All things being equal, we suspect drivers in the Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5 would prefer twisting canyons to the sticky straightaway of a prepped drag strip. That doesn't mean an old-fashioned drag race isn't fun, and we've seldom seen these two lightweight sports cars battle it out for quarter-mile dominance. This video from Motor gives us no less than six races, and each one is delightfully close.
On paper, Subaru holds a slight advantage. Its 2.4-liter naturally aspirated flat-four generates 228 horsepower (170 kilowatts) and 184 pound-feet (249 Newton-meters) of torque. The Miata isn't quite as stout, posting 181 hp (135 kW) and 151 lb-ft (205 Nm) from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill. However, the Mazda is lighter by upwards of 400 pounds, creating a near-equal power-to-weight ratio. And both cars utilize power the old-fashioned way – sending it rearward through a manual transmission.
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To make sure there's no dispute as to which car is faster, we're treated to dig and roll races. It begins with a standing start, which has both cars dead even through nearly half-track. The Mazda actually takes a slight advantage on the start, with the Subie driver overcooking the launch just a bit then banging the rev limiter on a critical shift. However, the BRZ's bigger engine pulls through on the far end of the track. It wins by roughly half a car length – not a big win, but a win.
Two more standing races take place, with each driver improving their launch technique. The results are the same, however. Through half-track it's neck and neck, but on the big end, the BRZ's power is too much for the Miata. After a close first race, the Subie stretches the win to over a car length for the last two. Advantage BRZ, but this contest features six races. How does it shake out with both cars starting from a roll?
Gallery: 2022 Subaru BRZ: First Drive
A 31-mph (50 km/h) target speed is established for the final three races. With the launch negated, the BRZ's horsepower advantage is further established and yes, it's another win for Subaru. The gap isn't a large one, however, and the second race sees the MX-5 take a slight jump at the beginning. It's not much, but it's enough to hold off a charging BRZ to give Mazda fans a win. The last race sees an even start and another Subaru victory.
Yes, power matters in a straight line and Subaru won this contest. But what about lap times on a twisting road course? That's a race for another video, on another day.