Being a typical driver’s car, the Subaru BRZ is geared more towards driving dynamics than straight-line speed. Understandably, the main complaint that owners have with the car is its underpowered nature.
This explains why some of the best BRZ mods center around adding more power, but it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot you can do to this car, especially considering how well it has adapted to the aftermarket community.
The ZN6 chassis is an excellent platform to build on. In fact, Subaru has always encouraged BRZ owners to explore what the aftermarket has to offer.
In this guide, we’ll take you through a comprehensive list of modifications for your Gen 1 Subaru BRZ, along with some tips on how to go about the process.
Let’s dive right in.
Gen 1 vs Gen 2 BRZ Mods: Cross Compatibility
In late July of 2020, the Gen 1 BRZ was taken off the showroom floors and officially discontinued. But even then, it remains as one of the best entry-level sports cars on the pre-owned market.
Considering that a vast majority of BRZs on the streets (at the time of writing) are 2012+ variants, the following list will focus on Gen 1 mods only.
However, we’ve observed that a lot of the Gen 1 modifications are cross-compatible with the Gen 2 (2022) BRZ. These include coilovers, headers, wheels, and most catback exhaust systems.
The Gen 1 headers are a direct fit on the 2022 BRZ — they easily connect to the factory front pipe despite the new motor. Installing Gen 1 BRZ catback exhausts on the Gen 2 BRZ might require some fabrication though.
Handling Mods for Your BRZ
The BRZ handles impeccably right out of the gate, but there’s still a lot of scope for improvement in terms of how it transfers weight. The factory suspension settings are optimized for comfort in order to appeal to a wider audience.
A question most people start with is; wheels or coilovers first?
Well, if you see yourself wanting to hit the track more frequently, we recommend looking into the following handling mods.
This is where most of the magic happens. With the right suspension mods, you can make your BRZ go faster without needing to install any performance upgrades.
With the right suspension upgrades, you can expect a lower ride height, better composure through corners, more traction, and better braking.
Let’s look at some of the best handling mods for your Subaru BRZ.
By installing aftermarket coilovers, you can improve the way your Subaru BRZ looks and handles, depending on how you set them up. The main benefit of coilovers is the amount of adjustability they allow for.
You can do things like lowering your ride height, adjusting preload and damping, or altering the car’s overall stance. But to do all this, you’re going to want to know how coilovers work.
Here are some of the best coilovers for your BRZ:
- Tein Flex Z
- BC Racing BR Series
- Fortune Auto 500 Series
- HKS HIPERMAX IV SP
- Stance XR1
- Bilstein B16 PSS10
- KW Variant 3
Lowering springs vs coilovers is a very common debate, and rightfully so. Typically, lowering springs are more affordable than coilovers — usually under $300 for a set, while coilovers usually start around $800 and go all the way up into four digits.
The biggest downside to lowering springs is that they don’t provide the ability to adjust ride height, as well as the other features that you get with coilovers.
However, if you’re looking for a way to lower your BRZ for street use and don’t intend to do a lot of high-performance driving, this could be the perfect solution for you.
Lowering springs can either be linear or progressive. Linear means the spring is compressed at the same rate throughout the entire spring. This results in a very predictable rebound because it will compress and react the same way to various driving inputs.
Progressive springs, on the other hand, are more complicated. They have variable compression, leading to a softer, more relaxed ride when driving straight that firms up upon hard cornering.
Which of the two you should choose is a matter of personal preference; if you want something that reacts the same way consistently and don’t mind a firmer overall ride quality, go with linear springs.
If you want improved handling from stock but want to maintain comfort when not pushing your BRZ hard, go with progressive springs.
Some of the best lowering springs for your BRZ are made by:
- Eibach (Progressive springs with a 1.4” drop in front and rear)
- TEIN (Progressive springs with a 1.5” drop in front and rear)
- Megan Racing (Linear springs with a 1.75” drop in the front and 1.25” drop in the rear)
- Skunk2 (Linear springs with a 1.4” drop in front and 1.6” drop-in rear)
Air suspension is the most expensive suspension upgrade that allows you to slam your BRZ to the ground at the push of a button. However, air suspension is known to wear out faster than coilovers and doesn’t generally provide as high of a performance gain as coilovers do.
If aesthetics is your top priority and you love the look of a slammed BRZ (but still need to be able to drive it!), air suspension will work for you.
Here are your top choices for BRZ air suspension:
Coilovers and lowering springs are usually the first things that come to mind when you think about suspension mods, but it’s equally important to think about the associated components such as sway bars.
Sway bars help keep your BRZ planted on the ground by significantly reducing weight transfer. Although called “sway bars”, they’re more properly understood as anti-sway bars, because their job is to prevent and not add, sway.
Our favorite sway bars are made by:
Aftermarket wheels will not only give your BRZ a unique look, but they’ll also offer performance benefits such as significantly reduced rotational mass as compared to the stock wheels.
Obviously which wheel you choose is up to your overall style goals, budget, and vision for your BRZ — for instance, do you want a lowered, slammed look vs wanting to fill the fender wells up as much as possible? Or do you want something suitable for track use?
Our top recommendations include:
In terms of specifications, the BRZ rims have a 5×100 bolt pattern. The car can take 17-20” diameter wheels with widths ranging from 7.5” to 10.5”. Recommended offset is +20 mm to +48 mm.
The list above is very brief and serves as a springboard for your inspiration. Remember to consider tire sizes and affordability along with wheel specifications.
For example, many BRZ owners opt for a staggered wheel setup, with the front and rear wheels being different sizes.
If you do this, however, you can’t rotate tires from front to back, due to needing different tire sizes. You can, of course, rotate your tires with a squared setup, where all four wheels are identically sized.
A final tip is to only choose from reputable wheel brands. Don’t buy a cheaper, unknown wheel brand and risk driving on poorly constructed, unsafe wheels.
Generally, you can buy summer, winter, or all-season tires, with all-season being a middle ground between summer and winter tires, offering the best of both worlds.
Of course, all-season tires won’t be able to perform as well as summer tires would on a dry July afternoon. All-season tires also won’t have as much traction in the snow as winter tires.
If you only drive your BRZ in the summer, opt for the highest performance summer tire. If you drive year-round, you could go with an all-season, or buy a set of summer and winter tires to swap out as seasons change.
Our top recommendations for all 3 categories:
Part of confident driving is being able to rely on your brakes to give you the stopping power you need right at the moment you need it.
Although the brakes on your BRZ are decent from the factory, they can be upgraded in terms of pads, rotors, or even installing a big brake kit.
With this in mind, here are our recommendations for the best components you can buy for upgrading your BRZ’s braking system.
How you plan your brake upgrades depends on how you use your BRZ. If it is solely a daily driver but you want better braking performance, you can upgrade just the brake pads alone.
But if you intend on frequenting the track, upgrading both pads and rotors is recommended. Our favorite brake pads are listed below:
Upgrading to higher-quality rotors can completely transform the braking performance of your BRZ. You can choose to buy either slotted or drilled rotors depending on how you use your BRZ.
Frequent track use involves high-speed braking and high rotor temperatures. In this scenario, heat dissipation is very important. Drilled rotors are excellent when it comes to keeping things cool.
For daily driving though, slotted rotors are a better choice because they help to remove all the dirt and gas that inevitably accumulates on your brake pads.
Our top recommendations include:
- StopTech Sport Slotted Front | Rear
- EBC Slotted Rotors and Pads Brake Kit (this kit includes the Redstuff pads from EBC mentioned above, but rotors can be purchased separately if needed)
Big Brake Kits
If you plan on using your BRZ into a dedicated track car, you’ll want a big brake kit. Note that in almost all cases, big brake kits do not fit over stock wheels.
This is something to consider when you’re shopping for wheels. With BBKs, you get larger rotors for more braking surface area, along with powerful 4-pot calipers that stay reliable when driving at the limit.
Our top BBK recommendations include:
- StopTech Big Brake Kit
- K-sport (K-sport offers multiple options for your BRZ, from moderately priced to high priced. The primary difference in models is the number of pistons, with more pistons being desirable for higher-speed applications.)
Best Performance Mods for Your Subaru BRZ
The BRZ follows the tried and true “driver-centric” formula — it’s small, lightweight, nimble, and sends power to the rear wheels, making it the perfect platform to build on.
But it’s common to hear owners complaining about its underpowered nature. It’s no wonder why enthusiasts love modifying the Subaru BRZ.
Most enthusiasts start out by modifying the intake system. Intake mods are simple, cheap, and effective — ideal for dipping your toes in the world of modifications.
The easiest BRZ intake mods include CAIs and drop-in air filters.
Cold Air Intakes
The main purpose of a cold air intake is to reposition the air intake nozzle in a place where it can draw in denser air and remain as far from the engine heat as possible.
Denser air means more oxygen, which translates to more effective combustion. When paired with a catback exhaust system, it helps to improve the volumetric efficiency of the engine.
Some of the best cold air intakes for your BRZ include:
- K&N Cold Air Intake
- Mishimoto Performance Cold Air Intake
- AEM Electronically Tuned Intake
- Corsa Power Core Closed Box Air Intake System
- Perrin Performance Air Intake
- aFe Power Stage-2 Pro Dry S Air Intake
Drop-In Air Filters
Although cold air intakes are commonly installed and considered an easy/affordable mod, you don’t have to install them. If you decide you want to keep your factory airbox, you can still improve upon it by installing higher-quality air filters.
Some of the best drop-in filters for the BRZ are manufactured by:
The BRZ is notorious for a significant torque dip at around 4000 rpm, which can be remedied by installing a new set of headers. We recommend pairing aftermarket headers with a catback exhaust for the best results.
Check out our guide on the difference between headers and exhaust manifolds for more clarity on the subject.
Aftermarket exhaust headers replace the stock exhaust manifold. When shopping for BRZ headers, you’ll come across two main types — equal and unequal length.
Equal length headers provide power and torque gains at the higher end of the rpm range, while unequal length headers help to fix the torque dip and make your BRZ run more smoothly across the powerband.
So whether you choose equal or unequal is really about whether you want to eliminate that torque curve problem or if you are after the highest overall power output.
You can also pair your headers with test pipes, but doing that is illegal in many regions. Refer to your local state’s rules, but generally, catless exhaust setups are not street legal.
The following companies manufacture some of the best BRZ headers on the market:
Catback exhausts serve two purposes for most car enthusiasts:
- Increasing power by improving the exhaust flow rate, and
- Modifying the exhaust note to the your personal taste.
The stock BRZ exhaust system is not too restrictive, it’s actually the headers where there’s a lot of room for improvement. So you can expect small gains in power — around 5 hp overall. However, for most enthusiasts, the catback is less about power and more about sound.
Be sure to choose the right piping diameter, considering any other exhaust modifications that you might have installed. We also recommend getting an EcuTek reflash after installing a catback exhaust.
The best BRZ catback exhausts are manufactured by:
- Corsa Performance
- Invidia Q300
- MagnaFlow Street Series
- GReddy RS: 2013-2016 BRZ | 2017-2019 BRZ
- Borla 140496
- Tomei Expreme Ti
If you upgrade your BRZ to push more power, it will naturally generate a lot more heat. However, if you intend on pushing your BRZ to its limit (even if it is stock), you must consider upgrading the cooling system.
Normal daily driving, however, is not likely to hugely benefit from modding your BRZ’s cooling. Common cooling mods include radiators, silicone hoses, and oil cooling kits.
Installing a better radiator with more fins is the first thing you should do if you want to keep the temps down.
Mishimoto and Koyorad are the industry standard when it comes to aftermarket radiators. Both options are aluminum and have the brand logo in front, adding a nice and unique flair to your BRZ’s front end aesthetic.
Check both these out below:
Silicone hoses are a good upgrade over your stock rubber hoses as they tend to be stronger and overall more durable. Additionally, they can be purchased in many different colors, letting you customize the look of your engine bay even further.
Both the options listed below are in blue but can be purchased in other colors as well:
Oil Cooler Kits
Oil cooler kits come with an oil cooler that resembles a radiator, along with related accessories like fluid lines. The sole purpose of oil cooler kits is to keep your engine oil temperature in check.
Our favorite oil cooler kits are manufactured by:
All modern cars come with an electronic control unit (ECU) that controls vital functions like fuel injection, valve timing, and ABS.
When you install performance upgrades of any kind, the engine’s computer needs to be calibrated for these alterations. This can be done by remapping your ECU.
This is extremely important when it comes to installing exhaust systems. For instance, when your O2 sensor detects a change in the exhaust-flow rate, it’s going to send mixed signals to the ECU, which will negatively impact the air-fuel ratio. This does more harm than good.
Some of the best engine management solutions for the BRZ are manufactured by:
The only way to add some serious power to your BRZ is by installing forced induction. Be warned that this route is not cheap and requires careful planning.
You can either install a supercharger or a turbocharger; each has its own pros and cons.
Know that installing either a supercharger or a turbo will drastically change the way your BRZ drives. Superchargers provide a smooth and linear power delivery; you’ll barely notice it at first. But turbos, on the other hand, can be a bit unforgiving.
No matter which route you decide to take, be sure to factor in all the other supporting upgrades you’ll have to install, and most importantly, the cost. We’ve covered more details in our BRZ supercharger and turbocharger guides.
The best superchargers for your BRZ include:
Our favorite BRZ turbochargers are:
The GReddy T518Z is also a good turbo for the BRZ, but unfortunately has been discontinued, so if you find one it’s likely to be on the used market.
Unless you’re building your BRZ to be a sleeper car, you’re going to want to reserve a part of your project fund for cosmetic upgrades.
Subtle changes like aftermarket lights, a front lip, and maybe even a few tastefully selected decals will make your BRZ pop.
Alternatively, if you want to significantly change how your BRZ looks, you can experiment with spoilers, hoods, and body kits.
Modding your BRZ’s exterior is obviously a mix of good parts and personal taste. With that in mind, we’ve listed some quality exterior mods for your inspiration.
With the exception of track-mandated mods (like dedicated racing seats), interior mods are mostly about what you like as a driver and what works best for you.
With that in mind, we’ll just share a few items we think are good interior mods for the BRZ.
Ultimately the type of aftermarket seat you go with depends on how the seat feels to you. Another thing to consider is making sure the seats fit.
Most aftermarket seats are universal and can be adapted to fit your car, depending on what kind of seat rails and other hardware you choose. Our favorite racing seats include:
When searching for shift knobs, remember that your BRZ’s fitment requires an M12 x 1.25 adapter (this is most important when ordering universal shift knobs where you have to choose the size adapter you need).
The type of shift knob you choose can be based on weight, shape, how you prefer to grip the shifter, and color, among other things. The below are just 3 examples of good quality shift knobs for the BRZ, but there are many, many options out there.
In What Order Should You Modify Your BRZ?
There are no hard and fast rules for how to modify any car, but there is a logical progression that you can generally follow.
The idea is to make your car safer, brake harder, and handle better first, before making it any faster.
Step 1: Handling
If you plan on lowering the car, do this first. It’ll make getting the proper fitment for new wheels and/or tires much easier.
- Coilovers/lowering springs/air suspension
- Associated mods for suspension you might want to install
- Wheels and tires
- Brake upgrades
Step 2: Performance
Remember to get the car tuned when installing performance mods. Without the right engine management, most performance upgrades are rendered useless.
- Intake (cold air intakes or drop in filters)
- Exhaust (headers and catback exhaust system)
- Cooling upgrades (radiators, lines, etc.)
- Forced induction (supercharger or turbocharger)
Step 3: Cosmetic Mods
There’s no order necessary when it comes to cosmetic upgrades. However, consider that if you’re going to install a full body kit, paint or wrap your BRZ and plasti-dip the chrome, be sure to install the body kit first and then proceed to paint the car.
Do you think the BRZ is best enjoyed in stock form? Or would you rather go all out with upgrades? Let us know in the comments below!