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Buy the new Subaru BRZ tS or get a used Ford Mustang EcoBoost

By Trent Giunco, 13 Aug 2019 Advice

Buy the new Subaru BRZ tS or get a used Ford Mustang EcoBoost

Both the Subaru BRZ tS and Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback play the rear-drive four-cylinder-coupe game, but which one deserves your $40K?

Do you prefer Japanese wagyu or American beef? The former fights with tried and tested Boxer knowhow, while the latter uses the Blue Oval’s EcoBoost tech. Both enter the ring with very different takes on the rear-drive coupe. For around $40K you can have either, however, if you want the ’Stang you’ll have to forgo the updated FN EcoBoost for the pre-facelifted FM. In six-speed-manual guise both offer affordable thrills, but which would we have?

SUBARU BRZ tS

What the BRZ really needs is more poke, but instead the tS offers up grip and handling upgrades, receiving Brembo brakes, STi-tuned coil springs, aluminium wheels (to aid unsprung weight), Sachs dampers and additional chassis bracing. That’s all well and good, though the 2.0-litre Boxer continues on with 152kW and 212Nm. But numbers aren’t always the whole story.

For accurate handling and a purity of steering, the BRZ tS is hard to go past. There’s a natural rear-drive persona at play and on the right road you can get into an enjoyable flow. Yes, the extra grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres quells some of the easy yaw movements of ‘lesser’ variants, but the more focused attitude appeals. It’s one of those cars where you want to go back for more.

The interior is a bit of a letdown visually – as is the rather aftermarket-esque infotainment. However, the low seating position is perfect and, while it takes time to acclimatise to, the vertical positioning of the steering wheel works. The rear seats are a bit of a token gesture, however, they do fold flat, allowing you to fit some extra tyres for track days. The boot’s opening is a little narrow, but it can swallow a surprising amout of gear.

The tS gains grip, but with no extra grunt – and for some that fact grates. However, the extra bits add a newfound level of dynamics that is hugely rewarding. There’s something very right about having just enough power and exploitable grip that makes the tS package so enjoyable. And if you want to do slidey things… keep a set of Michelin Primacy boots in the shed.

FORD MUSTANG ECOBOOST

The Ford Mustang makes a statement. It’s a silhouette that’s instantly recognisable and its badge is an icon of the tallest order. However, the EcoBoost is missing a key motif… there’s no ‘5.0’ badge on the front quarter panel. Is the four-banger really a Mustang with only half an engine?

If you’re talking literal cylinder count, of course, facts are facts. But the little-bro four-pot shouldn’t be overlooked. For starters, the polarising 2.3-litre engine is, more or less, out of a Focus RS. It’s detuned to 233kW and 432Nm, but that oomph is sent to the rear wheels alone and you’ve got a slick six-speed manual to play with – a six-speed auto is the two-pedal option.

Performance figures are comparable with most hot hatches, but the 1666kg weight results in more of a canter rather than a gallop. Bugbears are the overly touchy brakes and vague steering, but the lighter front-end means the front axle is sharp. Dynamically the EcoBoost is as adept as its V8 counterpart, but it lacks the overall grunt to be truly as fun. And, yes, it doesn’t sound anything like a bent eight.

Inside, the Mustang continues its retro-cool theme. It works for some, and not for others. The FM misses out on the digital instrument cluster, but the infotainment is up to date via an intuitive touchscreen. The base seats are comfortable, but lack overall side bolstering for spirited driving, while the back seats aren’t for adults. The boot is more than big enough for a weekend getaway.

If you’ve got your heart set on an EcoBoost Mustang, the current FN-generation pony gains some spec tweaks, an angrier exhaust, new wheels, upgraded interior quality and the option of a 10-speed auto. Power is down 9kW, but torque also rises by 9Nm. Overall, the changes are tangible and worthwhile, so if you’ve got a bigger budget, it’s worth considering. It also has a slightly better ANCAP safety rating (three stars), though it's well short of top marks.

Specs comparison

  SUBARU BRZ tS FORD MUSTANG ECOBOOST
Price (new) $39,894 $45,990
Engine 1998cc flat 4cyl, dohc, 16v 2261cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Output 152kW/212Nm 233kW/432Nm
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual
0-100km/h 7.6sec 5.8sec
Efficiency (combined) 8.4L/100km (claimed) 8.5L/100km
Drivetrain RWD RWD
Doors 2 2
Seats 4 4
Wheel size 18/215/40 21/255/40
Country of origin Japan USA

Wheels staff picks


Trent Giunco
Staff Journalist
While the Mustang EcoBoost doesn’t deserve all the flack it cops for supposedly having ‘half an engine’, it can’t match the dynamic level the BRZ tS achieves. Ironically, it’s the engine that’s the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ mashup’s downfall, too, with a massive torque hole and a soundtrack that’s lacklustre at best. Yet, it remains a sweetheart and it truly relishes being driven like you stole it – take it to the track and it’ll slide around all day before you drive it home. Sharp steering, mechanical gearshift feel, extra Michelin grip and delicate dynamics make it a must-drive. All it really needs is some cheeky forced induction…

Alex Rae
Online Editor
Though the Mustang four-banger gains a bit of dynamic poise upfront the lack of an eight-cylinder soundtrack in a big American muscle car just doesn't feel right for me. Plus it's not dynamically that much more resolved – which is where the BRZ slots in nicely, lacking some grunt but thrumming along, dynamically wonderful with great steering feel and feedback that's perfect for Sunday drives and track days. Slightly underpowered perhaps, but also rock-steady reliable.

Cameron Kirby
Staff Journalist
Sure, in a world where the V8-powered Mustang is available, choosing the EcoBoost seems like an odd choice, but it’s the one for me. Firstly, I find the Mustang a more aesthetically pleasing car, and when you are choosing a two-door coupe that’s pretty important. Having less weight over the front axle goes some way to address the Mustang’s dynamic foibles, while the 2.3-litre engine is ripe for tuning. A bigger turbo, re-tuned ECU, and throatier exhaust will be high on the list of priority list after purchase. It’ll be manual, of course. Eat my dust BRZ owners.

 

Reckon we’ve got it right? Or are we way off the money (literally)? Find your best and let us know in the comments what you’d buy.