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Subaru BRZ vs WRX: The Subaru Tuner Dilemma

The Subaru BRZ vs WRX: Two entry-level performance vehicles for the speed demon on a budget.

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Subaru offers two competing vehicles inspired by rally cars – one a hatchback and one a sedan. They both lead the pack of affordable, practical performance vehicles in the United States. They are the Subaru BRZ and the Subaru WRX, respectively. Both fall into the $30,000-$40,000 price bracket. Either of these cars offers a great step up for drivers who want to have more fun in what they regularly drive. The question of which comes out ahead depends and your wants, your needs, your skills and your driving style. There’s no doubt that these cars are different beasts.

The Tale of the Tape

SpecsSubaru WRXSubaru BRZ
  • Type: 2.5 L four cylinder turbo
  • Horsepower: 264
  • MPG: 19 city / 25 highway
  • Base price: $25,995 MSRP
  • Type: 2.0 L flat-four cylinder
  • Horsepower: 200
  • MPG: 22 city / 30 highway
  • Base price: $25,595 MSRP
  • Width: 70.7 in.
  • Length: 180.3 in.
  • Height: 58.1 in.
  • Wheelbase: 103.3 in.
  • Curb weight: 3208 lbs.
  • Width: 69.9 in.
  • Length: 166.7 in.
  • Height: 50.6 in.
  • Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
  • Curb weight: 2762 lbs.
  • Front headroom: 40.3 in.
  • Rear headroom: 37.6 in.
  • Front legroom: 43.5 in.
  • Rear legroom: 33.5 in.
  • Front headroom: 37.1 in.
  • Rear headroom: 35 in.
  • Front legroom: 41.9 in.
  • Rear legroom: 29.9 in.

Performance and handling

Subaru BRZ vs WRXThe Subaru BRZ vs WRX comparison really comes down to deciding what a driver wants from a car. The WRX has 50 percent more horsepower and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, while the BRZ tops out at 200 hp. This does not mean the WRX is 50 percent faster; the WRX weighs considerably more than the stripped down BRZ, so you're getting the same amount of sport-tuned performance. The rear-wheel-drive BRZ provides tight, super responsive handling, and better balance in terms of breaking and suspension for actual performance driving – features typically preferred by some of the more skilled performance drivers.

The WRX is built on and around Subaru’s Impreza model chassis, which carries a lot more weight (a necessity for the AWD.) The car's handling is slightly "numb" to help new drivers have fun and control the vehicle through turns. Put another way, “The BRZ feels like it wants to cut loose and carve some corners, and the WRX wants to drag you kicking and screaming through the same corners with brute force.” This results in a massively fun car to drive, IF you know what you’re doing. All that performance comes with a price (actually, several prices.)

Both the BRZ and the WRX get decent but not impressive fuel economy. That's to be expected since both of these cars have been built with performance as a priority. While the Subaru Symmetrical AWD System featured in both of these models will give you control in any type of conditions, delivering power to every wheel will reduce the type of mileage you get. The WRX gets 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The BRZ gets a slightly better 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. 

Driving comfort

The BRZ is not a daily driver. Any gearhead can tell you that the BRZ is a driver’s car, built from the ground up for performance and handling. But you can barely fit a laptop in the back. Similarly, the WRX falls near $30,000, but has a lack of creature comforts to show for it. The WRX was built to be driven every day and is especially accommodating for anyone new to the segment – its performance, handling, suspension, and breaking are all tuned for the average driver.

You can feel the dedication to performance over comfort in the suspension of these cars. Seriously bumpy roads are not even close to the most abrasive terrain the WRX can handle, while even a mildly sizeable pothole jars your spine in the BRZ. The all-wheel-drive WRX is a viable year-round car, while BRZ owners who live in snowier parts of the country almost always have to have a backup, winter car for when inclement weather descends.

Interior features

Interiors present some of the biggest differences between the BRZ and the WRX. The WRX still retains some of the comfort features and seating space common to typical commuter sedans. Both the front seats and back seats offer plenty of room, even for taller passengers. Not so much with the BRZ.

The WRX can be well appointed with options like leather-trimmed and heated front seats, and tech features like a navigation system, backup camera, premium stereo system and automatic climate control. There's also plenty of trunk space, especially if you opt for the WRX hatchback, which gives you 52.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. 

The BRZ, on the other hand, has an interior stripped down by design. No room for riff raff, the BRZ is strictly a performance car and the naked interior loudly reminds you of this. Though limited in features, the interior has a nice layout with quality materials. The shift knob is wrapped in leather to give it a nice feel as you power through the gears, and the center stack buttons are easy to use while driving. The navigation leaves a bit to be desired (but then again, most in-dash navigation systems these days come with their own unique deficiencies.) 

Safety features

On top of its sterling performance ratings, the new Subaru BRZ received the highest crash-test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and a five-star Overall Rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The WRX also received top crash test ratings from the IIHS. So while you may engage in nail-biting driving adventures with either of these options, you can be (somewhat) calmed by the fact you’ll be well protected should you lose control in either car.

Concluding the BRZ vs WRX debate

Subaru WRX vs BRZObviously, the BRZ isn’t practical as a year-round car in most places where roads are slick half the year. It also doesn’t work as a commuter car because it is neither comfortable nor spacious enough to be one, and the gas mileage leaves something to be desired. The WRX is also more of a stock-car than a commuter, but it is still significantly more appropriate for a regular commute. And while the BRZ guzzles gas, even if you upgraded it and gave it a tight enough tune to approach WRX specs, most drivers would probably blow up the engine anyway. 

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The WRX is an easy choice for novice drivers who still long for the thrill of performance. It also presents a bit more value for the money and can feed these drivers’ hopes of being able to do their own wrenching to upgrade the car as their driving skills improve. All the while, you could still use it to get back and forth from work and pick the kids up from school. So where do you fall on the WRX vs BRZ question? Use Buyerlink to learn more about these models and find the lowest local price quotes now!

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