Subaru BRZ VS Ford Mustang
- Terrific (updated) chassis
- Improved interior
- Good value
- Engine sometimes a bit loud
- People who say it needs more power
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- V8 noise
- Better interior
- Adaptive dampers
- Four-cylinder noise
- Still a poor safety score
- Prices are up
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2017 Subaru BRZ with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Subaru's BRZ is a bit of an oddity - it's as good a car as its Toyota twin, but there aren't that many around. There's bound to be corners of the internet that swear blind it's completely different under the skin to the 86, but it really isn't. And that's okay, because the BRZ is a good car because the 86 is.
Thing is, there's a ton of detail differences both inside and out and that might be enough to sway you to order the BRZ online through the Subaru website (yep, they're still doing that) rather than heading to your local Toyota emporium. Before you go, though, you might like to know what the recent mild refresh of both cars has meant to the Subaru.
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The Ford Mustang 2018 model is more than just a facelift, this is a comprehensive rework of the brand’s iconic muscle car.
There are big changes outside and in, but the most important ones are to the way the 2018 Ford Mustang drives.
More than just brawn - although there’s plenty of that - this updated Pony Car has a bit more brain about it, too.
We drove the new models in Nice, France, ahead of the Australian launch of the updated Mustang this month.
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Everything in the cabin works, nothing is overdone and it feels dependable and unburstable. You can attack that same set of corners time after time, wet, dry or indifferent and you'll know exactly what's going to happen. The car encourages and rewards consistency, the much-maligned power 'deficit' working for the driver rather than against the driving experience.
Yes, it's a bit noisy and yes, as soon as you've parked up in the sun and turned off the engine it starts heating up immediately. More insulation means more weight and a certain amount of disconnection from the car that wouldn't suit its character. You'll live. The new BRZ is a better car than the old, with a better interior, better chassis and it might just be better value than its Toyota counterpart.
Toyota or Subaru? Or Fiat or Mazda? Let the debate begin (in the comments section below).
The Ford Mustang 2018 update is a substantial one - it’s a marked improvement on a car that needed some attention here and there. It’s more fun, more adept and more muscular a muscle car as a result of the changes. If you’re already a Mustang owner and you’re wondering if the update is worth considering, the answer is ‘yes’.
If it were my money, I’d choose the V8 auto coupe because, when it comes to this sort of car, it’s the bodybuilder of the bunch.
Would you choose a V8 over a turbocharged four-cylinder? Let us know in the comments section below.
The BRZ's relationship to the 86 is blatantly obvious, but there are enough styling differences to allow the average punter to tell the two apart. The 17-inch wheels are a good start (and the vibrant blue, if you pick it, is reminiscent of Subaru's nineties WRC blue cars), the front and rear bumpers are different and some of the external trim pieces are blacked out, like the blank vents ahead of the driver's door.
The BRZ also has Subaru signature shaped LED daytime running lights which are a hook rather than the Toyota's eyebrow-of-light.
Inside is basically the same, right down to the wheel, with just Subaru badges to distinguish the BRZ and Subaru graphics in the dashboard's start-up animation. The cabin has steadily improved over the years, with less scratchy plastics and better-fitting trim pieces. The gentle arch over the air-con vents still looks like it doesn't fit properly though.
The new dash pack is a huge improvement. It still has the worst analogue speedometer fitted to a car - it's cramped and unreadable - but the tacho now has a BMW-style info screen cut into it, with big, easy to read digital speed readout. No excuse for speeding fines now, officer. The right hand dial space is now taken up with another digital screen with various info options including power and torque graphs and a stopwatch. The graphics are very easy on the eye, too, not dodgy low-res '80s-style LCD figures that you still find on some Mazdas (for example).
If I had to make a remark about the updated Mustang’s design, it would be that it doesn’t quite look as American any more. That could be good or bad, depending on where your loyalties lie.
The slimmer, broader-looking headlights and the revised front bumper, grille and bonnet all work together to give it a more substantial presence on the road if you’re looking at in your rearview mirror.
Obviously the roofline has remained the same, and the rear end has seen revised LED tail-lights, plus the V8 now has quad exhausts, the EcoBoost now has twin exhausts, and both now get a black diffuser rather than a colour-coded one. The GT model’s wheels remain the same as before - standard issue mesh multi spokes are fitted in 19-inch diameter across the line-up.
There is no doubting that this still looks muscly enough to be considered a muscle car, but the subtle styling changes outside are enough to push it more towards what we’ve come to expect of a modern-day sports car, too. It looks more European, and that’ll either float your boat, or it won’t.
Inside there are some design changes, too. The most important one being the 12.0-inch digital dashboard cluster in front of the driver, which is lovely to look at, offers excellent functionality, and really lifts the ambience of the cabin.
Some of the materials have been tweaked inside, and it feels more plush than it did before - anyone who drove the pre-update Mustang will know that the cabin was a bit low rent, and while this update sees a good stride towards it being better, it’s still not a penthouse apartment inside.
For two people, the BRZ is not bad. Despite a long drop to very comfortable seats, you've plenty of head and leg room, two each of bottle holders and cupholders (although bigger cups will cop an elbow during gear shifts) and if you lift out the cupholder/phone holder, you have a long shallow tray for other bits. A small slot under the climate controls could be used for the key if you like losing it.
The rear seats are hopeless, with a falling roofline, head-to-glass interface for the passengers and virtually no headroom at all. There's a pair of baby seat anchors for those who just can't give up the BRZ.
Boot space is a distinctly weedy 218 litres, the floor suffering from bootus interruptus where the full-size spare has been placed in the middle. Thoughtfully, it has been installed face down so the inside of the wheel acts as a fairly handy shopping bag restraint. You can flop the rear seats (snigger) forward to slot in a suitcase or two if you so desire. Or four wheels and tyres, as per its amateur trackday intentions.
Even so, there is reasonably good usability on offer… at least for those in the front seats. The front features decent door-pocket storage, a pair of cupholders, a covered centre console bin, and a reasonable glovebox - but there’s not much loose-item storage for easy access to phones, wallets and the like.
There are elements to the cabin that just don’t make sense, like the monodirectional toggles for the drive mode and steering mode controls - why can’t you flick them up and down? It’s a silly and frustrating, oversight.
It’s simpler if you don’t think of the Mustang as a four-seater. Technically that’s what it is, but even toddlers or young children would be cramped back there, with limited head, knee and toe room, and no storage to speak of whatsoever. There are ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and top-tether points as well, if you want to try driving your kids around in one (perhaps you don't like them).
At the very least, those back seats fold down if you want to make it a two-seater with a massive boot space. Even without them folded, the boot capacity is good: it has 408 litres of luggage volume.
Price and features
The BRZ is priced at $32,990, a price cut of $1230 over the MY16 car. You save more if you go for an automatic, which is now $34,990, a price cut of $1735. But seriously, an automatic sports car?
The BRZ arrives from the internet (that's how it works, yeah?) with 17-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, a new 7.0-inch touchscreen for the six speaker stereo head unit, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, cruise control, LED fog lights, leather shifter and steering wheel, cloth trim, limited slip diff, power windows and mirrors and a full-size spare.
You can choose from seven colours, and all of them are no-cost options (hooray!). You can also add the Premium Pack which covers the seats in leather and Alcantara and adds heating.
The six-speaker stereo is run from a Subaru-branded 7.0-inch touchscreen, with the most basic interface imaginable and no sat nav. Irritatingly, despite it being far better than its predecessor and infinitely better than the Toyota head unit, the simple inclusion of CarPlay and Android Auto has been missed. That kind of thing adds to the value proposition and just isn't hard. The sound is fine and the interface finicky-but-useable, but I guess many buyers rip it out and replace it with something fully sick/hectic/ill.
By comparison, the 86 is $30,790, has smaller wheels, single-zone air-con and a genuinely terrible stereo head unit. And if you don't want red, you have to pay $450 for a different colour. So the pricing of the BRZ does include more stuff as well as exclusivity - the arrangement with Toyota apparently restricts sales of the Subaru to a tenth of 86 sales.
The 2018 Ford Mustang range sees a bump in pricing across all models in the range. Here’s a rundown on the price list for the model line-up.
The EcoBoost four-cylinder coupe with the six-speed manual still starts below $50k - just. The list price is $49,990 plus on-road costs. The 10-speed automatic version of the coupe lists at $52,990. That price is up $4000 on its predecessor.
The four-cylinder convertible models bring a fairly sizeable premium, with the 10-speed automatic version listed at $59,490. There’s no manual soft-top available. That price represents at $4500 jump on the pre-facelift model.
The V8-powered GT coupe with a six-speed manual transmission lists at $62,990, while the 10-speed automatic version comes in at $66,259. Those prices represent $5500 and $6639 jumps, respectively.
The Mustang GT convertible 10-speed auto is listed at $74,709 - a huge $8793 lift over the existing model.
Across the board, Ford is justifying the increases with big additions to the standard equipment list.
The biggest update is the addition of a fully digital instrument cluster - a 12.0-inch screen with configurable layouts and displays, which is a standard-fit item across the board. Still offered is Ford’s 8.0-inch Sync 3 media screen with sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology, and there’s now a 12-speaker Shaker audio system, too - the pre-facelift model had a nine-speaker stereo.
All models sold in Australia will also be offered as standard with a new adjustable sports exhaust system, which includes a quiet-start function so you don’t annoy the neighbours (and who doesn't think of Mustang buyers as kind, considerate types?). The loudness is adjustable depending on which drive mode you select - Normal, Sport+, Track, Drag Race, Snow/Wet and My Mode, the latter of which is a customisable setting, also new to Mustang. The steering can still be configured in Comfort, Normal and Sport settings.
Visually separating the two models are different wheel designs, but all Mustang models come with auto headlights, auto wipers, keyless entry and push-button start, new LED headlights, heated seats and a heated steering wheel (which is new to the Mustang - the heated seats aren’t). Recaro seats are optional on the GT only ($3000).
There’s an array of active safety kit added across the range, too - read about that in the safety section below.
There are some key optional extras that buyers can choose from. A set of OTT (yes, it stands for ‘Over The Top’) stripes can be had in black on any model ($650), or white on the Fastback only ($650) There’s also a rear spoiler for the Fastback ($750), and Recaro leather seats ($3000).
The EcoBoost model can be had with 19-inch Lustre Nickel alloy wheels ($500), while GT buyers have the option of 19-inch forged alloys ($2500).
All models can be equipped with the MagneRide adaptive suspension system at a cost of $2750.
As for colours, there are a few to choose from, including the new hero colour, Orange Fury, plus Kona Blue, Lightning Blue, Magnetic grey, Race Red, Royal Crimson (dark red), Triple Yellow and plainer options like white and black.
Engine & trans
The gravelly Subaru 'flat' four remains unassisted by turbos or superchargers, but has had a small hike in power to 152kW (+5kW) and 212Nm (+7Nm). The 0-100km/h time is still a handy if not blistering 7.4 seconds for the 1282kg rear-driver.
Power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual.
There have been power and torque increases across both the four-cylinder turbo and V8 naturally aspirated engines.
The 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo EcoBoost engine now produces 224kW of power (down from 233kW - apparently due to a new way of calculating the peak power output!) at 5400rpm, but torque is bumped to 441Nm at 3000rpm (it was 432Nm). It is rear-wheel drive, as you’d expect, and it has the option of a six-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The 5.0-litre V8 engine has seen power and torque bumps, too. It now produces 336kW of power at 7000rpm (up from 306kW), and torque is rated at 556Nm at 4600rpm (previously 530Nm).
The extra power is good, no doubt about it. But the extra noise of the V8 is what was most enticing about it. More on that below.
Mustang models sold with the 2.3-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo model are more efficient, as you’d expect. The six-speed manual coupe is claimed to use 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the 10-speed auto coupe model has a claimed consumption of 9.5L/100km.
The convertible version with the EcoBoost uses 9.5L/100km with the standard 10-speed auto.
As for the V8 coupe, the six-speed manual uses a claimed 13.0L/100km, while the 10-speed auto helps drop consumption to 12.7L/100km. The V8 auto convertible claims an identical figure as the fastback: 12.7L/100km.
Even just starting the BRZ, you know you're in something special. It's because you're sitting low, peering out of the windscreen over what feels like a wide, low bonnet (low, yes, wide, not really). The BRZ always looks bigger than it is in photos and when you sit in it, you're instantly reminded that it's tiny. You're below the window line of most SUVs, even a Mazda CX-3 or our long-term Honda HR-V towers over it (the BRZ's total height is just 1320mm, the HR-V 1605mm).
The long gear shifter slots easily into first and the initially snatchy-feeling clutch gets you moving without needing too many revs. Turning a corner for the first time in a BRZ feels like the first time I turned the wheel in a Peugeot 205 - instant, predictable response, the promise of plenty of fun.
And it really is. There's an identifiable bounce to the suspension, like a Mini, that's attributable to the short travel on the springs and dampers. You soon discover it takes very little for the rear tyres to chirp when you punt it out of a corner. It's all still the same - low grip, quick change of direction, fun times.
The shell of the coupe was recently given a few minor tweaks to improve things, mostly at the back. There are more spot-welds for more rigidity which in turn meant tweaks to the springs, dampers and sway bar. All of this adds up to a transformed driving experience.
Actually, no it doesn't. That's what's great about this update. Current owners will notice the difference, as did I, but it's subtle. The rear feels tauter, you can't detect as much (or any, really) flex at the back which was minimal anyway. It just feels tighter, but you can still swing the tail out in the same way as before.
The joy of this car is the lightness and the feel, much like its compatriot, the MX-5. With wonderfully direct and subtly assisted steering, this is a car that revels in its purity. It's old-fashioned in a good way - you have to work the engine and gearbox when you're out having fun. You'll be having that fun at low speeds, too, leaving your brain plenty of time to make decisions. The new Track mode loosens the reigns a bit and the engine's software has been re-mapped for better response.
I spent the most time in the V8 model, and it wasn't so much the extra power and torque that was noticeable, as the extra noise. If you were blindfolded and sat in the new Mustang, you might think you’re sitting in a ‘70s yank tank - there’s a delightful burble at idle (a little more pronounced in the auto) and it gets even better the faster you go.
In fact, the 10-speed auto V8 was the standout vehicle I drove. The logic of the transmission is brilliant - if you suddenly stab the throttle the auto will downshift three or four gears in the blink of an eye - and I mean that literally, because you can barely perceive it via the display on the driver information screen; it happens that fast.
The shifts aren’t always smooth - there can be a perceptible thunk through the cabin at times - and while that may not be the most refined experience, it’s actually pretty rewarding as a driver to get that sort of feel-able feedback.
The manual version of the V8 feels more relaxed - I’d even go as far as to suggest it’s a bit lazy. The auto just does a better job of making use of the grunt on offer.
The multi-mode sports exhaust - with Quiet, Normal, Sport and Race Track settings - was a set-and-forget feature on my test. It was in Sport, because - while there might be a perceptible difference on a track - it was identical in ‘regular’ driving.
Another new addition helped transform the drive experience - the MagneRide adaptive dampers. They may be optional on all models, but it seems that if you want a muscle car that handles corners and bumps adeptly, it’d be money well spent.
The magnetic ride control system can adjust each corner up to 1000 times per second, and while you’d have to be some kind of superhero to perceive that, there is no denying that the system does a terrific job of isolating cabin occupants from rough surfaces below, while also helping the Mustang corner with more sporting intent than I remember the previous one possessing.
The steering is trustworthy, with good feel and a nice linear and progressive sensation to it when you’re changing direction. The Mustang does have a big turning circle, though, so making tight moves in parking spots can be a bit of a task.
I also had a drive of the EcoBoost engine and its new 10-speed auto, and found it felt more tense and eager to please than the V8, particularly the V8 manual. It’s noticeably lighter at the front end, meaning it feels more keen for hard driving in corners.
Try as it might, though, the four-cylinder simply can’t match the V8 for fitting the image of the Mustang. It is good to drive, but it just doesn’t sound as good, or as Mustang, and therefore doesn’t make you feel as good as the V8 model does.
Standard safety inclusions run to eight airbags (including knee bags), ABS, stability and traction controls, and brake assist.
The BRZ scored five ANCAP stars in July 2012, the maximum available. It was tested under the niche vehicle policy, which means the manufacturer conducted the test, with ANCAP supervision and approved test facilities.
This is a difficult section to score, because the updated Mustang has a lot of safety equipment, but it falls short on the ANCAP crash test score. It was tested by Euro NCAP in 2017, and managed a lowly three stars, due to poor crash protection for occupants.
At the very least, that’s a step up on the pre-facelift model, which scored just two stars in ANCAP testing in 2017. ANCAP has announced the updated Mustang achieves the same three-star score as Europe (from December 2017 production).
Despite that, the 2018 Mustang comes fitted with a lengthy list of safety gear, including dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags (no curtains on the convertible model). Plus there’s a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam headlights and auto wipers.
So, with all the gear, 6/10 seems harsh. But if you have a crash, the Mustang has been deemed to be less safe for occupants than other cars out there, so it’s a justifiable score.
Subaru offers a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with the first 12 months joined by roadside assist.
Service intervals are nine months or 15,000km. A three-year service plan is available for $898 and covers the first three years or 60,000km of servicing and covers you with roadside assist for the duration, a loan car and all the usual guarantees. The plan seems to cover everything, so three years for $300 per annum is reasonable.
Ford has recently introduced a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, applicable to all vehicles purchased from May 1, 2018. That’s a nice touch from the brand, which needs to appeal to customers now more than ever.
As with most Ford products, the Mustang has service intervals every 12 months/15,000km, and the company has a capped-price service plan applicable for the life of its cars. Prices can be found on the company’s website, but to give you an idea, the average cost per year for the first five years if you stick within the 15,000km interval bracket works out to $372 for the four-cylinder and $477 for the V8.
If you’re worried about Mustang problems - be it questions over reliability, engine problems, transmission problems or general issues - be sure to check our Ford Mustang problems page.