Here on Flux Auto we cover a lot of high performance cars from Detroit’s Big 3 that have caused many people to say that the new Golden Age of Muscle Cars is here. While that may be true, advances in automotive engineering have benefited all genres of performance cars. One of the most popular segments among enthusiasts are the Hot Hatches thanks to their strong combination of fun, practicality and low cost of owning and operating. We could even say that we might be approaching a new Golden Age for the Hot Hatch with the recent focus on high tech turbocharged engines, lightweight and optimized interior space thanks to slow economies all around the world. It could also be said that it’s a new Golden Age of Hot Hatches simply because there is a viable alternative to the perennial king of the genre, the Volkswagen GTi. Carlos Lago puts the new 2.0 liter turbocharged Ford Focus ST up against the top of the line VW Golf R. Ford has really raised the bar for front wheel drive chassis balance in the ST which brings us to another Golden Age that we’re in and the funky title to this video.
As it turns out, the Volkswagen has an intrusive stability control system that can’t be turned off. There’s no getting around the the system slowing the car down as you try to find its limits. That’s right folks, we are in the Golden Age of electronic nannies in cars. Instead of learning how to be better drivers, the world has demanded that automakers add complex electronic systems to cars in attempt to make them idiotproof. Well don’t worry because Carlos thought of a way to keep the otherwise interesting comparison going. The Volkswagen Golf R gets substituted out for Motor Trend’s long-term test Subaru BRZ for the track driving portion. Randy Pobst takes them both around the Horse Thief Mile at Willow Springs to see how they perform at their limits. The BRZ and the Focus ST are actually pretty close in price which makes this a relevant power vs. balance comparison for weekend warriors shopping for entry level performance cars.
I’ll wrap up this year’s coverage of 86 Day with this pit walk video from Fuji Speedway. It starts off in the parking lot and then winds through all of the vendors that were present. It seems the Toyota GT-86 / Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ has already been well embraced by the Japanese aftermarket tuners. There’s a couple of N2 cars from Crystal Body Yokohama and Tec-Arts and D1 FT-86’s from Up Garage and HKS.
A friend of mine picked up one of the first Subaru BRZ’s in North Carolina last month and he was gracious enough to let me tag along and drive it for a few minutes. This won’t be a complete in-depth review because I wasn’t about to flog my friend’s brand new car. If you’re trying to find out about at-the-limit performance characteristics, read/watch one of the professional media reviews where they beat on a nameless press car. There are plenty of them here on this blog. I’ll be talking more about the philosophy and execution of the car and what kind of buyers it’ll be suited for. The Scion FRS/Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT-86 is supposed to be the spiritual successor of the Toyota AE86 (Corolla GT-S Sport RWD here in the US) which I’ve owned one for the last 10 years, so we’ll see if both cars are cut from the same cloth. Hopefully Subaru/Toyota did a great job of modernizing a cult classic. Continue reading →
These guys actually get what makes the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT-86 special. Just about every other review of the cars are too vague. Yes, the car handles well and is balanced, but it goes beyond that. The way the car handles, thanks to the low center of gravity of the boxer engine, could almost be described as fundamentally different from all other FR cars with pistons that move vertically. I’m going to describe it in much more detail in my review of my friend’s BRZ that should go live later this week, but for now listen to what these guys are saying about how the cars handle. They notice a lot of the unique sensations that everybody else missed in their reviews. It’s also the best run down of how the different suspension tuning philosophies for the Scion and Subaru translate on track that I’ve seen so far.
The Toyota FT-86 (aka the Toyota GT-86, Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ) has three stages of Vehicle Stability Control: on, sport and off. These guys get to try out all of the settings on the skid pad at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The facility has a water barrier slalom similar to the one they have at the Porsche Experience Center. Thankfully the three settings are all quite different and will be pretty useful.