2017 Subaru BRZ Review
Pros & Cons
- A light and well-balanced chassis makes for phenomenal handling
- Excellent steering feel and response
- Comfortable and supportive front seats
- Standard features list is good for the price
- Backseat and trunk are small
- Relatively modest acceleration with no engine upgrade available
Edmunds' Expert Review
In the biggest update since it was introduced four years ago, the Subaru BRZ is back for 2017 with a host of changes. The small two-door coupe from Subaru gets more power (when paired with the manual transmission) through a series of engine upgrades. That, in combination with revised manual transmission gearing, should result in slightly quicker acceleration than before. Subaru says it also retuned the suspension to improve both the BRZ's handling and ride quality. What's more, the interior gains additional padding in common-touch areas, a revised infotainment system and an updated gauge cluster. Individually, the changes are small, but together they should further increase the BRZ's attractiveness.
Unchanged is the BRZ's core appeal. This is a small sport coupe that's relatively economical, has fantastic steering and handling, and connects the driver to the road in a way that few other cars can. If you're looking for something that will simply transport you to work in comfort, the BRZ can do that, too, but it shines as a fun weekend car.
So what's the catch? Well, it's a bit small in the back, and even with this year's power bump it's going to have a hard time showing most other sports cars its taillights. If power is critical, what would you want to buy instead? Well, the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro and 2017 Ford Mustang can't be beat, especially in their V8 engine guises. For more space and versatility, a performance hatchback such as the Ford Focus ST or the Volkswagen GTI should also be considered. Or if it's a drop-top you're after, the Mazda Miata could be the one to get. And don't forget the BRZ's twin, the Toyota 86 (formerly the Scion FR-S), which puts a slightly different spin on the car's styling and interior design.
Even among this group of competitors, though, we love how the 2017 Subaru BRZ stays true to the ideal of being an affordable driver's car.
Standard safety equipment on the 2017 Subaru BRZ includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control (with selectable levels of calibration), front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Larger Brembo brakes are optional on the Limited trim level and standard with the Series.Yellow BRZ.
In government crash tests, the BRZ received four out of five stars for front-crash protection. Prior BRZ testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety resulted in a highest possible rating of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests. In that agency's small-overlap front-impact test, the BRZ received a second-best Acceptable rating.
What's it like to live with?
Learn about day-to-day Subaru BRZ ownership from our editorial experts' long-term test of a 2013 Limited. We know the BRZ is fun and relatively affordable. How comfortable was the ride? How was the fuel economy? Was the cargo room big enough for everyday use? Learn this and more from our test. Note that the BRZ was refreshed for 2017 — the manual-transmission version got more horsepower and torque, and a performance package was offered. Though it differs slightly from the 2013 model we tested, our coverage is otherwise applicable.
2017 Subaru BRZ models
The 2017 Subaru BRZ is a four-seat compact coupe available in three trim levels: Premium, Limited and Series.Yellow.
The Premium comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, a limited-slip rear differential, automatic LED headlights and running lights, keyless entry, cruise control, hill-start assist, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-down rear seatback and a rearview camera. Electronic features include Subaru's Starlink infotainment system with a 6.2-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a navigation system, voice controls, smartphone app integration (including Aha Radio, Pandora, iHeartRadio and Stitcher, plus news, weather and calendar features), and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
Stepping up to the Limited gets you LED foglights, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated suede and leather upholstery, upgraded interior trim, a digital display in the gauge cluster for performance data, and an All-Weather package that includes heated mirrors and heated front seats. A new optional Performance package (manual transmission only) adds black 17-inch alloy wheels, larger Brembo brakes and upgraded suspension dampers.
The Series.Yellow trim includes the Limited's features (plus the Performance package) and gains a frameless rearview mirror, black exterior badges, yellow interior accent stitching, and a black-and-yellow interior scheme with the BRZ logo embroidered on the front seats.
The 2017 BRZ has rear-wheel drive and features a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. Power output depends on which transmission you choose. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic with shift paddles and rev-matched downshifts is optional for the BRZ Limited. With the manual, you'll get 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Automatic-equipped BRZs are limited to 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque.
According to Subaru, the manual transmission has revised gearing that will theoretically improve acceleration. We have yet to test the 2017 BRZ, but we don't expect it to be dramatically quicker than before. Expect a 0-60 mph time in the low to mid-6-second range with the manual or closer to 8 seconds with the automatic. Most rival sport coupes are quicker.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 25 mpg combined (21 city/29 highway) with the manual and 27 mpg combined (24 city/33 highway) with the automatic.
For 2017, Subaru's revisions include new suspension tuning (supported by additional chassis reinforcements), a bump in horsepower and a shorter final drive ratio (both for manual-equipped cars only). We haven't driven the newest version of the BRZ yet, but we're pretty confident that our impression from earlier models will hold up, if not get even better.
The BRZ is and has always been a very entertaining car. Although it isn't blisteringly fast, it corners extremely well with quick, communicative steering. Tire grip is modest, but that's part of the appeal: When you reach the limit of adhesion, you're still driving at normal speeds, and the car's balance and communication are so good that you feel confident in your control of the car. We'd go for the manual gearbox, which is a pleasure to shift (and ups the BRZ's horsepower rating from 200 to 205), but even the available automatic transmission is programmed for enthusiastic driving, upshifting very rapidly and matching revs enthusiastically on downshifts.
Proving that it's more than just a sports car, the BRZ is comfortable and composed when you get it out on the open highway or over broken city streets. Relatively speaking, the ride is supple, or at least not so firm that it's unlivable in a city. Previous BRZs we've tested had a significant amount of road noise, and though we aren't ready to say that it's gone away entirely, there have been some changes in cabin insulation that could potentially have made things better.
Though it isn't full of upscale or fancy trimmings, the BRZ has a likable interior. The cabin is simple and pleasantly styled with a blend of Toyota and Subaru switchgear and materials. Atypical for a performance car, several tech items come standard, such as navigation, a rearview camera, HD radio and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. For 2017, the Limited and Series.Yellow also come with a new gauge cluster display that can show performance and additional engine information.
One of the best features from the BRZ's interior are its front seats. They're firm, well shaped and supportive enough for enthusiastic driving yet still comfortable enough for long road trips. People of just about any size should find the driving position quite agreeable, and thanks to the low-profile hood, there's an expansive view of the road ahead.
The backseat, however, is not nearly as good. Forcing any adult to sit in the backseat means that the front seat has to be moved up significantly, and even then, legroom is extremely limited. Headroom is tight too, with most adults touching their heads on the rear window glass. What's more, the center tunnel impedes hiproom so there isn't much room to spread out. Trunk space is also rather small at 6.9 cubic feet, but folding down the rear seatback expands cargo capacity considerably. For comparison, the Mazda Miata has just 4.6 cubic feet of cargo space, while the Chevy Camaro has 9.1 cubes.