Auto Review: Scion FR-S: Lightweight magic
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Jun. 6, 2013
One type of automobile I’ve always been quite partial to is the affordable, rear-drive sports coupe. This is especially true for the more elemental sportsters that get their performance through light weight and sophisticated suspension tuning, as opposed to just sheer muscle derived from huge engines (and stiff suspensions that pound the pavement into submission).
Every few generations, a car that fits the affordable/low-mass approach arrives on the market, and some iconic representatives from the past include the Datsun 240Z, Mazda RX-7 and even the original Chevrolet Corvette, if you really want to go down memory lane. Now, a lot of modern sports cars are very impressive performers, but also surprisingly heavy and costly. Thankfully, Toyota’s Scion division, in cahoots with Subaru (which is partly owned by Toyota), have created an all-new rear-drive coupe that is sold as both the Scion FR-S and (with slight differences) the Subaru BRZ. We tested the Scion recently, and came away not only entertained by its driving dynamics, but also impressed with its frugality. It’s the kind of car that has been missing from the new car market for too long, and it’s great to see this niche once again occupied with a really interesting machine.
The FR-S (for Front engine, Rear drive Sport) is powered by a 2-liter Flat Four Boxer engine that produces a respectable 200 horsepower. Two six-speed transmissions are available; a manual and an automatic. We were lucky enough to get the manual gearbox to further enhance the sporting personality of the car, but it should be noted that colleagues tell me the Dynamic Rev Technology Automatic is very well-designed and is a pleasure to live with, too. The manual proved to be a very light in action, with excellent ergonomics and well-chosen ratios, and the clutch was easy to modulate. The light weight and responsive gearbox got us to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds, and clutch response was smooth and predictable. The car feels planted when you enter corners at speed, and its fantastic balance (“Pure Balance” is a design objective of the car) and low center of gravity make drivers feel comfortable right away. Steering response and braking are also a perfect match for the rest of the chassis, and this is the kind of car that reminds you what a true sports car is, and why it can make the drive home anything but mundane.
The FR-S interior is a nice blend of traditional and modern, with very supportive sport seats with generous side bolsters. Seating is described as 2+2, but to be honest, the rear seats are best used as parcel shelves. The cozy interior is surprisingly quiet (although this is still a sports car) and to top everything off, fuel economy is quite respectable. When you throw in a reasonable asking price, you have a welcome new addition to the Scion line and to the automotive market in general. The 2013 Scion FR-S is EPA rated 22 MPG city/30 highway and has a base price of $24,200. With options, our MSRP came to $25,066. www.scion.com