We got our first look at the new take on Subaru’s fun little unpretentious sports car, the BRZ, earlier today. While it hasn’t changed dramatically, the styling changes are significant and are evidence of a larger and welcome design trend. I’m going to demand you join me as we dig a bit deeper into the design, so brace yourself.
The BRZ, going by its long-gone alias as the Scion FR-S, was one of the first cars I reviewed for this site (back in 2012, when I think Jalopnik was also a Hunger Games fansite?) and I drove it on a track back-to-back with the Porsche Boxster and I found the BRZ to be about as much fun for a hell of a lot less money.
It’s still fundamentally the same car, with the same classic sports car proportions — long hood, short rear deck, much like a modern Datsun 240Z or maybe a shrunken Jensen Interceptor. While the design has been tweaked a bit here and there over the intervening eight years, this is the car’s first real re-design.
Comparing the two designs, what we see is a pretty striking overall simplification and cleaning up of forms, with a more geometric design vocabulary and fewer, but more pronounced, creases and edges.
A lot of the surface lumps and swellings and undulations have been smoothed out, and I think it helps. While the BRZ/86/FR-S was never as badly afflicted with the Cybaroque-style overdone design as many other cars, especially those in the Toyota stable (like the BRZ’s siblings), elements of it were still there. I’m glad to see evidence of that busy, hyperbolic design language wearing off.
Speaking of busy, forgive my subway map of arrows here as I point out some of the major changes from the current-gen car:
It feels like the old car has been sanded a lot and then had some details carved in with an X-Acto knife. It’s cleaner and sharper all around and fixes some things I never really realized how much I didn’t like, like the blobby and overdone lights of the old car.
While I appreciated the bit of roundness they had, the new units are so much cleaner and sleeker. That, along with the much-improved integration of the grille and bumper areas — no more protruding black bar, like an embarrassing junior high school headgear — make the front end view the area that saw the most improvement.
The slight grin of that grille also gives the front end a determined but happy look, which this car should have. It looks plucky and mischievous and doesn’t fall into the trap of so many modern cars that look like they want to murder you and maybe eat a few toes, just because.
This guy looks like it wants to get in a little bit of trouble with you, and I think that’s the exact right tone to strike. It’s got that “heh-heh-heh” look on its face.
The profile of the new BRZ has the part I like least: that lower character line, almost like a running board, on the side there that stops just before the rear fender I think does not work nearly as well as the previous design, where that line flowed directly into the rear haunch.
The new one seems awkwardly and needlessly cut off, and I think it looks jarring.
Other than that, I like the new, cleaner, smoother, simpler design. If this is the start of a new trend (and based on the new Honda Civic we also saw, I think it is), then I welcome it.
Just to make my point, let’s compare this new BRZ to a car that’s a few steps above it, but with a similar fundamental set of proportions and design, the Toyota Supra:
The Supra is a lumpy stew of bulges and cuts and gills and vents and flaps and fins and I find it hard to look at coherently. It’s very much a product of Cybaroque design, and I think it’s just too much stuff going on. In person, I think it’s even worse.
I mean, I kinda like those Frank Gehry wadded-paper buildings, but I don’t think that general sort of design really translated well here. The path the BRZ is taking feels like a better one.
The rear-end design is also clean and, while I’m not blown away by the taillights, they’re not bad. I kind of like the separate reverse lamps, separated by that rear foglamp, down low and center.
The exhaust-emphasizing cutouts I think work without getting too overdone, and those appear to be real exhaust pipes, thank various gods.
It appears to be a trunk design still, and I won’t lie, I’d rather have seen a hatchback there, but I think there’s likely stiffness or some other reasons a Subaru engineer would give me to subtly let me know I’m a fool for wanting a hatch.
Also, the black lower bumper appears to be high enough that it may help keep the painted bumper skin safe from minor dings and scrapes, which would be welcome.
I think the new instrument cluster is worth mentioning, too, as it seems to be nicely customizable (or at least allows for multiple modes) and the designers thankfully don’t seem to have fallen into the trap of trying to make skeuomorphic gauges, instead keeping a nice, clean, highly legible motif that fits with the rest of the car.
A bit more color wouldn’t have killed them for this interior, though. It’s dark as hell in there. We’re driving, not developing film, so why not brighten the place up! A BRZ doesn’t need to be so serious.
I’ve always liked the BRZ. I like the whole idea of a light, relatively cheap, modestly-powered sports car that’s no bullshit and can get your ass to work every day with relative ease — as well as having a blast on the track.
The BRZ still seems to be just that, but now it looks a good bit better. I’ll take my good news where I can get it.