Subaru's only rear-drive offering evolves for 2022 into a more powerful, entertaining machine.

Had it not been so enjoyable to drive, the first-generation, rear-wheel-drive Subaru BRZ might have been regarded as brand heresy. Sharing showroom space with homely-but-practical sedans, hatchbacks, and crossovers, the 2+2 sports car shared its horizontally opposed engine and reasonable pricing (but little else) with its siblings. That won’t change much when the 2022 Subaru BRZ arrives, and we’re not complaining one bit.

Boasting added power, an enlarged and naturally aspirated Subaru Boxer engine, a stiffer chassis, and more style than ever, the 2022 BRZ takes everything enthusiasts love about the first-generation coupe and solves a whole bunch of problems without creating new ones. Balanced, poised, quick, and zesty, the new ‘Roo has us champing at the bit to drive one, so much so that we jumped at the opportunity to go along for a ride in one on the track at Thermal Club in Thermal, California. But first, a little background.

2022 Subaru BRZ and 1998 Impreza 22B

Snake/Charmer

Squint a little and you’ll see a few different influences in the revised styling of the 2022 BRZ. Up front, the squinting headlights remind this writer of the final-generation Dodge/SRT Viper, while others in attendance at the debut event saw some third-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata in the smiling grille shape and peaked front fenders. The BRZ does a good job of avoiding the faux aggression that’s become too common in modern vehicles, looking a bit more playful and happy than most sports cars.

Around back, the coupe appears sharper and more planted than before, thanks to wider taillights and a high decklid that fit in well with other Subaru models. As with the front, organic curves are the order of the day – bulging haunches resolve beautifully with the trunk and roofline, although there’s some crispness in the bumper corners. A simple lower bumper incorporates two massive exhaust outlets that tout the Subaru’s sporting intentions like Gabriel’s apocalyptic trumpet.

Pragmatists will be happy to know that each vent and gill on the BRZ serves a distinct purpose. The corners of the front bumper direct air over and around the wheels, while the large (and well-styled) front fender vents extract turbulent air from the engine bay and wheel wells, directing it to the side sills that actually generate downforce. There’s also a miniscule fin just behind the rear wheels that improves airflow off the back of the BRZ, and the narrow ducktail spoiler keeps the hind end planted.

Inside, the BRZ features a much more linear, horizontal styling theme that incorporates a new, 8.0-inch infotainment system running Subaru’s latest Starlink software. It should be a significant improvement over the outgoing system. There’s also a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster that features a tachometer front and center, although switching to the “track” driving mode turns the tach into a linear graph that’s easier to read at a glance.

2022 Subaru BRZ Exterior Front Quarter
2022 Subaru BRZ Exterior Rear Quarter

More Of Everything Except Weight

Powering the 2022 Subaru BRZ is the work of a horizontally opposed, naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Producing 228 horsepower (170 kilowatts) and 184 pound-feet (249 newton-meters), the new engine is about 11 percent more powerful and 15 percent torquier than the 2.0-liter in the outgoing sports car. At an estimated base weight of 2,815 pounds, the new BRZ is only 17 pounds heavier than its predecessor, so those ponies should be able to breathe a little easier when pulling the sports car around.

Although the rear-drive coupe’s platform technically carries over from the outgoing BRZ, Subaru applied the lessons learned in its modern, modular Global Architecture to make the new coupe stiffer and more responsive. Reinforced chassis and subframe mounts, for example, improve front-axle rigidity by 60 percent, giving the new BRZ sharper turn-in and handling – overall rigidity improves by 50 percent Somehow, Subaru also gave the 2022 BRZ an even lower center of gravity than its predecessor, improving cornering even more. A MacPherson-strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension layout is similar to that of the current BRZ.

2022 Subaru BRZ Interior Dashboard

Modern Concessions

Although the 2022 Subaru BRZ maintains some old-school charm, it does make a few concessions to modern life. For example, EyeSight active safety technology comes standard on all BRZs equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, though why the company doesn’t offer driver-assist technology on the standard six-speed manual is a bit of a noodler. After all, Nissan can offer automated emergency braking on the sub-$15k, manual-transmission Versa, so why can’t Subaru on its more expensive sports car?

Hitting The Track

Since most of the BRZ’s target consumers will likely ignore that little complaint, we’ll set it aside for now, too. After all, the two-door coupe is much happier on the track than it is sitting in traffic. To prove its mettle, Subaru invited us to the short track at Thermal Club, where we got to ride in a pre-production BRZ with none other than Scott Speed, a Subaru Motorsports USA driver with a resume that also includes extensive success in open-wheel racing, Formula 1, NASCAR, and Global Rallycross.

2022 Subaru BRZ Pre-Production Ride-Along
2022 Subaru BRZ Pre-Production Ride-Along

Under Speed’s control, the BRZ floated gracefully around the track, exhibiting absolutely flat cornering and carrying lots of momentum. Given the boot, the coupe’s newfound torque was immediately apparent, even from the passenger seat, with Speed remarking that the 2022 model was easier than ever to gun out of corners. We could also tell there was a stiffer chassis underneath the shapely, compact bodywork; even the prototype’s seats and interior fittings felt firmly bolted together. And the noise emanating from those twin tailpipes felt Subaru-appropriate – classic sports car noises that wouldn’t be out of place on a Triumph or Austin-Healey, intermingled with a husky, WRX-like growl.

How Fast, How Much, And When?

Subaru says the 2022 BRZ will arrive in showrooms by next autumn, meaning we’ve got to wait a full year before we can get the sports car on our home turf and chuck it around. Given the long lead time, the company hasn’t revealed pricing, official performance stats, or fuel economy either, but we don’t expect it to be much more expensive, much faster, or much thirstier than its predecessor.

2022 Subaru BRZ Exterior Front Quarter

We bet it’ll cost $27,000 for a base BRZ Premium with the six-speed manual, rising to $30,000 for a Limited, and add about $1,500 to either price if, for some reason, you’re too lazy to shift gears yourself and you want the automatic. If that estimate pans out, the Subaru would split the difference between the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata ($26,580) and the 2020 Nissan 370Z ($30,090) – although a new Nissan Z is on the way soon.

Using some armchair math, we think the 2022 BRZ will be incrementally faster than the vehicle it replaces, hitting 60 miles per hour in about 5.7 seconds. What will be more significant than outright speed will be the engine’s more tractable performance in daily driving, giving it more balance and user-friendliness than the coupe it replaces. That said, those who simply must have more of everything might take some solace in the thought that an identically sized, turbocharged engine appears in the Ascent SUV, producing 260 hp (194 kw) and 277lb-ft (360 Nm) – fingers crossed that Subaru finally builds us a BRZ STI with that engine.

Till then, we’ll always have Thermal.

Gallery: 2022 Subaru BRZ