Our long-term test vehicles face challenging conditions in Michigan, with wildlife encounters, poorly maintained roads, and harsh weather posing real threats. Fortunately, our 2023 Subaru BRZ survived its first winter remarkably well, and we have no major issues to report.
The credit for its success goes mainly to the appropriate winter tires we equipped it with. Last fall, we swapped out the original-equipment Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires for narrower 205/55R-16 Michelin X-Ice Snow tires mounted on 16-inch steel wheels, a purchase costing us $1226 from TireRack. Besides protecting the car’s stock 18-inch wheels from pothole damage and curb strikes, we all agreed that the low-slung sports coupe looked cool with the black steelies. Most importantly, these winter tires allowed us to enjoy the BRZ’s rear-wheel-drive performance even in snowy conditions.
Although winters in the Detroit area have become milder in recent years, the snowfalls we did experience would have challenged any lightweight rear-drive sports car. Yet, our BRZ managed surprisingly well, thanks to the grip and stability provided by the winter Michelins, allowing us to navigate the snowy roads without much trouble. Of course, driving required careful control and attention to the car’s feedback through the steering wheel and seatback. Still, that’s precisely the essence of this car – delivering pure joy in driving.
Despite the suboptimal conditions, we continue to praise our Subaru. The BRZ remains fun and easy to steer, earning descriptions such as “superb,” “endearing,” “delightful,” and “engaging” from our drivers. It’s a blast to drive, although some found the clutch pedal a bit touchy and needing practice for smooth operation.
The winter tires did have some downsides, such as impacting the BRZ’s straight-ahead tracking at highway speeds due to squishy tread blocks and taller sidewalls. Additionally, their reduced dry-pavement traction made it possible for the coupe to spin its rear tires even through second gear. Nevertheless, these limitations only added to the enjoyment of driving the car around town. One driver even took the BRZ on a road trip to Virginia and back over the holidays, maintaining a respectable average fuel economy of 25 mpg.
In terms of maintenance, we had one routine service at around 7000 miles, including an oil-and-filter change, tire rotation, and inspection, costing $124. However, there is a lingering concern brought up by testing director Dave VanderWerp in the logbook – the potential loss of cars like the BRZ due to the rise of electric vehicles (EVs). Will there ever be an EV in this category? Only time will tell, but we’ll revisit this topic later. For now, we’ve reinstalled the BRZ’s summer tires and are eager to hit the road again.