The 2020 Subaru BRZ is a car I appreciate a lot. Also sold under the name Toyota 86, this adorable lightweight coupe will finally receive a major overhaul after being unchanged for almost 10 years. I figured this was fantastic timing to get a last taste of the current car, because I fear the next-generation model won’t be as raw as this.
The Best Package
Hence why there’s not much that changes for the 2020 Subaru BRZ. It’s still available in three closely priced trim packages, plus a special edition model. This year’s it’s the BRZ tS. The model you see here is a BRZ Sport-tech RS, arguably the best package, as it that adds Brembo brakes and performance-tuned SACHS dampers. The RS also gets its own set of bespoke 17-inch gunmetal grey wheels, which look quite good.The rest of the drivetrain is essentially the same as the last time it was revised back in 2016. The 2.0-liter flat four, developed in conjunction by Toyota and Subaru, still sends 205 horsepower and 153 lb-ft straight to the rear wheels via a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. But who even gets a BRZ with an automatic, anyway?The naturally aspirated Boxer unit, which is pushed as far back as possible for ultimate weight distribution, utilizes an aluminum intake system, while the pistons have been shot-penned for added strength. The crankshaft bearings are beefed up over Subaru’s standard 2.0-liter engine, and the final drive ratio was changed during the facelift, from 4.10:1 to 4.30:1.A next-generation Subaru BRZ is scheduled to be revealed in a couple of weeks, with rumors of it receiving Subaru’s latest 2.4-liter flat four unit. But it’s currently unclear if that engine will be turbocharged, naturally aspirated, or both. More recent speculation reveals a naturally aspirated Toyobaru with around 217 horsepower, which would make more sense if the goal is to maintain the essence of the original car intact.
Pricing for the 2020 Subaru BRZ kicks off at $27,995, making it one of the best performance bargains currently on sale. The lineup caps off at $33,795 for a tS model, while my tester stickered for $31,895.
That Graceful Balance
This year may have been rough due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it sure as hell didn’t prevent me from reviewing impressive automobiles. From a McLaren GT, all the way to a quarter million dollar Bentley Flying Spur, I didn’t miss out on the fun stuff at all. And I’m extremely grateful to have also driven the 2020 Subaru BRZ.Because there are very few automobiles that capture the BRZ’s graceful balance of simplicity and performance. This car may only have 205 horsepower, but it allows you to extract every last pony and rewards you for doing so. The person who came up with the saying “it’s better to drive a slow car fast than a fast car fast” was probably driving a BRZ.You sit nice and low in the BRZ’s snug cockpit, facing a simplistic dashboard that utilizes both analog and digital switchgear, while the car’s infotainment system appears to have been tacked on as a Canadian Tire accessory. It does nevertheless provide the necessities. Meanwhile, the tiny trunk is actually usable.But the BRZ’s cabin remains a tight fit for tall people, however it’s still more comfortable than a Mazda MX-5‘s. The physical handbrake is a pleasing sight, so is the short-throw manual gear knob. The rear seat, on the other hand, is only there to please Subaru’s lawyers. Meanwhile, the four-cylinder engine is rather frugal when you’re not busy performing out of corner power slides, capable of continuously returning consumption averages that hang below 8L/100 km.Behind the wheel of a BRZ, one feels everything the drivetrain is doing. The flat four rumbles enjoyable Boxer melodies while the car’s skinny tires continuously communicate what they’re up to. Removing the traction control system will easily yield glorious power slides, ones that are easily corrected by fiddling with the throttle pedal. The car’s lightweight chassis is nimble and easily tossable, while the brakes give you way more bite than a car of this size and weight actually needs.Gears are short, which means you’re shifting often, a good thing, as it keeps you awake. Thrashing the 2.0-liter engine is also rather fun as it not only sounds racy, but also loves to rev eagerly to its 7,500 rpm redline. This engine continues to have one of the weirdest torque curves of any naturally aspirated unit, where torque downright disappears somewhere in the middle of the rev range, and instantly returns as revs climb.But driving the BRZ constantly makes you feel great about driving. It’s a car that’ll allow you to do things you probably didn’t know you could perform, and the level of precision here is impressive. The ability to drive it ten tenths all the time is a quality very few other sports cars can match up to.That all being said, it’s also time the adorable little BRZ got more power. While I continue to adore the purity of this naturally aspirated engine, the truth of the matter is that it feels slow and underpowered, especially in a world where mainstream crossovers now pump out more turbocharged might. There’s also the fact that quicker alternatives, like the Ford Mustang EcoBoost or Nissan 370Z, are available for similar money. There’s also Subaru’s own WRX, which sells for just a few grand more and adds turbocharging, all-wheel drive and two extra doors.This is precisely what the next-generation car will try to fix thanks to increased displacement. If Subaru decides to keep the turbocharger, we’ll most probably be getting a BRZ with about 250 horsepower, but it could add more complexity and weight to an already perfect package. Subaru could very well decide to keep the 2.4-liter normally aspirated, with horsepower only bumping a bit, but with considerably more torque.Will a larger engine take away from the BRZ’s energetic and lively character? Who knows, maybe the next BRZ will be a case of “be careful what you wish for”. Perhaps we’ll look back at this model one day and wonder why we complained about its purity.
Review of the 2020 Subaru BRZ Sport-tech RS by William Clavey
Sport compact cars
- Raw driving experience
- Surprisingly fuel efficient and practical
- Needs more power
- Rough around the edges
- Useless rear seat
9.8 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Subaru Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]