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William Maley

2013 Scion FR-S

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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.

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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 Look

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.

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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.

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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?’

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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.

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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.

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Disclaimer: Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.

2013 Scion FR S 10
Album: 2013 Scion FR-S
16 images
0 comments

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)

Options:

Rear Bumper Applique - $69.00

William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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I am not particularly enthused by the formula of the FR-S / BRZ (aka Toyota 86). Yes, the AE86 had it's day. But the 80s was a long time ago. The formula is partly right -- a 2,800 lbs car that is rear drive. But the insistence on 100 bhp/liter high revving low displacement engine is a mistake. This car really should have a forced induced engine in the 250~300 hp class. But even for a base model shunning the cost of forced induction, a 2.5 liter NA four delivering 200hp will be better than a 2.0 liter doing so. The torque curve will be much more accessible than in a high revving 2.0. Even if the partnership with Subaru is retained, it is not like Subaru does not have a 2.5 liter block.

For humor sake, I;ll much rather have the 202 hp 2.5 liter GM I4 than the 200 hp 2.0 liter boxer. When are they ever going to get it that specific output is completely irrelevant to the performance or desirability of a vehicle?

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Nice for a cheap toyota. Very sad that you see the plastic wheel wells in the engine bay. Also, Marketing has got to wake up that Horsepower alone will not win the war. Without Torque you cannot move the mass and that engine is starved for Torque in comparison to HP.

I agree with dwightlooi that the GM I4 is superior over this engine any day.

Over all Mud your getting really good at writing these reviews. Nice Job. Being home sick all week with the crud, I might be missing something, but over all it looks really good. :)

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Look at it this way... 200 hp @ 7,000 rpm / 151 lb-ft @ 5400 rpm is not that bad. It would have been a terrific engine for the original AE86. The problem is that the AE86 was a 2,100 lbs car. This is 2,800 lbs. Realistically speaking the Toyota 2AR-FE 2.5 liter Camry motor (180 bhp / 173 lb-ft @ 4100) would move this car along better than the high reving 2.0 boxer. Timed performance will be about the same, but 173 lb-ft peaking at 4100 rpm will be more pleasurable in city traffic.

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On factor you must consider now is the global market. Not only are the platforms going to be shared but the engines will be in most makets.

With that being said many MFG will be using 1 liter, 1.6 Liter and guess what 2.0 LItet engines because of taxation in many countries. Displacment and weight will effect what engine size is and what it will be fitted in. The Turbocharger adds nothing to the tax or how it is based on.

While we may not have that here yet in many other countries it is in effect and will be effecting what we buy and drive.

It is not just by chance many companies are all making engines the same size.

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I used my red pen on THAT one, reginald. :)

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I am not particularly enthused by the formula of the FR-S / BRZ (aka Toyota 86). Yes, the AE86 had it's day. But the 80s was a long time ago. The formula is partly right -- a 2,800 lbs car that is rear drive. But the insistence on 100 bhp/liter high revving low displacement engine is a mistake. This car really should have a forced induced engine in the 250~300 hp class. But even for a base model shunning the cost of forced induction, a 2.5 liter NA four delivering 200hp will be better than a 2.0 liter doing so. The torque curve will be much more accessible than in a high revving 2.0. Even if the partnership with Subaru is retained, it is not like Subaru does not have a 2.5 liter block.

For humor sake, I;ll much rather have the 202 hp 2.5 liter GM I4 than the 200 hp 2.0 liter boxer. When are they ever going to get it that specific output is completely irrelevant to the performance or desirability of a vehicle?

I wonder if fitting a 2.4 in the car would have been a problem... but I during my time with it, I never felt that torque was insufficient for the base model at all.

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i know lots like this car, but it does very little for me. cheap interior, why bother back seats.....dull styling

You know the kinds of cars I like... and I was pricing them out after driving one.

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i certainly am not saying it's not good at what it's main focus is. Even if this is the best small cheap RWD coupe out there, I still see the Toyota badge and all the rest that usually comes with the aura of a Toyota that I am not jiggy with.

I'd probably pop for a base camaro or a 3 year old 1 series if this was what i was looking at.

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i certainly am not saying it's not good at what it's main focus is. Even if this is the best small cheap RWD coupe out there, I still see the Toyota badge and all the rest that usually comes with the aura of a Toyota that I am not jiggy with.

I'd probably pop for a base camaro or a 3 year old 1 series if this was what i was looking at.

Completely different feel. This is more Miata with a back seat for the 3 year old. The Camaro V6 feels huge by comparison... driving the FR-S/BR-Z after the Camaro is refreshing and carefree. The ZL-1 is waaaay faster than the Toyopet and Fuji Heavy Industry, but it still feels like it is the worlds best handling 747.

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Not a big fan here either but they will sell a ton of them.

Not really, at least not yet...

They are moving about 500~800 a month and a tad under 7000 per year (2012). That is about on par with how many Camaros GM moves in the worst month in 2012. This is a sports coupe so demand tends to fall off after the first two years.

The bright side is that they set a pretty modest target of 6000 cars so they are not saddling themselves with over capacity. Already Subaru is giving $400~600 in incentives to move their (more expensive) BRZ against the FRS -- not an auspicious thing for a 1st year coupe.

The thing I don't get is that the market for sports coupes is modest enough as it is. Why they want to split the pie -- and the marketing -- between Fuji and Toyota is baffling. This should have been just a Subaru or just a Toyota.

I would have preferred that it be a Toyota using a hypothetical "1AR-GE" engine. Basically the same 2.7 liter 1AR-FE Inline-4 in the RAV4, but with hotter cams and drinking premium to deliver about 220hp / 200 lb-ft. For a higher performance version, forget laggy turbos and simply the use a roots compressor on the 1AR engine. A "1AR-GZE" will be good for about 270 hp / 270 lb-ft with zero lag. The latter would be interesting.

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It's an interesting car, and I wouldn't mind owning one, but in the real word its day to day faults outweigh some of the benefits.

Very happy with the Cooper S and Miata in the driveway, this car doesn't move me enough to trade one in and take on a payment.

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Not a big fan here either but they will sell a ton of them.

Not really, at least not yet...

They are moving about 500~800 a month and a tad under 7000 per year (2012). That is about on par with how many Camaros GM moves in the worst month in 2012. This is a sports coupe so demand tends to fall off after the first two years.

The bright side is that they set a pretty modest target of 6000 cars so they are not saddling themselves with over capacity. Already Subaru is giving $400~600 in incentives to move their (more expensive) BRZ against the FRS -- not an auspicious thing for a 1st year coupe.

The thing I don't get is that the market for sports coupes is modest enough as it is. Why they want to split the pie -- and the marketing -- between Fuji and Toyota is baffling. This should have been just a Subaru or just a Toyota.

I would have preferred that it be a Toyota using a hypothetical "1AR-GE" engine. Basically the same 2.7 liter 1AR-FE Inline-4 in the RAV4, but with hotter cams and drinking premium to deliver about 220hp / 200 lb-ft. For a higher performance version, forget laggy turbos and simply the use a roots compressor on the 1AR engine. A "1AR-GZE" will be good for about 270 hp / 270 lb-ft with zero lag. The latter would be interesting.

Again you need to think global! Cars like this and even the Miata live on a global scale and thrive.

If you just take Miata, Prelude and Mini sale base just on NA they make little sense but on a global scale they have some very impressive numbers and profits.

Even if GM does a small RWD coupe they will have to base it on a global package as the sales just in NA will be ok but they need larger numbers.

Second you can not compare the Camaro or Mustang on this yet as they are in a class of their own and many who would buy them would never consider this car. This is why GM is looking into the sub Alpha car. Two different markets and two different customers. .

As for Turbo engines there again you must look to the customers and what they want. Also lag is not what it once was like in the GN and Turbo T bird.

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Not a big fan here either but they will sell a ton of them.

Not really, at least not yet...

They are moving about 500~800 a month and a tad under 7000 per year (2012). That is about on par with how many Camaros GM moves in the worst month in 2012. This is a sports coupe so demand tends to fall off after the first two years.

The bright side is that they set a pretty modest target of 6000 cars so they are not saddling themselves with over capacity. Already Subaru is giving $400~600 in incentives to move their (more expensive) BRZ against the FRS -- not an auspicious thing for a 1st year coupe.

The thing I don't get is that the market for sports coupes is modest enough as it is. Why they want to split the pie -- and the marketing -- between Fuji and Toyota is baffling. This should have been just a Subaru or just a Toyota.

I would have preferred that it be a Toyota using a hypothetical "1AR-GE" engine. Basically the same 2.7 liter 1AR-FE Inline-4 in the RAV4, but with hotter cams and drinking premium to deliver about 220hp / 200 lb-ft. For a higher performance version, forget laggy turbos and simply the use a roots compressor on the 1AR engine. A "1AR-GZE" will be good for about 270 hp / 270 lb-ft with zero lag. The latter would be interesting.

I think the only way to make the car work as-is is with a flat-four engine. They're worried about deck height restrictions now with adding a turbo, so I don't think any inline four will work standing up.

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Not a big fan here either but they will sell a ton of them.

Not really, at least not yet...

They are moving about 500~800 a month and a tad under 7000 per year (2012). That is about on par with how many Camaros GM moves in the worst month in 2012. This is a sports coupe so demand tends to fall off after the first two years.

The bright side is that they set a pretty modest target of 6000 cars so they are not saddling themselves with over capacity. Already Subaru is giving $400~600 in incentives to move their (more expensive) BRZ against the FRS -- not an auspicious thing for a 1st year coupe.

The thing I don't get is that the market for sports coupes is modest enough as it is. Why they want to split the pie -- and the marketing -- between Fuji and Toyota is baffling. This should have been just a Subaru or just a Toyota.

I would have preferred that it be a Toyota using a hypothetical "1AR-GE" engine. Basically the same 2.7 liter 1AR-FE Inline-4 in the RAV4, but with hotter cams and drinking premium to deliver about 220hp / 200 lb-ft. For a higher performance version, forget laggy turbos and simply the use a roots compressor on the 1AR engine. A "1AR-GZE" will be good for about 270 hp / 270 lb-ft with zero lag. The latter would be interesting.

Again you need to think global! Cars like this and even the Miata live on a global scale and thrive.

If you just take Miata, Prelude and Mini sale base just on NA they make little sense but on a global scale they have some very impressive numbers and profits.

Even if GM does a small RWD coupe they will have to base it on a global package as the sales just in NA will be ok but they need larger numbers.

Second you can not compare the Camaro or Mustang on this yet as they are in a class of their own and many who would buy them would never consider this car. This is why GM is looking into the sub Alpha car. Two different markets and two different customers. .

As for Turbo engines there again you must look to the customers and what they want. Also lag is not what it once was like in the GN and Turbo T bird.

Well, your assumptions are that the world wants turbos and not superchargers. That has has never been shown to be true. Your assumption that the world generally prefers high specific output, low displacement engines also not shown to be the case. Nobody is buying Cruzes because it has a 1.4T whereas the Civic has a 1.8 and the Focus has a 2.0. When they buy a Cruze, the size of the engine and presence of a turbocharger does not factor into the decision the overwhelming majority of the time and when it does it is not always a positive factor.

Also, lag is ALWAYS present in turbocharged engines. It is a matter of degree. For North America, which is the car's largest market, they should have an engine that best meets the regulatory and consumption habits of North American buyers. American's don't care about displacement (one way or the other) -- you might, but Americans in general do not. America does not have a displacement tax either so small displacements have very little intrinsic value (neither does China -- the other uber sized market). The FR-S's MPG numbers -- 25/34 mpg will be easily met with a 2.5 ~2.7 liter four (the Malibu which is a much larger car that is 750 lbs heavier is already @ 22/34 mpg.

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I think the only way to make the car work as-is is with a flat-four engine. They're worried about deck height restrictions now with adding a turbo, so I don't think any inline four will work standing up.

They'll just have the contour the hood a little differently I guess. Perhaps with a central hump very much like the 5M-GE powered 1st Gen Supras.

What I am saying is that Toyota can do a 2800 lbs, RWD, sports coupe at $25,000 using a derivative of the RAV4's 2.7 liter I4 engine.

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The whole point of the FR-S is how it feels on the road: the steering feel, the chassis setup, the gearbox, and yes, revving the hell out of that engine. A RAV4 engine would completely change the character of this pocket-sized sports car.

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The whole point of the FR-S is how it feels on the road: the steering feel, the chassis setup, the gearbox, and yes, revving the hell out of that engine. A RAV4 engine would completely change the character of this pocket-sized sports car.

Agreed...some people get sport compacts, some people don't. Some people get the idea of full size luxury, some don't. Some people think all 1950's American cars are ugly pigs....to each his own.

Personally, I like the FRS/BRZ, but feel it has its limitations.

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The whole point of the FR-S is how it feels on the road: the steering feel, the chassis setup, the gearbox, and yes, revving the hell out of that engine. A RAV4 engine would completely change the character of this pocket-sized sports car.

The steering and chassis feel can be basically the same. The engine character... good torque from 3000 rpm and power accessible by revving to just 6000 rpm changes the character for the better!

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Not a big fan here either but they will sell a ton of them.

Not really, at least not yet...

They are moving about 500~800 a month and a tad under 7000 per year (2012). That is about on par with how many Camaros GM moves in the worst month in 2012. This is a sports coupe so demand tends to fall off after the first two years.

The bright side is that they set a pretty modest target of 6000 cars so they are not saddling themselves with over capacity. Already Subaru is giving $400~600 in incentives to move their (more expensive) BRZ against the FRS -- not an auspicious thing for a 1st year coupe.

The thing I don't get is that the market for sports coupes is modest enough as it is. Why they want to split the pie -- and the marketing -- between Fuji and Toyota is baffling. This should have been just a Subaru or just a Toyota.

I would have preferred that it be a Toyota using a hypothetical "1AR-GE" engine. Basically the same 2.7 liter 1AR-FE Inline-4 in the RAV4, but with hotter cams and drinking premium to deliver about 220hp / 200 lb-ft. For a higher performance version, forget laggy turbos and simply the use a roots compressor on the 1AR engine. A "1AR-GZE" will be good for about 270 hp / 270 lb-ft with zero lag. The latter would be interesting.

Again you need to think global! Cars like this and even the Miata live on a global scale and thrive.

If you just take Miata, Prelude and Mini sale base just on NA they make little sense but on a global scale they have some very impressive numbers and profits.

Even if GM does a small RWD coupe they will have to base it on a global package as the sales just in NA will be ok but they need larger numbers.

Second you can not compare the Camaro or Mustang on this yet as they are in a class of their own and many who would buy them would never consider this car. This is why GM is looking into the sub Alpha car. Two different markets and two different customers. .

As for Turbo engines there again you must look to the customers and what they want. Also lag is not what it once was like in the GN and Turbo T bird.

Well, your assumptions are that the world wants turbos and not superchargers. That has has never been shown to be true. Your assumption that the world generally prefers high specific output, low displacement engines also not shown to be the case. Nobody is buying Cruzes because it has a 1.4T whereas the Civic has a 1.8 and the Focus has a 2.0. When they buy a Cruze, the size of the engine and presence of a turbocharger does not factor into the decision the overwhelming majority of the time and when it does it is not always a positive factor.

Also, lag is ALWAYS present in turbocharged engines. It is a matter of degree. For North America, which is the car's largest market, they should have an engine that best meets the regulatory and consumption habits of North American buyers. American's don't care about displacement (one way or the other) -- you might, but Americans in general do not. America does not have a displacement tax either so small displacements have very little intrinsic value (neither does China -- the other uber sized market). The FR-S's MPG numbers -- 25/34 mpg will be easily met with a 2.5 ~2.7 liter four (the Malibu which is a much larger car that is 750 lbs heavier is already @ 22/34 mpg.

You comments on engines are normally based on a bunch of number that in themselves do not take into consideration all the parameters that an automaker faces or what the real world drivability really is.

Again you fail to take in the other factors such as government taxation in many markets. Yes America does not have the tax here but in a global market the number of engines globally will decrease and become more the same in all markets tax or not. It is a major stipulation of becoming more profitable. You also fail to take in to account that superchargers are decreasing in most markets. In the worlds largest auto market you will not in the other thread I posted the added cost of tax on engine size and in engines over 2.0 it can max out to over almost $900 per car. This may not sound like much but in a county that make much less per person than the United States it is a lot for many that struggle to buy the smallest car.

As for turbo lag you tend to conveniently the fact that most of todays small turbo engines true strength is the availability very low end torque that is available at very low RPM. This eliminates the issues of much of the lag and masks much of the issues with it. In my own personal daily driver I have no issue with it as if anything If the boost hit any faster it would be difficult to drive the vehicle in many non dry weather conditions. The car as it is will spin the tires at a moments notice. If anything our Silverado 5.3 has more issue with lag from a slow kick down in the tranny that I feel is due to the cylinder drop system. I have never felt the same thing in the Vette but the lag has been in all Chevy and GMC trucks.

I will never declare the Turbo as the savior of ever car or model but in your own example the Malibu the only one so far that has gotten good reviews is the Turbo Bu. The other models were ok but never really set the world on fire or stood out from the crowd. The Turbo engine by no means is a sports car but is just a better set up for drivability and feel.

The key to all this is to make the car to drive and feel like it has power. If you can do that the people are happy. If you can do it with the engine sizes that most markets require you save money vs offering other engines in sizes you can only sell in a couple markets. By going global not only on platforms but engines too this will increase profits and decrease spending.

I know you like to think you are fully correct and all the automakers not in line with you as misguided but they have to use all parameters unlike what you do here. Time to step up and include all factors into your presentation and just see where this all falls out. I could see one company being wrong but as Drew pointed out in the Cruze thread can they all be misguided? I think not.

As for the people they no longer count cylinders or engine size but they do count dollars in tax, they count MPG and they expect performance to the point that the car feels good and comfortable to drive. They want an engine that will return great MPG but will not make them wonder if they will get up to speed on the freeway on ramp.

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    • By William Maley
      One thing Jeep is very good at is providing different variations of their models to fit a buyer’s desire and budget. The Grand Cherokee is an excellent example with seven different models on offer. Jeep is using this same strategy for the Cherokee with seven different trims ranging from the base Sport to luxurious Overland. We spent some time in the Overland to see if a luxury version of the Cherokee makes any sense.
      The Overland model stands out from other Cherokees as the lower body cladding is painted in the same color as the body. Depending on what color you select, it will either make the Cherokee look good or just a giant blob - the latter being the case for our silver test vehicle. A set of 18-inch polished aluminum wheels come standard and add a nice touch of class. Compared to other Cherokee’s I’ve driven, the Overland does feel a little bit more luxurious. This comes down to some of the appointments used such as cream leather upholstery for the seats and door panels, a texture dash cover finished in brown, and accent stitching.  Overland models get power seats for driver and passenger. This makes it easy to find a comfortable position thanks to the adjustments on offer. Backseat passengers also get their own set of adjustments - reclining, and sliding the seat forward and back. Passengers will have no complaints in terms of space or overall comfort. One area that a fair number of people will complain about is cargo space. The Cherokee is towards the bottom of the class with only 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 54.9 cubic feet when folded. This comes down Jeep making certain compromises to be able to fit all of the off-road hardware to the Cherokee. The 8.4-inch UConnect system fitted to the Cherokee is the previous-generation version. While you do miss out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect still comes with one of easiest interfaces to wrap your head around with large touch buttons and redundant physical shortcut buttons. Powering the Cherokee Overland is a 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s Active Drive II 4WD system. With this Cherokee tipping the scales at 4,046 pounds, the V6 is the right engine for the job. It offers enough performance for everyday driving and is one of the most refined engines in the class. The nine-speed automatic provides smooth and quick upshifts. Downshifts are another story as the transmission seems somewhat reluctant whenever merging or making a pass. The Cherokee has some of the worst fuel economy numbers in the class with EPA figures of 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. I was able to eek out 22 MPG during my week of driving in mostly urban areas. Ride comfort is a plus point to the Cherokee as the suspension absorbs most impacts from bumps and other road imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. One area that Cherokee does surprisingly well is in handling. Despite its off-road credentials, the Cherokee handles with confidence with a limited amount of body roll. The steering is precise and has some decent weight. Still, the Cherokee lacks the fun element you would find in competitors such as the Mazda CX-5. The Overland trim is quite expensive with a starting price of $38,690 with 4WD. This particular model seen here came with an as-tested price of $43,690 with a few options ticked such as the Active Drive II system, Technology Package (includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, parking assist, and rain-sensing wipers), and a panoramic sunroof. For that kind of cash, you can get into a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4 that offers slightly more power and returns similar fuel economy figures. The Overland is nice a variant of the Cherokee. But there is no way it can justify a price tag of nearly $44,000. If you really want a nice Cherokee, drop down to the Limited and go easy on the options list. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Cherokee, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Jeep
      Model: Cherokee
      Trim: Overland
      Engine: 3.2L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, 4WD
      Horsepower @ RPM: 271 @ 6,500
      Torque @ RPM: 239 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21
      Curb Weight: 4,046 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Belvidere, Illinois
      Base Price: $37,695
      As Tested Price: $43,690 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      CommandView Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof - $1,755.00
      Technology Group - $1,645.00
      Jeep Active Drive II - $1,205.00
      Heavy Duty Package Group - $295.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      One thing Jeep is very good at is providing different variations of their models to fit a buyer’s desire and budget. The Grand Cherokee is an excellent example with seven different models on offer. Jeep is using this same strategy for the Cherokee with seven different trims ranging from the base Sport to luxurious Overland. We spent some time in the Overland to see if a luxury version of the Cherokee makes any sense.
      The Overland model stands out from other Cherokees as the lower body cladding is painted in the same color as the body. Depending on what color you select, it will either make the Cherokee look good or just a giant blob - the latter being the case for our silver test vehicle. A set of 18-inch polished aluminum wheels come standard and add a nice touch of class. Compared to other Cherokee’s I’ve driven, the Overland does feel a little bit more luxurious. This comes down to some of the appointments used such as cream leather upholstery for the seats and door panels, a texture dash cover finished in brown, and accent stitching.  Overland models get power seats for driver and passenger. This makes it easy to find a comfortable position thanks to the adjustments on offer. Backseat passengers also get their own set of adjustments - reclining, and sliding the seat forward and back. Passengers will have no complaints in terms of space or overall comfort. One area that a fair number of people will complain about is cargo space. The Cherokee is towards the bottom of the class with only 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 54.9 cubic feet when folded. This comes down Jeep making certain compromises to be able to fit all of the off-road hardware to the Cherokee. The 8.4-inch UConnect system fitted to the Cherokee is the previous-generation version. While you do miss out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect still comes with one of easiest interfaces to wrap your head around with large touch buttons and redundant physical shortcut buttons. Powering the Cherokee Overland is a 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s Active Drive II 4WD system. With this Cherokee tipping the scales at 4,046 pounds, the V6 is the right engine for the job. It offers enough performance for everyday driving and is one of the most refined engines in the class. The nine-speed automatic provides smooth and quick upshifts. Downshifts are another story as the transmission seems somewhat reluctant whenever merging or making a pass. The Cherokee has some of the worst fuel economy numbers in the class with EPA figures of 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. I was able to eek out 22 MPG during my week of driving in mostly urban areas. Ride comfort is a plus point to the Cherokee as the suspension absorbs most impacts from bumps and other road imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. One area that Cherokee does surprisingly well is in handling. Despite its off-road credentials, the Cherokee handles with confidence with a limited amount of body roll. The steering is precise and has some decent weight. Still, the Cherokee lacks the fun element you would find in competitors such as the Mazda CX-5. The Overland trim is quite expensive with a starting price of $38,690 with 4WD. This particular model seen here came with an as-tested price of $43,690 with a few options ticked such as the Active Drive II system, Technology Package (includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, parking assist, and rain-sensing wipers), and a panoramic sunroof. For that kind of cash, you can get into a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4 that offers slightly more power and returns similar fuel economy figures. The Overland is nice a variant of the Cherokee. But there is no way it can justify a price tag of nearly $44,000. If you really want a nice Cherokee, drop down to the Limited and go easy on the options list. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Cherokee, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Jeep
      Model: Cherokee
      Trim: Overland
      Engine: 3.2L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, 4WD
      Horsepower @ RPM: 271 @ 6,500
      Torque @ RPM: 239 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21
      Curb Weight: 4,046 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Belvidere, Illinois
      Base Price: $37,695
      As Tested Price: $43,690 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      CommandView Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof - $1,755.00
      Technology Group - $1,645.00
      Jeep Active Drive II - $1,205.00
      Heavy Duty Package Group - $295.00
    • By William Maley
      Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider.
      Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing.
      The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for.
      Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds.
      Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission.
      Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive.
      The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion.
      The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG.
      If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider.
      In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no.
      Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Fiat
      Model: 124 Spider
      Trim: Abarth
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
      Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $28,195
      As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider.
      Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing.
      The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for.
      Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds.
      Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission.
      Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive.
      The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion.
      The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG.
      If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider.
      In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no.
      Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Fiat
      Model: 124 Spider
      Trim: Abarth
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
      Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $28,195
      As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00
    • By William Maley
      Most wagon options in the U.S. fall under the slightly-lifted off-road category. The reason is quite simple as buyers like the looks and capability on offer when compared to standard wagons. Case in point is the latest member of the Golf family, the Alltrack. Volkswagen recently revealed that 75 percent of Golf SportWagens sold in the U.S. are Alltracks. We happen to be big fans of the Golf SportWagen as it builds upon many of strong points of the regular Golf by making it more practical. Can the Golf Alltrack do the same?
      The small changes made to the Golf Alltrack’s exterior help make it stand out somewhat. It begins with the slight 0.6-inch increase in ride height and a larger tire and wheel combination. Our SEL tester feature 18-inch wheels, while the S and SE make do with 17-inch wheels. Other exterior changes include new bumpers and lower body cladding. Volkswagen didn’t make any changes to the Alltrack’s interior which is a good thing. It retains the clean if a somewhat boring design that makes it easy to find the various controls. Build and material quality is very solid.  SEL models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system and navigation. We like how fast the system is with switching between various functions, physical shortcut buttons, and integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Car-Net loses some points for low-resolution graphics and the navigation system looking very dated.  The seats are quite comfortable with excellent support and good bolstering to keep you planted when traversing down a winding road. Head and legroom are excellent in both rows of seats. A turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque provides the motivation for the Golf Alltrack. This is paired with a six-speed DSG transmission (a six-speed manual is available on the S and SE) and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Despite being about 300 pounds heavier than the SportWagen, the Alltrack doesn’t break a sweat. It feels just as fast as the SportWagen we drove last year with strong acceleration throughout the rpm band. The DSG still exhibits some sluggishness when leaving a stop, but improves when you’re up to speed with rapid and smooth shifts. Fuel economy is disappointing with EPA figures of 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. We saw an average of 25 MPG with a mix of 70 percent city and 30 percent highway driving. Ride and handling characteristics is much like the standard Golf and SportWagen. No matter the road surface, the Alltrack’s suspension was able to provide a comfortable ride. Around corners, the Alltrack does show a little bit of body roll. However, it feels as agile as the standard SportWagen and the steering is quick to respond to inputs. The Golf Alltrack begins at $25,850 for the base S with manual transmission. Our loaded SEL tester totaled $35,705 with the Driver Assistance and Light package. That’s a lot of money for a compact off-road wagon, especially considering you can get into a larger Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited with the excellent EyeSight active safety system for around the same money. If we were buying a Golf Alltrack, we would drop down to the S with the DSG and order the Driver Assistance package, bring the total price to just over $28,500. The Alltrack is a worthy addition to the Golf family as it provides something a bit more capable while retaining many of the plus points of the standard Golf. We do wish the DSG was smoother during low-speed driving and fuel economy was slightly better.  
      Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf Alltrack, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017 
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Golf Alltrack
      Trim: SEL
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.8L TSI DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed DSG, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 170 @ 4,500
      Torque @ RPM: 199 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25
      Curb Weight: 3,351 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: N/A
      Base Price: $32,890
      As Tested Price: $35,705 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      SEL Driver Assistance & Lighting Package - $1,995.00
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