2018 Subaru BRZ tS Review

There’s really nothing new about the Subaru BRZ, it’s basically the same as when it debuted roughly six years ago. So why even bother reviewing the recently introduced tS model?

Well, why not? A proper sports car, it’s always been a riot to drive and this limited-edition version sharpens the driving dynamics to an even finer edge.

Yes, this BRZ may feature the same 2.0-liter boxer engine, the same compact body and even the same crisp handling it always has, but the new tS benefits from the technical expertise of STI, Subaru’s in-house racing division. That’s not to say this is an STI version of the BRZ, that it is surely not. Rather, the car has been enhanced and refined, not completely transformed, though I suspect no one would complain if a turbocharged WRX powertrain found its way under the BRZ’s hood.

What Makes it Different?

Starting with the fundamentals, at all four corners the coil springs have been changed; this car also features Sachs dampers and a larger rear stabilizer bar. New Brembo rotors improve stopping performance, while the chassis and subframes have been stiffened. There’s new bracing in the engine compartment as well and the car even features a series of under-body spoilers for enhanced aerodynamics.

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Many of these enhancements are hard to see without at least a jack and some stands. Fortunately, some of the hard work that’s gone into the tS is much more visible. The car rolls on standard 18-inch wheels, which is a first for the BRZ. It also features a unique rear bumper and up front, racy-looking red accents around the grille.

But the one visual change that’s unquestionably most noticeable is the tS-exclusive carbon-fiber spoiler, a track-ready piece of kit that’s also adjustable for varied downforce. A pilot’s license may be required to drive this car since it’s got more wing than some regional jets!

Inside there are a few subtle enhancements, where you get the same basic BRZ cabin, with a few improvements sprinkled here and there. The seats, for instance, feature grippy Alcantara fabric and are dressed up with contrast stitching.

The safety restraints are also rendered in red, a hue that’s found its way onto the steering wheel and door panels. There’s also an upscale frameless rearview mirror and Subaru’s familiar Starlink infotainment system with navigation. For maximum versatility, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also integrated, so there’s no excuse for getting lost.

The Drive

As in other models, there’s a maximum of 205 horsepower available, whipped up by a smoother-than-expected boxer four-cylinder engine that’s not afraid to emit a husky growl when whipped, something that’s necessary and, fortunately, that it seems to enjoy. Naturally, this means the BRZ tS isn’t particularly fast, but it doesn’t need to be; it’s still tons of fun even if it can’t get sideways at highway speed.

While taking off from a standstill the tS feels legitimately quick thanks to low gearing, but whether you’re at quarter throttle or wide open, it doesn’t seem to accelerate any faster since there’s a measly 156 pound-feet of torque available at a stratospheric 6,400 rpm. The engine runs out of breath just a grand beyond that. But keep this boxer-four on the boil and you can still make hay because the tS is razor sharp, with steering that’s almost like a sixth sense. This car is just so light, so tight and so toss-able.

Naturally, the ride is very firm, and you feel every road defect, though it’s nowhere near as hammering as I expected based on the car’s aggressive styling, and that’s a good thing. So is the standard Torsen limited-slip differential, and the stability- and traction-control systems that offer four different settings including a dedicated Track Mode, perfect if you plan on racing your tS on weekends (and for maximum fun YOU SHOULD!).

Even though this BRZ drives every bit like an authentic sports car, there’s still room for improvement. For instance, the shifter is messy, with long throws and vague gates, plus it requires high effort to stir. If you were hoping this machine shifts with the unassailable precision of a Honda Civic Type R or the crispness of a Mazda MX-5 Miata you’re sure to be disappointed. The levers in each of these cars are much more enjoyable to use than what’s offered in the BRZ. Also, if you want an automatic gearbox you’ll have to settle for a regular model as the tS is manual only.

And like other Subarus equipped with three pedals, this one can be very difficult to change gears smoothly in. It actually took me three or four days to kind of get the hang of it. This is not a car you just jump in and start effortlessly running through the gears. There’s something about the interplay of clutch and engine that makes every shift feel ragged if you don’t execute everything just right and in perfect time.

The tS is also quite loud inside, particularly at highway speed, though the blame for this may lay at Michelin’s feet rather than Subaru’s since the race-ready Pilot Sport 4 tires are quite aggressive for use on the street.

The Verdict: 2018 Subaru BRZ tS Review

One could also argue the BRZ tS’s pricing might be a little severe as well. As it sits, the one tested in this review checked out at $34,355 including $860 in delivery fees. While certainly not the priciest vehicle ever made, for that much outlay you could get a base Nissan 370Z Coupe, or nearly a Mustang GT or Camaro SS, all of which offer far more speed, if not quite the same driving finesse.

Subaru’s BRZ is a vehicle that’s aging gracefully, though it’s still more fun than you might expect given its modest horsepower rating, but should you get a tS model? Well, yes if you want a dynamic and engaging car, but no, because you probably can’t. Production is capped at just 500 units for model-year 2018, which means it’s likely sold out.

Discuss this story on our Subaru BRZ Forum.