- Subaru’s BRZ Coupe – rear-wheel drive, front-engined layout, low centre of gravity and high-revving engine.
- Born from the desire to build a back-to-basics sports car, offering a pure, driver focused experience.
- 2017 update covers every area of BRZ; exterior, interior, powertrain, suspension and safety.
- Range line-up – SE Lux with either manual or automatic gearbox option.
Subaru’s BRZ Sports Coupe is back for 2017 with a comprehensive update to further cement BRZ as the driver’s car of choice.
The BRZ’s name explains the concept behind the car – B stands for ‘Boxer’, R for ‘Rear-wheel drive’ and Z for ‘Zenith’, demonstrating Subaru’s commitment to providing driving enthusiasts with the best tool for the job.
The concept behind BRZ was the desire to build a back-to-basics sports car, offering the purest handling possible and an involving driving experience. The Subaru Boxer engine is an essential element in this philosophy, as by design the engine can be mounted low and pushed back in the chassis which creates an ultra-low centre of gravity and helps distribute the weight 53 per cent front/47 per cent rear. For 2017, several revisions to the engine design help to offer an engaging driving experience.
Under the skin
The Boxer engine takes its name from the punch-counterpunch motion of the horizontal pistons within a lightweight, aluminium-alloy engine block.
BRZ’s FA Boxer engine is positioned in line with the drivetrain for maximum transfer of power. The punch-counterpunch movements of the pistons balance each other out, which means the engine is smoother with reduced vibrations and noise. Additionally, the low, flat profile of the engine combined with its low position contribute to the lower centre of gravity and in turn, exquisite handling and poise plus greatly reduced roll when cornering.
The BRZ’s 2,000cc direct and port injection engine generates 200 PS at 7,000 rpm and 205 Nm torque at 6,400-6,600 rpm. When paired to the six-speed manual transmission the BRZ covers 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph.
A key feature of the engine is the square bore and stroke (86mm x 86mm), which helps achieve a balance between mechanical efficiency, environmental performance, speed and power.
The FA Boxer engine is also fitted with the D-4S direct and port injection system. This selects the appropriate fuel injection rate to provide greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
D-4S was incorporated into the engine by reshaping the combustion chamber and enlarging valve spaces for greater air intake and exhaust efficiency from the point of low valve lift. A plastic intake manifold is fitted to save weight and tune air flow characteristics for higher performance. Ventilation resistance has been reduced by around 20 per cent, improving air flow for greater engine power and response.
Separate cooling circuits for the aluminium cylinder block and cylinder head make engine warm-up faster, reduce friction and aid fuel economy. As oil requirements are lower with the Active Valve Control System (AVCS), it has been possible to reduce the oil pump relief pressure, lowering friction. The engine also employs a maintenance-free chain-type camshaft drive system.
A Mahle Filter Systems sound generator is also fitted which synchronises the engine note and throttle application. There is a notable lift in engine roar from around 4,000 rpm, which Subaru engineers hope will encourage drivers to turn off the audio system to make the driving experience more dramatic as the BRZ approaches its rev limit.
By contrast, the sound generator has been tuned to keep the engine as quiet as possible at lower engine speeds for more relaxed urban driving and motorway cruises.
For 2017, the FA Boxer engine has been updated to increase responsiveness. The cylinder block strength has been increased, the valve stems have been buffed and polished, the camshaft is lower friction and the weight of the rocker arms has been reduced.
The BRZ returns combined mpg figures of 39.8 (automatic) or 36.2 (manual) and CO2 figures of 164 g/km (automatic) or 180 g/km (manual).
Transmissions & Drivetrain
The Subaru BRZ is available with a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
The location of the gearstick has been optimised for easier operation. The top of the gear knob is 17mm higher and closer to the steering wheel compared to the Subaru Impreza, making it easier for the driver to change gear quickly and efficiently.
The six-speed manual transmission has been developed specifically for driving pleasure, with a short-throw shift feel. To reduce friction in the gear shift, the shift fork rod supports have been fitted with slide ball-bearings.
The spread of ratios is closer than that of other Subaru models, allowing drivers to make the most of the high-revving engine. A slightly higher top gear ratio (0.767) means that the BRZ returns impressive fuel economy at a cruise, while ensuring accelerative force is never far away.
Paddle-shift Automatic with Blipping Control
The six-speed automatic transmission offers a blend of performance coupled with higher economy and lower CO2 versus the manual BRZ.
Blipping control revs the engine in line with downshifts and adds to the sporting experience by increasing engine note and smoothing the changes out, losing the ‘slur’ between gear changes that can affect some automatic gearboxes.
The new for 2017 TRACK mode enhances the stability of the car and allows for more refined accelerator inputs when driving on race circuits and consolidates the previous 5 VDC modes into 4. TRACK mode also brings faster upshifts for a more dynamic drive, while Manual mode involves the driver more by changing gear with the gear stick or paddle shift. An exceptionally high top gear ratio (0.582) ensures both a relaxing and economical cruise.
The BRZ’s environmental performance is also improved by an automatic transmission fluid (ATF) warmer. Automatic transmission fluid is highly viscous at low temperatures, creating high operational friction in the transmission. By exchanging heat with the engine coolant, the ATF warmer rapidly raises the temperature of the automatic transmission fluid to cut friction and improve fuel efficiency.
Ratios are close together at the lower end of the gear range to provide a powerful sensation of acceleration at any engine speed. To this end, the slip lock-up zone – the physical link between the clutch turbine and impeller – has been expanded. Locking-up the clutch, transforming it from a torque converter into a purely mechanical coupling, provides greater gear change response while reducing slippage and power loss.
Adaptive transmission control, a popular feature on previous Subaru models, ensures power delivery that is well-suited to a driver’s style by adjusting itself to improve throttle response and appropriate gear shift points in line with driving behaviour.
The BRZ follows the best of sports car traditions; with a front-engined, rear-wheel drive layout.
By selecting a rear-wheel drive design, the need for a front differential has been eliminated. The benefit is the gearbox is mounted lower in the chassis as well as closer to the centre of the vehicle and a 53/47 weight distribution.
BRZ is fitted with a Torsen limited slip rear differential for improved traction, while allowing more enthusiastic drivers to make the most of the car’s rear-wheel drive layout.
The propeller shaft is an evolution on the shaft fitted to WRX STI and has been revised for BRZ to reduce noise, vibration and harshness and to accommodate the front-engined, rear-wheel drive layout, new transmission and rear differential. Principal among these changes are floating bushings to cut vibrations and noise conveyed through the BRZ’s body, and damper paper to reduce noise from the transmission and differential.
Chassis, Suspension & Brakes
BRZ was built to deliver a linear driving feel, ensuring that the car responds exactly as the driver intended. Keeping this concept in mind, the BRZ’s suspension and chassis have been refined to further enhance its poised handling and driving experience.
The front suspension is fully independent, with lightweight MacPherson struts to aid steering response, damping control and refinement – a layout already widely acclaimed for its employment on the Subaru WRX STI.
For the BRZ, the strut mounts have been lowered to reduce the centre of gravity and to give the car a lower profile. At the same time, the L-shaped lower arm used in previous Subaru models has been flipped back-to-front to suit the engine mounting position, providing the ideal layout for a rear-wheel drive platform with a horizontally-opposed engine.
For 2017, the dampers have been redesigned to reduce body roll, increase precision whilst cornering, as well as damping vibration, therefore delivering improved ride comfort whilst being dynamically focused.
Fully independent suspension is also employed at the rear of the BRZ, using a double-wishbone layout. This has been optimised to ensure superior traction and refinement.
Electric power assistance has been selected for the steering system for greater feel. Unlike previous Subaru models, the motor is located within the steering column rather than underneath the engine to help achieve an ultra-low centre of gravity.
The steering column is fitted with rigid components, resulting in a direct and accurate steering system, while a quick ratio (13.0:1) also improves steering response.
Subaru engineers have made the BRZ’s braking system even more powerful than previous models’ by replacing the standard Subaru tandem brake boosters with a single 10.5-inch unit.
Not only does this reduce weight, but the booster is also equipped with a tie rod to increase rigidity and responsiveness. The BRZ is fitted with ventilated disc brakes, 16-inch at the front and 15-inch at the rear.
The aluminium alloy wheel design has been updated for 2017. Boosting the car’s visual presence, the new wheels are designed to improve brake cooling, while achieving a fine balance between reduced drag, reduced weight and component strength.
The BRZ is fitted with 215/45R17 Michelin Pilot Primacy tyres.
The Subaru BRZ is underpinned by a lightweight and highly rigid body, its all-steel unitary structure is engineered to give occupants the highest level of crash safety performance.
Within the cabin, a range of active and passive measures boost the safety of the BRZ, principle among which is all-round driver visibility. Drivers have a clear field of view due to slim A-pillars, front quarter-lights and low bonnet line, while large door mirrors and a carefully-designed glass area allow a clear view rearwards.
BRZ is fitted with Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC). VDC constantly monitors steering angle, engine speed, selected gear and braking conditions to distribute torque to the appropriate wheel and automatically optimise traction without hindering the car’s drivability. The operational status of the VDC is displayed on the car’s Multi-Information Display on the dashboard, keeping the driver informed.
In the pursuit of high crash safety performance and sporty handling characteristics, Subaru engineers have ensured that the body has a rigid and strong frame structure to underpin the BRZ’s light weight.
The BRZ uses 53 per cent high-tensile steel graded at 400 MPa or higher, which contributes to a weight saving of 11.2kg over standard steel plating while helping to achieve a low centre of gravity. Aluminium was also used for the bonnet – cutting weight from the front to aid handling and reduce the yaw moment of inertia – and engine undercover, further cutting body weight and aiding rigidity.
A low side-rail and B-pillar would ordinarily pose problems for side impact crash performance. Subaru engineers, however, have employed high-tensile steel for the B-pillar (including upper and lower joints), side rails, centre braces and roll beams, ensuring greater rigidity, lower weight and high standards in crash safety performance. In the event of a collision, the structure transmits frontal impact energy to the thickened side rail and floor, allowing a thinner and lower underfloor frame.
The specially-designed front seats support the occupant’s upper body with a tall, stiff structure to reduce load to the neck and prevent whiplash injury in the event of a crash. Rear passenger seats are fitted with ISOFIX anchor points for child safety seats.
Front, side and curtain airbags are fitted as standard to all models, as well as a knee airbag to cushion the driver’s lower limbs during a collision. The updated 2017 BRZ is also equipped with the next-generation advanced airbag system which uses upgraded sensors for a greater level of safety.
Features which further enhance occupant protection in the Subaru BRZ include a retractor mechanism for the brake pedal and a collapsible steering column. The BRZ is fitted as standard with Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and a Brake Assist and Brake Override system.
To improve pedestrian crash protection, the BRZ’s lightweight aluminium bonnet features two layers, the outer layer crumpling first to absorb the brunt of the impact, followed by the inner bonnet, absorbing further impact and minimising the degree of injury to the pedestrian. Energy-absorbing insulators within the engine bay and energy-absorbing foam in the front bumper also improve pedestrian protection.
Exterior, Interior & Multimedia
The coupe shape remains, but is enhanced with a wider, lower stance at the front end. This isn’t just for show, as the 45⁰ stepped accent on the bumper limits airflow into the air intake, which improves handling and ride.
From the front, the BRZ features unmistakable Subaru styling, including a hexagonal grille. The BRZ’s face is finished off with full-LED headlights, a Subaru first. A low bonnet and small side windows at the base of the A-pillar also ensure the driver has full visibility whilst short front and rear overhangs complement the dynamic styling.
The profile of the BRZ leaves drivers in no doubt of the car’s low centre of gravity, while bolstered wheel arches give the car a muscular, lean-forward stance.
The wheels are now a 10 spoke aluminium design. Clever packaging also allows the car’s distinctive 17-inch alloy wheels to be pushed deep into the four corners of the body to benefit the BRZ’s handling characteristics.
The rear of the car is finished with new design rear lamps and an updated aerodynamic pedestal spoiler to top off the rear of the car.
The BRZ is finished in a range of five body colours: Crystal Black Silica, Crystal White Pearl, Dark Grey Metallic, Ice Silver Metallic and Subaru’s iconic WR Blue Pearl.
Interior & Practicality
The BRZ’s cabin reflects the sporty nature of the car, while allowing occupants to benefit from Subaru’s typically generous level of standard equipment.
BRZ’s interior has been designed for ease-of-use and to ensure minimal distraction from the involved driving experience.
A 4.2-inch colour LCD multi-information display has been added into the instrument panel. The display features a G force meter, steering angle gauge, brake force gauge, lap timer and torque/power curves for bringing out the sportier side of any driver.
Engineers have employed a low-gloss, high-quality material finish for the dashboard to reduce glare on the windscreen.
The steering wheel has also been redesigned into a smaller package with different leather to increase the driver’s grip for a more engaging experience and is finished off with audio control switches.
Focus has been directed to upgrading the feel of components by using higher quality materials throughout the cabin, including heated front seats, Alcantara and leather seats with red BRZ logo and stitching.
While the BRZ is first and foremost a compact 2+2 sports car, Subaru engineers have ensured that it is comfortable and convenient for daily use.
The car’s design and clever packaging maximises interior space by pushing the wheels as far into the corners as possible, allowing a long wheelbase (2,570mm), spacious front seats and rear seats for occasional use.
The driver’s seat comes with six-way adjustment as standard, and head restraints feature three-way adjustment – up, down and tilt. Rear passenger seats are fitted with ISOFIX anchor points.
The cabin provides BRZ owners with ample storage space for small objects around the driver’s seat – each is the ideal shape for wallets, smartphones and other personal items – with a central console compartment, two centrally-located cup holders and bottle holders in each door.
Interior space has been designed to be as versatile as possible, with folding rear seats allowing a flat boot area. Boot capacity in the BRZ is 243 litres with the rear seats upright and 1,270 litres with the rear seats folded flat, while a tyre repair kit allows boot under-floor storage.
Subaru’s latest Starlink infotainment system is controlled via a high-resolution 6.2-inch touchscreen. The display allows occupants to control the car’s audio system using the intuitive touchscreen with functionality similar to a smartphone.
Various functions can also be controlled remotely using voice control, allowing the driver to keep their eyes and attention on the road. Voice control is activated by pressing a button on the steering wheel and issuing verbal commands such as make a phone call or increase the temperature.
Coupled to a six-speaker audio setup, the system houses a CD player, front USB port, auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth® connectivity.