How Subaru Developed the BRZ: A Comprehensive Look

If you’re a fan of sports cars, chances are you’ve heard of the Subaru BRZ. This rear-wheel-drive coupe has been capturing the hearts of driving enthusiasts since it first hit the market in 2012. But how did Subaru come up with the BRZ, and what makes it such a special vehicle? In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the history, design, and engineering behind the BRZ to answer these questions and more.

Key Takeaways

  • The Subaru BRZ was developed in collaboration with Toyota, resulting in two nearly identical vehicles (the Toyota 86 and Scion FR-S) that differ mainly in styling and equipment.
  • The BRZ was designed to be a pure driver’s car, with a focus on balance, handling, and fun-to-drive characteristics.
  • The BRZ is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter boxer engine that produces 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque, and is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
  • The BRZ has won numerous awards for its driving dynamics and value, and has a loyal following among enthusiasts.

Origins of the BRZ

The origins of the BRZ can be traced back to 2005, when Toyota and Subaru agreed to collaborate on the development of a new sports car. The two companies had previously worked together on the Toyota Altezza (known as the Lexus IS outside Japan), which Subaru supplied with its EJ20 engine. This time, the collaboration would be more extensive, with both companies contributing their expertise to the design and engineering of the vehicle.

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The project, known internally as "Toyobaru," was led by Tetsuya Tada of Toyota and Toshio Masuda of Subaru. The goal was to create a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car that would offer a pure driving experience at an affordable price point.

The joint development process was not without its challenges, as the two companies had different philosophies when it came to sports cars. Toyota had a long history of building high-performance vehicles, while Subaru had more experience with all-wheel-drive systems and boxer engines. However, by combining their strengths, the two companies were able to create a vehicle that exceeded expectations.

Design Philosophy

From the outset, the BRZ was designed with a singular focus: to provide a pure, engaging driving experience. To achieve this goal, the designers and engineers focused on three key areas: balance, handling, and fun-to-drive characteristics.

Balance was achieved through a number of measures, including a low center of gravity, a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and a lightweight design. The BRZ’s engine sits low in the chassis, which helps to lower the car’s center of gravity and improve handling. The use of lightweight materials, such as aluminum and high-strength steel, also helps to keep weight to a minimum.

Handling was another major area of focus for the BRZ. The car’s suspension was tuned to provide a responsive, nimble feel, with precise steering and minimal body roll. The use of a Torsen limited-slip differential also helps to distribute power to the rear wheels evenly, improving traction and cornering ability.

Finally, the BRZ was designed to be a fun-to-drive car above all else. The manual transmission features short, precise throws, while the accelerator and brake pedals are positioned for maximum control. The cabin is also designed to be driver-focused, with a low seating position and easy-to-reach controls.

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Engine and Performance

The BRZ is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter boxer engine that produces 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque. The engine is unique to the BRZ/86/FR-S platform and features a number of design elements that are optimized for performance, including direct fuel injection, a high compression ratio, and a lightweight reciprocating assembly.

The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission as standard, with a six-speed automatic available as an option. The manual transmission features short, precise throws and a lightweight clutch, while the automatic transmission features paddle shifters and a sport mode for improved performance.

In terms of performance, the BRZ is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in just under 6 seconds, with a top speed of around 140 mph. While these numbers may not be as impressive as some high-performance sports cars, the BRZ’s real strengths lie in its handling and agility.

Awards and Recognition

Since its launch in 2012, the BRZ has won numerous awards and accolades for its driving dynamics, value, and overall appeal. Some of the most notable awards include:

  • Car and Driver 10Best (2013, 2014, 2015)
  • Motor Trend Car of the Year (2013)
  • Consumer Reports Recommended (2013, 2014, 2015)
  • Popular Mechanics Automotive Excellence Award (2013)
  • 10 Coolest Cars Under $25,000 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
  • Wards 10 Best Interiors (2013)

These awards are a testament to the BRZ’s status as a true driver’s car, and its popularity among enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the BRZ a Toyota or a Subaru?

The BRZ is a Subaru, although it was developed in collaboration with Toyota. Toyota sells a nearly identical vehicle called the 86 (known as the GT86 in Europe), while the Scion FR-S (now discontinued) was also based on the same platform.

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Is the BRZ turbocharged?

No, the BRZ is not turbocharged. It is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter boxer engine that produces 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque.

Can the BRZ drift?

Yes, the BRZ is capable of drifting, thanks to its rear-wheel-drive layout and balanced chassis. However, drifting should only be attempted on a closed course or in a controlled environment.

How does the BRZ compare to other sports cars?

The BRZ is often compared to other affordable, lightweight sports cars such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Toyota 86/Scion FR-S. While it may not have the raw horsepower of some more expensive sports cars, the BRZ’s exceptional handling and balance make it a favorite among enthusiasts.

Is the BRZ a good daily driver?

While the BRZ is certainly capable of serving as a daily driver, its focus on performance and handling may not be well-suited to everyone’s needs. The car’s suspension is tuned for a sporty feel, which may result in a stiffer ride than some drivers prefer. Additionally, the BRZ’s rear-wheel-drive layout may not be optimal for driving in inclement weather conditions.


The Subaru BRZ is a unique vehicle that has captured the hearts of driving enthusiasts around the world. Its focus on balance, handling, and fun-to-drive characteristics make it a true driver’s car that offers a pure, engaging experience. While it may not be the fastest or most powerful sports car on the market, the BRZ’s exceptional handling and agility make it a favorite among those who value the driving experience above all else.

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Alton Brobst

As a longtime Subaru enthusiast, Alton brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our blog. From his early days of tinkering with engines to his current role as a certified Subaru technician, Alton has seen it all when it comes to Subarus. When he's not working on cars, he enjoys hiking and exploring the great outdoors.

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