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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
      The Toyota Highlander may not be the flashiest or fun to drive. But it has many qualities to make it one of Toyota’s best selling models such as functional and spacious interior, long list of standard equipment, and high-reliability marks. Last year, Toyota unveiled an updated Highlander with tweaks to the exterior, revised V6, and more safety. Considering it has been a few years since we last checked out the Highlander, it seemed a revisit was in order.
      The 2017 Highlander boasts new front and rear fascias to give it a more SUV-appearance and we think Toyota has mostly succeeded in this regard. The only issue is the front end reminding us too much of a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica TV. Thank the new grille design for this. Move inside and the Highlander is the same as we last saw it back in 2014 when we did our original review. This is both good and bad. The good is that the controls for the various functions are easy to use. The center console features a huge storage bin that you can easily fit a large purse or a laptop computer. A shelf underneath climate controls provides a nice space to throw small items such as a smartphone. The bad is that the controls for certain functions are not in easy reach for the drive. We also not fans of the capacitive touch buttons around the 8-inch touchscreen as they didn’t always respond. There were times we found ourselves hitting the buttons two to three times to get something to happen. The infotainment system itself is beginning to look somewhat dated with an interface that looks like it comes from the Windows XP era and the screen is somewhat dim. But we cannot argue that the system is easy to use thanks to a simple layout. Passengers sitting in the front and second-row seats will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom on offer. Also, the seats themselves are padded quite nicely. We do wish the second-row was mounted slightly higher for better long-distance comfort. The third-row seat as the seats aren’t that comfortable due to the thin amount of padding. Legroom is also quite tight with only 27.7-inches of space, meaning this is a space best reserved for small kids. Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain. Toyota’s V6 engine is one our favorites as it provides impressive acceleration and a steady stream of power up to redline. This updated engine is no exception as it feels slightly quicker than the last Highlander we drove.  The powertrain stumbles somewhat due to the eight-speed automatic’s programming. Toyota went for something that focuses on fuel economy which means the transmission is quick to upshift, but slow to downshift. This means you’ll be waiting for a moment or two for the transmission to get its act together when trying to merge onto a freeway. You might be fooled into thinking that you’re riding in a Lexus considering the smooth ride of the Highlander. Bumps are turned into minor ripples. Little road and wind noise that come inside. The Highlander is a vehicle you want to keep in its comfort zone when it comes to handling. Push it in a corner and you’ll experience excessive body roll. One thing Toyota deserves credit for the 2018 Highlander is having a number of active features standard across the entire Highlander lineup. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The only item we would like to see added to this list is blind spot monitoring. You can only get it on XLE models and above. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Highlander
      Trim: XLE AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S with Dual VVT-i V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, 
      Horsepower @ RPM: 295 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/22
      Curb Weight: 4,430 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana
      Base Price: $39,980
      As Tested Price: $43,184 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00
      Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00
      Body Side Molding - $209.00
    • By William Maley
      The Toyota Highlander may not be the flashiest or fun to drive. But it has many qualities to make it one of Toyota’s best selling models such as functional and spacious interior, long list of standard equipment, and high-reliability marks. Last year, Toyota unveiled an updated Highlander with tweaks to the exterior, revised V6, and more safety. Considering it has been a few years since we last checked out the Highlander, it seemed a revisit was in order.
      The 2017 Highlander boasts new front and rear fascias to give it a more SUV-appearance and we think Toyota has mostly succeeded in this regard. The only issue is the front end reminding us too much of a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica TV. Thank the new grille design for this. Move inside and the Highlander is the same as we last saw it back in 2014 when we did our original review. This is both good and bad. The good is that the controls for the various functions are easy to use. The center console features a huge storage bin that you can easily fit a large purse or a laptop computer. A shelf underneath climate controls provides a nice space to throw small items such as a smartphone. The bad is that the controls for certain functions are not in easy reach for the drive. We also not fans of the capacitive touch buttons around the 8-inch touchscreen as they didn’t always respond. There were times we found ourselves hitting the buttons two to three times to get something to happen. The infotainment system itself is beginning to look somewhat dated with an interface that looks like it comes from the Windows XP era and the screen is somewhat dim. But we cannot argue that the system is easy to use thanks to a simple layout. Passengers sitting in the front and second-row seats will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom on offer. Also, the seats themselves are padded quite nicely. We do wish the second-row was mounted slightly higher for better long-distance comfort. The third-row seat as the seats aren’t that comfortable due to the thin amount of padding. Legroom is also quite tight with only 27.7-inches of space, meaning this is a space best reserved for small kids. Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain. Toyota’s V6 engine is one our favorites as it provides impressive acceleration and a steady stream of power up to redline. This updated engine is no exception as it feels slightly quicker than the last Highlander we drove.  The powertrain stumbles somewhat due to the eight-speed automatic’s programming. Toyota went for something that focuses on fuel economy which means the transmission is quick to upshift, but slow to downshift. This means you’ll be waiting for a moment or two for the transmission to get its act together when trying to merge onto a freeway. You might be fooled into thinking that you’re riding in a Lexus considering the smooth ride of the Highlander. Bumps are turned into minor ripples. Little road and wind noise that come inside. The Highlander is a vehicle you want to keep in its comfort zone when it comes to handling. Push it in a corner and you’ll experience excessive body roll. One thing Toyota deserves credit for the 2018 Highlander is having a number of active features standard across the entire Highlander lineup. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The only item we would like to see added to this list is blind spot monitoring. You can only get it on XLE models and above. Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Toyota
      Model: Highlander
      Trim: XLE AWD
      Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S with Dual VVT-i V6
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, 
      Horsepower @ RPM: 295 @ 6,600
      Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/22
      Curb Weight: 4,430 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana
      Base Price: $39,980
      As Tested Price: $43,184 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00
      Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00
      Body Side Molding - $209.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      We had high hopes for the Hyundai Tucson when we did a first drive back in August 2015. But when we did our full review last April, we ended it by saying the model wasn’t “the slam dunk we thought it was.” This was due to some key issues such as a small cargo area, a tough value argument and a dual-clutch transmission having some hesitating issues. A year later, we find ourselves revisiting the Tucson. There has been a software update to the transmission, along with some minor changes to the infotainment system and interior.
      A quick refresher on the Tucson’s powertrain lineup: A 2.0L four-cylinder producing 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque is used on the base SE and SE Plus. The rest of the Tucson lineup features a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic comes standard on the 2.0L, while the turbo 1.6 gets a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine does show some turbo lag when leaving a stop, but it will soon pick up steam and move the Tucson at a pretty decent rate. The engine doesn’t feel overtaxed when you need to make a pass. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission still has issues. While Hyundai has reduced some of the hesitation issues we experienced in the last Tucson via a software update, there is still a fair amount of this when leaving from a dead stop. We also noticed some rough upshifts during our week. At least the ride and handling characteristics have not changed since our last test. The Tucson still provides one of the smoothest rides in the class, even with the Limited’s 19-inch wheels. It doesn’t flinch when going around a corner as body motions are kept in check. A Mazda CX-5 would be more fun to drive as it is quicker when transitioning from one corner to another and the steering has the right amount of weight and feel. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. The interior remains mostly unchanged except for a couple of minor things. The 8-inch touchscreen system now features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We’re impressed with how fast the system was able to find the iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface. The other change deals with more soft-touch materials being added to various parts of the interior. There is still a fair amount of hard plastics, even on the high-end Limited model which is very disappointing. There is still a lot to like about the Tucson’s interior. Space is plentiful for those sitting in the front or rear seats, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. The list of standard equipment is quite extensive as well. Limited models get automatic headlights, power and heated front seats, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push-button start, and blind-spot monitoring. Cargo space still trails competitors with only 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61.9 cubic feet when folded. The CR-V offers 35.2 and 70.9 cubic feet respectively. The Limited seen here came with a $35,210 as-tested price, which is about average for a fully-loaded crossover in this class. But the Tucson becomes a bit of a tough sell when dropping to the lower trims as you cannot get certain features. As we noted in our full review last year, “if you want navigation or dual-zone climate control on the Sport, you’re out of luck.” Despite some of the changes made for 2017, our verdict is much the same as the 2016 Tucson. There is a lot to like about the Tucson, but there are still some issues the company needs to address - smoothing out the dual-clutch and trying to make the model a better value.  
      Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Tucson, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Tucson
      Trim: Limited AWD
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/28/25
      Curb Weight: 3,686 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
      Base Price: $31,175
      As Tested Price: $35,201 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ultimate Package - $2,750.00
      Cargo Cover - $190.00
      Reversible Cargo Tray - $100.00 
      Rear Bumper Applique - $70.00
      First Aid Kit - $30.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      We had high hopes for the Hyundai Tucson when we did a first drive back in August 2015. But when we did our full review last April, we ended it by saying the model wasn’t “the slam dunk we thought it was.” This was due to some key issues such as a small cargo area, a tough value argument and a dual-clutch transmission having some hesitating issues. A year later, we find ourselves revisiting the Tucson. There has been a software update to the transmission, along with some minor changes to the infotainment system and interior.
      A quick refresher on the Tucson’s powertrain lineup: A 2.0L four-cylinder producing 164 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque is used on the base SE and SE Plus. The rest of the Tucson lineup features a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 175 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic comes standard on the 2.0L, while the turbo 1.6 gets a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The engine does show some turbo lag when leaving a stop, but it will soon pick up steam and move the Tucson at a pretty decent rate. The engine doesn’t feel overtaxed when you need to make a pass. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission still has issues. While Hyundai has reduced some of the hesitation issues we experienced in the last Tucson via a software update, there is still a fair amount of this when leaving from a dead stop. We also noticed some rough upshifts during our week. At least the ride and handling characteristics have not changed since our last test. The Tucson still provides one of the smoothest rides in the class, even with the Limited’s 19-inch wheels. It doesn’t flinch when going around a corner as body motions are kept in check. A Mazda CX-5 would be more fun to drive as it is quicker when transitioning from one corner to another and the steering has the right amount of weight and feel. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. The interior remains mostly unchanged except for a couple of minor things. The 8-inch touchscreen system now features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We’re impressed with how fast the system was able to find the iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface. The other change deals with more soft-touch materials being added to various parts of the interior. There is still a fair amount of hard plastics, even on the high-end Limited model which is very disappointing. There is still a lot to like about the Tucson’s interior. Space is plentiful for those sitting in the front or rear seats, even with the optional panoramic sunroof. The list of standard equipment is quite extensive as well. Limited models get automatic headlights, power and heated front seats, an 8-speaker Infinity sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push-button start, and blind-spot monitoring. Cargo space still trails competitors with only 31 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 61.9 cubic feet when folded. The CR-V offers 35.2 and 70.9 cubic feet respectively. The Limited seen here came with a $35,210 as-tested price, which is about average for a fully-loaded crossover in this class. But the Tucson becomes a bit of a tough sell when dropping to the lower trims as you cannot get certain features. As we noted in our full review last year, “if you want navigation or dual-zone climate control on the Sport, you’re out of luck.” Despite some of the changes made for 2017, our verdict is much the same as the 2016 Tucson. There is a lot to like about the Tucson, but there are still some issues the company needs to address - smoothing out the dual-clutch and trying to make the model a better value.  
      Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Tucson, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Tucson
      Trim: Limited AWD
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 175 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 24/28/25
      Curb Weight: 3,686 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
      Base Price: $31,175
      As Tested Price: $35,201 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ultimate Package - $2,750.00
      Cargo Cover - $190.00
      Reversible Cargo Tray - $100.00 
      Rear Bumper Applique - $70.00
      First Aid Kit - $30.00
    • By William Maley
      Chrysler isn’t the first, let alone the tenth automaker you would think of building a hybrid vehicle. Yet, they stunned the world last year as they introduced a plug-in hybrid version of the new Pacifica minivan. It currently holds the title of being the only full-size hybrid minivan sold in the world. On paper, the Pacifica Hybrid makes a good case for itself. Being able to travel up to 33 miles on electric power alone and returning a combined fuel economy figure of 83 MPGe. But how does it fare in the real world?
      The Pacifica Hybrid’s powertrain is comprised of a modified version of the 3.6L V6 that runs on the Atkinson cycle for improved efficiency; two electric motors and a 16-kW lithium-ion battery pack. Total output stands at 260 horsepower. Even though the Pacifica Hybrid is about 600 pounds more than the standard model, it doesn’t feel like it. The instant torque from the electric motors moves the van at a very brisk rate when leaving a stop. The gas engine will kick on when the battery is depleted or when more power is needed such as merging onto a highway. The transition between electric and hybrid power is barely noticeable. When the gas engine is on, it has more than enough power to get you moving on your way. An odd omission from the Pacifica Hybrid is being able to switch between electric and hybrid modes like you can do in other PHEVs. The van will automatically do it. This is a bit disappointing as some drivers would like to conserve battery when driving on a highway for example. The key numbers to be aware of are 33 miles and 84 MPGe on electric power, and 32 MPG when running on hybrid power. During my week, I was able to go about 34 miles on electric power alone and saw an average of 32 MPG for the week. Considering how big and heavy this van is, these numbers are quite impressive. Recharging times for the Pacifica Hybrid are 2 hours when plugged into a 240V outlet, or 16 hours for a 120V outlet. FCA is right on the money for the 120V time as it took around 16 hours for the van to be fully recharged.  There isn’t any difference between how the Pacifica Hybrid rides and handles to the standard Pacifica. Both exhibit a smooth ride, no matter the road surface. Going around a corner is not a big deal as body roll is kept very much in check. There are only a few things that separate the Pacifica Hybrid from the standard model. Aside from the charging door, the hybrid gets a different grille and wheel design. While the Pacifica Hybrid is designed to carry families, you would think differently after sitting inside. Our Platinum tester was kitted out with leather on the seats, contrasting stitching, and an abundance of soft-touch materials. This interior gives certain luxury cars a run for their money. No matter where you’re sitting in the Pacifica Hybrid, there is plenty of head and legroom on offer. Comfort is also a major plus point as all of the seats provide excellent support for long trips. One downside to the hybrid powertrain is the loss of the Stow n’ Go seats for the second row. That space is taken up by the large battery pack. At least you can remove the second-row seats, but be prepared to have another person help you as they are heavy. At least the third-row seats do fold into the floor. There isn’t anything different with the 8.4-inch UConnect system aside from the usual screens you would expect on hybrid such as a power diagram. This system is very simple to operate, but the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto leaves us slightly disappointed. Thankfully, this will be addressed with the 2018 model year as both become standard across the Pacifica lineup. We also had the chance to try out UConnect Access. This smartphone application allows you to check on how much charge is left on the battery, set up a charging schedule, trip information, remote lock and start, and vehicle location. While it is nice to have a key information within easy reach, it takes a long time for the application to pull it. We found on average that it took a good minute or two before updated information would arrive. For all of this tech, it comes at a price. The base Pacifica Hybrid Premium rings up at $41,995. Our Platinum tester came to $47,885 with an optional panoramic sunroof. That’s a lot of cash for a minivan, even one with a hybrid powertrain. But with the Platinum, you’re getting everything - navigation, rear-seat entertainment system, heated and ventilated front seats, and a ton of safety equipment. There is also the $7,500 federal tax credit and other incentives from various states that might sway some folks. But those only come into play when it comes time to do taxes. Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica Hybrid, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Chrysler
      Model: Pacifica Hybrid
      Trim: Platinum
      Engine: 3.6L V6 eHybrid System
      Driveline: eFlite EVT,  Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ N/A (Combined)
      Torque @ RPM: N/A
      Fuel Economy: Gas + Electric Combined, Gas Combined - 84 MPGe, 32 MPG
      Curb Weight: 4,987 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
      Base Price: $44,995
      As Tested Price: $47,885 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Tri-Pane Panaromic Sunroof - $1,795

      View full article
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