I've driven the 'stang, FR-S, and BRZ; the Elio
isn't due for production until next year, and there are issues that Elio is working out (registered as motorcycle- some states require helmets which are considered unsafe in the car- and licenses- some states require endorsements)
I'd say apples to apples, the Mustang wins over the FR-S/BRZ(hereby referred to as "GT-86") hands down; Everything from interior to low-mid rpm power delivery smokes the 86. The only thing that the 86 holds on the Mustang is the aerodynamics and, in my opinion, steering feel. Some may like that the steering in the Mustang is luxuriously smooth, I prefer the go-kart like feedback of the 86; "go-kart" really is the best way to describe it.
The Mustang still has that reclined "boat" feel compared to the 86, but it by all means does no longer handle like a classic "boat".
The differences in power delivery are very dramatic. The 86 has a dip in the torque in the low-mid range, right where torque is needed most; but, comes back strong all the way up to redline. In contrast, the Mustang seems to prefer short-shifts, as the power-band falls off drastically towards the end.
I'm fairly certain the Mustang can be "fixed" with just a chip/tune, but may require injectors/pump; I am not sure it has been released long enough to know quite yet; I haven't found any threads regarding this.
For the 86, the only solution I've found is low-boost forced-induction. There are issues this raises for the 86 (not including the costs); the must important of these is that, Subaru has always had a problem with their differentials holding any decent power. I've read several threads where, even stock, the differentials are failing; these threads were rather aged and I am unsure if the problem has been corrected- I would be doubtful.
Speaking on body-design, I would have thought from the appearance, that the Mustang, with its classic, bulging, "muscle car" hood would have poorer visibility compared to the "mid-engined presence" of the sloping 86; this is not the case at all. Sure you can most definitely see down to the road in the 86, but the Mustang has more than adequate visibility.
As for costs, it seems, I would be able to finance the Mustang for less than the FR-S; The BRZ is quite a bit more expensive in this regards. Throw in the ability to run the Mustang on 87octane and the Mustang takes it's place over the 86 on my shortlist.
I've now owned 4 vehicles (1970 Chevy Nova, 1983 Porsche 944, and two Silverados), each of which are rear-wheel-drive; I loathe the idea of front-wheel-drive and I really don't have a need for AWD down here in Florida. The thing is, I have been offered a job up in The Frozen North, and FWD/AWD has its uses. I have lived in the snow for about 5 months in 2009 where I drove my RWD pickup; I slid twice. Though, I was able to avoid any damage, it was only fun in that "Oh ****, hold on!" adrenaline boosting sense that should only be felt on a racetrack.
This brings me to the Elio. It should
cost $6,800 and get ~40/80 city/hwy; but, being FWD with only 55-60hp, it is nowhere near the same class as the former; any AWD considerations are done for pure utility and hold no place in my heart.
My plan for the 86 would be to keep stock until warranty ends, at which point I will start to modify for track; spending roughly $15-20k on the 86 should give me everything I'd ever need; $25k putting in class with Ferrari and company.
I think $10k would be all I'd need for the Mustang, though, I don't think it could ever "keep up" with the 86; being that the platform is just heavier and less aero; only time will tell.
Apples to Oranges, I think the 86 is the better platform for highly modified autocross/road rally.
The Elio or AWDs are purely commuter, but, I think the Elio will be more enjoyable to drive due to its uniqueness.
The reason I come to this forum is to ask:
How much does the performance pack weigh?
Being that I'm comparing to a lightweight platform, do you think that extra weight is justified by the increased cornering performance?