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.
|SUBARU BRZ tS||FORD MUSTANG ECOBOOST|
|Engine||1998cc flat 4cyl, dohc, 16v||2261cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo|
|Transmission||6-speed manual||6-speed manual|
|Efficiency (combined)||8.4L/100km (claimed)||8.5L/100km|
|Country of origin||Japan||USA|