Car News

2022 Subaru BRZ Makes Canadian Debut, We Get the Scoop on Why It Still Exists

Subaru Canada has just revealed an all-new BRZ for 2022, and while the looks of the sports car don't stray far from the old one, it has some serious changes under the skin. The new coupe gets a larger, more powerful engine, increased stiffness, and more modern interior tech for the rear-drive 2+2 that's ready for your fun drives from back road to track day.

Starting with the most significant change, the old 2.0L flat-four has been replaced by a 2.4L naturally aspirated boxer engine. The new engine makes 228 hp, up from 205 for the old manual model and 200 for the old automatic version. More importantly, peak torque is up 15 per cent to 184 lb-ft, and while the engine can still spin to 7,500 RPM, there is more torque throughout the rev range. It's now a second quicker to 100 km/h and the "torque dip" of the 2.0L is all but a memory now.

A six-speed manual transmission is offered, and all cars get a Torsen limited-slip differential, but a new six-speed automatic adds a sport mode that won't upshift when you stop braking for a corner, then downshift again when you're around the other side. Instead, it will hold gears through the corner, making you look more like a pro.

Styling is little changed, but the BRZ gets new sheet metal all around. The car is lower, giving it an even lower centre of gravity, but the seat has been dropped too, so there is slightly more headroom. The low fenders wrap around the suspension mounts and have functional vents, while the wider rear arches widen the car's stance and the ducktail spoiler improves aerodynamic performance.

The 2022 Subaru BRZ's interior has a new fully-customizable digital dash with modes including a larger tachometer and shift light for high-performance driving. The 8.0-inch infotainment screen gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Subaru Starlink telematics. Narrower pillars made of high-strength steel increase visibility out of the car.

Despite the new interior and stiffened chassis, using aluminum for the roof and fenders, as well as other lightweight parts, has left the car just 10 kg heavier than before. The chassis has been stiffened with long-travel but short-length struts in the front, and gone are the "Prius tires" of the first-gen car, which were low on grip but provided a lot of fun. The car now offers Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, which should give drivers much more grip.

A new version of a low-volume sports car might seem like an odd choice for Subaru, but the brand says it's an important one for bringing in new and younger buyers, as well as letting existing owners have more fun in their second vehicle. We spoke with Subaru Car Line Manager Brad Evans about how the car fits for the brand, and what the automaker has done to keep its enthusiast owner base in mind.

"There are lots of reasons not to do it," Evans said, but added that the two core pillars of Subaru moving forward will be SUVs and sports cars.

"Obviously, passenger car segments are shrinking and shrivelling, not just in Canada, but everywhere. And we feel that, but because of the partnership with Toyota, we're able to get this kind of thing going. It really exposes us to a different generation of buyers of Subarus. Subarus are often associated with college professors and that type, kind of the alternative to a luxury-type vehicle and one where the 'smart money' goes where you know you're going to get good value for money, good reliability, and longevity. So BRZ and WRX STI can offer us up to a completely different side of automotive buyers," said Evans.

Who are those buyers? Young professionals who are often single and don't need an SUV with all of that cargo capacity, Evans said. At least not yet. "Offering those people something as well is important for us to broaden or cast a wider net. It's also the case that we see a lot of Forester buyers also buying BRZs. So it's that kind of complimentary vehicle to our more core sales models."

Here's how the rest of our conversation about how the BRZ fits into the Subaru lineup went:

AT - Subaru has a dealer base that's used to touting all-wheel drive and "outdoorsiness." Do they have a hard time adjusting to this car aimed at a completely different market?

BE - There was a learning curve back in 2014, 2015 with the first model. It was something that, of course, they weren't used to. They were programmed to say all-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and now suddenly we were throwing a rear-wheel-drive sports car at them. But I think the whole organization, the dealer network and everyone are very much behind the idea that this really does bring a unique product to the table.

[For competitors] we have [Toyota] 86 and [Mazda] MX-5, so we're fishing in a pretty small pond here, which the dealers love. Because there's a lot of reasons, if someone comes into the dealership saying I'm cross-shopping this and an MX-5, it's like 'OK well, do you want space or do you want to no top?' It's pretty simple. It's a pretty simple sale for someone looking for a sports car. There's a lot to like about the BRZ, that it offers 95 per cent of what the more traditional sports car nameplates out there offer with not a lot of the drawbacks.

AT - Did Subaru think about making the new car all-wheel drive?

BE - That was never really on the table. We've got the WRX for that. Obviously, this is a much sleeker package than the WRX, where it's more of a traditional kind of three-box sedan, so it was gonna be all-wheel drive from the beginning.

AT - What about a turbocharger this time for even more power?

BE - There were discussions about it. How far along those discussions got within Japan's R&D team? I'm not entirely sure, but I don't imagine they got very far. A turbo would take away from what the original philosophy of this car was. This goes all the way back to the AE86 on the automotive side. The idea is lightweight handling, instantaneous throttle response. This car is an extension of you and when you put your foot down, you know exactly what it's going to do. It's predictable and it's the super-linear power delivery. It's easy to drive quickly but takes a long time to drive really quickly. It's one of those things that really rewards you for maintaining momentum. It's obviously not a drag race car and never will be.

The problem with a turbo is not only does it add cost - this is meant to be accessible for our younger crowd - but turbo plumbing means raising the engine, which really compromises the centre of gravity and things like that, not to mention loading the front with much more weight. So there were a lot of reasons not to do it as well.

The extra displacement [of the 2.4L] really helps a lot. There's a little more leniency for the engineers to play with it. But I did mention the peak torque is anywhere from 3,200 to the mid-5,000s, so it's really much more drivable and livable than the outgoing model where you really had to kind of thrash it to get the most out of it. This one feels, I mean it is much quicker, but really feels it as well.

AT - The original BRZ was a hit with autocross and track day drivers because it could hold a full set of mounted tires in the back and you could drive it with a helmet on. Was this a deliberate choice on the part of the engineering team?

BE - Absolutely. The set of tires and tools fitting in the back was an absolute design criteria. It's one of those things that the engineers said this is a non-starter. We're not taking this away from the vehicle. And the headliner does have some pretty sizable indentations above the driver and passenger to accommodate the helmet. That's part of the reason that the seating position was lowered by five mm as well. There's been a lot of thought put into the track day side of the business as opposed to the daily. And that's why they put the more aggressive tires on. The tail happiness was fun, but this is a much more serious and focused thing [than the first-gen car]. It looks more serious and its performance is a lot more serious as well.

Wrapping It Up

There's another perk for Canadian track-day owners as well as those who plan on driving this car in the winter: no tire-pressure sensors to worry about and no accompanying warning light when you're running track day tires or snow tires on extra sets of wheels.

I blurt out "Good!" when Evans says that Canadian cars won't get tire pressure monitoring sensors. "That response is exactly why we don't [have it]," he said.

Pricing, full trim availability and pricing for the 2022 Subaru BRZ aren't yet available. Expect them closer to the vehicle's arrival at dealers this fall, with fuel economy announced then as well.