In the sports car market, some cars are tailored for the track, like the Subaru BRZ tS, which sports an adjustable, functional spoiler and other tweaks to make it a real road-course hero. Other cars are decidedly less hardcore, but fun in a different way. The Ford Mustang Convertible is a perfect example of that. Not everyone is looking for fast or consistent lap times with a new two-door, and for those, the drop-top could do the trick. Simply put, few car buyers are ever the same, and when it comes to coupes, that differentiation is key.
We have these two radical extremes to showcase today, and also booked some time on track to get a better feel for these sporty rides. And whenever a track is involved, the BRZ seems to apparate. Actually, about 5 other Subaru BRZs and Scion FR-Ss showed up on the track while we were there.
The two-door Subie is made for gearheads who aren’t just looking for fast lap times but to learn the track and improve their driving skills. With its low weight and modest power, the car always rewarded a smooth and smart approach to the track. The limited run tS model continues that approach but makes tackling corners a bit easier.
There are STI tuned front and rear SACHS dampers and coil springs, as well as a flexible v-brace to ensure this BRZ feels extra capable on the track. Subaru also stiffened up the chassis and subframe which improves steering response.
See Also: 2018 Subaru BRZ tS Review
But the most important changes are with aerodynamics and grip. There’s a large manually adjustable carbon fiber rear spoiler that allows trackrats to dial in the rear-downforce as needed. There’s also STI front, rear, and side under spoilers that help control airflow around the vehicle. The tires are also important, with 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber found at each corner.
With lightweight cars, it always feels like they use less braking than expected on the track, but Subaru has beefed up the braking system on this car with Brembo rotors, and four-piston front calipers as well as 2 piston rear calipers.
It is Better, But Not More Powerful
It all adds up to a very confident car on the track, and it’s a more serious toy now, in comparison to the standard BRZ’s slide-happy and smile-inducing on-road personality. Lap after lap at the Toronto Motorsport Park in Cayuga, the BRZ tS felt better and better, similar to how the Subaru WRX STI feels capable of eating up so many consecutive laps without fading, this BRZ tS felt just as unstoppable. It’s far easier to point and direct it through corners without having to fight against a loss of grip or lateral weight transfer.
The fact that it feels so good is actually quite a surprise since the standard BRZ feels quite good too, but the tS just adds more confidence and less variability to your actions on the track. It’s better dialed in and allows the driver to concentrate on the course and how to carve it up better and faster.
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This is interesting because most armchair enthusiasts would look at the spec sheet of the new BRZ tS and scoff. The naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat four engine has received nowhere near as much love as the chassis and suspension has, and outputs the same 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque, and still has a strange, quirky valley of torque right in the middle of the journey to the 7,400 RPM redline. Revving it out is still a fun occasion though since so few cars feature such a high note, and the motor doesn’t sound so bad at that top end.
Less Impressive Off the Track
And while the car seems good on the track, it’s not perfected yet. The BRZ has a pretty nice steering rack, but this track special could provide a touch more feedback to really immerse the driver in the car’s handling.
Off the track, the BRZ tS gets docked a lot of marks, as the upgrades do more to hinder your driving experience during the everyday commute. The stiff suspension and tire sidewalls mean that the car can feel crashy and uncomfortable on any pavement that’s less than perfect. Also, the big wing and chassis stiffeners don’t provide much of an advantage out on the streets except for when you want to take highway on- and off-ramps at high speeds.
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The interior of the tS has no radical changes, its still a driver-focused affair with all controls found easily within reach and with the right amount of tactility to operate seamlessly while on the road. Sporty, bright red accents and give the interior some personality, as do the red seat belts and frameless rear-view mirror. The tS logo is embroidered in the seatbacks and there’s nice red stitching found all throughout the cabin. A fancy 7-inch infotainment system is found up front and it included navigation and support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play. There’s also a small 4.2-inch display in the gauge cluster, which could be better integrated. It shows handy information like G-forces, lap times, pedal position and temperatures.
Limited to just 500 units in the United States and 100 in Canada, the BRZ will easily find hand-raisers for this track-focused model, but its likely that everyday buyers will ignore this special edition model, especially at the $34,355 price tag. Normal BRZ’s are about $8,000 less and enterprising enthusiasts will find more than enough performance enhancing parts on the aftermarket to individualize their BRZ to their needs. Still, it might be hard to out-engineer Subaru’s STI experts who have spent so much time behind the wheel of this sports car.
Aren’t ponies for the track?
On the other hand, the Mustang Convertible is the polar opposite of the BRZ tS. There’s nothing here that is appropriate for a course, but plenty to offer for those who have no intention of going to and spending money on a track day. So we took it off the closed course and onto the public roads, where it showed its true purpose.
Instead of being a twitchy, sharp scalpel of a car, the Mustang Convertible offers a more laid-back pace of driving. Don’t mistake that for saying that it’s slow or not powerful, the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine found under the hood here makes an impressive 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque and is paired to a ten speed automatic. Moving this 3,600 lbs cruiser to highway speeds takes a bit of time, about six seconds, but its faster than the ten seconds it takes to completely raise or drop the roof.
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The motor sounds a bit awkward though, and the transmission does have a lot of steps to go through, but there are a few drive modes to help extract as much performance out of the car, and also adds some steering weight, which helps to make the Mustang feel sporty and engaging.
It’s enough for everyday driving. The Mustang is quick enough on the road and you won’t be tempted to speed. It isn’t over the top, but it does sound odd, distinctly not like the V8 snarl that the Mustang is known for, but more of a less obnoxious bark.
It’s a bigger car and it feels like it. There’s a bit of a delay between turning the wheel and the Mustang’s reaction. The car tilts upward a bit when you hit the throttle, and dips forward a bit when you hit the brakes. Body roll is present too but not painfully so.
The car works though. It’s fun, but for different reasons than the BRZ. You fold down the roof and the world is open to you. The bright yellow paint finish captures everyone’s attention and brings joy to everyone around you.
It’s a success for lazy cruises in town, on back roads, and it’s not bad on long trips when you don’t mind the buffeting. It’s not the sportiest car, but it’s liveable, for the most part. Unlike the BRZ, this Mustang can be equipped with many appealing features. Our model had heated and vented seats and a fantastic, reconfigurable digital gauge cluster. It’s completely customizable too, not just the layout, but the colors and information can be changed as you see fit.
Fancy and Comfy
The seats are nice and comfortable too with excellent bolstering, and the Mustang is more practical than the BRZ, with 11.4 cubic feet of storage in the trunk. However, the BRZ allows you to fold the rear seats down for extra space, and the Mustang has a pair of plastic pieces to cover the roof when it’s not in use; these always end up floating around in the trunk anyways.
Some will like features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assistance, while others will find them needless and annoying. Fortunately, you don’t have to get a Mustang with these features if you don’t want them.
Is it a pure sports car? Not at all, but for many buyers, all you want is something that’s quick and cool looking, while also capable of handling more road conditions than just the race track. The Mustang does that, but it also does it for a hefty price. As tested with the various options and packages we had, it rang in at $43,645, which is a serious chunk of change. However, you don’t have to get a Mustang Convertible for that much; in fact, you can get a V8 coupe for that much money… Basically, the Mustang’s strength is in its versatility. It can be a sporty muscle car or a comfy drop-top cruiser.
The Verdict: 2018 Subaru BRZ tS vs Ford Mustang Convertible EcoBoost
While crossovers and other appliance-like cars flood our roads, vehicles like the Mustang and BRZ are becoming rare. Full of showmanship, these are far from mere appliances and will make you feel something while on the road, be it a track or an empty riverside boulevard. Take your pick, are you a hardcore enthusiast looking to carve through each corner, or do you prefer the open air approach? For now, there are still choices are here for your style.
2018 Subaru BRZ tS
2018 Ford Mustang Convertible EcoBoost