What started as the Toyota FT-86 concept and portended a joint-effort sports car between Toyota and Subaru is now the Scion FR-S concept that debuted at the 2011 New York Auto Show. It points the way toward a production car that will go on sale sometime in 2012. Scion cannot be more specific on timing due to the upheaval in the Japanese car industry from the earthquake and tsunami, which have wreaked havoc on all future-production planning and timelines.
What we do know for sure is that when it DOES go on sale here, the FR-S (Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport) will herald the return of affordable, rear-wheel-drive performance from Toyota, something we haven’t seen since the RWD Corollas and the MR2. The FR-S is inspired in large part by the AE86 performance Corolla that was a legend in Japan back in the 1980s and is, of course, powered by a Subaru flat-four engine that will likely produce somewhere in the range of 200 hp. The production FR-S will be offered with both a six-speed, short-throw manual gearbox and a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. A limited-slip rear diff will help distribute the power to the rear wheels. There are no production specifications available yet for the FR-S, but Scion VP Jack Hollis promises that it will, like the AE86, “rely on a remarkable combination of a lightweight design, manageable power, and great balance.”
Hollis also promises a 2+2 seating configuration with enough cargo room when the rear seats are folded to accommodate a full set of race-spec wheels and tires plus floor jack for weekend racers. It remains to be seen whether the concept’s staggered 20-inch wheels make it to production: they’re 8 inches wide up front and 10 inches wide at the rear.
The hyper enthusiastic Hollis is clearly itching to add the FR-S to the Scion lineup: “This will be our flagship,” he told Automobile Magazine during the car’s unveiling at Javits Center, “but we won’t even discuss pricing until next year. The best way to say it is that it will be under $30,000. The most expensive model we currently have, the TC, can reach about $20,000.”
It would seem that the only obvious competitor for the Scion FR-S in the U.S. market is the Hyundai Genesis coupe, but Hollis sees it differently: “There’s no set competitor. We don’t even have a competitive set. We’ve gone ahead and compared it with 14 or 15 different vehicles, in different research clinics, and it’s all over the place, depending on where you live, how old you are, and so, at this point, it may stand alone. It may literally be alone in that sub-$30K….because I think when you go over $30K, you create a different expectation with the consumer.” He continues: “I just think it’s gonna be a little bit here and a little bit there…I think we’re gonna take a little bit from everybody. There’s not a head-to-head competitor.”