Scion FR-S isn't your parent's sleepy Toyota
2013 Scion FR-S (Brent Jamieson/CTVNews.ca)
Published Sunday, September 23, 2012 7:00AM EDT
Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Porsche, Corvette. These are names of cars that are synonymous with fast, sleek, sports cars.
Most people never think of Scion when they think of a sports car. But it’s time they did.
Released for the 2013 model year, the Scion FR-S intends to shake up people’s belief that you have to spend lots of money to have fun.
No, it will never replace those much more expensive cars – but it can still deliver on fun.
The Scion FR-S, and its sister car (the Subaru BRZ), is a combined project of Toyota and Subaru. With a 2.0-litre, 200-horespower Subaru Boxer Engine, the FR-S has no shortage of power. And with rear-wheel drive, there is tons of enjoyment to be had.
In Toronto’s entertainment district this car doesn't seem out of place. With its aerodynamic shape and European styling cues, you get the same looks of admiration that car enthusiasts give to more expensive sports cars.
Starting at $25,990.00 – the FR-S doesn’t come standard with many bells and whistles.
For that you get six airbags, ABS, traction control and vehicle stability control, to name a few safety features.
The car recently earned the "Top Safety Pick" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), passing all of their safety tests.
Comfort options come in the form of power windows, power locks, air conditioning, 17-inch low profile performance tires, a fairly good radio and sports seats.
For about an extra $3,000, you can replace the 6-speed manual transmission with a 6-speed automatic, and a premium radio. My tester came with the automatic ‘box, the premium radio and a premium paint colour bringing the price up to $29,570.20 – including freight.
The price might seem like a bit high for what some people might consider to pay for a basic car. But this is a sports car. The more features you add, the heavier the car becomes, and the heavier the car becomes, the slower it goes.
Scion says that you can get 8.3L/100km in the city, 5.8L/100km on the highway and a combined 7.2L/100km.
On my tests, I was able to 8.4L/100km in the city and 6.5L/100km on a return trip from Kingston, Ont. to Durham Region – a total of 456 km on the highway.
During my regular commute to work, I was able to get 9L/100km. And that’s both keeping up with traffic, and being stuck in it.
Less is more with Scion
The FR-S is very minimalist in its available options, but that doesn’t mean what you get is bad.
All of the controls are within easy reach. You would never have to take your eyes off the road with this car. The dials for the temperature controls are easy to use, a bit chunky in design, but if you were wearing gloves, you’d still be able to tell that you were actually doing something.
The sport seats are very comfortable and hold you well for any maneuvers you could think of doing. This car is what they call a 2+2, which means that it has two doors, two front seats and two back seats.
Well, sort of.
There are seatbelts in the back, but unless your friends are contortionists, or you have a baby seat, and this is to be your only car – you’re better off never using the back bench. Well at least not for driving comfort.
And driving this car does. When you first sit in the driver’s seat, one of the first things you notice – other than it being low – is how the steering wheel is set up for the 9 and 3 position.
There are no steering wheel audio controls and the wheel itself is small – giving you a shorter turning radius, making the car much easier to handle than other vehicles. And with the paddle shifters right there at your fingertips, you can make even the most experienced driver think you’re in a car with a manual gearbox.
Right behind the automatic shifter are four buttons: Traction Off, Sport, Snow and VSC Sport. Each of these buttons change the performance and handling of the car.
Traction Off is pretty self-explanatory. A great function to have in the winter, in case you get stuck in the snow, but you’re better off leaving it on in the summer.
The Snow button is designed to be a great winter driver’s aide. It starts the car out in a higher gear, so that you’re not left spinning your tires in the snow from a standing stop.
Sport is where the car becomes even more interesting. Basically it extends the RPM range of the automatic transmission, changing gears at a higher RPM, and giving you quicker and longer acceleration.
VSC Sport changes the entire dynamic of the car. It adjusts the vehicle stability control to be more track-like in its handling. It changes the entire personality of the car. Not that it needs it.
This isn’t your parent’s Toyota
The FR-S - which stands for Front engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport – is like no other Toyota or Scion currently on the road. Designed after the legendary Toyota 2000GT, the FR-S can be a follower, or a leader.
This car could draw both good attention from car enthusiasts and bad attention from your local police enforcement. Doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in it, just means that you should be careful where you have your fun. And be prepared to talk to strangers.
The most commonly asked question, from Porshe owners and Toyota owners was: "Is it as fun as it looks?" And to that, I always answered with a big grin and said: "Yes…..yes it is."
The FR-S is set up very much like the sports cars of old. I was told by one of my passengers how the ride comfort reminds him of the classic Corvette, just a little bit of a jolt, but not enough to make it unbearable.
This Scion’s grip is just amazing. The FR-S doesn’t hug the roads, the roads hug the FR-S, and you’re very hard-pressed to make a mistake in this car. If you do, the traction control is right there to help bring you in line.
On a dry mid-summer day, the car was quick on the acceleration and listened to my inputs. Even in the rain, the car performed well.
With its performance tires, I didn’t feel like the car was going to get out of shape on me at any point in time, with respect to the speed and road conditions.
If you’re in the market for a fast, sleek, two-seater sports car, but don’t have the $56,500 that it would take to buy the cheapest Porsche on the market, then the FR-S is the car for you.
2013 Scion FR-S
Type: Sports car
Price as tested: $29,570
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4 cylinder Boxer engine
Power: 200 hp
Transmission: 6-speed manual/6-speed automatic
Competitors: Subaru BRZ, Mazda MX-5, Nissan 370Z, Honda CR-Z, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Porshe Boxter, BMW Z4