Ride-Along: A Few Laps in the 2022 Subaru BRZ Prove It’s Right Where It Needs to Be
Yes, even without a turbocharger, Subaru’s new sports coupe feels like a winner.
THERMAL, California—Wait, wait, wait—you actually thought there was a chance the new 2022 Subaru BRZ would have a turbocharger? C'mon, you have to think more about the big picture. Sure, Subaru would like you to believe it is sticking to its free-breathing guns by choice, offering vague virtue signaling involving the low center of gravity that would likely be raised with the extra complexity of turbo ducting and cooling, or how the BRZ's ethos is of the revvy, simple, no-frills sports-car experience that would simply be ruined with the addition of forced induction.
Really? Is that why this simple, no-frills sports car also comes with five distinct stability-control modes, a new all-digital dash, and a new 8-inch touchscreen? Moving on. We're also going to ignore the fact that, while Subaru swears up and down that the turbo'd version of the FA24 flat-four engine found in versions of its Outback, Legacy, and Ascent isn't plug-and-play, the aftermarket will need only a few hours to successfully bolt a turbo onto the BRZ's 2.4-liter and retain that oh-so-excellent balance. That, or a full swap of the turbo FA24 for good measure.
2022 Subaru BRZ: Why No Turbo?
Yeah, yeah—aftermarket hack jobs done in grimy alley garages are lightyears from meeting exceptionally stringent OEM certifications, but Subaru/Toyota's insistence that a turbo wouldn't fit in the old 86/BRZ while highschoolers strapped big snails to their BRZs in their parent's driveway was akin to Lt. Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun shouting "Nothing to see here!" as an entire fireworks emporium detonated behind him.
Alright, so let's say Subaru did put the turbo 2.4-liter into the new BRZ. If not a single line of code is changed on the Ascent's engine tune, the engine would churn out a mostly impressive 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Now let's beef up the brakes, transmission, and rear differential to compensate for this power. Now we're at a curb weight of just more than 3,100 pounds or so compared to the real 2022 BRZ's 2,800-odd pounds, and the price climbs from what we think is just less than $30,000 to, oh, how about right around $40,000. Wait, are we talking about the BRZ or the Toyota Supra 2.0?
2022 Subaru BRZ: Avoiding In-Fighting
With 255 hp and 296 lb-ft of torque, rear-wheel drive, two-doors, a turbocharged four-cylinder, and a starting price of $43,945, there's no way, no how that project partner Toyota would ever let a turbocharged BRZ/86 drive sales away from its Supra 2.0, let alone a Subaru-only hot rod that would leave some scratching their heads as to why they would even consider the new normally aspirated 86 (whenever it comes out). Honestly, it's probably a bit of everything; extra complexity, price, and Supra-matching performance don't make for a compelling business case when this whole exercise is one that will probably occupy 1-percent of Subaru's total U.S. sales. If it does nab that tiny sliver, it's already a modest success; in 2019, the old BRZ accounted for just 0.33-percent—yes, it's that low—of Subaru's total U.S. footprint. Don't even get us started on what percentage the 86/Supra make up of Toyota's fleet.
Even if Subaru did detune the turbo 2.4 so it wasn't wheel-to-wheel with the Supra 2.0, what's the point? The new BRZ already has 228 hp, and that's within 27 hp of the turbo four-cylinder Supra. The extra torque would be nice, but just because you detuned the engine doesn't mean you don't still pay the weight and price penalty. As far as we can see, the 2022 Subaru BRZ is right where it needs to be.
A brief stint in the passenger seat on Thermal's private racetrack confirms this equilibrium. We haven't driven the new 2022 Subaru BRZ just yet, but a high-speed ride-along with former Formula 1/NASCAR driver and current rallycross star Scott Speed behind the car's redesigned steering wheel is the next best thing. After two laps of the coupe slip-sliding over Thermal's deliciously smooth tarmac, we're convinced the new Toyobaru twins are poised to be exactly what we wanted the original cars to be.
2022 Subaru BRZ Ride-Along: New Groove
Not that the prior trio of FR-S/BRZ/86 wasn't already among our favorite sports-car lineup on sale, it's just we usually counted ourselves part of the collective that blows a sacrificial head gasket at the altar of "More Power." The outgoing coupes were dangerously slow or incapable of smokey ass-out drifts, but that 2.0-liter flat-four wasn't really happy doing much of anything at all. No matter the updates and refreshes levied by Subaru and Toyota, the 2.0-liter possessed a glaringly obvious deadzone right in the middle of the tach that seemed like it would reward those who like to keep revs peaky, but only ended in frustration as we were forced to shift up when the going just started to get good.
As Speed kept the 2.4-liter on full boil, we couldn't find a single significant moment of that accelerative rigor mortis anywhere on the tach. Again, we only had two laps, but it felt strong from where we were sitting. The lion's share of this newfound exuberance comes from a dramatically rebent torque curve, with all 184 lb-ft coming in at 3,700 rpm versus the old 2.0's lofty 6,400-6,700 rpm. The extra 23 hp still maxes out toward the top at 7,000 rpm, but the influx of low-down torque smooths it all out nicely. In Speed's hands, it noticeably powered out of corners, something we didn't experience often in the older car.
2022 Subaru BRZ Ride-Along: We Can't Wait
Dynamically, it's tough to get a feel from where we were sitting, but the semi-softly sprung 2022 Subaru BRZ felt just as well-sorted and almost as rotation-happy as the first-gen car. The BRZ is more about playful movement than it is outright grip, but the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires offered on the BRZ Limited kept the prototype buttoned down more so than we're used to in the older coupes. Really, it felt less like an under-tired, under-powered compromise and more like the true affordable sports coupe we've always wanted.
One lap out, one lap in. Unfortunately, that's it for now, but we'll take time in the passenger seat over nothing at all. If anything, this just whet our appetite for some seat time more than a simple vehicle walk-around ever could. So chin-up, you turbo obsessives—things are looking good for the new 2022 Subaru BRZ, even without boost.
|2022 Subaru BRZ Specifications|
|ON SALE||Fall 2021|
|PRICE||$31,000 (base) (est)|
|ENGINE||2.4L 16-valve DOHC flat-4/228 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 184 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|L x W x H||167.9 x 69.9 x 51.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.5 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||145 mph (est)|