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2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club vs. 2013 Scion FR-S - A Closer Look




When Jeremy Clarkson presented the Toyota GT-86 (Scion FR-S over here) and Subaru BRZ on Top Gear (Season 19 - Episode 3), he praised them for offering affordable RWD fun. With a balanced lightweight chassis, fuel economy tires (little grip) and RWD, the car offers the same sort of fun you can have in German RWD sports sedans, but with two exceptions - lack of power and a luxury car price tag. It sounds like a good formula but the case changes in North America because the domestics have that area covered - affordable, fun RWD cars and they've even got power to boot so marketing them that way won't work. What's the selling point then? The only advantage cars like the Mazda MX-5 offer over here is lightweight handling.

Motor Trend's comparison of $28k high performance two door cars that they had last year (full post: Comparison: $28K High-Performance Two-Door) used that advantage to choose the winner. I personally would buy the Mustang V6 if I were in the market with that budget. The reasons are: I buy domestic, great heritage and I know what I need to do to get the car where I want it to be. There isn't much that can be done, though, about what I don't like about the MX-5 and the likes; lack of practicality/space and power. I could solve the power issue by going for an engine swap or forced induction but either of which would cost several thousand dollars. Plus, I would have to spend money on modifying the suspension anyway to deal with the extra weight in the front and the power in the back. 


However, I do understand picking one of the lightweight offerings because you can't take a whole lot of weight off the Mustang without stripping the car and even the few weight saving modifications with a full interior will be very expensive and yield little results. When it comes to lightweight handling, these cars excel. That seemed to have been the selling point or clear advantage in all reviews.. until a few days ago.


This comparison (full post: 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club vs. 2013 Scion FR-S) wasn't about the more communicative or more driver oriented car. It was about the more fun to drive car. This left me confused as to why the rest of the cars from the $28k performance car comparison didn't make a reappearance since the comparison criteria has changed, especially these cars' biggest problem and the top performer - the V6 Mustang. 





The problem is that value matters a lot whenever people are buying anything and the V6 Mustang has plenty of that. However, being aimed at a much larger demographic, it has to be toned down and heavier - this is because it has to be more practical (bigger) and, to keep it affordable, use of exotic lightweight materials is not an option. Both the Mustang and the Camaro are expected to lose a couple of hundred pounds or so when the new generations come out which should help a lot but they will still be heavier. The result? The general consensus is that if you want more car - the car that is quicker/better handling, more powerful, more practical, more affordable, or "all of the above", get the Mustang. If you want the more driver oriented car off the showroom floor, get the MX-5 or one of the Toybaru twins (FR-S/GT-86 or BRZ). 


But this one wasn't about the more driver oriented car. It was about the more fun to drive car. The V6 Mustang and other performance cars on the market like the Golf GTI, Focus ST and others offer a lot of fun but they weren't in the comparison. As I read further, I got even more confused. "The roadster exhibited, "lots of body movement, roll, and dive, which isn't what you'd normally call ideal," said Lago, "But for some reason, somehow, it works." Work it does." 


Praising body roll and dive wasn't the end of it though. Later they added: "Even the body roll we first noticed on the figure eight helped make the experience that much more enjoyable for the driver because, as Lago pointed out, it makes the driver feel like they're on the world's driest waterslide." Wait.. body roll made the car much more enjoyable for the driver? Body roll is always a negative in any performance car comparison, whether it's about fun, performance numbers or handling. Body movement kills both fun and performance. In this case, though, body roll was fun, much more fun.. it was like being on a waterside.. Is this an early April fools joke?


I understand and like the lightweight and fun to drive formula for an affordable price. It should have more power though. I don't know if this formula hasn't had more power because it would drive up the cost or the little power is part of the philosophy behind it. Either way, it is what it is and you have to compromise between the heavier but quicker and more powerful options or lighter options. But this comparison and the conclusion just seem to contradict just about every performance car review. Praising body movement? Saying it makes the car much more enjoyable? It almost seems like someone at Motor Trend just wanted the Mazda to win a comparison test but couldn't use the true advantages of the lightweight formula because the Toybaru twins do that better and didn't invite other competitors because they offer more fun.

Source: Motor Trend


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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. This post reminds me of someone who once wrote about a detectable jargon that magazine writers use in order to get a point across subtly, to avoid being left out of manufacturers' inner circles.

    Wonder if what they wrote about the Miata was designed to make one ask questions like that. Like you said, it sounds impossible that anybody would talk about body roll as a positive mention, much less an enhancement of the driving experience!

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