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The Subaru BRZ tS falls on deaf ears

The Subaru BRZ tS is a terrific little sports car that has all the important things needed to make driving a special experience. But what kind of image does it portray?


Hello, and welcome to what I hope will be an informative review about the Subaru BRZ tS, full of facts and figures, loads of buying advice, and an objective final opinion. There will be absolutely no whining or complaining about the car’s target demographic (youths), nor the fact that Subaru has yet to sell over 200 of them so far in 2024. Not a peep.

Lips sealed.

Crap, here it comes…

Why the hell aren’t you people loving this car up?!

Subaru BRZ tS

2024 Subaru BRZ tS Quick Take

Get one:

Feels like a mini 911. Looks terrific. Easy to drift. Easy to smile.

Don’t get one:

Not exactly lux inside. Buzzy engine that makes more noise than speed. Infuriating EyeSight system.

Soul Score: 9

If a tree falls in the woods…

The 2024 Subaru BRZ tS Overview

Subaru BRZ tS

Guess that didn’t last long. I’m fighting the urge to give a Colonel Jessup-type speech about the blanket of driving freedom I provide, and questioning the manner in which it’s provided.

My source of frustration? The BRZ. All the things I talk about on Machines With Souls are here in abundance (well, most of the things). There’s balanced steering, a manual transmission, room for you and a sweetie (and small pets), and more technology than I had in my Nissan Z 20 years ago.

It looks good, is relatively fast, and allows you to have fun behind the wheel for much less than $40,000. But it does not sell. I think I know why, but before I tell you, I will yell from the rooftops that this car’s target demographic doesn’t actually like to drive, let alone expend effort doing so. 20% fewer teens get a license now, compared to 1984. Why? Do you not like to go anywhere, any time?

Subaru BRZ tS

I can tell you exactly where I was on January 10, 2001 – behind the wheel of my 3000GT, windows down, marveling at the fact that I could play any music I wanted, as loud as I wanted, and mom and dad weren’t there to tell me otherwise. And if I turned 17 today, I might be behind the wheel of this Subie instead.

The BRZ isn’t perfect, as you’ll soon see. But its flaws aren’t the problem.

To quote the Colonel, “You can’t handle the truth.”

Performance score: 9. Boxer briefs

Subaru BRZ tS

If you’re driving a Corvette on a back road, you are probably using about 40% of its available performance. The result is fun, but not maximum fun.

With the BRZ, you can use nearly all of its available performance and grip while maintaining a respectful speed. Want to hit a sick drift at 40, with the needle bouncing off the redline? Cool.


Subaru BRZ tS
It’s fun to push this gigantic red start button.

If there is but one letdown with the BRZ, it’s the engine. Under the hood is a 2.4 liter boxer four, with 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Power is way up the tachometer – rev it to 6,000 RPM for all the horses. Even maximum torque, at nearly 4,000, is exercise to achieve.

The boxer revs pretty smoothly, and igniting my inner Max Verstappen results in a gut punch that’s perhaps a bit more than you’re expecting. But not by much. Around town it’s alright – you never really notice it in a good or bad way.

Subaru BRZ tS
Must rev to produce sensation.

The quality of the experience – not so nice. This isn’t a full-on STI project so power remains the same as non-tS BRZs, and that means the same sort of drone and thrum, with a metallic-type zing near redline. You won’t be revving it just to hear it sing.

Still, it being a boxer keeps the weight low to the ground, and if you want a turbocharged car with more power, maybe try a Z car. But you’d be spending more for a car that’s less fun (and sounds worse).


Subaru BRZ tS
A joy to use, though not P-car precise.

It’s refreshing that the tS trim only comes with a six-speed manual.

Start up the BRZ, and watch the shifter vibrate like it was built in 2002. Very charming.

It’s a fun transmission to row, with short shifts and a clutch that’s firm – though I found the bite to be a bit high. You can’t rush it too much either, especially if things aren’t fully warmed up. Syncros and meshes need time to get the caffeine flowing, and I missed a few 2-3 shifts as a result. On the highway, sixth is a bit short – you’re spinning at 3,000 RPM at 80, like in an E92. Come on guys, I’ll downshift if I need to pass.

Subaru BRZ tS
Engage track mode for this display. An aggressive fuel cutoff happens at redline.

Though it’s not Porsche-level crisp, I’d call it more fun than what’s in a modern BMW.

Finally – reverse. Pull up on the trim ring, then move it left and up. Not really intuitive without an indication of what to do – it just looks like a trim ring. In a BMW, you just push it past the detente. In a Nissan, you push down and over. Can we just agree to do it one way?

Steering and Chassis

Subaru BRZ tS

It’s here where the pendulum swings – pound for pound, the BRZ might just have the best-handling chassis on the planet.

Speaking of pounds; 2,820. That’s what this car weighs, and that makes it the lightest I’ve ever tested.

Next comes the steering, which is heavier than you might expect in a car this small – perhaps the heaviest I’ve had since I’ve begun testing. I love it. So direct and responsive, it’s the kind of feedback we deserve. Why is it correct in the cheapest sports car I’ve driven, and lacking in some of the $100,000 ones?

Subaru BRZ tS
The car strikes a wonderful ride balance.

Credit must go to the Michelin PS4s that come on the tS, but it’s more than that. This car feels like a mini 911. Really. It’s so well balanced, as if you are the weight in the center of it all. Drifting happens whenever, wherever, so easily and controlled. The chassis is never overwhelmed. If you crash this thing into the weeds, it’s on you bro. A track button on the dash turns traction control off partially, and that allows for plenty for antics if you’re a noob.

Subaru BRZ tS

And guess what – it doesn’t need to beat you up in daily life. Despite being light (or because of it), the suspension absorbs bumps and cracks with aplomb. It’s never harsh. The tS adds Hitachi suspension dampers at the front and rear, but nothing is electronically controlled. It’s just…correct. I will forever point to the BRZ as the car that proves you don’t need a million settings for suspension – they give me the proper one to use. Which is what you pay them to do.


Subaru BRZ tS
The brakes are superb.

The tS ups the BRZ’s braking power with a set of gold four-pot Brembo calipers gripping larger rotors. Again providing the perfect amount of feedback, with even pedal pressure all the way through. I pushed this little guy a bit on some back roads, and I couldn’t find any fade. That’s another benefit of lighter weight. Forget about cross-drilling, vented, slotted, ceramic-whatever else kind of brakes are hip nowadays.

You don’t need it to have fun.

In fact, you don’t need any of it. Turbos, monster power, Adamantium suspensions, bodies made from melted alien skin – forget it all.

It’s really just a great motor away from a ten.

Lifestyle score: 5. The bare essentials

Subaru BRZ tS
I’m itchy.

I had to go into Connecticut on a Friday in May, and since I had to grab the BRZ anyway, I figured it could come with. Talk about baptism by fire. I used to daily that Nissan 350Z up the Garden State Parkway…20 years ago. Coming home in summer traffic for three hours, I felt like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.

I’m too old for this shit.

Subaru BRZ tS
A bit shallow.

Let’s start in the trunk – there isn’t much of one. A high floor means anything taller than a bottle of OJ must be left at home. Thankfully, the seats fold down into the rear – and I’d leave them down, because it’s nothing more than a padded shelf back there. Just for funsies, I crammed the family into the car for a (very) short trip to a friend’s house. Mrs. Machines lodged an official protest with the marriage high counsel.

Subaru BRZ tS
Disconnect legs to use.

Taken for what it is, the BRZ is more practical than a two-seater. The seats up front are good for about an hour, but more than that and the thin padding and hot material become a bit much. They are super supportive with side bolstering, but the bottom cushion isn’t long enough. Perhaps if you’re under say, 35, you’ll be fine. But Danny and I are going to complain.

Fuel Economy: 8. Fun fuel

Subaru BRZ tS

The BRZ will get 22 MPG combined, and sure enough, I got 22.1 according to the little digital screen Mr. Data puts up for me on the trip computer.

You can get up to 30 on the highway, and the automatic averages a bit better, but since you can’t have an automatic tS (and you wouldn’t get an automatic BRZ anyway, right?), it’s moot. Clearly, the BRZ doesn’t develop nosebleed power and performance numbers, but it’s another feather in its cap. You don’t need to burn a gallon a second to have fun.

If we all drove around in BRZs, the environment would heal, and our children would be safe. I’m so forward-thinking.

Features and Comfort: 4. Not who I am, but what I do, that’s infuriating

Subaru BRZ tS

The BRZ tS can be a useful daily driver, but it’s not something I encourage. And while I’m not expecting Mercedes SL 63 levels of build quality, the little Subie is by no means cheap for its level of fit and finish.

Eye See You

Subaru BRZ tS
Everybody gets a shade of grey.

Inside the BRZ is a jigsaw puzzle of build quality. From the random fuzzy Alcantara atop the instrument cluster, to the 50 Shades of Grey plastics, nothing really matches. All the switch gear feels cheap, creaking each time you press it.

Some of the controls don’t make sense. As in the IS 500, the cruise control stalk is impossible to use at night, or with a quick glance. Steering wheel buttons are tiny to read as well. You can switch the digital cluster’s view from a nice round tach to an 80’s synth wave display. Yet the right half still has an old school digital cluster, like my high school alarm clock staring back at me. Just charge us $300 bucks more and make it all digital.

The bars the BRZ use as a fuel gauge is fun – you have no idea when a bar will go away. Let it get down to the last one and play chicken with your range. Do I have 50 miles left? Ten? It’s like a Street Fighter character’s life bar, one hit away from sending me to the count down screen.

Subaru BRZ tS
Nothing quite matches inside.

Elsewhere, Subaru’s EyeSight system continues to infuriate me as it did in the WRX, always saying you’re too close to something (I’m not), and sometimes brakes inadvertently. Maybe that’s okay on an Outback, but on a manual BRZ? We got it, Subie, it’s fine. And why does the head unit itself look like Subaru found the last box of leftovers from 2009?

Subaru BRZ tS
Subaru BRZ tS
Everything creaks a bit when you touch it.

Get past all that, and it’s a fine thing to be in, with heated seats, Apple CarPlay, dual climate control and better cup holders than a manual M3. Only a GTI is a nicer place to be for the money.


Subaru BRZ tS

Look at an M3. Seriously?

How about a 911 GT3? Come on.

These are but two examples of cars that are fast, and want to make sure everyone knows it. The equivalent of wearing booty shorts at the gym. “Looka me, I look great and I want attention.”

Subaru BRZ tS
Oh, J&B…

The BRZ tS is not really like that. It has a sort of generic NPC jelly bean shape that looks good, but doesn’t yell from the rooftops. Sure it has side gills, gold brake calipers, a duck tail spoiler, and black alloy wheels, but that’s just standard sports coupe stuff.

Subaru BRZ tS
Duck Tails, woo hoo.

Painted in Crystal White Pearl, the shimmer effect is pretty, but again with the rear diffuser unpainted. At least the gloss black bits are kept to a minimum. Aside from tS badges and those gold brakes, you’d be none the wiser that this is the full beans version.

The Subaru BRZ tS is a gateway drug to other brands

Subaru BRZ tS

Car makers are not dumb. What they’d like to do is lure you into the showroom at an early age with cars like this. Then, you’ll grow with them and trade up for a nice Legacy once you have a family. But there are two problems with this logic when it comes to Subaru.

First, though the BRZ is cool, the rest of the lineup isn’t quite as aspirational. Being young is sexy, and being old and frumpy obviously isn’t, so once you grow out of a sports coupe, it’s just as likely you’ll move onto other brands that portray that youthful image better. Remember that the Golden Girls were 47. But today, 47-year-olds still look good, and we want our cars to help maintain that image.

Subaru BRZ tS

The second issue is also image, but this one has to do with social media. A BRZ just isn’t “baller” enough for many. Sure, you can add things like a wide-body kit and JDM touches to make it stand out, but I see just as many 20-somethings in G80 M3s as I do people my age. The BRZ can’t compete with that, nor should it have to. And forget about teens who don’t want to drive in the first place – the BRZ is far too much work.

Ignore all that. This Subie represents a great way to get into a sports car without the need to sell your first-born. It makes a great ride for the teen as well as the person looking for a fun second car that’s just for them. Learn to drift on it. And autocross. Grasp understeer and oversteer. Use it as a built-in excuse to give out zero free rides to beer-faced friends.

Subaru (and Toyota) have done an excellent job on the BRZ. It’s meant for us, and not to impress other people’s perception of us.

There’s your objective final opinion. Hope you can handle the truth.

Subaru BRZ tS

2024 Subaru BRZ tS Specifications


front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-passenger, two-door coupe


Base: $35,354
As tested: $36,465


2.4 liter naturally aspirated boxer four
228 horsepower @ 7,000 RPM
184 lb-ft @ 3,700 RPM
six-speed manual transmission


Wheelbase: 101.4 in
Length: 167.9 in
Width: 69.9 in
Height: 51.6 in
Curb Weight: 2,850 lbs


22 combined / 20 city / 27 highway

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