We have been asked the question "What is the difference between the FR-S and BRZ?", quite a bit lately. Until now we were mainly guessing from pictures we saw. Since we have both cars as shop cars for R&D and marketing, I put together a post showing the visual differences in the BRZ and FR-S. We know there is some suspension differences in spring rates and dampening, but other than that, the actual suspension, engine, drivetrain, intake and exhaust are the same between the two cars. That even goes for the entire engine bay, as BRZ and FR-S share the same Subaru body panels, Subaru/Toyota plastic engine cover, Subaru branded engine, and so on. So I will not be going over those things.
With that out of the way, the first thing that sticks out is the price. This whole comparison is based around an FR-S and a BRZ Premium model. The FR-S window sticker shows$24,200 versus the BRZ at $25,495. The question for some is, "What does that $1300 more get me?". For some it doesn't matter as the styling of the FR-S is what wins them over. For others, its pirce, or name brand that drives them to the car. This comparison, isn't to make one car look better than the other, but rather to show the actual differences.
Working from the outside in, the most obvious difference is the bumper and headlight difference.
Some say the FR-S front end is more agressive, and some say the BRZ looks more refined. Personally I like the FR-S bumper a little more. Instead of the BRZ smile, it has more of a straight "face".
In this picture you can see how the opening and the lower portion of the bumper is more agressive. The Scion has a better way of covering up the crash beam behind the bumper, were Subaru leaves it sticking out a bit.
The FR-S has a more aggressive looking fog light hole area. The Subaru is shown with the optional fog lights installed, where the Scion doesn't. Both cars do have a "daytime running light" in the upper portion of the fog light hole. The FR-S has a simple halogen bulb and reflector, where the BRZ has a super bright LED strip. This LED strip really makes the BRZ look mean driving down the road compared to the yellow-ish FR-S lights. I tried to take a picture of the two lit up, but the pics didn't show the difference very well.
The next big difference in the FR-S and BRZ are the headlights. The BRZ comes standard with HID dual projector beam lights. The FR-S again has halogen bulbs mounted in a projector type housing. The above pic shows the difference while turned on, but again, its hard to capture the real difference. There has been talk of FR-S guys buying the Subaru part and installing them. This isn't going to happen without lots of work. The headlight shapes are actually different, or are they............
In this picture you can see how much wider the FR-S headlight appears compared to the BRZ. The BRZ light is missing that "sharp" corner where the headlight meets the bumper, or is it..... In the picture below, you can see with the bumper removed that there is a plastic piece covering up this corner. Removing this small piece makes both the FR-S and BRZ headlight the exact same shape! This also means, customers can do some swapping out of headlights!
In this picture you can also see the BRZ and the really cool "Halo" ring around the headlight. The halo is only enabled as part of the parking light system and part of the main headlight system. I am sure over time, someone will modify this so the halo comes on when the day time running lights. That would really add to more aggressive look while coming at you on the street if you could have both the lower LED strip and halo on. Remember, the BRZ is more expensive and this is one of the reasons why.
These are the side scuddles shown side by side. The Scion has the cool "Boxer" Engine logo, but a tiny fake vent. It looks a little plain as you have a huge area of the same color. Subaru has a bit more fake venting which helps break up that plain surface. The example above has the optional Subaru chrome trim piece, but normal cars have a color matched strip here. Combined the two together and you would have a winner in my opinion.
The wheels are exactly the same, except the emblem of course.
The antenna bases are also different. The Scion without NAV, has the small base that is just a radio receiver. The BRZ with NAV has the base that contains both the satellite antenna and radio receiver in one. With some of the aftermarket covers being offered, I assume that not all of them are going to work between the two different styles. Both are dying for one of our antenna's!
The trunks are also different. The Scion being the less expensive car, doesn't include the trunk dress up piece. This is an item that Scion owners can buy and install on their cars to make it look a little nicer. The thing is, neither trunk has a real handle to close it from the inside. The trunk latch works ok to grab onto, but a real handle would be nice.
When you first open the door, you are greeted by the handles. The BRZ premium edition has the all black handle, where the FR-S has a nice silver trimmed handle. This is the same handle as found on the BRZ limited. I do like the looks of the FR-S part much better, as this is also carried through out the radio trim pieces.
Next up are the floor mats. The BRZ mats are just like other Subaru's with the embroidered emblem. The FR-S material is nicer and they have a really cool badge.
These next few pics are hard to see the actual material differences. On the FR-S, the seat material that you sit on is all a high quality felt like material. The sides of the seat are a vinyl as well as the backs. The BRZ seats (in the Premium) use the high quality felt material on the side, but have a much nicer, more durable feeling center material. For those who have sat in a newer WRX, you will find this material very familiar. Its a meshy cloth that has a slightly slicker feel to it. You can really notice this when entering the the BRZ compared to the FR-S as your pants don't want to grab onto the seat as you swing your legs around. It makes the BRZ seats feel like they will wear longer. Both seats are shaped perfectly for high speed cornering with awesome support. Even with the slicker material in the BRZ (not noticeable when driving hard) the BRZ seats are an upgrade in my opinion.
Here is a shot of the back seats. You can see that the shape of the back seats are the same, but the material once again is different. The FR-S has the felt, the BRZ has both felt and the meshy cloth.
The steering wheels are the same except the center of the FR-S has some additional fake stitching around the Air Bag area. This small detail gives the FR-S an edge over the BRZ because it helps brake up the plain-ish Subaru wheel.
A thing of great debate. I have seen some people love the FR-S dash, and some hate it. Same goes for the BRZ. Neither are perfect, but that fake carbon fiber paneling on the FR-S is not my favorite. The FR-S has a "space Invader" or UFO graphic that is used over and over again to create this. You can see that from far away it looks pretty good, but up close its not that great. I expect many people to cover these pieces or paint them after they get their car. They are about a 30 secs of labor intensive work (not really) so both BRZ and FR-S customers can mod them very easy!
This is the one item that makes the higher price of the BRZ worth it. The BRZ has a navigation system stock on all models. Normally this is a $2000 upgrade on a Subaru. besides the NAV part of the head unit, the audio adjustments, and touch screen part of it are what make this a really nice upgrade. Both cars share almost the identical sound system as far as quality goes. The sound in the BRZ and FR-S are very similar, with great base and overall clarity. Now I am judging this based on old Subaru's I have had. Compared to those, these cars blow them out of the water!
In this pictures above you can also see the vertical trim pieces next to the heater controls. The FR-S has that same nice silver color (from the door handles) on theses pieces. The BRZ, they are plain black. Only stepping up the BRZ limited to you get the silver trim.
The dash also is different between the two cars. The FR-S has the nice bright white Tach dial, where the BRZ is black. FR-S has more of that same UFO pattern printed onto the face of the gauges to create a carbon fiber look around the gauges, which is good for some and bad for others. On the gauges it doesn't bother me too much as it doesn't look like they were trying to make it look like real carbon fiber.
Both FR-S and BRZ gauges light up clearly at night. The BRZ lights with pure amber colors through out, where the FR-S lights up with a combination of white and amber. Also at key-on, the two cars gauges act slightly different. The BRZ's tach needle does the typical STI dance, where the tach goes from rest to 9000 RPM and back in a smooth sweeping pattern. The FR-S does something similar but only if you have the shift light set. If you have the shift light set at say 7000RPM, the needle goes right up to 7000RPM and holds, then drops back to 0 RPM. If you don't have the shift light set, it doesn't do anything when you first turn the key on.
The FR-S we received came with this extra part. Its an iPod holder and coin holder for your cup holder. The bottom is opened up to accept the plug from the iPod. This allows you to just snap it in and start listening to music. Pretty cool!
My personal opinion is that the FR-S front bumper is better than the BRZ, but the $1300 more for the BRZ is worth getting NAV, HID headlights, LED driving lights, nicer seats, and no fake CF dash. Even though that is my opinion, with the FR-S being much easier to find, and the fact they are marketing the car much better, I think the FR-S will be more popular. For those who have a little extra money to spend, and patience, the BRZ really comes out on top. FR-S fans, don't hate me!