2013 Scion FR-S
Date Posted: November 1, 2012
By Zack Spencer
Toyota's Scion brand has a back to basics hit with the new Scion FR-S. With a focus on the driver, above anything else, makes this a fantastic bargain for any driving enthusiast.
There is more than one way to have fun behind the wheel of a sports car, especially in this era of advanced electronics, all-wheel-drive and computers controlling every action. High-end cars like the all-new BMW M5 or Audi RS-5, for example, are a rolling showcase of sensors, computers and brute force helping to provide an exhilarating experience. Another way to provide thrills is with a simple, less powerful but well-balanced car that requires more driver input and relies less on new-age assistance. Scion's new FR-S is a bit of a throwback, to a time when handling and balance trumped horsepower. Developed with Subaru, this Scion is one of the most successful introductions in years, there seems to be a growing number of people who appreciate the minimalist approach to delivering driving pleasure.
The Scion FR-S is the cousin to the Subaru BRZ as both cars were built as part of Toyota/Subaru joint venture. Subaru provided the engine and Toyota developed the direct injection system to help produce 200hp for this light and small sports coupe. The stance is long and low, thanks to the flat design of Subaru's Boxer engine, which sits low in the car and is placed with most of the engine's mass behind the front wheels. With a low centre of gravity and by taking things like the engine and battery and placing them towards the middle of the chassis, it helps produce a near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Weight reduction was a target at every point of development, which helped to bring the FR-S to a total of just 1251kg, compared to the Hyundai Genesis Coupe at 1525kg. A lighter and well-balanced car is what helps deliver a purer driving experience.
It could be argued that the Scion FR-S is too basic on the inside. Some potential buyers might not appreciate the minimalist approach but driving purists will embrace the less-is-more design. The seats are manually operated, helping to reduce unneeded weight. The seat release for access to the back seat is made of fabric, also helping to save weight. There is no automatic climate control and the aftermarket radio looks like an afterthought. Seating position is a top priority for any driving enthusiasts and on this front the FR-S delivers a low and supportive seating position for a connect feel to the chassis. The interior is sold with cloth seats and in one colour-- black. Doesn't black go with everything? By keeping the focus on driving over interior frills, produces a simple and less expensive car. The good news is that the FR-S starts at just $25,990, which is a fantastic price for such a well-engineered machine.
This is not a point and ''squirt the gas'' kind of sports car. There are plenty of more powerful cars that only require the driver to steer and modulate the throttle and brake. No, the FR-S is all about getting to know where the power comes on from the 200hp 2.0L engine. Learning the amount of grip that is available and just how well balanced the car is in most cornering maneuvers. By using a traditional front engine, rear wheel drive design, the engineers are able to delight the driver even at low speeds. Mundane daily driving tasks can turn into a fun excursion as the engine produces a pleasant exhaust note and usable power in the mid-RPM range. A mechanical limited slip differential helps to produce excellent power delivery to dry roads but in wet conditions the rear tires can break free. Many will find this exciting but others might want to try the FR-S in the rain before they buy one and winter tires are a must. The only electronic aids are traction and stability control along with anti lock brakes. The FR-S comes with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
The FR-S reminds me of another Japanese sports car with a front engine, rear wheel drive layout and a lightweight approach, the Mazda Miata MX-5. The FR-S is a bit bigger and has a fixed roof but the driving attitude is very similar, it is all about the driver and the car, a pure driving experience. The MX-5 is available with more features and starts at a higher price, which is why this FR-S is a great deal. If you are looking for a back-to-basics vehicle with just enough power to keep the driver entertained and love the idea of connecting to the vehicle you drive, then the FR-S will keep you entertained on every trip. If however you want to be pampered and are not interested in driving dynamics and power to weight ratios, then the FR-S will be lost on you. There are very few options, which include stereo upgrades. I for one am thrilled that Scion and Subaru have produced this car; it introduces simple and fun transportation to a whole new generation of buyers.
The Good, The Bad
A great price for a well-balanced sports car.
The FR-S isn't for everyone.
Power: 2.0L 4-cylinder engine with 200hp
Fill-up: 9.6L/6.6L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $25,990