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2013 Scion FR-S – Second Look Test Drive

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When I think of Toyota’s Scion division I always think of inexpensive, low-end vehicles priced and engineered for urban dwellers looking for affordable, front-wheel drive, small-compact, high-mileage vehicles such as the xB, tC, and iQ.  Well, Scion has turned the corner on those other models with the introduction of the all-new FR-S rear-wheel drive sports car.  Scions usual cues of affordability and compact size are still a hallmark of the all-new FR-S but this is no ordinary Scion as this fifth model to join the Scion family is its ‘halo’ car.

The FR-S provides the automotive landscape with an authentic sports car at an affordable price of admission with a MSRP of just $24,200 when equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, and $25,300 when equipped with the outrageous six-speed automatic that features paddle shifters and Dynamic Rev Management technology.

The FR-S, which stands for Front-engine, Rear-wheel, Sport; is Scion’s definition of an authentic rear-wheel-drive sports car with exceptionally balanced performance and handling , compelling style, flexible utility and surprisingly good fuel mileage.

The FR-S is a true ‘Scion, born into a lengthy history of Toyota performance cars and motorsports.  During planning and development, it was most inspired by the AE86 generation of the Corolla, better known as the Hachi-Roku, meaning ‘8-6’ in Japanese.  The AE86 was a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe that was lightweight and well balanced, making it a solid choice for driving enthusiasts.

Inspired by the AE86, the FR-S is designed around the core goal of achieving ‘Pure Balance’, which begins with the strategic use of the world’s only flat boxer engine in a front-engine, rear-wheel drive configuration.  The engine’s compact size and flat shape allow it to be mounted mid-ship and extremely low, giving the car a dynamically favorable front-to-rear weight ratio of 53/43 and a low center of gravity comparable to some exotic supercars.

The FR-S’s 2.0 liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine is the result of a joint development between Toyota and Subaru.  The partnership begins by combining Subaru’s newly developed, horizontally opposed engine and Toyota’s cutting-edge D-45 injection system which incorporates both direct and port injection for each cylinder, one injecting directly into the combustion chamber, and the other a port injector located above the intake valves.  Adopted from the Lexus IS F, D-45 injection is a new technology for the Scion family.  The D-45 system uses the direct injectors at all engine speeds.  Both the direct and port injectors are used at certain engine speeds and under certain engine loads to help fill out mid-range torque.  The D-45 is also a key technology that reduces vehicle emissions.  FR-S heads utilize dual variable valve timing, making adjustments to the intake-and exhaust-cam timing to help optimize power, torque and fuel mileage.  The D-45 system, partnered with a high 12.5:1 compression ratio, results in an impressive 200 hp at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb.ft. of torque at 6,400 rpm.  Despite the engine’s powerful 100 hp per liter, the FR-S has EPA estimated ratings of 34 mpg/highway when paired with the automatic transmission, and EPA estimated 30 mpg with the manual transmission.

The flat-four mates with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic, which I tested, transmission.  The manual offers quick, precise shifts with a short-throw; while the automatic features aggressive up shifts and sporty rev-matched down shifts that are initiated by steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.  The automatic features Dynamic Rev Management technology that quickly raises the engine speed to help match engine revs to gear ratios on downshifts, limiting driveline shock and adding to the visceral experience of driving the car.  The automatic also features a Sport Mode that quickens shift timing as well as throttle response.  In Sport Mode, the transmission will also hold gears longer at higher revs before upshifting, making it easier to exploit the torque and horsepower in the upper reaches of the rev range.  I haven’t had so much fun with a paddle shifting automatic transmission in a while-so quick, so precise, so powerful when you floor the throttle.  Both transmissions have the same 4.10:1 final drive ratio and helping to put the power down on the pavement with precision and immediacy is the standard Torsen Limited Slip Differential.

The FR-S’s low weight (2,806-auto/2,758 lbs.-manual) is complimented by a dynamically tuned suspension setup consisting of MacPherson struts up front with a 18mm stabilizer bar and a double-wishbone system in the rear with a 14mm stabilizer bar.  Excellent steering feedback and input is provided by electronic power rack & pinion steering with a sport 13:1 steering ratio.  Lightweight 17X7 in. alloy wheels are wrapped with 215/45R17 in. Michelin Primacy high-performance tires that provide excellent grip and traction when you call for it at launch and a smooth quiet ride at speed.  The car is so light and nimble that it is a challenge worth taking when tackling steep curving roads when you can get away from traffic.  This combination gives you the feeling of ‘riding on rails’.  Even more so when you choose to shut down the Traction Control and let the rear slide out when in the curves.

Quickly and safely slowing the FR-S down from speed are power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes.  Up front are 11.6 in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers, and 11.4 in. vented discs in the rear clamped with single-piston calipers.  Standard ABS, EBD, BA and Smart Stop technology help you brake harder during server braking maneuvers and when braking on wet or slick pavement.

The bold exterior of the all-new FR-S is a solid reflection of its inner power.  The profile, inspired by the Toyota 2000GT, reveals a hood and roof-line that is remarkably sleek and low, giving it an aerodynamic shape that channels air cleanly over the top.  The low stance continues to exaggerate the coupe’s menacing face, which is made up of sharp lines, a wide lower intake and angular headlights that house the projector-beam halogen lamps.  The aggressive front fenders protrude upward and boast the iconic ‘86’ piston emblem, which highlights the car’s AE86 heritage as well as its unique new boxer engine.  The rear fascia sits low and wide, with aerodynamic lower treatments that surround the sporty dual exhaust system.  LEDs illuminate the edgy taillights, while center-mounted backup lights finish the muscular design.

The FR-S’s interior includes a 2+2 seating configuration that is designed with both form and function in mind.  The comfortable yet assertive front bucket seats feature deep bolsters to keep you snug during spirited driving and are mounted extremely low, while the rear seat folds down flat, creating flexible space.  It also comes standard with unique FR-S badged floor mats.  The large center-mounted tachometer is the focus of the three-gauge cluster and features a programmable shift-indicator, which has a small but intense indicator that lights up when redline is reached.  You can also set the warning to go off in 100-rpm increments, starting at 2,000 rpm.  A chime can be programmed to sound when redline is approached. Speed is monitored by both digital and analog gauges.  It really puts you in a race-inspired feeling every time you light up the boxer engine.  Further enhancing that feeling is the performance-oriented, 365-millimeter, leather-wrapped steering wheel that has both tilt and telescoping adjustments for the perfect reach and angle.  You’ll also notice the aluminum pedals with rubber inserts matching the door kick plates.  The soft-skin dash top has a ‘flat horizon’ design, influenced by the simple purity of the Toyota 2000GT dash.  At the center of the dash top is a raised rib, which functions as a ‘centerline’ that reflects at the base of the windshield, helping a skilled performance driver intuitively find the center of the car.

The all-new FR-S comes standard with an eight-speaker AM-FM-CD-USB 300-watt maximum output Pioneer audio system with standard features such as HD radio, Bluetooth and streaming audio.  The FR-S is the first Toyota to offer a connected multimedia audio system called BeSpoke, powered by Pioneer’s Zypr.  When connected to an iPhone, Scion’s BeSpoke system will offer a higher level of connectivity features and personalized content like Facebook, Twitter, Internet radio, among others.  Other standard features include remote keyless entry, remote trunk and fuel filler door, power door locks/power windows with express up/down, A/C, map lights, grab handles above each door, variable speed wipers/washers, cruise control, a deep glove box, dual cupholders and storage slots in each door.

FR-S comes standard with six airbags, including dual-stage advanced driver/front passenger airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, front-seat-mounted airbags and side curtain airbags.

Being in the driver’s seat of the all-new FR-S is like being in a real racecar.  It is so light and nimble, so a part of you when taking the car through its paces at higher than normal speeds.  You feel more confident that the car will do exactly as you wish it to do, with flying colors.

Copyright: 2012 Harvey Schwartz

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price: Base FR-S (automatic transmission) $$25,300.00
  • 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, 34 mpg/highway
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