2018 Subaru BRZ

2018 Subaru BRZ Review

The 2018 BRZ remains an easy and wildly fun car to drive but could use a more powerful engine.
7.4 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by James Riswick
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

It doesn't seem that long ago that we were cooing at the arrival of the Toyota-Subaru twins, a pair of almost identical rear-wheel-drive sport coupes that were lightweight, beautifully balanced, easy to drive, and quite simply a whole heap of fun. Well, it's been five years, and we're still huge fans of the 2018 Subaru BRZ. And after two consecutive years of upgrades, it's now easy to say that it's the more appealing of the twins.

If you're only considering the cheapest base versions of the twins, they're practically identical. But if you're looking for extra equipment and extra performance, the Subaru is the way to go. In terms of creature comforts, the BRZ Limited adds dual-zone climate control, push-button start, heated seats and, for 2018, a new 7-inch touchscreen complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get access to the Performance package, which adds upgraded Sachs dampers and Brembo high-performance brakes for superior driving dynamics the 86 just can't match.

And then there's the new BRZ tS also introduced for 2018. Limited to 500 units, it adds a variety of chassis-stiffening components, a further-tuned suspension, and special exterior and interior design elements. Plus, since it was tuned by Subaru's STI group, a carbon-fiber pedestal wing is thrown in for good measure.

So, even if the BRZ is the better choice between the Toyota-Subaru twins, there are still flaws and competitors to consider. The engine is the main point of contention. Acceleration is fine on paper, but there's little midrange punch and you have to keep the rpm high to get the most out of it. That means listening to a lot of unrefined racket from the four-cylinder boxer. Competitors are better in terms of power, refinement, noise and even fuel economy. There's also something to be said for interior space and quality, plus some missing safety features. Be sure to look around a bit.



What's new for 2018

The Limited and new tS trim levels get a welcome infotainment upgrade for 2018, with a new 7-inch touchscreen that features improved functionality, integrated navigation, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Speaking of the new tS, it is limited to 500 units and features special tuning by Subaru's STI performance arm. The suspension has been enhanced, the structure strengthened, and the brakes upgraded. There are also several exclusive design elements.

We recommend

We don't think you'd feel shortchanged by the base model, but the BRZ Limited is the more appealing choice thanks to its new-for-2018 7-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These aren't available at all on the BRZ's twin, the Toyota 86. Its extra creature comforts are also welcome. We'd also consider the Limited's Performance package, another BRZ exclusive, which further sharpens this rear-wheel-drive Subaru. Finally, we'd recommend the manual transmission. If you're into driver's cars, it's the way to go.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Subaru BRZ is a two-door sport coupe available in three trim levels: Premium, Limited and low-production tS. All of them come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. With the standard six-speed manual, the engine produces 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Those figures dip to 200 hp and 151 lb-ft with the optional six-speed automatic transmission.

Standard equipment on the BRZ Premium includes 17-inch wheels, summer performance tires, LED headlights, a trunk spoiler, heated mirrors, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a folding rear seatback, a 6.2-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a variety of smartphone-streaming audio apps, a USB port, and an eight-speaker sound system with a media player interface, an auxiliary audio jack, a CD player and satellite radio.

Stepping up to the BRZ Limited nets you LED foglights, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated-suede upholstery with outer seat portions in black leather, heated front seats, an enhanced trip computer display, a second USB port, and a 7-inch touchscreen that brings with it integrated TomTom navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Only the Limited can be fitted with the optional automatic transmission. Its optional Performance package adds Sachs performance dampers, Brembo high-performance brakes and gray-painted alloy wheels.

The limited-edition BRZ tS adds various body-stiffening elements, different STI-tuned Sachs dampers, black 18-inch STI wheels, the Brembo high-performance brakes, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, a pedestal-style carbon-fiber trunk spoiler, underbody spoilers, special black finishings on various exterior components, special Cherry Blossom Red accents exterior accents, and matching red leather on those seat portions that are black in the Limited. It does not have the Limited's LED foglights.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2013 Subaru BRZ (2.0L flat-4 | 6-speed manual | RWD). NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current BRZ has received significant updates last year, including revised suspension tuning and transmission gearing, a slight power upgrade, and the availability of such extra features. It belongs to the same generation, though, so our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's BRZ.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.4 / 10

Driving

8.0 / 10

Acceleration6.0 / 10
Braking7.5 / 10
Steering9.0 / 10
Handling8.5 / 10
Drivability7.0 / 10

Comfort

7.5 / 10

Seat comfort7.5 / 10
Ride comfort7.5 / 10
Noise & vibration6.0 / 10
Climate control7.5 / 10

Interior

7.5 / 10

Ease of use6.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out7.5 / 10
Driving position8.5 / 10
Roominess7.5 / 10
Visibility8.0 / 10
Quality7.5 / 10

Utility

7.5 / 10

Small-item storage7.0 / 10
Cargo space8.0 / 10

Technology

5.5 / 10

Audio & navigation5.0 / 10
Smartphone integration4.0 / 10
Driver aids7.5 / 10
Voice control6.5 / 10

Driving8.0

The BRZ has sports-car handling but an engine that struggles to get rolling. We love the way it drives through turns thanks to its classic rear-wheel-drive balance and effortless steering. A more powerful and refined engine would take better advantage of its dynamic capabilities.

Acceleration6.0

The BRZ's four-cylinder is responsive, but it's not the easiest car to launch aggressively. Midrange power is noticeably lacking, and the top-end bump isn't enough to make up for it. Look for a 0-60 mph time of about 6.7 seconds, which is OK, but other coupes are noticeably quicker.

Braking7.5

Initial brake impressions are very good. It's a firm but easy-to-modulate pedal, though when driven aggressively, the pedal feel becomes a bit wooden. The optional Brembo performance brakes may improve this aspect.

Steering9.0

The quick and precise steering rewards smooth driving, and well-damped feedback from the wheel communicates how much grip you have at the front wheels. It's the kind of steering you'd hope to get from a back-to-basics car like this.

Handling8.5

The BRZ's suspension tuning is more buttoned-down than that of its Toyota sibling, the 86. This refinement is enhanced further by the Performance package and the somewhat stiffer BRZ tS. In any event, the BRZ is lightweight and balanced. It's both easy and tremendously rewarding to drive.

Drivability7.0

The clutch engagement zone is narrow, so it takes practice to shift smoothly. At midrange rpm, the engine falls short when you need it most. Longer highway inclines can't be pulled in sixth gear. Listening to the motor moan and thrash takes a lot of the enjoyment away from revving it out.

Comfort7.5

To the casual enthusiast, the BRZ could be considered noisy and stiff, with a distinct lack of refinement and comfort-enhancing features (no power seats available). It won't be for everyone, but it's still far friendlier than past sport compact cars.

Seat comfort7.5

The front seats wrap around your body like a glove without being too confining like some other sport seats. We found them quite comfortable on longer road trips. They do, however, lack the option of power controls or extra adjustments such as lumbar or thigh support.

Ride comfort7.5

The BRZ's ride isn't punishing like a WRX STI's, and if measured against such sport compact cars, it could almost be deemed plush. When compared to other, less sport-oriented coupes, however, it is indeed on the firm side of things.

Noise & vibration6.0

It's not that the engine is noisy — that can be a benefit in sport coupes — it's that it doesn't sound very good. There's also a ton of road noise, especially on the highway. Driving the BRZ long distances can get old.

Climate control7.5

The BRZ can be equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control, a feature not available on the Toyota 86.

Interior7.5

Most controls are located exactly where you'd expect them to be, visibility is excellent, and the driving position likely spot-on. But don't expect to fit people comfortably in the rear, and materials quality is pretty spartan.

Ease of use6.0

There are no hidden features, no secret Easter eggs, no hidden menus. Everything about the BRZ is clearly visible from the moment you get in.

Getting in/getting out7.5

It's low, but the wide door opening and unobtrusive seat cushion make it easy to drop into the BRZ. Use the rear seats for bags and cargo since the aperture to get in or out of them is too narrow for most people to manage.

Driving position8.5

Some drivers may struggle to find an ideal position (seat bottom tilt, please), but the vast majority should find the BRZ terrific. You sit low with a surprisingly upright position. The near-horizontal steering column is placed perfectly, though more telescoping range would be nice.

Roominess7.5

There's ample room for even tall front passengers. Only small dogs and some grocery bags can fit in the back, so if you're looking for an expansive back seat, this probably isn't your type of car. If you're just looking for more than a Miata, though, you're in business.

Visibility8.0

With a tall and wide windshield and a low hood, forward visibility is pretty good. The view out the back is a bit compromised, but the rear-quarter windows do help when changing lanes. A fairly high-resolution backup camera aids in the tightest quarters, but we wish the displayed image was larger.

Quality7.5

There were no squeaks or rattles after a year of testing a BRZ, which is a good thing. So, too, is the faux suede on the dash and most trims' seats. But with a sea of black plastic, there's a dated vibe to the BRZ's cabin that could be a turnoff for some.

Utility7.5

With a folding rear seat and trunk designed to hold a full set of wheels and tires and a small tool set, the BRZ doesn't have to be reserved just for weekend duty.

Small-item storage7.0

Small, hard plastic door pockets and a center console tray with removable cupholders are all you get. The center console isn't covered by an armrest. A small bin forward of the shifter is too small to hold smartphones, and when push-button start is specified, it shrinks even further.

Cargo space8.0

The trunk opening isn't gigantic, but it can hold a decent amount of shorter-size items. The narrow backseat aperture can make it difficult to slide wider items through. Lowering the rear seatback is only possible from the trunk, by pulling two lanyards simultaneously. It's not easy.

Technology5.5

The two touchscreen options could be the main reason to choose a BRZ over the Toyota 86. Even the standard 6.3-inch screen is easier to use (especially its adjacent menu buttons). But the new 7-inch screen really steps things up with improved functionality, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Audio & navigation5.0

The base touchscreen is fairly simple to use and doesn't frustrate as past BRZ touchscreens did. But upgrading to the 7-inch screen is recommended for its improved graphics, enhanced functionality and the presence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. TomTom navigation software is also included.

Smartphone integration4.0

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come on the Limited and tS trim levels. All BRZs get Bluetooth, a variety of streaming audio apps and one USB port, with a second one added on the top two trims.

Driver aids7.5

No advanced driver and safety aids are available on the BRZ beyond a rearview camera.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.