Daily Archives: September 24, 2012

First Drive: 2013 Scion FR-S

After four years of concept revisions, hype and only about a gazillion times you’ve gazed in awe from all those tease photos, Toyota has finally debuted the FR-S production sports car that everyone has been patiently waiting for.  But first, let’s step back and ask – why the hype?  Apart from its supermodel looks, the Scion FR-S was promised to be cornering-obedient and overall, fun to drive.

The development of the FR-S is a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru.  The exact details are of white noise, but word of mouth is: Toyota provided the overall architect, styling and specifications while Subaru performed the engineering, integration and manufacturing in its own plant.

Modern sports cars have a balance scale effect between weighing performance vs overall fun factor.   With sophisticated lap time machines such as the Nissan GTR, on-board computer nannies are required to aid the driver in controlling excess of 500 horsepower .   Rather than providing the roller-coaster death-defying thrill factor, the Scion FR-S is a light-weight 200 horsepower sports car focusing on only raw driver input analogous to the bumper car joy ride.

Under the hood lies the heart and soul of the Scion FR-S, the 2.0 liter flat four-cylinder Boxer engine produces 200 horsepower, and 151 ft-lbs of torque.  These numbers are not staggering when compared to your 250 horsepower soccer mom minivan, but that’s all it really takes to build a fun and easy to drive sports car.  The unorthodox boxer engine design propels its pistons horizontally, rather than vertically.  This allows a more compact engine design to be mounted lower in the vehicle chassis, greatly improving the center of gravity with the extra benefit of smoother power output since the pistons don’t oppose gravity like a vertical displacement engine.

Punching in the Konami code by holding down the “VSC Off” button down for 3 seconds unleashes the FR-S.  Weighing at only 1,220kg, the car is extremely nimble and predictable as well.  The car is in proximity of perfect weight balance with minimal body roll.  Simply, there is no adaptive dampening, dynamic torque vectoring, or any form of black magic to help the car cling around a corner faster.  The car just goes where you want it to go, and when the rear tires break lose, it gives you plenty of warning.  The electric power steering gives infinite positive feedback, allowing the driver to feel every intricate details of the road surface.

The 2.0 liter flat four red-lines at 7,400 rpm with the majority of its torque power band in the 4,500 to 6,6000 rpm range.  Power begins to attenuate when dipping into the mid-range power band, so keeping the revs up is necessary to pack the punch.

Stepping into the cockpit, you’ll notice the seating is low with minimalistic interior detailing to allow the driver to focus on driving the car.  The dash control board is a basic three floor welfare apartment with triple dial climate control knobs on ground level, a digital clock stripped from a Zellar’s Timex watch, and a 7″ LCD touchscreen for audio and smartphone control on the top floor.    The seats are made of clothe, but are of durable quality and soft to the touch.  The steering wheel is best part of the interior.  The leather wrapping makes the steering wheel feel  light weight and soft to the touch.   All buttons are completely stripped from the steering wheel to again, allow the driver to focus on driving.  The grip on the steering wheel is also perfectly contoured so that the palms on your hands completely wrap around the steering wheel.

The interior does let in a lot of wind noise, but is overall, dominated by the engine sound.  The exhaust note is candy to the ears and the pitch gives clear indication of when to up or down shift.  The seats are comfortable and provide excellent lateral support when corning, but can be uncomfortable during long journeys.

The Scion FR-S can be purchased off the lot for $26,030.  With the fine tuned suspension and stiff brakes, the FR-S can be readily taken onto the track on a weekend.  Toyota and Subaru have done an excellent job in stepping back from powertrain technology and bringing out all the old school elements that make driving a car fun.  It will definitely be an exciting future for FR-S fans to see what Toyota and Subaru will release in the upcoming years.