Rosamond, California— The FR-S's engine is winding up with some enthusiasm as we climb the long hill up to turn 1 at the Streets of Willow. This is pretty much what we expect, since the 2015 Scion FR-S hasn't changed much, and the 200-hp, Subaru-built 2.0-liter engine has always been far livelier than you'd expect.
The unknown here is the suspension calibration, which has been retuned a bit for 2015 thanks to some fiddling with dampers, springs, and bushings. We're promised a far more track-friendly package than before, but we're already cringing as we get ready for this rear-wheel-drive car to sit down on its outside rear tire and get all drifty as it has typically done in the past.
Then we bend the car into the fast right-hander, line up for the slow right-hander that follows and then emerge on the other side. Well, what do you know? The 2015 Scion FR-S practically zinged through this combination on a tight, crisp line like it has been born to do this all along.
Signs of life at ScionThe 2015 Scion FR-S has turned the corner, and there are increased signs of life at Scion itself. As we're told later while we swelter beneath the desert sun, Scion will be presenting three concept cars in the coming months, evidence of renewed commitment to the brand.
That's encouraging news, as those festival-type gatherings of Scion xBs in 2003 seem like a very long time ago, and even more distant seems Toyota's 1998 announcement of Project Genesis, a special internal study group to help the company embrace the youth market. As so often happens, Toyota inevitably gets distracted by manufacturing, and good intentions are overwhelmed by the need to churn out cars as if they were patio chairs.
But to its credit, Scion is still an innovative brand, although maybe not in ways that you expect. Scion Swap is a pilot program that enables Scion owners to temporarily rent larger Toyota vehicles such as a minivan or a pickup for a short period. There are preferred financing programs also being employed as well. Most important, the tuning of the FR-S has developed a new engineering vocabulary for ride and handling that has helped Toyota improve the performance dynamics of its cars.
Not so sidewaysScion has been pretty vague about the details of the 2015 FR-S's suspension makeover, but we're guessing stiffer bushings in the front have quickened the car's responses, while work with the springs and dampers in the rear has helped the back of the car stand up a bit as you lay down the power. The bottom line is a car that scribes the line through a corner with confidence, and we like this on the track far more than either the 2014 FR-S's slightly sideways tendencies or the Subaru BRZ's awd-style understeer.
We might not be the only ones to prefer the 2015 calibration, as Team Scion drift driver Ken Gushi allowed that the hurried preparation of his GReddy FR-S for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb this past summer didn't allow much time for suspension tuning, and his car's preference for sideways motoring proved more adventuresome than he would have preferred on the mountain's 156 corners, even though he finished on the podium in his class.
Gushi brought along a GReddy-prepared Scion FR-S presented by Toyota Racing Developments (TRD) as a project car, and we have to say this compact piece makes a pretty darn nice racing car. Of course, the 400-hp GReddy-prepared engine under the hood and the Volk Racing VE40 wheels with 255/35R-18 Toyo Proxes 888 tires in this modified track-only car would probably please anyone. The FR-S is an incredibly small car, about the size of a Mazda MX-5 Miata, yet this TRD FR-S drives with the predictability of a large car. (Well, that's what we think after too few laps behind the wheel.)
Packaged for drivingSadly we weren't able to get as many laps behind the wheel of the 2015 Scion FR-S as we would have liked, and we drove only on the track, not the street. Yet we put in our time on both 2014 and 2015 versions of the FR-S in versions with both manual and automatic transmissions, and the 2015 proved much better to drive in a very noticeable way. The 2015 car also receives a larger roof-mounted antenna, larger-diameter exhaust tips, auto on/off headlights, and carbon-style interior trim pieces. We also really liked the 2015 Scion FR-S Release Series 1.0. Unfortunately, it died an electronic death shortly after we had our way with it. (Uh oh, did we touch it last?) The Scion people admitted that it had been put together with prototype parts very hurriedly. More important, this car looks great in its Yuzu Yellow paint and TRD aero kit, and the TRD steering wheel is pretty nice, too. If we were driving a 2015 Scion FR-S, this is how we'd like it to look. Some 1500 will be made, and it carries an MSRP of $29,990 with a manual transmission and $31,090 with an automatic.
We also like the Scion way of releasing special editions. It makes any model seem fresh. In the end, a little excitement is what any brand needs, whether it's a Lamborghini or a Mini. Maybe with the 2015 Scion FR-S, Toyota's youth division will get the excitement it needs, too.
2015 Scion FR-S
|Power||200 hp @ 7000 rpm|
|Torque||151 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm|
|Steering||Electrically assisted rack-and-pinion|
|Front suspension||MacPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension||Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes||Ventilated discs, ABS|
|Tires||215/45R-17 Michelin Primacy HP summer performance|
|L x W x H||166.7 x 69.9 x 50.6 in|
|Track F/R||59.8/60.6 in|
|Passenger volume||76.5 cu ft|
|Cargo volume||6.9 cu ft|
|EPA mpg||22/30/25 City/Highway/Combined|