By William Maley
Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
February 1, 2013
October 2009 was a monumental month for Toyota. It was at the Tokyo Motor Show where the company revealed a very interesting concept called the FT-86; a small, lightweight two-door coupe that was jointly worked on by Toyota and Subaru. This sent shockwaves across the automotive landscape. Had Toyota rediscovered its sporty side it once had during the eighties and nineties? Or was it fluke? When the company announced that a production model would be coming along with a Subaru version, it seemed the answer was yes, they have discovered their sporty side once more.
Speculation, rumors, and a number of concepts from Toyota, Scion, and Subaru would come out over the next couple years before the official introductions in late 2011 and early 2012. There would be the Toyota GT86 which was a callback to the mid-eighties RWD Corolla AE86. Next was the Subaru BRZ which differed from the rest of the Subaru lineup by being a RWD model, not AWD. Finally for North America was the Scion FR-S, providing a unique product for Toyota’s youth brand.
Its been a long wait for these coupes, but was it worth it? To answer this question, I got a 2013 Scion FR-S for the holidays.
The FR-S’ exterior design is what you expect out of a sporting car; a small, low slung body mounted on top of a short wheelbase. Key design cues to take note are the embellished front and rear fenders, a distinct character line running along the door, rear diffuser with reverse lights, and on the front fenders, a little 86 badge paying homage to the mid-eighties Corolla AE86.
Inside the FR-S, its a simple and clean layout. Materials are hard plastics of varying quality which will annoy some people. I had no problems with it since the money was wisely spent elsewhere in the vehicle. The controls are logically laid out and easy to reach. Scion fitted a set of sport seats for the driver and front passenger. The seats provide good bolstering and support when you’re driving aggressively. However I couldn’t fit into the seats comfortably due to my shoulders being a bit too wide for the seats. I know I happen to be an odd case on this, but its worth noting if you’re looking into this. The back seat area is only really usable for storing stuff or putting small kids.
All Part of a Balanced Diet
Underneath the Scion FR-S’ skin is a recipe for balance. Power comes from 2.0L Subaru Boxer-four that’s fitted with Toyota's D-4S direct injection system. Horsepower is rated at 200 (@ 7,000 RPM) and torque is at 151 lb-ft (@ 5,100 RPM). The reason for going with the boxer engine is due to how low the engine can be set in a vehicle. The lower the engine, the lower center of gravity a vehicle has. For transmissions, you have the choice of either a six-speed manual or my test FR-S’ six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With the automatic, you choice of three different drive modes (Normal, Sport and Snow) that changes the behavior of the transmission. The FR-S also features a limited-slip differential as standard equipment. Suspension duties are taken care by a set up MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone in the rear. A set of 17-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in Michelin Primacy HP summer tires.
Driving the FR-S down a nice twisty backroad is a very rewarding experience. The engine does have to be worked to reach its sweet spot, but the reward is a nice growl from the exhaust and the knowledge that the engine doesn't mind being pushed. The six-speed automatic is surprisingly quick and smooth, especially when you put the vehicle into sport mode as the transmission holds onto the gears through the corners and blips the throttle. You can also do the shifting yourself via the paddle shifters whether the transmission is in Drive or in the manual mode. While its fun to play with paddles, I found leaving the vehicle in Drive with the Sport mode on did a better job than me. I also found myself wishing the paddles were on the steering column than the wheel, so I wouldn't be playing the game of ‘where are the paddles now?’
The suspension does an excellent job of keeping FR-S level and balanced when going from corner to corner. Steering is very quick and precise, and provides a very good amount of a road feel. A bit surprising when you find out the FR-S steering is a electric power system, not hydraulic. Also surprising was a VSC Sport button which dials back the stability control up to a point to allow you to explore the limits of the FR-S.
It’s A Double Edge Sword
Now all those things I have listed above really do make the FR-S a great back road car, but it doesn’t make it a great daily driver for a good amount of people. For starters, I wished the engine had a bit more power, especially in the mid-range. Trying to make a pass or merge with traffic meant I had essentially step on it to perform. Also the suspension which is great in the corners is horrid on Metro Detroit roads. The suspension doesn’t have enough give whenever you drive over potholes or road imperfections and you will feel it very clearly.
One thing I wasn't complaining about the FR-S was fuel economy. The EPA rates the FR-S at 25 City/34 Highway/28 Combined. During the week, I averaged 30.4 MPG. On the freeway I saw 34.2 MPG.
The Time Has Come
The Scion FR-S is a very special and impressive coupe. From the very unique looks to the way it drives, Scion has a alternative to the sport compacts and sports cars in the price bracket. The base price of $24,500 for a six-speed manual and $25,300 for a six-speed automatic makes it a steal.
Its not for everyone though. The rough ride brought on by firm suspension, spartan interior, and engine not having enough power will scare some people away. But for those who can put up with these faults will bask in knowledge of having one of best driving vehicles on sale today.
Disclaimer: Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.
Year - 2013
Make – Scion
Model – FR-S
Trim – N/A
Engine – 2.0L Direct and Port-Injected Boxer-Four
Driveline – Rear-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM – 200 HP (@ 7,000 RPM)
Torque @ RPM – 151 lb-ft (@ 5,400 RPM)
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/34/28
Curb Weight – 2,806 lbs
Location of Manufacture - Ōta, Gunma, Japan
Base Price - $25,300.00
As Tested Price - $26,099.00* (Includes $730.00 Destination Charge)
Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00