2017 Subaru BRZ

Change, it’s said, is the only constant. Consider Fuji International Speedway, now in its fifth configuration. Resting in the foothills of Japan’s picturesque Mount Fuji, the historic circuit was founded in 1963 with the intention of building a NASCAR-style 2.5-mile superspeedway. After one banked turn was built, it was evident there weren’t enough funds for such a track, so it was completed as a 15-turn, 3.7-mile road-racing circuit with one wicked-fast banked corner; it opened in 1965.

2017 Subaru BRZ

Subaru invited us to Fuji to sample a car that has gone through its own changes, the 2017 BRZ sports coupe. It’s a well-balanced, enthusiast-oriented car that we’ve grown to love, and surely more than a few reside in the garages of former video-game champions. Most owners would probably agree with us that the BRZ could use more power, so we imagine Subaru chose Fuji and its monstrous front straight to emphasize that the BRZ’s engine has been upgraded and our demands have been answered. Fuji is such a high-speed venue, though, that it overwhelms this small gain in output.

Big Changes, Small Gains

We flew a long way to get our first drive in the revised BRZ, and Subaru’s engineers similarly went a long way to gain only 5 horsepower and 5 lb-ft of torque, bringing the totals to 205 hp and 156 lb-ft. These gains in power may seem minute, but Subaru assured us that this was not an easy number to squeeze out of the company’s already well-developed naturally aspirated engine.

While torque still peaks at 6400 rpm, the bottom end of the curve is swollen at lower revs. Still there, though, is the characteristic dip in torque between 3500 and 4800 rpm. Keeping the revs up high, above this soft spot, remains a key element of a quickly moving BRZ.

Vehicle Slide Control

The boxer engine isn’t the only thing that bulks up for 2017. The BRZ’s chassis receives minor structural changes across all trim levels and drivetrains. Mounting points for the front strut-tower brace, the transmission, and the rear struts all have been reinforced.

Another major change is that the stability-control system, VSC in Subaru-speak, has been reprogrammed. The VSC intervened as soon as it detected fun in previous BRZs, but the new default mode lets the driver enjoy a taste of the BRZ’s drifting characteristics before taking over. This new tuning felt similar to the former Sport mode, which has been replaced by a new, even more liberal Track setting for 2017.

Performance, Packaged

A new Performance package also is available for 2017 BRZs equipped with the Limited trim level and the manual transmission. An $1195 option, it includes Sachs dampers, Brembo four-piston front calipers with two-pot fixed clampers in back (replacing the standard sliding calipers), bigger 12.8-inch front and 12.4-inch rear brake rotors (up by 1.2 and 1.0 inches), and 0.5-inch-wider wheels (wearing the same tires) to accommodate the larger stoppers.

It’s apparent that the upgraded BRZ plays well on Fuji’s smooth surface; how all this translates to the street remains to be seen. Previous BRZs we’ve driven have had a firm ride and—as noted in our 40,000-mile long-term test and again in our recent drive of the 2016 Series.HyperBlue version—the cabin can be a buzzy place.

Visual Enhancements

In addition to the powertrain and chassis changes, Subaru incorporated other updates. On the outside, the 2017 BRZ wears a broader-looking front fascia, full-LED headlamps along with LED taillamps, and a functional trunk-mounted aluminum wing that’s standard on all trim levels. Inside, the new steering wheel is the center of attention.

As when Fuji Speedway evolved from an eight-turn circuit to one with 10 turns, these changes, although small, are effective. Subaru still stands by its assertion that it will bring an STI-tuned BRZ tS to the United States. It also says that plans for a second-generation car (with or without Toyota as a partner) remain in the works, inviting us to consider the potential for a BRZ as dramatically different from today’s car as the modern 16-turn Fuji circuit is from the one we learned playing Pole Position in 1982.

Specifications

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

BASE PRICES: Premium, $26,350;

Limited, $28,465;

Series.Yellow, $30,515

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve flat-4, aluminum block and heads, port and direct fuel injection

Displacement: 122 cu in, 1998 cc

Power: 200/205 hp @ 7000 rpm

Torque: 151/156 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm

TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 101.2 in

Length: 166.7 in

Width: 69.9 in Height: 50.6 in

Passenger volume: 80 cu ft

Cargo volume: 7 cu ft

Curb weight (C/D est): 2750–2850 lb

PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):

Zero to 60 mph: 6.4–7.5 sec

Zero to 100 mph: 16.6–20.1 sec

Standing ¼-mile: 15.0–15.8 sec

Top speed: 140 mph

FUEL ECONOMY:

EPA city/highway driving: 21–24/29–33 mpg

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