The 2018 Subaru BRZ tS (“tuned by STI”) is a limited edition sports car with extensive performance upgrades.From styling to handling the all-new 2018 Lexus LC 500 is a captivating sports car.The 2018 Fiat 500L Trekking is not a sports car, but it does offer a spacious interior, great visibility, and a competitive price.

Three small cars offer lively driving experiences

Three small cars offer lively driving experiences

     While small cars and sportsters are often fun to drive because of their quickness and reactive handling, there are drawbacks at times. But as summer was closing, we did have some fun road driving with the Subaru BRZ, Lexus LC 500, and the Fiat 500.

     The 2018 Subaru BRZ tS we tested had VIN Number 13 - it was fresh off the line. This limited edition (500 vehicles) was powered by a four-cylinder, horizontally opposed Subaru Boxer engine which created 205 HP at 7,000 RPM, and 156 lb.-ft. of torque between 6,400 and 6,800 RPM. Some have said it needs more power, but it worked for us.

     With its smooth shifting six-speed it was quick, and handling was very genuine with its STI-tuned four-wheel independent suspension with SACHS performance dampers, coil springs, stabilizer bars, and special chassis braces. Combined with astute steering, this new structure provided sportiness at its best from our view.

     Likable features on the BRZ tS included Bremco brakes, 18 x 7.5-inch alloy wheels with 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport summer performance tires, the exclusive STI carbon-fiber manually adjustable wing for improved aerodynamics, the black leather and Ultrasuede upholstery, and the STARLINK Multimedia system with plentiful integration.

     What we were not fond of was the entry and exiting as it was tight for drivers over six feet tall. And there was excessive road noise on the highway, which was somewhat distracting.

     The rear-wheel-drive tS has a unitized body construction, added side spoilers, and an aggressive style.

MSRP is $33,495 and we had no options. Fuel ratings are 27 MPG overall (20 city and 23/highway) and we experienced 26.8 with mainly road driving.

 

LC 500 is a classy sports car

     Slightly pricier is the 2018 Lexus LC 500 Coupe we tested two weeks before the BRZ. To be exact, it was $68,660 higher with options (MSRP was $92,000).

     Now, the all-new platform LC 500 is a luxury sports coupe with a 5.8-L V-8 that exudes amazing power (471 HP and 0-60 in 4.4 seconds), has a class-leading 10-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission, and is perhaps one of the sportiest appearing cars we’ve driven in recent years, but it’s not an inexpensive car.

     Hot items on the LC 500, in addition to its powertrain, are heated/ventilated Alcantara sport front seats (very attractive, but not as comfy for us), leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, triple-projector headlamps, 21-inch tires (option; 20-inch standard), and a jazzy looking interior and cockpit.

     Loaded with safety features, our tested LC 500 also had an optional Mark Levinson premium surround-sound audio system with 13 speakers, a delightful 10.25-inch display screen, and Enform apps to meet most technology needs.

     Without a doubt, there is easier egress on the LC 500 compared to the low-slung BRZ, almost non-existent road noise, and there is an unusual road touring feeling this RWD Lexus provides with its double-joint multilink suspension.

     With its naturally aspirated V-8, the LC 500 is not the most fuel-efficient car with ratings at 19 MPG overall (16/city and 26/highway), but we did fine at 21.2 MPG. There is a hybrid model available that provides more impressive mileage figures.

 

Fiat wagon with favorable space

     In a nutshell, the 2018 Fiat 500L Trekking model with updated styling is a functional and generally enjoyable car to drive. While it may not have the most comfortable seating (and we drove it on a long road trip to verify that), it offers solid fuel economy, excellent cargo space (68 cubic feet), and a competitive price (our tester was $23,325 and with two options priced out at under $25,000).

     Though not ranked well within its four-door wagon class by many reviewers, the FWD unit does have some positive aspects, including its ParkView rearview camera, Hill Start Assist, Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power heated mirrors, front fog lamps, dual-zone climate control (in an option package), and 17-inch all-season tires.

     The 1.4-L inline four-cylinder engine is turbocharged and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The result is a combined fuel rating of 25 MPG (22 city and 30 highway). On the long road trip of mainly freeway driving we experienced just over 31 MPG. The downfall: it’s a bit sluggish.

     The middle of three trims, the 2018 Trekking model has refreshed exterior styling, a new infotainment system, and spacious front seating.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.