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2024 Subaru BRZ tS Road Test and Review

Brady Holt
by Brady Holt
June 13, 2024
2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・ Photo by Brady Holt

About a decade ago, you could choose among a variety of affordable, sporty-looking two-doors. When sedans were too dowdy, you could get something like a Honda Civic or Nissan Altima coupe or a Hyundai Veloster or Scion tC liftback. 

Now that all of those cars have bitten the dust, a glance at the 2024 Subaru BRZ might suggest it fills their void as a small, stylish, mild-mannered runabout. Look harder. The BRZ is a finely crafted performance machine with a capable rear-wheel-drive platform, a 228-horsepower engine, and an available six-speed manual transmission. It’s engineered for weight savings and high handling limits more than everyday comfort, fuel economy, and value. This year’s new BRZ tS model, retuned for maximum performance, underscores that point. The 2024 BRZ starts at $30,195, and the tS is priced from $35,345. If the BRZ sounds like the right kind of fun little two-door to you, keep reading as we explore its pros and cons – and delve into what makes the tS the most special BRZ of all. 

The tS Difference

Every 2024 Subaru BRZ is a performance car. It’s built for on-road fun and closed-course track performance. The BRZ tS goes even further. 

The “tS” name is short for “tuned by STI,” referring to Subaru’s team that also used to create the wildest version of the WRX sports sedan. The folks at STI (Subaru Tecnica International) swapped in more advanced Hitachi dampers, more powerful Brembo brakes, and grippier Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires. The BRZ tS also gets STI badging on the gauge cluster and the engine’s stop-start button, along with a Subaru-blue stripe down the middle of each front seat. Unlike the last-generation BRZ tS, there aren’t many exterior changes like a big wing spoiler. Only dedicated BRZ fans will recognize this performance edition. Fortunately, every BRZ is already a great-looking sports coupe. Its low, small, sculpted body looks more like a Porsche than a fellow Subaru. (It’s also the only Subaru without all-wheel drive.) 

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Still the Same Powertrain

As before, the BRZ tS does not bring changes under the hood. That’s likely why it doesn’t wear an STI badge like the former line-topping WRX STI, which had an extra 73 horsepower versus the standard WRX in its heyday. (For Subaru fans keeping score, the gap narrowed over the years until the WRX STI was discontinued after the 2021 model year.) 

This means the BRZ has a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated (non-turbo) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Every BRZ tS uses a crisp-shifting six-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed automatic is available elsewhere in the BRZ lineup. These aren’t world-beating specs, and the engine’s rough soundtrack won’t win a Grammy. But since the BRZ weighs less than 3,000 pounds, this much power is enough to give it some zip. Some drivers will even prefer being able to work the engine to redline without instantly blowing past the speed limit, though that would be even more fun with a more melodic engine. As we’ll explain, the BRZ’s performance cred isn’t about horsepower per dollar but about overall driving pleasure. 

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Lithe and Light

Weighing just 2,846 pounds, the BRZ tS bucks the trend of sports cars getting bigger, softer, and more comfortable. True, it’s some 500 pounds heavier than a Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seat roadster, but no other new sport-focused car is under 3,000 pounds. Even the latest Mini Cooper misses that mark. 

A low seating position, rear-wheel-drive balance, and a light weight make driving the BRZ an intimate affair. We’d have picked even crisper steering responses in routine driving – a Miata is still more magical, as was the first-generation BRZ – but this Subaru is highly capable without forgetting to involve the driver. We can’t pretend we noticed the tS difference versus the already-capable standard BRZ, but instrumented tests show that the tweaks bear fruit on a race track. The BRZ experience isn’t for everyone, though. The BRZ has gotten smoother and quieter over the years, but this is still a noisy, bumpy little car by most standards – especially for $30,000 and up. 

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Cozy Cabin

The BRZ is comfortable for two agile folks who don’t mind sitting low. The heavily bolstered sport seats are great for holding you in place on a twisty road or autocross course, and our test vehicle’s suede upholstery helps as well. You won’t find power adjustability or leather upholstery, though. And the center armrest doubles as a cover for the cupholders, so you’ll have to find another place for your arm if you’ve stashed your coffee or phone there. 

Unlike some affordable small sports cars, the BRZ squeezes in a tiny rear seat. It’s a place to toss groceries or even jam in a passenger if the front seat is moved well forward, but don’t count on it for carpool duty. The trunk is similar: With 6.3 cubic feet, it’s bigger than many sports cars’ luggage holds but still less than half the size of an economy sedan’s. The BRZ is a coupe, not a hatchback, so you don’t get a large cargo opening. 

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・ Photo by Brady Holt

User-Friendly Controls

As we said, to us, the BRZ’s exterior invites favorable comparisons to a Porsche. The interior, though, is all basics. Ordinary plastic trim is molded into a mix of angular blocks and curved bugles, with neither luxury nor much flair. Subaru put its budget toward the BRZ’s driving experience rather than a coddling cabin, and many driving enthusiasts will appreciate the prioritization. Still, the Mazda MX-5 Miata proves that a simple, driver-focused interior can also look good.

One advantage of the BRZ’s lack of interior pizzazz is that its controls are simpler than most modern cars’. An 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard equipment, and it’s flanked by physical buttons and knobs for common functions. Subaru’s infotainment system isn’t a thing of beauty, but thanks to all the buttons, you can use it primarily as a display for radio information, the backup camera, or the Google Maps directions cast from your phone. That’s fine by us. 

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Not Crazy Expensive

As we mentioned, the 2024 Subaru BRZ starts at $30,195. That’s for the base Premium trim level, and "Premium" is not a misnomer. Even this base model already includes a limited-slip differential, a six-speaker stereo, automatic climate control, push-button starting, and – new this year – Subaru’s EyeSight suite of driver aids like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and a lane-departure warning. The Limited model, $32,695, is a modestly priced way to get bigger wheels (18 inches instead of 17 inches), suede upholstery instead of cloth, heated front seats, two more speakers, blind-spot monitoring, and rear automatic braking. And the similarly equipped tS, albeit with a few more performance parts, comes to $35,345. But don’t look for a sunroof, power seats, or other frippery that would bloat the BRZ’s weight. 

The BRZ is also tolerably affordable to refuel. EPA ratings aren’t great: 21 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined with the automatic transmission (an option only on the BRZ Limited, not the Premium or tS), and 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined with the manual. What’s more, Subaru requires premium fuel. But fortunately, we averaged a more palatable 29 mpg during our week with the manual BRZ tS, and other reviewers have reported similar efficiency. 

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Subaru BRZ tS ・ Photo by Brady Holt

BRZ vs. the Competition

Our favorite competitor to the BRZ is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. As a two-seat convertible, it’s not a perfect matchup against this four-seat fixed-roof coupe. But with rear-wheel drive, similar prices, and a shared focus on pure driving pleasure, they’re inevitable to cross-shop. We have more fun driving the smaller, lighter Mazda despite its lower horsepower rating, and the Miata’s interior is more stylish. But the Subaru’s extra utility, modest as it is, will prove critical for some owners. It’s no mean feat to even come close to a Miata experience while fitting more passengers and cargo. 

The other stylish performance coupe at this price point is the Ford Mustang. It offers more size and on-paper performance for the money, but the BRZ’s rawer flavor and sharper steering are still valuable assets. Other fun cars in the $30,000s tend to be higher-performance versions of hatchbacks and sedans, like the Honda Civic Si, Volkswagen Golf GTI, and Toyota GR Corolla. These are great blends of performance and functionality, but they don’t have the BRZ’s rear-drive balance or ultra-slinky style. 

2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Ford Mustang EcoBoost ・ Photo by Brady Holt

BRZ vs. the GR86

Subaru builds the BRZ in partnership with Toyota, which sells a near-identical coupe called the GR86. The Toyota GR86 has a slightly different suspension tune and a restyled front bumper, but it’s nearly impossible to tell the two cars apart without relying on their badges. There’s even a Toyota equivalent to the BRZ tS, called the GR86 Performance Package. (It’s not tuned by STI, but it has its own suspension tweaks and the same upgraded brakes.) 

In a way, this is good news for consumer choice. You can shop around for your new sports coupe from both Toyota and Subaru dealers without having to worry too much about which one you take home. But we wish the companies could have invested a few more bucks in differentiating the cars’ styling. 

2024 Toyota GR86 Premium ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Toyota GR86 Premium ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Final Thoughts

You might not like the 2024 Subaru BRZ tS. You might think that a $35,000 car should be bigger, faster, more comfortable, and more luxurious – like the Mustang we mentioned earlier. Or you might favor practicality and pick a spacious hot hatch over the BRZ’s nominal rear seating. Or you might just not like the intimacy of the BRZ’s bumpy, noisy experience. 

All that’s fine. You don’t have to like the BRZ. There’s a whole world of highly competent cars that shield drivers from their surroundings. And there’s even a surprising variety of affordable sporty cars that balance function and fun. But when you’re not looking for isolation, and you’re not looking for balance, the BRZ is part of a much rarer breed. And the new tS model, while not transformative, doubles down on the BRZ’s strengths for dedicated drivers. 


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