The Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ Were the Cheapest Contenders for Performance Car of the Year

These days, it seems like the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota GR86 are doing everything together. Getting redesigned together. Going on long head-to-head-comparison road trips together. They’re like two peas in a pod. You might even find yourself wondering if there are really any differences at all between the two.

So, when the Subaru BRZ was a featured finalist in Road & Track’s Performance Car of the Year competition this winter, it only made sense that the Toyota GR86 would go, too. Both coupes put up a good fight, and they were the cheapest sports cars in the pack by far. Which one came out on top?

Toyota’s new 2022 GR86 sports car offered plenty of fun

The trim level for the tester GR86 coupe wasn’t specified in the article, but with an as-tested price of $31,750, we can assume that the 2022 GR86 Premium—with a starting price of $30,300—was the one trotting around the track.

The Toyota GR86 arrived with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. The Toyota shaved off a few pounds for a total curb weight of 2,811 pounds, making it the lightest sports car in the competition.

The GR86 welcomed quite a bit of praise from Road & Track editors during testing. They called it “an affordable sports coupe that treats its buyers with respect,” and complimented the GR86 on its interior and overall handling. Though underpowered compared to others in the group, editors claimed it “matches anything here for joy.” The Toyota GR86 even made it to the top three.

Red 2022 Toyota GR86 sports car parked on a long asphalt road. Picture taken from a rear angle
2022 Toyota GR86 | Toyota

Subaru’s new 2022 BRZ coupe charmed testers

At $31,455, the 2022 Subaru BRZ was the cheapest sports car in the competition, beating out its buddy by only a few hundred dollars. While it also wasn’t specified, we can assume that Road & Track tested a 2022 BRZ Limited, which starts at over $30,000. 

The tested BRZ came with unsurprisingly similar specs: a 228-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a 6-speed manual transmission. Curb weight for the Subaru BRZ comes in at just 2,815 pounds, only a few pounds heavier than the GR86.

Compared to its robust rivals, the BRZ’s relatively slower place and lower horsepower actually translated into a more enjoyable experience off the track. Testers took these cars on public roads in the Catskills, to get a feel for their real-world prowess, and the lightweight, more manageable BRZ handled tight corners beautifully.

Silver 2022 Subaru BRZ drifting around a corner on a paved track, kicking up dust from its rear tires
2022 Subaru BRZ | Subaru

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The Toyota GR86 finished just ahead of the Subaru BRZ

The Road & Track team admitted that there are quite a few similarities between the 2022 GR86 and the 2022 BRZ—including powertrain, overall design, and even lap times. The two coupes completed their turns around the track within one-tenth of a second of each other. The Toyota GR86 was just a hair faster.

But, testers were quick to point out some differences. The Toyota GR86 offers a more refined engine sound than the BRZ’s boxer growl. The interior of the GR86 was slightly cushier and offered more of what the editors were looking for. While the two offered the same engine specs, better handling gave the 2022 GR86 an edge over the 2022 Subaru BRZ.

Both cars make under 300 horsepower and cost less than $35,000. The fact that cars from mass-market brands could make it to the finals of the Performance Car of the Year competition speaks volumes. This pair may be more laid-back and unassuming than their fellow competitors, but there’s a lot of value in being understated.

Red 2022 Toyota GR86 sports car driving along a track, toward the camera
2022 Toyota GR86 | Toyota

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