Tag Archives: brz

Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas

The Long Way Home: Ending my military service with a 1,300-mile road trip in my track car

“Life has many doors, Ed Boy,” said a character in a hallucinogenic-fueled fever dream of an Ed Edd N’ Eddy episode. My, oh my, how that throwaway line stood the test of time.

Six years ago, 19-year-old me had signed one of the most transformative contracts to have ever put leashed me. Lost, despondent, in search of an edge in life after my first trainwreck of a college career, I enlisted in my state’s Air National Guard unit, and soon, it was a life of monthly drills and annual training with one of the best C-130 airlift wings. Fast forward six years, plenty of training months, a COVID emergency activation, another short-lived college attempt, a couple of entry-level car dealership jobs, and an overseas deployment, and my tenure has reached its end.

To extend my contract or not to extend? That was the question. Ultimately, it was the latter choice I thought would suit an older me best. But was the journey worth it, the option to join years ago and the choice to leave to fully pursue a career in automotive media? I couldn’t even say with a hundred percent certainty at the time, and my mind raced with a million possibilities for a life I hadn’t fully sorted out. But perhaps a little road trip would give me time to think.

By February of this year, my contract had finally timed out. Come April, I embarked on one last journey from my home in sandy, sunny Las Vegas up north to Reno to collect trinkets-turned-memorabilia from my locker and say some goodbyes to old friends. “Never say never,” they say, so I’m certain it wouldn’t be the last I’d see of any of them. But it’d certainly be the last I’d see most of them for a long while. So I prepared for the long haul and loaded a weekend’s worth of attire in the trunk of my less-than-practical 2022 Subaru BRZ, heavily modified for track duty by a good friend who previously owned it yet just livable enough to be my just-good-enough daily driver and, for this instance, an all-weather road-tripper. Maybe I should’ve listened to my mom and bought a Forester.

Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

One last time on familiar roads

8 a.m. on a Friday, I psyched myself in for yet another 400-plus mile excursion on familiar two-lanes I’ve driven dozens of times on my way to Reno for Guard training and activation. It’s a simple trip, and I’ve driven for longer. But my goodness, that first run up to Reno is always a dreary haul.

Miles and miles of nothing but sand, rocks, the color brown, and, oh, look at that! More sand. The I-95 northbound eventually widdles down from a traditional four-lane highway to a two-lane country road, cutting through one of the most desolate parts of the entire United States without much in the way of other traffic to enjoy on-the-go car spotting. When you do, it’s often an 18-wheeler, a lifted pickup, or some Malaise-era rust bucket. Snoresville. Travelers making this journey, please bring lots of caffeine and a playlist of heavy music, and know that passing the inevitable semi takes a sharp mind and a bit of horsepower.

Occasionally, the wandering mind is treated to historic mining towns like Goldfield and Tonopah, popular stops for lab-brewed caffeine-in-a-can, fresh octane, and junkyard car spotting. Walker Lake near Hawthorne is Middle Mevada’s sample tasting of French Riviera motoring, with cliffside views, roadside homes and lodging, and flowing sweepers to let the BRZ stretch its legs a little, or at least when it’s not stuck behind a convoy of lumbering semi-trucks. Otherwise, the drive is mostly a bore.

Thankfully, the persistent bunch who cross into the Reno-Tahoe area are rewarded with flowing hills and lush greenery unheard of to a desert rat like me. But not me, though. I was greeted with a flash snowstorm that my all-seasons thankfully dispatched with somewhat ease and with only a little bit of pants-browning on my end.

Farewell and thanks to the airmen who guided me

Through snow and slush, I made it to my home away from home in time to make one last round at the local Air Guard base. I didn’t think much about my future on the way up. All I could think of was escaping the The Hills Have Eyes counties and high-tailing it to civilization to the hotel check-in desk without turning the BRZ into another road safety statistic. Shoutout to Goodyear for making stellar rubber and my friend who loaned me these hand-me-down tires.

The next couple days were spent filling my travel cup with sentiment and nostalgia for days when younger me didn’t give a damn about anything other than the weekend. Coworkers in my shop said their goodbyes and their best wishes, imparting their post-service benefits advice as I loaded my Little Subie That Could with old military uniforms. I rendezvoused with old friends and reminisced on our times together, from student flight to basic training and on to our first and only deployment together to the shores of Northeast Africa. Djibouti was a blast, and now we were left pondering on the next steps in our lives as my friends also contemplated life after service and whether they should continue or also part ways.

Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

It’s a volatile time in the world, and we Gen Z brats hardly give much thought to where we’ll be in a year, let alone where we’ll be in a decade. Keeping with the typical Asian-American family dynamic, I’ve faced immeasurable pressure to succeed and fall into a field where stability and security are at arm’s length away. Doctor. Nurse. Engineer. Stay in the Air Force and make officer ranks. Right. Perhaps I damned myself with any sort of digital media gig, instead falling into a purgatory where I teeter between abundant hope, feeling like a million bucks and that I’m on top of the world, or feeling like I’m on the verge of imminent failure at all times. Better Help, take my money.

Anyway, enough existential crisis. We’d rather not spoil the moment. We had late-night pancakes to finish and celebratory liquor to down.

The long way home

So came the end of my military service, out with a laugh and some drinks rather than some big bang of a TDY like I thought it would. Still, so many friends I wish I could say goodbye to who were either away on their own TDYs or had already separated from our unit and dropped off the face of the earth. It was goodbye, but not for forever. I still owe my best friend from basic training a dual at Thunderhill against her Camaro. That’s for certain. Now, how to make this final run home count.

Ah, yes. Here comes Apple Maps to the rescue once again. This time, pitching me an alternate scenic route that takes me down past Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes, running alongside the Sierra Nevadan mountains before dumping me in the I-15 between home and Los Angeles. It’d extend my trip by over a hundred miles and turn a six-hour drive into nearly nine.

Sure. Why not? It’s the weekend, after all. It was one of the routes Maps always recommends you take, but you never do out of “I ain’t got time for that.” But on that particular weekend, I had all the time in the world.

Onward I went. From Reno down south past Washoe Lake and into Carson City. From Carson City into Gardnerville. And from Gardnerville into God knows where I was after that, but man, it sure was breathtaking. The highway departs northern Nevada suburbia and begins to snake up and down, in and out of the nearby snow-capped hills, soon dumping me on the coast of Topaz Lake. Or so the signs said it was Topaz Lake.

Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

I was in and out of agricultural lands I never even knew existed in this corner of Nevada and northeast California. I wanted to believe that once you’ve seen a few patches of grass driving up the I-5 between SoCal and The Bay, you’ve seen them all, but this was different. Familiar yet alien. It was like the drive up here except with more greenery and less creepy crack houses and brothels. The hours ticked away, and a few podcasts and playlists were crossed off. I passed a junction flooding with tourists bound for Mammoth Lakes, soon followed by a drastic descent from the treeline down into a valley where the Sierra Nevada mountains grew from mere hills to gargantuan towers, with their snow line soon disappearing from beneath your hood and rising high above.

Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

I know we car enthusiasts often bemoan freeway road trips versus secluded backroads, but come on now. Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to leave the sports car in Comfort mode and cruise, especially when the freeways look like this so you can stare at nature’s creations you wouldn’t see anywhere else. And I couldn’t ask for a better sports car for such a journey. Or, well, maybe I could. Nah, who am I kidding? I could. But it got the job done.

The greatest and worst GT car

For hundreds of miles upon miles, the little BRZ came into its own and made good on my claim that it’s the world’s cheapest GT car and surprisingly capable tourer. Mostly. I mean, that GranTurismo Trofeo from a couple months ago would’ve been epic, but we embark on journeys with the tools we have, not the tools we want.

My main compliments from my press car review last fall stood strong: ride quality was remarkable for such a small, cheap car, even on track-focused coilovers that my friend had set to nearly maximum stiffness. Potholes were of little to no concern. All-season tires were game-changing in how my car tackled the rain and later snow and slush in the Reno-Tahoe area, encouraging me to explore the snowed-out country two lanes nearby. The seats were oh-so-cozy, and their fiery-hot, ass-searing heating elements came in clutch. Toasty!

Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The aggressive alignment could do with a little less tramlining, even with skinny, not-so-race-ready rubber. Just a little. And the fuel economy with the massive aero took a notable hit versus a stock BRZ. The mpg wasn’t bad, but the economy hit, plus the small tank, meant the range was sometimes a bitch. Still, I couldn’t complain. It was a fantastic and wonderfully capable driver’s car, and nearly running dry near a gas station at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, just within a stone’s throw of Mount Whitney, was its own blessing in disguise.

Even Bob Ross would still stop and stare, and maybe he’d even paint my car a happy little friend.

Final thoughts on my final stretch

A great trip needs a great finale, and I found one on a familiar highway traversed by my family as well as millions on a regular basis. As the valley of otherworldly mountains spat me out onto the I-15 and the arid desert, I reflected on the life I led and the one I had been given. If you told 20-year-old me that those high school dreams of getting paid to write about cars like my favorite automotive personalities, I would scoff and probably give you a good gut check for playing with me like that. It was a dream that felt out of reach under the pressure of family conformity and utter confusion at how people even broke into this industry. Now, I look back, grateful I took the leap I made, although fearful for an increasingly uncertain future in such a volatile field. But hell, I made it this far, didn’t I?

Subaru BRZ Reno-to-Vegas
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Whether I was a humble freelancer or Supreme Editor Overlord of Road & DriverTrend, the truth was I had made it into a career I had dreamed of but didn’t think possible. All I have to do is run away with it and not look back. And that’s probably the best advice I can give a stubborn dreamer fueled more by passion than material desires. If you see a window of opportunity, any window, big or small, jump straight through it and never stop. Of course, play your cards right and play them smart, but don’t back down lest you discover the biggest life regrets come when you throw in the towel on your endeavors.

Is my career perfect? Fuck no. But I’d still be parking cars or bouncing between lecture halls for some dead-end major at the university right now if I didn’t take that chance.

As for the Air Force, it’s safe to say that chapter ran its course as this new avenue of digital media and the oh-so-fantastic world of adulting (and for realsies this time) just turned green for me. Come to think of it, aside from extra coin, a splash of life guidance, and a bit of adventure, I can’t fully recall why exactly I enlisted in the first place. But while I’m deciding to part ways and begin anew, I’ll forever be grateful for all it gifted me, even as a mere Guardsman. And so onward I go into this new career I’m building from scratch. I will always look back on that uniform fondly.

I started this trip overflowing with anxiety and my mind racing. “What’s next? What am I going to do? What if I fail at this? Should I have stayed enlisted? Should I change careers?” On the last leg home, my mind fell at ease, only asking one thing at the moment: “Lake Dolores Waterpark looks beautiful under the setting sun, doesn’t it?”

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Ford Mustang GT, Veloster N, V6 Mustang Subaru BRZ
FeaturesSaturday Morning Car Tune!

You should daily drive your track car

Welcome! Tune in to your Saturday Morning Car Tune to read about the raddest yet dumbest and least practical thing I’ve ever purchased. You know all those awesome vloggers and auto journos who chronologize their lives behind the wheel of their muscle car restoration project or high-horsepower tuner build? Yeah, you know that most of those folks also have regular-ass daily drivers behind the scenes, right?

The Gears & Gasoline Bens have pickup trucks and a reasonably-built WRX STI to shuttle them around when they’re not grenading transmissions or setting lap records. David Patterson, a.k.a. ThatDudeInBlue, has a Ford F-150 for his regular grunt work. Matt Farah has a Mustang Mach-E and a Vespa, and Jason Cammisa has a Volkswagen e-Golf. Remember those things? And I have… A lowered Subaru BRZ with a silly wing and no catalytic converters.

I bought a thingy

modified Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

As you can see, the weight of my genius hurts sometimes. 

But alas! I have… Reasons. Probably not smart ones. But I didn’t start this new features section to discuss moneywise consumer advice. 

Say hello to the latest notch in my belt, a modified 2022 Subaru BRZ that I bought off an old coworker from my speed shop days, who himself bought it off the shop as it was a former shop car. Akin to the press BRZ I drove to GRIDLIFE in the fall, it’s a Limited trim, which means alcantara and leather upholstery throughout, heated seats, and a fairly banging sound system. It has wired Apple CarPlay as standard, as well as cornering headlights and a digital gauge cluster. Oh, and it’s a manual, too. Huzzah!

It has also been modified to high heaven, as this car had previously served as a work friend’s track car, having accumulated 3,200 miles over some mostly highway commutes and three track days, one of which Larry Chen photographed the car. Keen to always sign up for the next event but also deeply religious about a proper break-in, the BRZ has undergone one diff fluid change and five oil changes. And then there’s the laundry list of mods, including, ahem:

  • 200TW Hankook RSV4 tires (245/40/17) on 17-inch WedsSport TC105X wheels
  • Obnoxiously squeaky track brake pads that are surprisingly usable in daily driving and all weather
  • Zebulon swan neck wing
  • Artisan Spirits front lip with a barely-livable splitter extension
  • Catless full exhaust with equal-length headers and an A’PEXi catback
  • Ecutek programming kit with a custom 91-octane tune
  • Jackson Racing oil cooler
  • Antigravity battery
  • SPL adjustable rear control arms
  • Vorshlag camber plates
  • Cusco strut tower brace
  • Motion Control Suspension (MCS) coilovers, the exact model of which I still need to figure out

There’s probably a bunch I’m forgetting. And I’m still learning the exact details of what exactly each model of part is in the event I ever need to repair or replace them. Among spare things that aren’t installed, I still have an oil catch can, various chassis doo-dads, and the all-important oil pan baffle. If you’re even remotely familiar with the BRZ/GR86 platform, you’ll know these things are… Finicky, to say the least. But I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. But how does it rip? Well, let me tell you.

I don’t know all that much. In the 800 miles I’ve logged in the last two weeks, I haven’t really pushed it hard at all, not even in the local canyons since seasonal traffic is high and road temps are cold. But that’s okay. My friend built it for the track. And to the track, it’ll return to show me just how much I’ve grown (or devolved) since my time ripping around canyon roads and road courses in my trusty old V6 Mustang. But I can tell you what it’s like to live with and how you can replicate such an experience, should you dare. 

Daily driving a BRZ track car isn’t the worst idea I’ve had

This little tike, for all its track-focused intentions and intimidating looks, is actually a bang-on daily driver. No, I didn’t take that much copium today. I mean it! It’s usable, and it’s comfortable. Ish. Or at least it’s a comfortable-ish daily if you haven’t experienced a new Toyota Prius lately.

The MCS coilovers ride remarkably well despite being adjusted to a stiffer dampening setting by the previous owner. Hell, I’d say it rides close to, if not the same as, the stock suspension setup, albeit with slightly more noticeable jitters over high-frequency bumps. And when I mean slightly, I mean you just feel them a little more than stock, and it’s never harsh. Large road imperfections like asphalt patches, dips, and potholes are nonissue, which is fantastic to hear about in a track-built car. It means you have the compliance to attack apexes without upsetting the chassis, and you have the comfort of not shattering your spine on the drive home.

It’s a testament to the quality of the coilovers and proof that, and say this with me, you don’t need to ride like shit to have a great handling car. Porsches and Corvettes prove this. This does, too. Color me impressed. Get yourself some quality coils or adjust your dampers to find that happy middle ground, people. It exists, and I promise you it’s not maximum stiff.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

What isn’t so hot is this goddamn splitter. Getting into my family’s driveway is now a learning curve. And speedbumps near my friend’s house are now a practice session for autocross. It’s tolerable, but only barely. Normally, you’d be able to not scrape on most crap on the road. But now I actually have to be paying attention, whereas a stock BRZ may as well be a rally car in comparison, billygoating over dips and inclines.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Stance scene folks are laughing and envious at my comparatively truckish ground clearance. Again, it works for now. I’ll live, even if it means putting a few scuffs in concrete driveways here and there.

Video credit: Jeric Jaleco, Sean Grey

Fuel economy? Okay. I lauded the stock BRZ press loaner for handily beating the EPA estimates with hardly any effort, easily eclipsing 32 to 35 mpg on most freeways. Now, I have to try to hit 30. I should be lucky to even be averaging 24 in mixed driving. As it turns out, things like bigger, stickier tires and fat aero parts that produce a lot of drag end up producing a lot of drag. Who would’ve guessed? Fuel economy is still okay. Better than my V6 Mustang. But the small tank means fill-ups are just as, if not more, frequent.

If there’s anything to truly take solace in besides the commendable ride, it’d have to be that my friend left the interior mostly intact. No goofy rear seat deletion or removal of any carpeting or insulation to cut weight. He daily drove this car, too, and he’s more sensible than most. Or at least he’s sensible enough not to completely ape the livability of a car when it still has to drive to and from the track.

The OEM heated seats are still here and still get lovably scorching in our bitter desert winter. The stock sound system is still a banger, too. The only hints of modification inside are the custom steering wheel upholstery and a shift knob. The trunk liner has been removed to allow for access to the rear shock towers where the dampening adjustment lies, but if that’s had any effect on NVH, I haven’t noticed. If anything, it just made more room for groceries. Totally important in a car like this.

The exhaust is annoy-the-neighbors loud on startup but becomes smooth, balanced, and mature when warmed up, producing no drone whatsoever. In the cabin, it sounds as though the car was fitted with a somewhat tame catback and nothing more; that’s to say, it’s quiet when you want it to be. Great for dates. Or if you have tinnitus. Or if you and your date both have tinnitus. 

Daily your track car. Who’s gonna stop you?

So. Driving someone else’s former track toy. Not bad. Not bad at all. It could do with a milder splitter or no splitter at all. And the catless exhaust means that CARB reps will shoot me on sight the instant I cross the state line to buy a lotto ticket. But not bad at all. At least it’s done right, which is the defining line between versatile track cars you can use daily and hyper-focused track cars you’d rather trailer.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Any track-built car could pull shifts as a commuter. A car is a car. It’s all a matter of how it’s set up and the quality of the parts. Just know there will have to be compromises in how comfortable you can be or how hardcore you can build it. Frankly, if your idea of a track car is decent coilovers and sticky tires, you’re set! Hell, you’d clear more speed bumps than me. You’ll generally be fine if you leave ground clearance for larger floor jacks and attacking apex curbing and if you fervently believe the stiffest suspension setups aren’t always the best. Oh, and unless you’re entering time trials in the damn thing, don’t turn your interior into a scrap heap. Leave that to the dedicated race car builds. Your bum and your eardrums will thank you.

So there you go. Go ahead. Daily your track car, and live life like Ryosuke Takahashi except in suburban America and not urban Japan. And if your track car is a little more on the extreme side, Well, daily it anyway. It’ll be funny.

A new car for new adventures

So, if my last car was leagues more practical than this BRZ on a regular basis, why did I even bother with it? Simple.

I felt it was time to part ways with my prior car of six and a half years and wanted to level up. Simple as that. And while the Mustang could’ve definitely been its own track star with more money thrown at it, it was time to try a different platform and expand my palette a bit. So, when the opportunity came to snag my friend’s BRZ and depart from my 10-year-old, 114,000-mile trooper of a My-First-Sports-Car, the car I bought right after dropping out and shuttled me through a rebooted college career, a military enlistment, numerous road trips, getting absolutely lost as fuck in the Eldorado National Forest (beautiful place to get lost, by the way), and my first few jobs, I had to jump on it.

Think of the switch in Takumi and the Initial D story moving from the White Ghost of Akina arc to the Project D arc. And with it will (hopefully) come falling lap times, a more serious and mature take on driving, and, most importantly, all-new learning experiences I never had or bothered to pick up as a deadbeat college kid. But this is not to completely say goodbye to my little blue car. It was sold to a good friend, so it’s still in the social circle for me to witness its growth in new hands.

So far, ownership is looking like it’ll be a breeze despite the car’s livable shortcomings in the Suburban Errand Run GP. But can I fill in the shoes this car needs to topple my buddy’s lap records and move up a couple classes at HPDE days? There’s only one way to find out. But before then, there are those inherent oiling gremlins I must keep at bay first. Because #justsubiethings, apparently.

Ford Mustang GT, Veloster N, V6 Mustang Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Subaru BRZ
FeaturesNew Car Reviews

Subaru BRZ: this bargain pocket rocket is all the sports car you’ll ever need and then some

After all the forum fights and magazine banter, what do you think when you imagine the Subaru BRZ? Tearing up back roads and race tracks? Hype beast influencers in overpriced streetwear posted outside the boba joint? What about the hotheaded kid thinking they’re Ken Gushi slamming into a wall and ruining insurance rates for prospective buyers? The Subaru BRZ and its Toyota twin mean many things to many people and have amassed a vivid reputation as an affordable driver’s car. But forget the endless stereotypes behind every Toyobaru and ponder this.

Sports cars were always a bone thrown our way whenever business was booming or when companies needed a four-wheeled hype person for the brand. Now more than ever, they’re an endangered species, constantly coming and going and inflaming our anxiety over a future without any real driver’s cars left. Thankfully, the Subaru BRZ is here, brandishing its pure intentions in the least offensive way possible in an age where cars are gradually getting more… Beige. And I don’t mean color. The current BRZ is not merely a good sports car for the modern era. It’s driving excellence and all the sports car you’ll ever need.

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Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Price and specs

Note that we’re looking at our loaner from the perspective of the recently updated 2024 model, as pricing will be adjusted to reflect the most recent updates. A goodie bag of added standard safety equipment inflated pricing out of being a sub-$30,000 car. But let’s face it. Destination, taxes, and annoying markup meant these were never sub-$30,000 cars, anyway. Thankfully, all BRZs across all trims and model years are pretty much mechanically identical, so that should make your window shopping a little easier.

Base price (2024):$31,315
As-tested price (2024):$33,815
Engine:2.4-liter flat-four
Transmission:6-speed manual
Drivetrain:rear-wheel drive
Power:228 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm
Torque:184 pound-feet @ 3,700 rpm
Redline:7,400 rpm
Weight:2,815 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:5.4 seconds
¼-mile:13.9 seconds @ 101 mph
MPG:20 city, 27 highway, 22 combined
Observed MPG:28.7
Fuel Capacity:13.2 gallons

(Author’s Note: Performance numbers reflected in Car and Driver’s review from January 2022. Our press loaner is a straggler from 2022, but pricing has been adjusted to reflect the equivalent 2024 car.)

BRZ exterior design

This second generation of Subaru BRZ wowed its fanbase with a premium and aggressive redesign, conjuring visions of cars that cost tens of thousands of dollars more. Everything from the steeply swept-back headlights to the fender vents screams honest-to-goodness sports car, while the profile stays true to the long-nose, short-deck formula that makes legendary sports car designs of old so iconic. 

If you find this overall design unattractive, you should be condemned to a lifetime behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Mirage (uh, duh, I’m still going to link that). Count your blessings we even have cars that look like this in such a price range. 

Any foibles with the BRZ stem from Subaru’s tweaks to differentiate it from its Toyota counterpart and better suit the Subaru design language. The lack of a decklid spoiler that this car desperately needs and the quirky hexagonal smile are apparently what makes a Subaru a Subaru. However, shoutout to the World Rally Blue Pearl paint, a redeeming quality that’s never done justice in photos or press material. This is an upscale color that anyone with functioning eyeballs would enjoy, even against the dark, hazy fog of an autumn evening in Monterey.

What’s hot?A refreshing palette cleanser for what good driver inputs are
– Potent engine drastically improves speed and acceleration
Lightning fast on even the tightest of roads
Shocking comfort and compliance over the worst pavement
Easily beats its EPA mileage figures
More than practical enough for everyday use

BRZ pricing breakdown

Fascinating! The cheap budget sports car is priced cheap for buyers on a budget. Pricing on 2024 models reportedly begins at $31,315 for the base Premium, which includes a $1,050 destination charge. Shoot for a Limited like ours, and the price jumps to $33,815, which gifts your less-than-frugal spending with suede interior accents, heated seats, larger 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires, an upgraded audio system, and cornering headlights.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The recent price increase does afford Subaru’s EyeSight safety systems as standard on all models, including manual transmission-equipped cars. Now wannabe tofu delivery drivers can enjoy the extra watchful eyes of adaptive cruise control, collision prevention, lane departure warning, and lead car start warning. A new high-performance tS model also enters the lineup at $36,465 rocking a blue-accented interior, Brembo brakes, and retuned dampers by Hitachi.

As for options, there aren’t many. At least not in the way of performance or amenity-altering packages. What you see on any trim of BRZ is what you get, with the only main option being your choice of an automatic transmission on Limited cars for $950. Prior model years offered automatics on both Premium and Limited trims.

BRZ interior and tech

As expected for the price range the Subaru BRZ is pretty sparse compared to today’s crop of sport compacts and sports cars. It’s almost like a Lotus Elise to their Bentley Continental. But in all seriousness, there’s everything you need and little of what you don’t. The interior is a modernized evolution of the previous car, with a flat dashboard that’s great for resting stuff (or mounting aftermarket gauge pods) on road trips. The lower portion of the passenger side just above the glove box could’ve been a neat shelf, but oh well. 

The digital cluster that switches between a circular and bar-style tach in Track mode is a fantastic touch and can display heaps of performance and trip info. But the real star is the 8-inch touchscreen, leaps and bounds ahead in quality and functionality than any head unit to have come in BRZs before. It’s quick to your touch, runs Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay without a hitch, and is well-integrated instead of resembling some tacked-on afterthought from Circuit City. Also included on our Limited tester was blind spot monitoring, adaptive cornering lights, and a six-speaker stereo that bumps quite hard for what it is.

Again, note that 2024 models include the aforementioned suite of EyeSight tech as standard, even with manual transmissions, a first for the BRZ. So add adaptive cruise and the litany of safety warnings. So new buyers can finally drive more at ease on their way to the hillclimb route. Even so, the BRZ is not a complicated car, as much of its cost goes towards handling and driving involvement first and foremost. But how has that affected its ability to be used as just a normal car? Surprisingly, not much at all.

The tiniest grand tourer

Deceptively accommodating

I knew the Subaru BRZ would be exemplary in the twisties. That’s not news. Ultimate enjoyment is what it was bred for. But a day in Los Angeles and hundreds of miles traversing the BRZ’s antithesis, the American freeway system, highlighted a hidden side to the BRZ I never knew existed.

It’s just a damn fine car. Like, a car car. Just a car. You can use it as a normal-ass car with minimal compromises. Who would’ve thought? Not me. Not when a majority of the BRZs and 86s I’ve experienced have been purpose-built for performance and modified to high hell. But there’s a lot to get jiggy with in a stock BRZ.

The interior, even if you’re a six-and-a-half-foot walking tree like this one 86/BRZ fanatic friend of mine, is plenty spacious. Seats are comfortable enough for my journey up the coast, with supportive bolstering that’s not intrusive and heated seats that comically range from “eh, kind of warm” to “WELCOME TO HELL.” The trunk swallowed two large backpacks and a medium-ish duffle bag with ease, and anything extra my adventuring buddy or I needed was able to be shoehorned in the gaps. Worst case scenario, the rear seats, useless to anyone over the age of 8, make for secure luggage shelves. Visibility was top-notch, and the digital gauges and touchscreen were within easy reach and perfectly legible in the dead of night or midday.

These traits make for an excellent everyday commuter in the dense concrete jungle of LA. Tight parking garages, battered side streets, and narrow alleys were no problem for something this small. However, the low-slung ride means you’ll still have to take the steepest driveways at an angle. God help you if you’re on coilovers.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The pride of Japan versus American highways

Most impressive was the BRZ’s highway manners cruising up Route 1 and 101 from LA to Monterey chasing GRIDLIFE Laguna. The EPA rates our manual-equipped tester at 27 mpg on the highway. That’s a little pessimistic. Set our cruise control to 75, and my friend and I saw an easy 30 to 32 mpg for most of our highway journey and averaged over 28 mpg during our entire press loan. In cities and towns, I was seeing around 21 to 22, also besting the EPA estimate of 20 mpg. Trips to the gas station won’t be as frequent as you think.

This runt tracks straight on its factory alignment, making highway excursions less of a chore, and its sound-deadening is commendable enough if not anything to write home about. Ride quality was the true standout on California pavement, however. Expansion joints, potholes, and gravel were no match for unfathomably compliant suspension tuning in such an inexpensive, short-wheelbase performance vehicle. Dare I say this is the world’s smallest grand tourer? It’s that livable in stock form.

Like many great split-personality cars, its dulled edge almost makes you forget just how potent of a performer it is. And this the Subaru BRZ is as distilled of an experience as modern sports cars come.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

An example of driving excellence

Say it with me. It’s quick.

Subaru heard your cries about the last car’s motor. They said, “Shut the hell up, we’re working on it.”

And so they have. Because this FA24 flat-four is a skittish, leash-tugging sweetheart. Aside from making some disconcertingly agricultural noises, especially low in the rev range, it’s surprisingly smooth and oh-so willing to zing right up to its redline. 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet feels a hell of a lot more potent in this car than those numbers suggest, and it’s more of a mind twist to learn how these second-gen cars are starting to punch above their weight.

The added grunt and near-elimination of the infamous torque dip equate to magazine test numbers that are consistently within a stone’s throw from more powerful turbo-four and V6 pony cars. The BRZ rewards you with short gearing that not only aids acceleration but also encourages you to enjoy the art of rowing gears. Screw the old stereotypes because the new BRZ is genuinely quick. It’s quick. I’ve driven Porsches, AMG GTs, and Corvette ZR1s and have ridden in Model S Plaids, so say this with me. The current Subaru BRZ with its FA24 is quick.

It’s a shame this spritely powertrain is neutered by one of the most intrusive fuel cuts. It stops the party if you edge just a smidge too far past the redline, which is easy to do with such short gears and a quick-revving engine and doesn’t seem to restore power until somewhere above 7,100 rpm. What. Horse. Shit. Why such a harsh cut was implemented baffles me. But it’s the BRZ/86 platform, after all, so it’s nothing a tune can’t fix. Hard rev limiter, anyone?

Decent powertrain. Impressive, even. Now Subaru, please resolve the on-track oiling issues. No, I will not elaborate. You know well enough.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

With beauty and grace

From the countryside back roads behind the Monterey hills to harrowing downhill canyons of Malibu, the BRZ makes short work of them all. There’s no real drive mode aside from Track, which cuts out stability and traction control. Just slot this tinker toy in gear, drop the hammer, and disappear beyond the apexes, a daunting feat made brainless by this well-balanced machine.

It darts. It dives. Despite its seemingly relaxed factory alignment, it attacks corners with an eagerness and tenacity that’d have Cayman-killers like an Integra Type S on high alert on your average touge. And that supple ride I adored so much means you can still haul ass around the most tattered bends and hold the line without upsetting the chassis or shattering your spine.

The brakes were decent. The firm pedal and strong performance inspired confidence on the tightest of asphalt ribbons high in the hills, but the sheer speed you can carry so nonchalantly quickly produced the all-too-familiar aroma of burning pads at the end of a particular Malibu canyon. Track rats may want to consider more resilient pads and fluid or jump ship to the tS and its larger Brembos. 

The steering, although a step back in weighting from the deliciously hefty and natural rack of the previous-gen cars, is Porsche precise. I’m never making second guesses in the corners. Never having to adjust. The only steering corrections made were when trying to let the rear end stretch its legs a little, but against the stereotypes, it was a task that proved to be trickier at slower canyon speeds with my Limited tester’s Michelin summer rubber. Still, that level of capability paired with such beauty and grace makes you feel like a real hero. There’s a fluidity in the way this car moves that’s hard to match, resulting in one of the most confidence-inspiring and rewarding cars to hustle.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
What’s not?Abysmal fuel cut at redline
Groaning engine noises
Infamous on-track reliability concerns are always looming
More standard features mean a higher price tag for 2024
Rear seats are little more than an extra storage shelf (see how hard I’m nitpicking here?)
The Toyota GR86 exists

The Ghost of Akina lives on, with or without a Toyota badge

Halfway through our loan, with that blue pearl paint glistening under the NorCal sun that had just unsheathed itself from the clouds, I already knew everything I wanted to say about the BRZ. The review had written itself by the time the car arrived for the second day of GRIDLIFE Laguna, yet I was dreading the moment I had to give it back. It’s such a sweetheart on any occasion.

But despite all it gets right, you can’t help but feel that the BRZ gets its toes stepped on by its more youthful twin, the Toyota GR86. The suspension is tuned to favor rotation on track, and many find the GR’s simpler mug and the available lip spoiler to be the “proper” look, all for a marginally lower price. But I suppose if you’re a die-hard Subaru loyalist or find the more mature appeal of the BRZ to be your jam, that’s also fine. Either way, you’ll have the privilege of piloting one of the best driver’s cars ever made, and that’s no hyperbole.

Subaru BRZ
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Few cars nowadays cater as fervently to enthusiasts as the Subaru BRZ without soiling their merits as possible tofu delivery vehicles. One moment, you’re meandering around town, smashing potholes and darting through alleyways easily and efficiently. The next, you’re Keiichi Tsuchiya showing Max Orido how it’s done on the Gunsai Touge on some episode of Best Motoring. That type of euphoria should be celebrated! Because in an age of increased borification, who doesn’t love a genuine, tactile, old-fashioned, row-your-own, free-breathing, rear-drive, lightweight pocket rocket of a sports car?

Not this guy. I’ll take a tS in World Rally Pearl, please.

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Subaru BRZ tS

2024 Subaru BRZ price increases, tS pricing finally revealed

The Subaru BRZ has long been a revered favorite among driving enthusiasts for its razor-sharp inputs, heaps of engagement, and, best of all, an agreeable price tag. But now, the mildly revised 2024 Subaru BRZ gets a bit less friendly with frugal enthusiasts as a recent pricing announcement reveals a mild price hike across the board. Such an increase can be attributed to the addition of a new high-performance tS trim level and a suite of standard safety tech that’s new to the BRZ for 2024, which means the value per dollar should remain strong.

The BRZ sees a minimum price increase of $1,700, elevating the base price of a Premium BRZ from 2023’s $28,565 to $30,265. Factor in a $1,050 destination and handling charge, and you’re looking at $31,315 to start. The higher-trim Limited with 18-inch wheels wrapped in summer tires, cornering headlights, suede interior accenting, heated seats, and an upgraded stereo system will now cost you $33,815. The tS model, with Brembo brakes, a revised STI-inspired interior, and higher-performance Hitachi dampers, rings the bell at $36,465, with the manual transmission as its only option. The automatic transmission is now only available on the Limited for $950, having also been plucked from the Premium’s options list.

However, the price jump thankfully includes Subaru’s EyeSight driving assist systems as standard, a first for any manual-equipped BRZ. Manual transmission vehicles can enjoy adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, collision prevention, and lead car start warning systems. No, none of it is the slightest bit necessary in a purist’s sports car, but those intending for their BRZ to pull double shifts as a commuter will appreciate the extra watchful eye.

The BRZ is still affordable by modern car standards, but that’s a healthy chunk of change over what the BRZ had recently cost. Figure that a $1,700 hike before destination charges could buy you a semi-decent set of coilovers, some nice tires, or even a high-quality catback exhaust. But it certainly won’t be the factor that deters many would-be buyers. That’s dealer markup’s job. To anyone yearning for a tS, now’s the time to get cunning.

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