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Old 06-01-2014, 08:51 PM   #1
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Smile Traded my FR-S for a Mustang GT: A cautionary tale

This is a story that unfolded because of threads that exist in this 'vs' section so I thought I would share. It's a bit of a long story, but I think it could help out some owners that might be thinking about moving on to 'greener pastures'. This is a story all about how my FRS got flipped in on a Mustang GT.

I bought my FR-S about a week after launch. I had been following the development religiously since reading about the joint venture between Toyota and Subaru on a Toyota forum many years ago when I was just a young innocent lad. When the car came out I actually didn't even pre order one because I am not a small guy. I've always wanted a Miata or an Elan or any other super light sports car but at 6'7 and 330 lbs it just doesn't happen easily. I expected the twins to be more of the same, but I was pleasantly surprised when I went into a local dealer a few days after launch and they had a black 6AT sitting in the show room... and I fit in it. Immediately I couldn't sleep, I thought of nothing else. Most of you probably know how this story goes. I did everything I could to get one, but it was launch week and I didn't pre-order. I assumed I was waiting for a long time, maybe even a year some dealers said but I didn't give up. I got lucky, the first dealer I visited called me back. They had a cancellation on a whiteout 6mt with the upgraded head unit. Exactly what I was hoping for. I rushed to the dealer to give them a deposit and tried my best to fall asleep for the next 6 days until it arrived. I remember the torture as my awesome sales guy called to say my car was being unloaded off the truck, only to be heartbroken as he told me the dealer closed in an hour and they were not open the next two days. I actually went and looked at my car sitting there in the garage waiting for is delivery inspection. As soon they reopened I was there and at 9 in the morning I drove off into the sunset with the protective cling wrap still on the car.

In her new home ready for a first wash:


The E30's in the background that taught me that a slow light car is faster than a fast heavy car... too bad I forgot that lesson less than a year after this was taken.




I loved it. It was a great car, and it was exactly what I expected. The steering feel and shifter feel are the best I have ever experienced in my history, and I've had the great pleasure of having sampled quite a few cars in my time. The perfect weight of the electric steering amazed me - no one gets electric steering this right, but Subaru and Toyota did.



It was a great year full of many trips and a lot of smiles, but there was a crack forming in my love for my car. It started small, when I would go to overtake someone on the highway or when I would try to leave a stop on a hill without winding the engine up too high. Could it be? the naysayers had a point? 151 ft-lbs wasn't enough torque and 200hp wasn't enough power to make up for it? Naahh, they just don't 'get it'. I ignored it and enjoyed my car, but I did spend a little too much time reading new car tests and checking this vs section. I was quite confident in my choice until one fateful video of Randy Pobst reviewing a Mustang GT against an M3 around Buttonwillow raceway. The Mustang matched the m3's time. I always wanted an e90 m3 but felt the cost just wasn't worth it. Then I started noticing threads on here comparing the FR-S to the mustang v6. So I started watching reviews comparing them. I didn't think Ford could really have made it so good compared to the mid 90's cars I had grown up with. So I still didn't get it but I was starting to.


Fatefully, at around the same time I had some problems with my fr-s. Nothing major, but the timing could not have been worse. Most of them were related to early production issues (the popping rear shelf, the crickets, the idle quality) but some of them were cases of me expecting too much. Things like not loving the buzzy, boomy cabin on long highway drives or touchy clutch that required quite a bit of finesse in heavy traffic. The flywheel rattle at low speeds and the cold start issues. The frozen windows and the worse than expected economy. I also made the car worse by adding a poorly performing intake (which I removed) and then some heavy 18x9.5's with some overly sticky Star specs.

Nice looking wheels, but they definitely were all show. Lesson learned.






Between early production issues, stupid expectations and stupid mods I had made my car worse and was expecting too much from it. All these issues seem so silly now because now I know that almost all new cars have some issue like this. But, I was suddenly very interested in what Ford had done with Mustangs so I called a friend who knew a mechanic at a local Ford dealer and I went and test drove one.


This was one of the last photos I would take of my FR-S, late in the winter.




The funny thing was I was interested in a v6, or possibly a 2-3 year old V8 with the new 5.0. They didn't have any manual v6's on the lot so they put me in a 2011 GT. The power was intoxicating - i giggled like a little kid every time I got into it. The engine in that car was too good for that car, and it seduced me. Then the referal source I had told me they were desperate to sell the new-old-stock 2013's they had sitting on lots, becuase the 2014's were already arriving. Suddenly I was looking at a 25% discount on a brand new fully loaded GT, and they were willing to give me 90% of the msrp of my FR-S on trade in. I was totally drunk on the deal, and a week after I had starting consdering maybe moving on to a v6, I was taking dlievery of a 2013 GT with the GT Track Pack. I left them the keys to my FR-S and didn't look back as I drove away. Even the service staff at the dealer thought I was nuts, they loved my FR-S. That should have told me something.


The day it came home




At first it was love. Her raw power and retro interior combined to give the car quite a spirit... it has character, that car. It could be a movie star.




For a while I was quite happy with my choice.

People would say to me; "YOU TRADED IN WHAT?" and I would laugh because the twins are so highly regarded as the second coming of the sports car but no one I knew actually owned or wanted one, they just loved that they were out there and other people owned them. They didn't understand that I could trade in a special car for a run of the mill muscle car. I would counter by saying the Mustang could keep up with an M3 around a road course (true) and that it was really more of a sports car now (not so true) and that it was more practical (slightly more room inside, but narrower trunk opening and the seats don't fold totally flat, so this is partly true) and I even was naive enough to believe the sticker for fuel economy and told people things like 'economy is barely worse than the fr-s!' (definitely not true).

It took about 3 months until I couldn't stand the wallowing loose character of the suspension. Even with the upgraded track pack the springs are very soft and the body roll is very dramatic. The car will post the numbers but it's very dramatic about it and that leads to a feeling like you're not really in control. It's also got the worst brake dive i've ever experienced. Other than that it was a fun car in corners with stick factory Pirelli's and stiff anti roll bars. Ford truly has turned that live rear axle into quite the impressive piece of design. It really only felt bad in the ride quality department, and over rough pothole strewn roads.

So, I ordered up a set of Airlift performance Air suspension. A bit of an oddball choice, but there is a rising trend in performance tuned air suspension so I wanted to see what the fuss was about. It also had the benefit of removing the extremely 4x4 ride height of the stock car, something no standard static suspension can do.

Before:



After:








The car was dramatically transformed. Zero body roll, only slightly stiffer than stock and the ability to hard park with the best of them. I don't regret that suspension at all. It renewed my interest in the car, and for a long time I was totally happy.

But once agian, cracks started to form. I mentioned earlier that the Coyote 5.0 v8 is a great engine, too good for the car. To me that means that the rest of the car is at a lower level of driver involvement, driver pleasure. It's all secondary to that beast. The brakes are vague but powerful, the steering is heavy in sport mode and too light in normal mode. The shifter is clunky and grinds at low RPM. The entire car is compromised around that beast, to deal with that power without killing you and to be honest you don't care. It's a bit like saying the occupants of a tank have their comfort compromised to fit the main gun, but you would still have a huge grin on your face if someone gave you the keys and told you to have fun. The problem is the novelty of having a weapons grade bomb under your right foot wears off. It's made worse by the realities of city life. If you enjoy that engine at full throttle for more than 4 or 5 seconds you're looking at your car impounded and you bank account drained to pay fines. If you're like me and you wont' track a car you're still making payments on then power that good is wasted.

So eventually all you're left with is a car that is good, but would be better if it didn't have to contain the beast under the hood, which you can't use on the street without looking over your shoulders.

So, here I am a year later, unhappy with the beast in my driveway. I miss having a simple, light drivers car with great controls and a low powered engine. I miss being able to actually drive a car hard without worrying about being arrested. So, now i'm looking at trading this car back in on a twin. I don't know why I didn't just make my FR-S a bit faster and a bit less stupid, but I can honestly say that there is precious little else out there for reasonable money that is such a pure driving machine. The Mustang is a great car for what it is, and Ford is doing a good job but it is not a drivers car. It's a mass market weekend pleasurer with a fantastic engine.

I caution anyone who is considering a trade in to know that you are stepping away from one of the purest drivers cars, at any price.

Thanks for reading.


P.s. I'm thinking about going for a sport-tech BRZ, and I'm trying ti find out if there have been any changes for the 2014 model years. I see the changes for 2015 for the FR-S, they don't interest me. Other than avoiding early production issues, I wanted to know if there is any reason to pick a 2014 over a late production 2013?

Last edited by Reason; 04-19-2017 at 08:21 PM.
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Old 06-01-2014, 09:04 PM   #2
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Great read. I was contemplating the exact swap. I love the 5.0 Mustang. I just had this feeling that I would miss the FRS. Therefore I am keeping her as long as I can. Let us know what you end up with. Welcome back, I guess...
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Old 06-01-2014, 09:13 PM   #3
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Differences from 2013 to 2014 are... inexistant. Mostly tweaks, nothing you might notice if you don't look for them. 2015s have a few new nooks and crannies (default sharkfin, revised suspension bolts and struts, new colors, nothing earth shattering or that changes the car dramatically). The 2014 is basically a later produced 2013. Less off-the-lot issues, pretty much.

At this point, it's your choice on newer but sticker price or 2014 and better price.

Either way, whenever you come back, we'll welcome you once again
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Old 06-01-2014, 09:30 PM   #4
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Great write-up of your experience. I got that same marshmallow feel when I test-drove a 5.0 GT. Incredible engine, but the chassis is just too heavy and the soft suspension does not help, nor does the lack of steering feel. It will put up good objective handling numbers (probably due to track pack tires), but will not inspire confidence or connection with the driver. The V6 was supposed to be better, but I rented one of those for a weekend and was also disappointed.

The comment on power is also spot-on for me. I owned a 310hp Boxster S and would run up the gears just to hear the great engine note. The problem is, I'd look down and see I was cresting well over 100 mph. It's fun, but not worth a suspended license or possible jail time.

With the FR-S, you can appropriately go WOT in certain situations like passing on the highway (even downshifting 2-3 gears, if you want) and not worry about losing your license. It's an old adage, but it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
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Old 06-01-2014, 09:52 PM   #5
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Talking

That's why instead of an M3 I got a Boss 302 AND a BRZ Limited.

The only things I did to my 302 are fluids and the MGW shifter. I haven't driven a GT with Track Pack in a track environment but the Boss suspension settles quickly without affair. I had a very fast friend who's used to Miatas drive my car in an autocross and he posted some very fast numbers. Goes to show if you can drive a Miata fast you can drive anything fast! I think the biggest hurdle for a newb track driver is that if you go deep into a corner and brake too abruptly the chassis will take considerably longer to settle (the BRZ/a Miata will do the same to a lesser degree) due to weight. I think at the end of the day the involvement in the Boss is pretty good though not quite BRZ/Miata/S2K) levels. If anything the driving position/seat height of the Mustang platform could be much better. Hopefully the upcoming S550 platform addresses this issue.

The things I prefer in my Boss are (surprise!) the superior sound deadening on a longer trip (this may be a factor of just being a larger car) and man I love those Recaro seats. I'm 5'9" and 175 lbs but they hold me so much better than the BRZ seats while also being much more comfortable. From a driving perspective of course it's the ease of torque steer. It only took one event to learn torque steer properly since the power is so accessible. And of course the sound with the trackey and lopey idle, haha. Hard to beat that sound of an American V8 winding to 7500 RPMs.

Good writeup!
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Old 06-01-2014, 09:52 PM   #6
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That's unfortunate. I originally felt that way when I traded in my NC MX-5 for the BRZ. But I've grown to love my BRZ more than, if not equal to my old NC. The BRZ is the better car stock for stock, and the added practicality makes it that much better.

My NC was SCCA STR specced, so the limits have been raised to incredibly high levels. I was able to corner at speeds that would land me in jail if caught. With the BRZ, I'm perfectly fine keeping it almost stock. I do plan on putting in a couple of carefully selected mods that fit well within SCCA's Street Class. But it'll be a street car with the ability to carve canyons and win(hopefully) autocrosses.

I will say that the BRZ has made me a better driver. It's such an easy car to drive. The NC was also easy to drive, but the short wheelbase made it a little tricky at the limits.

The only car I'd trade my BRZ for is the new Cayman. Which was the benchmark for the Twins(well, the older generation Caymans anyway). And I'd go for a 6MT GTS with the torque vectoring and sport suspension as the only options. Even then, it would be very hard for me to part with this car. So I'll probably end up keeping it.
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Old 06-01-2014, 10:16 PM   #7
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I owned a Mustang GT for about 2 months. I, like you, was suckered in by the promise of HP and a V8 exhaust note. For the first couple of weeks I was loving it, then as I began to wring it out a little I was not quite as impressed. The suspension may put down great times on a track but it felt terrible, it was harsh as hell on the back roads and had lots of dive and squat and roll there and everywhere else.

I think the final straw was the shifter. Initially it felt like a short, tight, precision shifter, but as I began driving it more, occasionally running it through the paces, I noticed it wasn't very consistent. Sometimes I'd get blocked out of 2nd, especially if I shifted at redline. 3rd gear didn't seem to be where it was supposed to be sometimes, too.

At this point I felt like, the car did nothing well. I traded that POS in on a 370Z, which is what I traded in on the Mustang. Even though the 370Z shifter isn't great, they at least always work consistently.
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Old 06-01-2014, 10:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Davey View Post
I owned a Mustang GT for about 2 months. I, like you, was suckered in by the promise of HP and a V8 exhaust note. For the first couple of weeks I was loving it, then as I began to wring it out a little I was not quite as impressed. The suspension may put down great times on a track but it felt terrible, it was harsh as hell on the back roads and had lots of dive and squat and roll there and everywhere else.

I think the final straw was the shifter. Initially it felt like a short, tight, precision shifter, but as I began driving it more, occasionally running it through the paces, I noticed it wasn't very consistent. Sometimes I'd get blocked out of 2nd, especially if I shifted at redline. 3rd gear didn't seem to be where it was supposed to be sometimes, too.

At this point I felt like, the car did nothing well. I traded that POS in on a 370Z, which is what I traded in on the Mustang. Even though the 370Z shifter isn't great, they at least always work consistently.
Yeah, I had those issues too. I didn't mention it but i've spent a lot of effort on improving the shift feel, trying to return what the FR-S had. Whiteline shift bushing, different shifters and different weight of knobs. It's better, but I still get locked out of 3rd sometimes and it can still grind when shifting quick. It's also a joke when cold...


Quote:
Originally Posted by fduboss302 View Post
That's why instead of an M3 I got a Boss 302 AND a BRZ Limited.

The only things I did to my 302 are fluids and the MGW shifter. I haven't driven a GT with Track Pack in a track environment but the Boss suspension settles quickly without affair. I had a very fast friend who's used to Miatas drive my car in an autocross and he posted some very fast numbers. Goes to show if you can drive a Miata fast you can drive anything fast! I think the biggest hurdle for a newb track driver is that if you go deep into a corner and brake too abruptly the chassis will take considerably longer to settle (the BRZ/a Miata will do the same to a lesser degree) due to weight. I think at the end of the day the involvement in the Boss is pretty good though not quite BRZ/Miata/S2K) levels. If anything the driving position/seat height of the Mustang platform could be much better. Hopefully the upcoming S550 platform addresses this issue.

The things I prefer in my Boss are (surprise!) the superior sound deadening on a longer trip (this may be a factor of just being a larger car) and man I love those Recaro seats. I'm 5'9" and 175 lbs but they hold me so much better than the BRZ seats while also being much more comfortable. From a driving perspective of course it's the ease of torque steer. It only took one event to learn torque steer properly since the power is so accessible. And of course the sound with the trackey and lopey idle, haha. Hard to beat that sound of an American V8 winding to 7500 RPMs.

Good writeup!
The things you love about your Boss are the things I love about my car. Even with the 3.73 gears it's a fantastic long distance cruiser. I also have the optional leather Recaros and they are hands down the best seats in any car I've owned, but I would rate the FR-S a close second. You're also touching on another point - the ergonomics of the FR-S/BRZ are totally driver oriented, whereas in the Mustang I could easily be behind the wheel of an explorer or f150.

I've been closely watching the development of the s550, but with the recent news of massive weight gain (unconfirmed 200-300 lb gain) I doubt it will work out. I am still going to wait for ford to announce their specs (hopefully not going to take too long ... ) just in case the rumours are false. I do like the idea of the mid range turbo model if it is 100lbs lighter than my GT and makes something like 330 ft-lbs then maybe I"ll find myself staying behind the Blue Oval.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkSunrise View Post
Great write-up of your experience. I got that same marshmallow feel when I test-drove a 5.0 GT. Incredible engine, but the chassis is just too heavy and the soft suspension does not help, nor does the lack of steering feel. It will put up good objective handling numbers (probably due to track pack tires), but will not inspire confidence or connection with the driver. The V6 was supposed to be better, but I rented one of those for a weekend and was also disappointed.

The comment on power is also spot-on for me. I owned a 310hp Boxster S and would run up the gears just to hear the great engine note. The problem is, I'd look down and see I was cresting well over 100 mph. It's fun, but not worth a suspended license or possible jail time.

With the FR-S, you can appropriately go WOT in certain situations like passing on the highway (even downshifting 2-3 gears, if you want) and not worry about losing your license. It's an old adage, but it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
You definitely seem to get what i'm getting at here. It's a great car but it's less like you're in control and more that you're along for the ride, and when you do step on it enough to make yourself giggle there is a heavy burden of guilt and potential fines that comes with it, so eventually you just stop doing it.

I have been repeating that saying to myself a lot the last few days as I considered this potential retracing of my past automotive steps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mad1723 View Post
Differences from 2013 to 2014 are... inexistant. Mostly tweaks, nothing you might notice if you don't look for them. 2015s have a few new nooks and crannies (default sharkfin, revised suspension bolts and struts, new colors, nothing earth shattering or that changes the car dramatically). The 2014 is basically a later produced 2013. Less off-the-lot issues, pretty much.

At this point, it's your choice on newer but sticker price or 2014 and better price.

Either way, whenever you come back, we'll welcome you once again
Thank you so much for the info. I guess I was having a hard time finding details because... there wasn't any to find haha.

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Originally Posted by AVodka14 View Post
Great read. I was contemplating the exact swap. I love the 5.0 Mustang. I just had this feeling that I would miss the FRS. Therefore I am keeping her as long as I can. Let us know what you end up with. Welcome back, I guess...
Everyone likes different things, but for me the trade in was not something I would do again and I would advise against it. The other factor to consider is that Ford sells millions of Mustangs, so in a couple years times the 2011 GT 5.0 will be a hell of a second hand bargin due to depreciation.
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Old 06-01-2014, 11:16 PM   #9
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You definitely seem to get what i'm getting at here. It's a great car but it's less like you're in control and more that you're along for the ride, and when you do step on it enough to make yourself giggle there is a heavy burden of guilt and potential fines that comes with it, so eventually you just stop doing it.
These big engine cars are not that much more fun to cruise around in, and in all honestly, I'm starting to have a hard time finding where to fit the 348hp on my Gen Coupe.

Seeing how throttle happy I was with the twins, it's burdening to the point of frustration to have to baby the thing during half hour commutes.
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Old 06-01-2014, 11:20 PM   #10
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Familiar story that's bound to be experienced over and over. There's not one thing about this car that's really special on its own but all together it's a damn fine package. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately people fixate on specific aspects and begin to lose perspective of the overall car. I have noticed that most of us who own another performance focused car as well as a twin seem to appreciate the contrast.
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Old 06-01-2014, 11:41 PM   #11
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I had a mustang once... never again will I oun a POS like that... The car was fun for the first 4K miles ( I was 17 at the time, who didn't love having a big V8) This was back in 07. Car had a tendency to lock 2nd gear on redline shifts, bought a MGW shifter for it and it made it worse...

This car was nothing but problems, most of the miles where racked up having to drive 60 miles to the stealership. It sucked at everything but going decently fast in a straight line... and even that was bad if you hit uneven roads... the rear end would just come loose and you'd feel like you have no control over the car.

Switched it for a 7 yr old BMW 530i and never regretted it. Still have that car today, though it needs a lot of TLC, like any 12yr old car would.
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luis_GT View Post
This car was nothing but problems, if you hit uneven roads... the rear end would just come loose and you'd feel like you have no control over the car.
Lol
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Old 06-02-2014, 07:18 AM   #13
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For road use, fast cars are overrated. Light, "slow," and moderately grippy is the way to go.
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Old 06-02-2014, 11:07 AM   #14
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A full bolt on 86 is pretty damn close to perfection for my taste.. after this summer, I will be only a catback away form full boltons, and will be likely looking for mild weight reduction as final mods... stuff like dirveshaft, pulleys and wheels. 200 whp and something around 2650 lbs is an achievable objective. (at that point power to weight ratio is virtually identical to a mustang v6, assuming 200whp translates into 230 bhp [11.52 lbs per hp vs 11.47 in the mustang])
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