The 2016 Subaru BRZ comes in Premium or Limited trim levels, and both are offered with either a standard 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission. While performance is the same between the two trims, Limited models gain a rear spoiler, fog lamps and some additional interior appointments, including keyless start, dual-zone climate control, heated seats and mirrors and upgraded seats with more bolstering and suede-like trim.
All BRZ models include more standard features than the typical performance car in this price range. A touch-screen navigation system, integrated with 8-speaker sound and voice controls, is included even at the base Premium level and includes Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming capability, along with iPod controls. Power windows, locks and mirrors are also included, plus a trip computer and rear defrost. The shift knob and parking brake lever are leather-trimmed.
Interior appointments for the BRZ are as expected for a performance-oriented coupe--not luxurious, but a step above economy cars. The overall height is just 50.6 inches, yet Subaru has managed to position the seats in a way that taller drivers will have several inches of headroom above (and there's space for a race helmet for those weekend racers). Rear seatbacks flip forward to open up a trunk pass-through, and while the 6.9-inch-cubic-foot trunk is small, it's shaped well enough for two standard golf bags, a couple of small weekend bags or, Subaru notes, four tire-shod wheels for track excursions.
Performance is the BRZ's true focus. Built on a rear-wheel-drive platform aimed at being lean and low, the BRZ weighs only 2,800 pounds and has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car. Power is provided by a Subaru 2.0L horizontally opposed "boxer" 4-cylinder engine fitted with direct injection that makes 200 horsepower. The 6-speed manual is the best way to enjoy the rev-happy engine, although the 6-speed automatic allows a sporty side (with a Sport mode) when shifted manually through the steering-wheel paddle shifters, which includes rev-matching downshifting. Fuel economy ratings are surprisingly good -- estimated at up to 25 mpg city, 34 highway with the automatic.
Thanks to a quick ratio rack-and-pinion system, the BRZ has fast, excellent steering. The front strut, rear multi-link suspension system, along with a front suspension brace, altogether give the BRZ a firm but comfortable enough ride paired with crisp steering response. A Torsen limited-slip rear differential helps deliver power in a surefooted way out of corners, while a multi-mode electronic stability control system helps keep it safe. The stability control system also includes a Sport mode as well as a full-off mode.
Despite the BRZ's performance focus and attention to weight savings, there's no sign of any compromise in safety. In addition to stability control, all BRZ models include front side airbags, side-curtain bags and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist.