Full 2014 Subaru BRZ Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Subaru BRZ is essentially unchanged apart from gaining standard smartphone integration.
Before last year, talking about a Subaru in the same breath as iconic sports cars like the Datsun 240Z and Porsche 944 would have raised eyebrows. Yet when the Subaru BRZ debuted last year, such comparisons flowed freely -- and rightfully so. With its superb chassis, communicative steering and light weight, the 2014 Subaru BRZ is proof that you don't need a lot of power to have a lot of fun.
The BRZ also proves that this decidedly different Japanese car brand isn't tethered to tradition. Since 1997, every Subaru has had all-wheel drive, and almost all of its U.S. market performance models have been turbocharged. In the BRZ, however, the rear wheels are driven by a naturally aspirated, 200-horsepower flat-4 "boxer" engine. This architecture is the result of the car being developed with Toyota, which sells the similar FR-S under its Scion brand.
The collaboration produced a winner, as that layout is key to the BRZ's impressive handling capabilities. Going with rear-wheel drive (rather than all-wheel drive) and the flat-4 engine allowed the powertrain to be set farther back, and lower, in the chassis. That architecture translates to an ideal fore-aft weight balance as well as a low center of gravity. Mix in wonderfully communicative steering and a low 2,700-pound curb weight and the result is a brilliantly balanced sports car that's one of the most rewarding to drive, regardless of cost.
That said, the Subaru BRZ doesn't boast the same sort of neck-snapping power as similarly priced sporty cars, including its WRX sibling. We learned this during our 12-month BRZ long-term test. Most near rivals, such as the 2014 Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Nissan 370Z, are much quicker. Meanwhile, similarly priced performance hatchbacks like the WRX and Ford Focus ST offer much greater practicality and a minimal loss in numbers-based performance.
Therefore, if practicality or racing away from traffic lights is a priority, the 2014 Subaru BRZ probably isn't for you. However, it should be very appealing to those who value an involving drive and back-roads athleticism in a small, affordable package that comes packed with features.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Subaru BRZ is a four-seat compact coupe available in two trim levels: Premium and Limited.
The Premium comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, a limited-slip rear differential, automatic bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat and a fold-down rear seatback. Electronic features include a touchscreen interface; smartphone integration; a navigation system (with voice controls and traffic reporting); Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity; hands-free text messaging; and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Stepping up to the Limited adds foglamps, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated suede and leather upholstery and an All-Weather package that includes heated front seats and heated mirrors.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 BRZ is rear-wheel drive and features a 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that produces 200 hp and 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic with shift paddles and rev-matched downshifts is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped BRZ went from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. The automatic BRZ did it in 7.9 seconds. These times are on the slow side, (especially the automatic) compared with V6-powered rivals that are about a second quicker. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway) with the manual and an excellent 28 combined (25/34) with the automatic.
Standard safety equipment on the 2014 Subaru BRZ includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control (with selectable levels of calibration), front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In Edmunds brake testing, the BRZ came to a stop from 60 mph in 114 feet -- a short distance but about what you'd expect from a sporty car with summer tires.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the BRZ received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The BRZ has a simple, pleasantly styled cabin that features a blend of Toyota and Subaru switchgear and materials. It's a bit bland compared with some other sporty cars in its price range like the Genesis coupe, but then this is supposed to be a back-to-basics driver's car.
There's no shortage of features, however, as even the base model is loaded with high-tech items like navigation, HD radio and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Sadly, those particular features are controlled by a touchscreen interface that's difficult to use. The menu layout requires a lot of back-and-forth commands, and the small virtual buttons are tough to press on the first try. Not helping matters is that there are no audio controls on the steering wheel. As such, you might catch yourself taking your eyes off the road to fiddle with the controls.
The BRZ's front seats are supportive enough for hard driving on curvy roads, yet are still comfortable for long-distance trips as well. People of just about any size should find the driving position to be quite agreeable, and thanks to the low-profile hood, there's an expansive view of the road ahead.
Yes, there's a backseat, but few adults would want to sit back there. Legroom is next to nil, your head will be either very close to the rear glass (or pressed against it) and the center tunnel impedes hiproom. Trunk space is also rather small at 6.9 cubic feet, but folding down that mostly useless backseat expands cargo-carrying abilities considerably.
If you're the sort of driver whose car must be able to hammer down freeway on-ramps with its tires ablaze, the 2014 Subaru BRZ is not for you. Its power is sufficient and nothing more. Instead, the BRZ is for those who get a thrill from going around corners and feeling all the nuances and inputs that go along with a car that offers phenomenal communication and impeccable control.
The BRZ's limits are approachable and easily controlled, which makes it a wonderfully engaging sports car. The steering practically telegraphs the front tires' grip status right to the driver's hands. What's more, the brake pedal is firm and consistent in feel, and the chassis remains composed even when the road surface doesn't. We'd go for the manual gearbox, which is a pleasure to shift, but even the available automatic transmission is programmed for enthusiastic driving.
Used for more mundane duties like the daily commute or a long road trip, this little Subaru is still rewarding. It's surprisingly easy to drive and the ride is sufficiently supple over broken pavement. The one dynamic demerit is that there's a fair amount of road noise, especially over concrete freeways.