PRO’s: Nice transmission, good brakes, great handling manners
CON’s: Harsh ride, somewhat cramped interior, needs more power
FINAL THOUGHT: This is the perfect vehicle for the first time sports car buyer regardless of age. It provides decent power and great handling with enough forgiveness that it will only help one advance as a driver.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is probably not the first review of the 2013 Scion FR-S that you’ve read. However since every automotive journalist out there is different, I felt the need to say “screw it” and throw my hat in the ring. The Scion FR-S and sibling Subaru BRZ, have done a wonderful thing in 2013. You see they’ve injected some much needed life into an automotive segment that was all but dead here in the United States. For years, if you wanted a small, inexpensive, front-engined rear-drive sports car you had but one option, the Mazda Miata. It’s a great little car no doubt, but let’s face it, after 23 years on the market it’s starting to show its age. Therefore when rumblings of these two little guys started surfacing a few years ago, the enthusiast crowd immediately stood up and took notice.
At just over $26,000.00, this is a relatively inexpensive performance machine. For that you get a well balanced, fun to drive, back road burner with a Subaru derived 200 hp flat-4 that makes 151 lb.ft. of torque. It will pull .89G on the skid pad, hit 60 mph in about 7.0 seconds and top out at around 145 mph. Now, are those good numbers? Yes. Are they outstanding numbers? Well, no, they’re not. I say this because the import crowd and motoring press has been doting over the FR-S since it first went into production and because of this I think that people are missing the point of this car. The FR-S and BRZ where never meant to be game changers, but more so to bring a little life back to the basics of fun driving.
There is no mistaking that from a styling perspective the 2013 Scion FR-S is a looker. Body lines are crisp and clean and adhere to the basic principles of sports car design. The long sloping hood gives way to nicely sculpted and integrated headlamps that flow into an edgy front fascia. The rear is typical with high fender lines and fastback rear deck lid. Again, nothing ground breaking here except that the designers have taken all the right elements and made them work properly together.
*If these dash lights aren’t lit up then you’re doing something wrong…
From a driving point of view this car is a lot of fun as Scion has set it up with enough gearing and low-end grunt to let you have a good time. This tester was equipped with the optional automatic transmission complete with paddle shifters and rev-matching capability which meant while fun, there was no way I’d be doing big smokey burnouts. I found the way to drive this car was as follows. Pop the car in sport mode via the little button behind the shifter and turn off the traction control. This will illuminate “sport” and “VSC sport” on the dash. Once this is done you’ll be able to hold your paddle-controlled shifts all the way up to the 7,400 rpm red-line and begin to have a little fun.
Acceleration in the FR-S is brisk, however the fun doesn’t really start until you hit about 4,500 rpms. Keep the revs in that sweet spot in gears 3 through 5 and you’ll be treated to all day fun on your favorite twisty roads. For an automatic transmission with a flappy-paddle option, I’ve got to say that Toyota did a fantastic job. All shifts, be it up or down are crisp and precise and thanks to rev-matching the downshifts, never once did I find myself wishing I had a full-on manual.
*In Europe the car is marketed as the Toyota F86, thus the tribute badge.
Handling on the FR-S is very good. The engineers have built in just enough over steer to let the driver have a little fun when the mood strikes. This is no power-sliding monster, but a great little giggle machine that makes you feel like your a cross between Mario Andretti and Vaughn Gittin Jr. Throw the car into a corner, drop a gear while keeping the revs high and getting the ass to step out is a piece of cake. Granted this isn’t something I’d recommend on a daily basis, but I must admit that it is fun to try once or twice.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when the car is in sport mode the transmission will maintain much higher shift points when your not using the paddles. However take sport mode off and you’ll find that shifts come in extremely low, which is OK as you won’t (and shouldn’t) be playing race car driver every day. These low shift points, plus a low curb weight of just 2,806 lbs. help the Scion FR-S achieve a pretty good economy rating of 25 city / 34 hwy on premium fuel.
Climb inside the FR-S cabin and you’ll see that Scion put together a very inviting (and sporty) interior. Door panels are a combination of textured and color plastics with stitched vinyl accents, while the seats utilize multicolored fabric and nice double stitching.
A center console incorporates a well done shifter with push button functions for sport, snow and traction control. Manual climate controls make driving comfortable and a Pioneer stereo with Bluetooth and Satellite radio keep your communications with the outside world well in check.
Ride quality in the FR-S is definitely on the firm side. So much so that I’m not really sure if I’d want to be rolling any father than 200 miles at a clip. Bumps are felt through the seat bottoms and rough pavement shakes and rattles the car to no end. Granted, were not going for Mercedes-Benz luxury here, but still, this is one harsh riding automobile.
I’d give the 2013 Scion FR-S a 6 out of 10 on the comfort scale. Front seats are VERY supportive and are in fact surprisingly good sport seats for a car in this price range. Larger drivers like myself though will feel cramped and although there are rears seats they’re more of an afterthought than anything else, so there’s really no reason to address them.
Trunk space is limited to a compact 6.9 cubic feet, so if you plan to go away in this thing, pack light. Otherwise the little FR-S is a great little car. It packs a decent amount of bang for the buck, is great for the first time sports car buyer, and thanks to its Subaru derived Boxer flat-4 engine you should have absolutely no reliability issues.
Honestly, the only items this car needs to be taken really seriously is one big-ass turbo charger, some wider wheels and a harness bar for those spur of the moment track days. Otherwise, job well done Scion!