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First Drive: 2013 Scion FR-S Review – Hype Approved

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Filed under Automotive, Featured, Scion, Test Drives

For many years, enthusiasts have begged for an affordable rear-wheel-drive vehicle that appeases to need of a true drivers vehicle without much compromise. Toyota has stepped up to the plate to give us what we wanted with their all-new 2013 Scion FR-S.

Probably one of the most highly anticipated vehicles that enthusiasts could actually consider for their next ‘realistic’ low-cost purchase is the new Scion FR-S and its Subaru BRZ sibling. Both derived from a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru, the new Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are the quintessential choice for many enthusiasts. Additionally, they satisfy a wide range of consumers seeking a sporty rear-wheel-drive coupe well under $30K.

The new 2013 FR-S, sold under the Scion badge here in America and as the Toyota GT86 in overseas markets, reintroduces the legacy of the original Toyota AE86 (Corolla Levin/Sprinter Trueno). The AE86 made its mark well known and continues to do so, even after its demise in 1987, in the heart of enthusiasts all over the world. The whole conception of the AE86 gave enthusiasts a relatively lightweight rear-wheel-drive sports coupe platform to build off of, and now the FR-S marks the return of that origin, the return of “Hachi-Roku” (eight-six).

The Scion brand has been known for a big enthusiast following but never has it offered a vehicle appreciated so well by true drivers. When I say “true drivers”, it means those who can appreciate a car that communicates to the driver as well as Michael Phelps does to the water in the Olympic swimming pool. It is a vehicle that could be commonly seen on a racetrack and then driven home at the end of the race. Moreover, the Scion FR-S makes its communication skills prevalent in virtually every aspect of is balance, sharp steering, low center of gravity (lowest center of gravity of all current production vehicles) and overall handling dynamics.

Having spent a full week with the new Scion FR-S, I can contest to it being every bit as good as a multitude of other journalists have claimed. The new Scion FR-S proves itself as a contender in the realm of cars that enthusiasts want to drive every day and experience on a track.

The new Scion FR-S is powered by a 4-cylinder 200 horsepower 151 ft. lbs. of torque 2.0-liter boxer (horizontally opposed) engine. The distinctive sound that comes under the lightweight aluminum hood takes a bit getting accustomed to when I start to think I am driving a Toyota product. The Subaru engineering definitely shines through its direct-injection flat-4-cylinder. Revving through the rpm band becomes particularly consistent with power output. No surprises here, other than a somewhat flat power spot between 3,000 rpm and 4,500 rpm. Anything after 5,000 rpm is a sweet spot where the flat-4 starts to really put thing in motion all the way to the 7,400 redline. There is even a red blinking shift-light at the top of the center-positioned tachometer to kindly let you know when you should engage the next gear. I later discovered that the shift-light can be adjusted to different rpm levels.

Numbers wise, the FR-S isn’t a straight-line thrill machine, however, that is not the FR-S’ disposition. The FR-S deserves to be pushed to its limits, on a track. Doing so in stock form will put the FR-S chassis at the mercy of the deplorable low rolling resistance Michelin Primacy HP tires, 215/45/17 in all 4 corners. The superb balance and driving aptitude of the FR-S is sharp and up to the challenge of the most demanding tracks; the stock tires, not so much. The tire dilemma is a relatively easy fix, considering some consumers will take the liberty of letting the FR-S’ near perfect weight distribution of 53/47 percent front/rear really shine with a set of stickier rubber.

My driving experience with the new 2013 Scion FR-S limits my perception to local roads, highways and a closed parking lot area. Although I was able to break the rear-end loose a few times in the closed parking area, I could not really contest to the true tracking ability of the FR-S. I can certainly say it is a proven road-going machine pulling a 0.93g on the skidpad and giving just enough feedback through the nicely weighted electric steering rack.  The standard torsen limited slip differential allows a progressive counter balance of the rear when traction control is turned off. Rowing through the direct-feeling 6-speed shifter is a joy as well. The clutch pedal has minimal travel and has a perfectly weighted pressure plate feel. The steering is surprisingly sharp and quick, too.

A standard stability and traction control system has a full-on default mode, ‘VSC sport’ mode, and a completely ‘off’ setting. Using the VSC (Vehicle Skid Control) sport mode lets the FR-S slip out a bit more than the full-on mode, slightly delaying stability and traction control intervention. Don’t expect sport mode to allow many ‘tricks’, as it seems to only be a slight delay before the subtle safety net starts to brake the wheels in an effort to keep the FR-S ‘in line’. Holding down the traction control off button for a few seconds is the only way to truly experience the FR-S’ track competency.

There is no doubt that the FR-S is on the smallish side, but that is not a complete deal breaker for me considering the fun-factor of this 2,700 pound sports coupe. Up front, two passengers have plenty of room. The steering wheel is height-adjustable and telescopes, while the driver’s seat has height adjustability. This gives my 6 foot 3 inch frame plenty of room with just enough space for a helmet.

Living every-day with the new 2013 Scion FR-S was my only minor grievance, considering I had to take my 4-year-old daughter to school a couple days in the FR-S. This gave me a chance to see how well the FR-S fits into my every-day family life. Getting a car-seat into the back of the FR-S proved to be a task, but it actually fit leaving whoever was to sit in the front seat with very little leg room.  Don’t expect to pile two of your teen to adult sized friends in the back if you are anywhere near as tall as me. Adjusting the front seat all the way back will have the seatbacks touching the deep rear bucket-like seats.

The new 2013 Scion FR-S interior is probably the sportiest you will see for its $25K price range. The front micro-fiber-type cloth seats are generously bolstered and optimally positioned for getting down and dirty with some serious driving. The driver’s seat in proportion to the perfectly spaced pedals begs you to try some heel tow action while performing seamless rev-matched downshifts. It is as if the FR-S design teams were track-seekers themselves, hmm.

Toyota and Subaru engineers thought out the new FR-S (and Subaru BRZ) very well, inside and out. The exterior design even has a part in communicating to the driver, too. With an aggressively styled front fascia and low proportioned body, the FR-S slices through the air with a low 0.27 drag coefficient. Where the hood meets the side fenders, it is raised to convey to the driver where the front wheels are placed. This is especially helpful in knowing exactly where your front wheels are placed on say, a track- hint hint!

Believe it or not, efficiency is at the heart of the FR-S thanks to its sappy yet efficient tires, excellent aerodynamics and a direct-injection 200 hp flat-4 engine. However, the new Scion FR-S could use another 60 horsepower to even be considered for stoplight drag races. Aside from the FR-S’s 6.2 seconds 0-60 mph time, you can expect to get a good 30 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in the city. During my time with the FR-S, I was able to average about 27 mpg around town and score an amazing 32 mpg on the highway steadily cruising at 70 mph.

My 2013 Scion FR-S has a base price of $24,995 including $785 delivery and handling fee. The new 2013 Scion FR-S can be had with an optional 6-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, starting at $25,300. A Bespoke touch-screen audio/infotainment system including 5.8-inch LCD touch-screen (no navigation) is available as an $845 option featuring PANDORA radio, HD Radio (AM/FM), iPhone app and USB connectivity.

With just over 2,700 pounds to push around, the rear-wheel-drive FR-S isn’t a complete pushover. For a base price starting at $24,955, the new FR-S is probably the ultimate tuner foundation and a proper return of the affordable rear-wheel-drive sports car. Everywhere I went people would stare at the FR-S. Some were in awe of actually seeing a vehicle that has been anticipated for many years now, others were simply curious as they did not know what the FR-S was. In any given situation, I was confident behind the wheel of what seems to be the hottest $25K rear-wheel-drive sports coupe around.

Copyright: 2012


  • Price: Base FR-S (manual transmission) $24,955.00
  • Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve Boxer/Flat (horizontally opposed) 4-cylinder 200 horsepower @ 7000 rpm / 151 ft-lbs. @ 6600 rpm
  • Track: f/r-59.8/60.6in.
  • Wheelbase: 101.2in.
  • Height: 50.6in.
  • Headroom: f/r-37/35in.
  • Legroom: f/r-41.9/29.9in.
  • Cargo volume: 6.9cu.ft.
  • Fuel tank: 13.2 gallons
  • 0-60 mph: 6.2 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 22 mpg/city, 30 mpg/highway



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