2015 Scion FR-S Track Review

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 Scion

The 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 sideways

Scion 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 driving

Sadly 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

Base Price $25,670
On sale Now
Engine 2.0-liter flat-4
Power 200 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque 151 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Drive Rear wheel
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
Wheelbase 101.2 in
Track F/R 59.8/60.6 in
Weight 2758 lb
Passenger volume 76.5 cu ft
Cargo volume 6.9 cu ft
EPA mpg 22/30/25 City/Highway/Combined
Christopher Antonio
Where'd that new Miata go? \U0001f635
Karl Brenner
About time Toyota fixed the kooky way the front end tracks, funny how BRZ's are monsters in handling and FR-S's are all over the place. Now put a turbo on it and triple sales.
Karl Brenner
Too underpowered to be a serious track car, needs atleat 20% more power to compete with an old lady on a bicycle.....
Keira Martin
It's a huge deal if a minivan will smoke you on the street as this is a car and cars are driven on the street, stock miatas suck in auto cross, fr-s' not much better, brz has got the handling but even in auto cross they are anemic and routinely get trumped by family cars, can't wait for the warranty to expire so i can give this brz some much needed power. real fail though ron as these cars are close to being dropped from the lineups becase handling dosent sell these cars...durrrrrr even read this mag much? lol
Damian B-ois
Cheap Poormans junk nothing new, ,reinventing the wheel again toytaburu !... FYI there was a car that was a cheap Poorman car that would eat these subyotas for breakfest in the GT field on the track and streets.. Called Mazda RX 7 AND Rx8..
If this car had 240HP from the factory it would be in my garage right now.
Ron Sinclair
It's not a big deal if it gets overtaken by minivans...that's not what the car is about. Let me know when a minivan outhandles it on backroads. THAT'S the car's main focus. Handling alone WILL sell the car. It's not like Scion and Subaru has a gigantic surpluse of the cars on their lots. Miatas are even close to being powerful, yet they sell very well. In fact, the Miata is the FR-S'/BRZ's main competitor. I guess you haven't been to a local autocross event...you'll see tons of Miatas and BRZs/FR-Ss. Again, if you don't like it, oh well. Don't fool yourself into thinking there's no market for such cars, though.
Joseph Whiskey Beale
Handling alone won't sell cars, owners end up trading them in after being overtaken by minivans on the highway.
Ron Sinclair
Meh...you either like it or you don't. This car is not my cup of tea, but I know Subaru knows far more on the subject than I do, which is why I read as much as possible on these subjects. Yes, there are half a dozen turbo- and supercharger vendors out there for this car...that's what such vendors do, though. They fill in the demand gaps that car makers won't do. It's like that for mos sports cars. It may be gutless, but it certainly handles better than a lot of top-tier cars. Definitely can't argue with that.
Joseph Whiskey Beale
But there are a half dozen aftermarket turbos and two superchargers on the market for BRZs, Subaru could've designed something like those, instead of making it gutless...
Leonardo Valladares
Ron Sinclair
They could actually do what Mazda did and try to shed some pounds (that can count for a lot). From my understanding, a WRX engine is not going to fit. Yes, the Scion uses the FA20 engine and the WRX uses a turbocharged version of the FA20, but the turbo is mounted under the engine...it won't fit because of that. The owner can change the wheels at any time. I don't mind the wheels...anything that keeps the price tamed is good.
Mark Domby
Oh look it's the new Miata again.
Dammy Onafowokan
I actually don't mind the wheels. My main gripe lies under the hood. All it needs is the motor from the WRX and BAM!
Craig Stishenko
Those wheels are just so BRUTAL.

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