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2019 Subaru BRZ Review

The 2019 Subaru BRZ is a lightweight two-seater coupe that’s proof power and performance aren’t directly proportional.
Some of the best prizefighters were never heavyweights. See Sugar Ray Robinson for proof.

The 2019 Subaru BRZ is just as sweet*.


The small sport coupe returns this year, minus a big wing but still with the same winning formula that takes on rivals twice its cost.

We give the coupe a 5.5 on our overall scale thanks to its superlative handling and sharp look. Its fuel economy and safety scorecard aren’t as impressive as when it arrived in 2013 and that sinks the BRZ’s score. 

The 2019 BRZ, which starts at $26,680, ditches the high-winged tS version for a pared-down lineup look: Premium and Limited. A special-edition BRZ was available, called Series.Gray but only 250 were slated for the States and they’re probably gone by now.

We don’t mind. The best value is the base car, which still offers the same good looks and intoxicating performance that the others charge thousands more for.

The BRZ is still powered by an eager (albeit overtaxed) 2.0-liter flat-4 that makes its power way up high in the rev range. Its best partner in crime is a slick shifting 6-speed manual that wrings out all 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic is available on Limited models, but costs $1,100 more.

Power is sent to the rear wheels only—most often in grin-inducing dollops.

The EPA says that the BRZ will return mileage in the mid-20s, if driven according to the federal test cycle. We don’t imagine those cycles include many donuts, however.

There’s more fun in base versions that still get 17-inch wheels, a 6.2-inch touchscreen for infotainment, Bluetooth connectivity, and cloth seats. Throw more money at Subaru and they’ll add a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and synthetic suede on the seats, but the BRZ’s best feature is the road ahead.

*Even if an automotive Joe Frazier pounds it into the ground like a tent stake.

Styling
The 2019 Subaru BRZ doesn’t spoil its devastating proportions.
We could all learn something from the 2019 Subaru BRZ.

The low-slung coupe starts with the right proportions and doesn’t add bloat or unnecessary weight. It’s better than average inside and out by our eyes. It’s a 7 out of 10.

The BRZ isn’t coy about stealing inspiration from sports cars of the past. It adds modern touches like LED lights and sharp sculpting that cars from yesteryear couldn’t, but the Subie keeps the same elegant roofline and flared fenders like a greatest hits compilation.

The inside is simple and smart, without much clutter. Its design is a subtle hat-tip to industrial design—nuts and bolts on the climate controls and simple switchgear underneath.

The touchscreen planted in the center of the dash is welcome, without being too much of a distraction.

Performance
The 2019 Subaru BRZ is analog in a digital world. We like that.
The clock is ticking on cars like the 2019 Subaru BRZ. Few cars offer the same touch, sound, or feel behind the wheel.

The BRZ is analog and lovable. We give it bonus points for its handling and throwback powertrain (not the same thing as power) and toss it one more for begging us to tune in to the drive—not zone out. It gets an 8 out of 10. 

The BRZ uses a free-revving 2.0-liter flat-4 under its hood for a modest 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque delivered through a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission to the rear wheels—the only Subaru that isn’t all-wheel drive. Power comes on late in the rev range, which sounds great for fun but not for fuel-economy.
The BRZ is hardly a straight-line champ. It saunters up to 60 mph more slowly than nearly all of its rivals, but that’s missing the point anyhow.

The flat cylinder arrangement in the BRZ gives it a low center of mass that keeps the coupe uncommonly level around corners. Quick steering doubles up on the immediacy around the bends; the BRZ is a blast when the roads just can’t stay straight. We like that.

Coils over struts in the front and a double wishbone in back prioritize weight over the front wheels. Nail the throttle and the BRZ’s weight gingerly slides toward the rear, where its tail can step out in predictable—but not very powerful—slides over and over, again. A Torsen limited-slip differential helps the BRZ mind its manners, even when we don’t.

We prefer the 6-speed manual for its sharp throws and tight ratios, but a 6-speed automatic with paddle-shifters is available on spendier trims.

The BRZ can bristle over broken pavement, especially with the optional performance package’s stiffer springs. If the BRZ may be your daily driver, you must be: young; flexible; and, in the running for our next hero.

Last year’s hardcore tS is gone—and thankfully so is its ride on bruising 18-inch wheels.

Comfort & Quality
Bring a friend to the track in the 2019 Subaru BRZ, but just one.
Comfort takes a backseat to performance in the 2019 Subaru BRZ. That’s assuming anyone can get back there, too.

The front seats are exactly what you’d want in a low-slung sports car. Points there. But we ding the BRZ for rear seats that aren’t just vestigial, they’re also practically painted on. A scant 6.9 cubic feet of trunk space isn’t ideal either—we suggest doubling up and using the back seat as an extension of the cargo capacity. The BRZ gets a 4. 

Bad knees and bad backs may not appreciate the seating position and low entry of the 2019 BRZ, but we suspect achy joints turned their backs on the sports coupe long before now.

Limited-trimmed BRZs add deeper, Alcantara-shod buckets that hug our curves (we don’t mind, really) while we hustle the Subaru through esses. Even without the Limited’s better bolstering, the BRZ offers good support in ways that we can appreciate.

Once aboard, the BRZ’s cockpit is spacious and accommodating—even for tall drivers. Scallops in the headliners should offer space for helmeted heads on track-day drives.

The back seats are best suited for small children, and only occasionally at that. The back seat is best when it’s not a seat, rather a shelf for small items or folded down to complement the tiny trunk. Perhaps full of tires and tools for another track-day romp?

Safety
Official scores are mixed, but the 2019 Subaru BRZ is small enough to steer clear of most trouble.
The 2019 Subaru BRZ doesn’t lacks a full safety scorecard, but what’s in isn’t helping much. The IIHS mostly gives it top “Good” marks for its crashworthiness, except in the small-overlap crash, where it earned an “Acceptable” rating. Federal testers only rate it for side-impact and rollover crash safety, where it earned four and five stars, respectively. Without available automatic emergency braking, it’d be hard for the BRZ to do much better than average on our scale. We give it a 4.

The BRZ gets a full set of the important stuff: airbags, traction and safety control programs, automatic headlights, and a rearview camera.

The small coupe also boasts excellent outward vision thanks to small roof pillars and good windows.

The BRZ is one of the most agile cars on the road, which makes the steering wheel an added safety feature—it’s easy to maneuver out of trouble.

Features
As far as no-frills, two-seater sports coupes go, the 2019 Subaru BRZ is ace in base.
The best feature of the 2019 Subaru BRZ may very well be the drive that awaits.

Base models aren’t spartan, but they’re just average. Its 6.2-inch touchscreen is helpful, but times change and screens get bigger. The upgraded 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s new on Limited models is better, but we stop short of giving it a point. In the end, it’s a wash at 5.

This year, the boy-racer tS version is gone, replaced with a Series.Gray special edition that’s likely gone too—only 250 were sold here.

That means for most buyers there’s just a choice between base Premium or Limited coupes.

The base Premium package is our pick for its value, starting at $26,680 including mandatory destination fees.

The 2019 Subaru BRZ Premium includes the 6.2-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power features, automatic headlights, 17-inch wheels, and cloth upholstery. The Premium’s touchscreen skips Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility, although Subaru’s native system is fairly straightforward and easy to understand.

The Limited trim level is the only way to get an automatic transmission in the BRZ, and it costs $29,530, including destination. The BRZ Limited adds synthetic suede inserts into the upholstery, heated front seats, fog lights, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an upgraded 7.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and cloud-based applications.

An automatic transmission adds $1,100 to the bottom line of the Premium version. A Performance Package adds $1,195 to manual-equipped cars and subs in special dark gray wheels, beefier brakes, and stiffer shocks.

(Guess which package we’d add to our sports coupe?)

The lucky few who snapped up all 250 Series.Gray versions of the BRZ got special wheels, interior accents, badges added to performance package-equipped BRZ Limited cars for $31,025—if not more.

Fuel Economy
The 2019 Subaru BRZ returns many smiles, if not many miles per gallon.
Miles for smiles, the investment in premium fuel for the 2019 Subaru BRZ is worth the money.

The EPA rates the small two-door coupe at 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined in its most popular configuration. That’s good enough for a 4 out of 10 on our fuel-economy scale and we don’t mind. 

Opt for the 6-speed automatic (Follow-up: Why?—Eds.) and those ratings rise to 24/33/27 mpg.

Among small coupes, the BRZ is mid pack. The Mazda MX-5 Miata rates at 29 mpg combined, but turbo-4 versions of the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang do worse. If the BRZ looks like a small, boring two-seater commuter car to you, there are more efficient options out there.

It takes a lot to consider the BRZ to be boring, however.



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