,600 to a Premium and $1,800 to a Limited.

The chassis is well-balanced, easy to correct, and supported by a more powerful engine that still fits the high-revving, power-swelling, flingable nature of the car. Boost? Subaru don’t know her, at least not here. Affordable enthusiast cars are few and far between, doubly so when out-of-the-box track competence is a requirement. Subaru has, frankly, nailed it with the 2022 BRZ as a capable track toy, autocrosser, or back roads cruiser.

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