2022 Subaru BRZ Coupe S Auto review

Things we like

  • Useable power and torque increase
  • Meaningful tech updates
  • Easier to live with everyday

Not so much

  • Cramped rear seats
  • Small boot aperture
  • Always-on sound symposer

Our first real taste of the 2022 Subaru BRZ came inside the melting pot of PCOTY, in our inaugural sub-$100k Sports Car of the Year challenge, that saw the wonderful manual BRZ Coupe rising to the top of the ranks.

The main drawcards remain: it’s affordable, accessible, and every bit as engaging to drive. Yet, virtually every point of criticism levelled at the breakout original has been directly addressed.

We want to know, however, if the lustre begins to wane when swapping that slick six-speed manual transmission for a conventional six-speed automatic.

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The BRZ range starts at $38,990 (before on-road costs) for the base BRZ Coupe Manual, with the base Auto stepping up to $42,790. The up-spec Coupe S trim adds leather/Ultrasuede upholstery and heated front seats, the Coupe S Manual asking $40,190 and the Coupe S Auto (which we’re driving today), topping the range at $43,990.

The second-generation BRZ (and incoming Toyota GR 86) is best thought of as a significant redesign, rather than an all-new model. It still sits atop the same basic architecture as the original, albeit with various developments learned from Subaru’s new Global Platform (SGP).

The results are significant, with torsional stiffness increased by 50 per cent and lateral rigidity quoted at 60 per cent improved. The base manual tips the scales at 1286kg, with the flagship Automatic, seen here, pegged at 1310kg.

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That’s a relatively nominal weight gain of around 20kgs over the superceded model. Dreaded weight creep has been mitigated due to a larger adoption of aluminium, now appearing in the roof, bonnet, guards and wheel hubs. The wheelbase is now 5mm longer, and the car now measures 25mm longer in total length. Rear track, too, has increased by 10mm while overall height has lowered by 15mm.

Rolling stock has inched up, with the alloy wheels now measuring 18×7.5-inches front and rear, now wrapped in 215/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4s – a marked improvement over the previous generation’s eco-spec Michelin Primacy tyres.

The big news, however, lies under the bonnet. Instead of resorting to forced induction (despite seemingly unending vocal demand), Subaru has gone decidedly old-school to give the new BRZ a much-needed bump in power. Swept capacity has increased to 2.4-litres, thanks to a new engine block, revised internals and a new induction system harnessing both port and direct fuel injection.

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The new and improved BRZ now produces 174kW @ 7000rpm and 250Nm at 3700rpm, the same for both Manual and Auto vehicles. While the ultimate outputs may still look modest to some, the improvement to power and torque is immediately clear from the seat of the pants.

Even in civilian circumstances, you’ll never find yourself struggling to keep up with traffic (a genuine concern in the old car), winding through the first three gears, exploiting the chunky mid-range. You no longer need to wring its neck out in second to make it up a steep incline, either, and in many ways the BRZ builds pace with the same ‘slightly oversized’ linear verve as a 2.0-litre MX-5.

It may not boast the histrionic force-fed rush of its turbocharged contemporaries, but it’s a much more responsive powerplant that feels unburstable in its eagerness to chase the upper regions of the rev-range.

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Not that you realistically need to high-five the redline with frequency, as power does tail off just below the 7200rpm cutout.

While the manual car may represent the ultimate enthusiast’s choice, Subaru Australia says 40 per cent of their initial 500 allocation were ordered with an automatic transmission.

It’s a smooth unit in everyday circumstances, only yielding some slight shunting on pickup at a slow, almost-stationary, roll; for instance when you’re creeping towards a red light that turns green or when switching between reverse and first when parking.

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The prior generation saw automatic BRZs hampered by a slight power deficit compared to the manuals, however an improved torque converter caters to the full 250Nm while improved sensors and software improve logic.

At speed, it’s an intelligent box when left to its own devices, however, Normal Mode calibrations frequently settle in gears too high. Sport Mode wakes it up, holding revs high and intelligently downshifting under braking.

Black aluminium paddle shifters add a further element of engagement, and are satisfying to use. The tiptronic shifter, however, is backwards, pulling ‘back’ to downshift and ‘up’ to upshift. Upshifts are responsive and it will give the downshift request if in range.

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In-cabin sound can be dominated by wind and road noise when cruising, but the engine note comes into its own as you climb up the range. Subaru’s ‘Active Sound Control’ can prove divisive, but we found it to be rather unobtrusive and rather liked the shrieking inline-four vibes over the more natural agricultural flat-arrangement.

Compared to the first-generation car, the steering has been finely tuned with less inherent weight and a slightly slower steering ratio (13.5:1 versus the old car’s 13.1:1), requiring slightly more input off-centre before the fast front-end begins to react. I miss the slight heft of the old car’s steering, but the marginally slower steering ratio makes sudden direction changes a bit more fluid, and sudden oversteer corrections less snappy. That’s not to say it feels doughy on turn-in, as the lighter steering further contributes to a feeling of lightweight agility and nimbleness.

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The light package and short wheelbase can lead to some jinkiness on heavily potted roads when really pushing, which can be initially discouraging. Body control is well contained, however, and you soon find that the car quickly regains composure despite being upset by larger road imperfections.

Continue to push, and the BRZ reveals itself as a confident and quick tool with which to cover ground. The chassis is remarkably neutral for a short rear-driver. You can steer with the rear if you begin flicking it into corners but, in most cases, there is more mid-corner mechanical grip than you might initially expect.

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ESC is well calibrated in most circumstances, but can interrupt proceedings by withholding power for lingering seconds after the initial slip moment has passed.

You’ll want to brake in straight lines, too, as the car can pull under heavy braking. Front rotors have been increased to 298mm, and the whole package is less servo-assisted than the original BRZ. The brake pedal now requires solid leg effort to realise full braking power. Those who are very familiar with the old car may be caught off guard, as the brakes now require a little more forethought given the increased pace and reduced servo assistance. In effect, however, the pedal is far easier to modulate at speed, and lends itself well to beginner left-foot brakers.

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It’s not just the dynamic department where the 2022 BRZ makes strides in improvement. Low-speed ride feels perfectly liveable. There is an inherent firmness, but the car feels composed on rebound with little jostling and crashing over sharp juts.

Opting for the Automatic transmission also affords you Subaru’s impressive EyeSight active safety suite that includes: AEB, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lead vehicle start alert.

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A welcome improvement to in-car tech sees both transmissions equipped with automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SatNav and Digital Radio. In cabin materials and frequent touchpoints have also taken a stepup in material quality. Everywhere you look; there’s a new dash, new HVAC controls and an armrest (finally!). Look closer and you’ll spy new window switches, doorcards and a nice aluminium-ringed mirror adjuster in place of the old plastic nub.

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Some classic quirks remain, however: the rear seats, despite a 5mm increase in wheelbase are still, at best, vestigial and the full size spare still sits proud of the boot floor, encroaching on space and making for awkward loading.

However, in a dynamic sense, the automatic BRZ is certainly no consolation prize. Surprisingly, it doesn’t sap the life out of the new 2.4-litre boxer and, given that almost half of buyers will choose this route, that’s great news.

The manual may remain the ultimate enthusiast’s choice but, while it might be conveyed as blasphemous to hardcore fans, the auto doesn’t kill the BRZ’s mojo.

Bravo Subaru, now where are you Toyota?

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2022 Subaru BRZ (auto) Coupe S specs

Body 2-door, 4-seat coupe
Drive rear-wheel
Engine 2387cc boxer-4, DOHC, 16v
Bore/Stroke 96.0mm x 86.0mm
Compression ratio 12.5:1
Power 174kW @ 7000rpm
Torque 250Nm @ 3700rpm
0-100km/h 6.21sec (tested)
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Weight 1286kg
Power/Weight 135kW/tonne
Suspension MacPherson strut, anti-roll (f); double-wishbones, anti-roll (r)
Brakes 294mm ventilated discs, 2-piston calipers (f); 290mm discs 1-piston
caliper (r)
Wheels 18.0 x 7.5-inch (f/r)
Tyres 225/40 R18 (f) 245/40 R18 (r) Michelin Pilot Sport 4
Price $43,990

Things we like

  • Useable power and torque increase
  • Meaningful tech updates
  • Easier to live with everyday

Not so much

  • Cramped rear seats
  • Small boot aperture
  • Always-on sound symposer

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