2013 Scion FR-S

Comfort RWD 2-Dr Coupe H4 man trans

2013 scion fr-s Reviews and News

2013 Scion FR S Front Left View
Ann Arbor, Michigan -- Since the Scion FR-S debuted, people have tried to milk more power out of it. FR-S owner Mark Sanew loved his car's balanced chassis and handsome bodywork but bemoaned its straight-line shortcomings. "I lost a drag race to a Ford F-250," he admits. Yeah, that hurts.
Adding punch to the 200-hp engine while maintaining the car's cheap-fun raison d'être means no pricey professional tuner, no powertrain swap, and no upsetting the neutral handling with an erratic turbo. Sanew instead chose an off-the-shelf Vortech supercharger kit for its smooth and linear power delivery. A recalibrated Perrin Performance ECU completes his $5150 home-baked package.
We pull up to a stoplight, shift into first, build the revs, and come off the clutch when the light changes. The 85-hp bump is generous but doesn't turn the FR-S into a quarter-mile king. First-gear acceleration feels like that of a V-6 Ford Mustang -- not snap-your-neck quick but way better than stock. Supercharger whine and blow-off-valve noises help mask the boxer's metallic clatter. Touch the rev limiter at just past 7000 rpm, grab second, and the FR-S keeps accelerating like it has extra cylinders.
Do we prefer this Scion to stock? Yes. Do we think it's a performance upgrade worth five grand over sticker? Not really; that price is in Nissan 370Z territory. Is it worth it to Sanew? Hell, yes. "I'll never get smoked by an F-250 again," he says.

The Specs

Price: $30,400 (est., including $5150 for engine modifications)
Engine: 2.0L supercharged flat-4, 285 hp, 216 lb-ft
Drive: Rear-wheel
1971 Datsun 240Z And 2013 Scion FR S Parked
We live in an age that is endlessly and often exclusively obsessed with the present. We crown LeBron James as the greatest NBA player of all time and forget about Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. Kids read The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter books rather than Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Facebook Timelines zoom in on the last minute and compress everything that's come before (of the year 1985, my Timeline succinctly reports, "Born"). Progress is inevitable, and it's great, but how can we properly appreciate it without the context of the past?
It's for this reason that I read with skepticism the effusive praise heaped on the new Scion FR-S, which is being heralded as a great affordable sports car. To be sure, there's plenty to like, including a $24,930 base price and an emphasis on agility and involvement over stat-sheet braggadocio. But like so much that's new and targeted toward millennials, it also exists in the vacuum of its moment -- the Scion FR-S, along with its twin, the Subaru BRZ, is the only car of its kind on the market right now. In order to evaluate where the FR-S really stands, we must remove it from this vacuum. We also have to get the hell out of southeast Michigan. It's with these aims that road test editor Christopher Nelson and I climb into a hot-off-the-line FR-S on a Sunday morning and head south with little more than our overnight bags and an atlas of Tennessee.
The Scion's back-to-basics approach is embodied in a cabin remarkably free of distraction: no touch screen, no steering-wheel controls, no twenty-way adjustable seats. The only digital displays in our no-options test car are a small trip computer and speed readout nestled in the tachometer and a screen in the radio that's only slightly larger and more advanced than a Casio watch. The primary entertainment thus comes from the Scion's responsiveness. The suspension reacts so quickly and honestly to steering inputs that it feels as if you could, at any chosen moment, flick the car into a drift, never mind all those other cars on the expressway. The pedals and the six-speed manual gearbox feel like real mechanical instruments rather than video-game controls. Still, it must be said that we're getting pretty bored by hour three of our 540-mile interstate slog south. Having tired of the drone of the 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine and of each other's voices, we remember that the Scion does have standard iPod connectivity and stream "Call Me Maybe" parodies through much of Kentucky. Thank God (and Carly Rae Jepsen).
We reach Nashville right around dinnertime. Before we stop for the night, though, we head to nearby Franklin, home to Nissan's North American headquarters, where we've been promised there will be a Z waiting for us. No, not a 370Z -- pitting the FR-S against a $9000 pricier two-door with 132 additional horsepower would be silly. We want a 240Z, the little sports car that debuted at the 1969 Tokyo auto show and proved, much like Toyota is trying to reassert today, that Japan, Inc., was capable of building more than just reliable transportation. Thanks to its strong performance, elegant styling, and base price of $3526 (about $21,100 in today's money), it sold like hotcakes -- nearly 150,000 in its four years on the U.S. market, sparking a new golden age for affordable enthusiast cars. Most important for our purposes are its uncompromising sports car bona fides: unassisted steering, a 2350-pound curb weight, and not a single electronic driver aid. The Z will provide the perfect relief against which to judge whether the FR-S is really a sports car in the classic idiom or an inferior modern facsimile.
Most owners of vintage cars are understandably leery about handing over their keys to journalists for more than a spin around the block. We're thus pleasantly surprised when Nissan PR man Steve Yaeger drives up in a company-owned, fully restored '71 Z -- worth about as much as our FR-S but much harder to replace -- and lets us drive it away with no proviso other than, "Try to bring it back in one piece." Well, first try to start it. On the Datsun's center console, precisely where the FR-S features stability control and traction control buttons, there's a small lever that opens the choke on the in-line six's twin side-draft carburetors. After topping off the tank with some high-octane unleaded fuel, I pull the lever all the way back and turn the slender metal key. The six fires up with what must be the loudest explosion heard around these parts since the Battle of Nashville in 1864.
As the backfire settles into a rough, rich idle, I begin for the first time to wonder about the wisdom of including a forty-one-year-old car on a Tennessee back-roads comparison test. I also wonder if perhaps my skepticism was misplaced: what if the good old-fashioned sports car I'm hoping to judge the FR-S against wasn't actually that good? Modern as the Z was in its day -- nothing else in its price range came with a four-wheel independent suspension -- it now feels practically antebellum. Accelerating to 30 mph, its 2.4-liter howls and rattles like a mangy dog, and its thin-gauge steel hide quivers over every road imperfection. Even though the sun has dipped below the horizon, it's about 90 degrees inside the cabin. Turning on the ventilation -- there's no air-conditioning -- sends a sickly, petrol-scented breeze onto my face.
Things seem better, and cooler, when we set off early the following morning for the Natchez Trace Parkway southwest of Nashville. Although all of the Z's controls, especially the steering and the long-travel shifter, are a bit heavier and less precise than I'm used to, they are, as in the FR-S, placed such that the driver feels in immediate command. Even the gauges and the dead pedal -- the latter was a luxury in '71 -- feel as if they were positioned according to the same logic that would guide Scion designers years later.
Positioning the two cars together on a bridge to catch the picturesque morning light gives us a chance to closely compare and contrast their appearance. Actually, there's a lot more that compares than contrasts. The Scion is predictably longer and wider than the Datsun but not dramatically so. Both designs hew closely to classic sports car proportions, with a long nose, a fast rear profile -- the Z is a hatchback, the FR-S is not -- and wheels pushed out to the corners. They even share a crescent-shaped upkick in the rear quarter window. If there is a critical difference, it's in the details. The Scion is, by modern sports car standards, a very restrained piece -- there's no deck-lid spoiler or hood scoop, and it rides on seventeen-inch wheels. Yet in this company, it looks positively overwrought. Widely credited to German-American designer Albrecht Goertz, who is best known for his contributions to BMW's 503 convertible and 507, the Datsun features a side character line that stretches from the tail all the way down to the long, Jaguar E-type-style hood. The "Z" emblazoned into both C-pillars is as memorable as the FR-S's derivative fender blister is forgettable. Much as we may fancy the Z, though, the people of Tennessee seem far more intrigued by the FR-S, inquiring everywhere we travel. "I thought it was some sort of Maserati," enthuses an Audi A6 driver in a suburban Starbucks parking lot. "That car looks lahk ah Fahrahri," drawls a truck driver in rural Tennessee.
Car photography requires hours of parking, idling, and positioning to present various details in the proper light. The Datsun hates this. It registers a lumpy low idle that sounds sinister and forces us to constantly adjust the choke. The Scion, apparently envious of all the attention being showered on its older associate, throws a fit of its own around noon, when it abruptly stalls and then restarts in limp mode. After several tense minutes, it returns to full operation but still presents a check-engine light. Nelson volunteers to crawl back to the suburbs for an emergency appointment at Toyota of Cool Springs, where he'll give the technician a first-ever chance to diagnose a Subaru boxer engine. I look to preserve our remaining car by setting off with photographer Jonathan David for a brisk cruise down the gently undulating parkway. I let my fingers nestle into the grooves of the Z's thin-rimmed wheel and luxuriate in the feedback coming from the suspension as it loads up through gentle curves. It's so ferociously hot in the cabin that David soon scrambles out gasping for air, and my iPhone eventually slips into a self-preserving coma. And yet, I'm beginning to bond with the car to the point that I'm somewhat reluctant to trade keys when the FR-S returns. The Scion's issue -- tentatively diagnosed because the car is so new and unfamiliar to dealers -- is a cam gear that occasionally slips out of alignment, tripping the check-engine light. Rather than sitting around and waiting for it to happen again, we set off through the park. Climbing into the Scion after several hours in the Z is like moving from a rowdy and dingy city apartment to a new house in the suburbs. The shift linkage is tighter, the four-cylinder engine smoother and more powerful. And the cabin is much, much cooler. Still, part of me misses the sounds, the smells, the heat. The car nearly stalls the first time I lift the clutch because I can barely hear the engine, and the electrically assisted steering rack feels like a prosthetic limb with no nerve endings.
After a few more hours of photography, we stop to review our plans. We have beautiful photos, we have driven plenty of miles in both cars, and we have mechanical issues. This is when mature people hang it up and call it a story. But we're not mature, and our atlas promises better roads farther east. With the sun setting, we bid our photographer adieu and climb onto I-40. An electronic road sign overhead morbidly informs us that 473 people have died on Tennessee roads this past year, causing me to glance nervously at the Z's spaghetti-thin A-pillars and air-bag-less steering wheel. The front end begins to wander at speeds higher than 75 mph, so I soon back off to 70 mph, although it's difficult to read the exact speed on the weakly glowing speedometer. Whereas the Scion feels like it could, at your command, go into a drift at speed, the Datsun feels as if it might do so of its own accord. (In later model years, Nissan added a front air dam for improved high-speed stability.) I'm certainly not bored, and I'm definitely not searching my phone for Carly Rae Jepsen songs. I settle instead for the snippets of country and sports talk that come through the AM/FM radio. By the time we reach our destination, a $35-a-night roadside motel in Cookeville, I'm too weary to walk to the nearby Waffle House for dinner. I settle for some frozen microwaveable mac 'n' cheese but fall asleep before I can finish unwrapping it. Driver involvement can be exhausting.
It can also be exhilarating. I take a turn in the FR-S the next day as we drive into a maze of wooded two-lanes. For all the well-deserved tourism of the Tail of the Dragon, which is located about three hours southeast, it's often overlooked that pretty much any road in this region can serve up stretches of paradise. These more challenging roads perfectly suit the FR-S's capabilities. It brakes harder, leans less in turns, and, with its more powerful engine, pulls out of corners better. I put the stability control system in sport mode -- I'm happy to have a safety net when I'm not in the Z -- and luxuriate in the Scion's balance as the rear end rotates just enough to tuck around a corner at a faster speed than the Z could manage. Only, there it is, right in my rearview mirror. "That Z's pretty quick, given the right driver," a sweating, beaming Nelson says at the next switch point with a wink that I find absolutely infuriating. Actually, though, he's right. What the Datsun lacks in structural rigidity and refinement, it mostly makes up for with balance as good as that of the Scion and steering that communicates the moment its fourteen-inch radials begin to give way. In other words, the forty-one-year-old Datsun Z approaches the capabilities of a new Scion FR-S, at least as measured by seat-of-the-pants, real-world driving. What's even more surprising and splendid, though, is that the Scion FR-S feels a lot like a forty-one-year-old Datsun Z. Its normally aspirated boxer engine, which can be better heard with the A/C turned off, responds instantly to throttle inputs even though it's not physically connected to your right foot via a cable. The brakes are firm and progressive, never letting on that computer-controlled sensors are constantly watching for signs of wheel slip. Unlike so many modern cars, it feels like a machine engineered to work through you rather than for you.
As afternoon approaches, we begrudgingly leave the rural two-lanes for the highway and return the Datsun, which is running more smoothly than when we picked it up 350 miles ago. Later, with the Scion safely tucked away for the night, we reflect upon our findings over some of Nashville's finest sushi and warm sake. We have, over the course of two days, driven the stink out of two sports cars born forty years apart and found them pretty much equals. "I can't even remember which corners I took in which car," marvels Nelson.
There's now no denying that the Scion FR-S stands on the shoulders of giants. But because its engineers and designers clearly understood and respected that tradition, it also stands shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

1971 Datsun 240Z

ENGINE 12-valve SOHC carbureted I-6
DISPLACEMENT 2.4 liters (146 cu in)
POWER 151 hp @ 5600 rpm (SAE gross)
TORQUE 146 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION 4-speed manual
DRIVE Rear-wheel
SUSPENSION, FRONT Strut-type, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR Strut-type, coil springs
BRAKES F/R Unassisted discs/drums
TIRES Bridgestone Potenza RE92
TIRE SIZE 195/70HR-14
L x W x H
162.8 x 64.1 x 50.5 in
TRACK F/R 53.3/53.0 in
WEIGHT 2350 lb
0-60 mph 9.4 sec

2013 Scion FR-S

BASE PRICE $24,930
ENGINE 16-valve DOHC direct-injected flat-4
DISPLACEMENT 2.0 liters (122 cu in)
POWER 200 hp @ 7000 rpm (SAE net)
TORQUE 151 lb-ft @ 6400 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
DRIVE Rear-wheel
Electrically assisted
SUSPENSION, FRONT Strut-type, coil springs
SUSPENSION, REAR Control arms, coil springs
BRAKES Hydraulically assisted vented discs, ABS
TIRES Michelin Primacy HP
TIRE SIZE 215/45WR-17
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
EPA MILEAGE 22/30 mpg
0-60 mph 6.2 sec
2013 Scion FR S Front Right View
As we learned a few months ago Subaru did the vast majority of the engineering work on the newest Toyota/Subaru/Scion triplets that will be sold here in America as the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S. Amidst all the Internet armchair warrior demands that the sports cars need a turbocharger, our drive reviews have all concentrated on the cars’ handling. After all, sports cars have never been about speed -- they’re about finesse and handling. Or at least they should be. And these two cars certainly are.
Subaru’s high-revving, direct-injection 2.0-liter flat-four produces 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, which seems meager until you plug the cars’ light weight into the equation: the Scion we weighed pressed the scales with 2737 lb; the Subaru 2747. As a result, the cars were essentially neck-and-neck in acceleration runs, with the Scion’s 6.2-second run to 60 mph edging out the Subaru’s 6.4-second 0-60 sprint. That difference is within the margin of error.
The cars, too, were tied in braking and handling (the Subaru generating 0.94g on the skidpad, just 0.01g ahead of the Scion.) Both manufacturers are selling their cars equipped with summer tires that prioritize low rolling resistance for fuel economy rather than ultimate grip. You’d see much higher at-the-limit numbers with stickier rubber.
And it’s at the limit where these two cars are quite different.
Oversteer is something not very familiar to Subaru engineers, so it’s not surprising that, of the two, the BRZ is more given to understeer. That’s not to say that the BRZ is plagued with excessive understeer -- far from it. It turns in willingly, but settles into mild and easy-to-manage push at the limit. Gentle manipulations of the steering and throttle do little to coax the BRZ’s rear end out. If you want to get it sideways, you can by flicking the wheel under trailing throttle or by flat-footing the throttle and waiting for the engine’s output to finally overwhelm the tires. It takes a second or so, but the result is a smooth, gradual power slide that’s supremely easy to hold. The BRZ is very much like a Mazda RX-8 in its moves: there’s no reluctance to turn, and the obedient chassis never bites back. It’s predictable, secure, and very fast.
The Scion FR-S, on the other hand, is more playful -- and has a temper. Think of an RX-8 with some MX-5 Miata thrown into the mix. Stiffer rear springs and bushings help make the Scion more neutral at the limit. A tiny amount of initial understeer can be nixed by your right foot with no hesitation. Lift slightly in a corner and the FR-S’s rear tires come unstuck. Get on the throttle too hard, and without delay the rear end begins to rotate. Its actions are quick, so your reactions on the steering wheel need to be fast, too -- but there’s more than enough steering feel coming through the electrically assisted rack that you’ll feel the back end coming around right away.
A beginner driver might have an easier time controlling the Subaru at the limit -- more experienced drivers might prefer the Scion. As the near-identical performance numbers show, neither has a clear performance advantage -- it’s all about the feel. The Scion offers the best balance of any sports car within three times its price. Well, except the Subaru, which trails right behind. Either way, as a track day smile-maker, these cars are the official bargain of the decade.
While the two cars score a 9.5/10 on the track (in my book, at least), they’re not quite as great on the road. Cars like the Mazda Miata offer up a more engaging experience in normal driving (with the benefit of an open roof and at the expense of rear-seat and cargo-carrying practicality, of course).
The FR-S’s steering isn’t hugely communicative on-road, but it’s highly accurate. The shifter feels great, and it’s easy to shift smoothly. (And, as much as I hate to admit it, the six-speed automatic works really well even if, philosophically, it has no business being in a lightweight sports car.) The suspension is just firm enough to do its job without ever being harsh, and it’s noticeably firmer than the Subaru’s. Outward visibility is very good by sports-car standards. The steering wheel doesn’t quite telescope close enough to the driver, but at least the seats are comfortable and supportive, and the driving position is otherwise nice. The rear seats offer an emergency spot for two limber friends. The Subaru wins hands-down on the convenience front with not-available-at-Scion optional HIDs, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and navigation -- especially when you consider Scion’s aftermarket-looking, difficult-to-use and weak-sounding stereos. Thankfully, they’re a double-DIN aftermarket replacement away from being whatever you like. And, at least to this driver, the Scion’s playful handling reigns supreme.
So what makes these cars earn less than 9.5/10 on the road? The engine.
In terms of specific power output and torque delivery, this flat-four is impressive. It produces 100 horsepower per liter without needing 8000 revs, and other than a noticeable torque dip in the middle of the rpm range, it pulls cleanly from idle to its 7400-rpm redline.
At 6.2 and 6.4 seconds to 60 mph, these cars are certainly quick enough when giving their all. The problem is what happens when they’re not flat out. Remember the original Porsche Boxster? Its horsepower number (201) and weight (about 2750 lb) were virtually identical to the BRZ/FR-S twins, and it did 0-60 in the same amount of time -- 6.3 seconds. There was one crucial difference though: the new cars make do with a maximum of 151 lb-ft of torque. The Boxster’s 2.5-liter flat-six produced 180.
That extra nearly 30 lb-ft of torque went a long, long way towards making the Boxster feel quick in normal driving. And perhaps even more important: when it came time to accelerate quickly, the Porsche responded with a musical intake snarl coming so loudly from the intake vent near the driver’s left ear that it rendered him hopelessly in love.
Twenty-nine fewer pound-feet of torque means the FR-S needs to be revved that much higher -- which might not be an issue if there was an acoustic reward to doing so. There’s plenty of flat-four noise in the cabin (most of it intake noise made possible by a resonance tube) -- but it’s all noise and never music. The engine note is a flat, passionless sound that changes pitch with revs, but never timbre. It never comes alive, it never becomes sharp, it never begs you to keep going. In fact, you mostly just want the noise to go away.
While the Internet is alight with demands for a turbocharger, let the record state that such a device would run the risk of ruining the FR-S’ immediate responses. A turbo -- and the lag inherent in such a device -- would do slightly better in the Subaru, thanks to that car’s slightly duller reflexes. Either way, though, a turbo would dilute the purity of these two sports cars. What they really needs is a vocal, low-boost supercharger to give it another 30 lb-ft of torque, available in an instant, from idle to redline. That would not only help at the track -- where the additional output could be matched by gripper tires and still maintain that near-perfect balance or power and handling, but it would go a long way to make this very special sports car as good in normal driving as it is at its limits.
2013 Scion FR S Front Three Quarters
Slide behind the wheel of the first-ever rear-wheel-drive Scion and settle into the Recaro-style seats. Severely sculpted, with black fabric, red stitching, and prominent bolsters, they immediately telegraph the performance intentions of this 2+2-seat coupe. Drop your left leg onto the clutch pedal. The travel is short but fluid, with a discernible engagement point just short of the floor. The gearshift has short throws and positive action. The steering wheel is all business, exactly the right thickness and with minimal padding. So far, everything feels just right to the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands, and the car isn't even moving yet.
We're at Sodegaura Forest Raceway, a 1.5-mile road course tucked into a forest in Chiba Prefecture, across Tokyo Bay from Tokyo. This is our first drive of Toyota's version of the all-new, front-engine rear-wheel-drive coupe it co-developed with Subaru. We drove the Subaru BRZ last week, and the Scion FR-S (Front engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport) is virtually the same car, with some minor tuning and trim differences. Toyota will sell the FR-S as the Toyota 86 in Japan and as the Toyota GT86 in Europe, but only as the Scion FR-S in North America.
More on the Subaru connection shortly. Turn the key (other markets get push-button start) and the 200-hp, 2.0-liter Subaru flat-four engine, code-named 4U-GSE for those who care about such things, sparks immediately to life and settles into a quiet hum. Engage the clutch, select first gear, and we are off with a chirp of the rear tires, heading quickly into the tight right-hander that is Turn One at Sodegaura. Oh, wow, does this car turn in. The steering is super precise, and you have a good sense of the front of the car, even if there's not the sort of steering feel you get in a Lotus Elise or Porsche Cayman. The FR-S feels flat, balanced, neutral, natural.
"Natural" is the operative word with the FR-S, as every action and reaction feels like you expect it to. The car's chief virtue is its simplicity. It's a small, short-wheelbase, relatively light (curb weight is still unknown) car that does without turbocharging, large-displacement engines, all-wheel drive, trick transaxles, or big rubber. In fact, the Michelin Primacy HP tires are only 215/45R17's, in an era when 20-inch tires are commonplace. Yet the FR-S is a better and more rewarding car to drive -- at least on a handling course; we haven't driven it or the BRZ on public roads yet -- than many cars that have turbos, large-displacement engines, transaxles, big rubber, or all-wheel drive. Funny how that works.
The FR-S works very well indeed. A key technical achievement is the low center of gravity afforded by the compact horizontally opposed four-cylinder, which nestles deep down in the engine bay. Like the Subaru BRZ, the FR-S is offered either with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic that locks up its torque converter with the goal, says chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, of "exceeding DSG gearboxes" in shift times. Although there is a manual shift gate for the automatic, plus shift paddles, we found it worked best on the track when it's simply left in drive; try to use the paddles and you'll likely have downshifts denied even when there seems to be plenty of space left on the tach. That complaint aside, this appears to be a very nice automatic, but why would you want one in this pure sports car?
2013 Scion FR S Front Three Quarters View
Back to the track. The FR-S moves fluidly among Sodegaura's fourteen corners, and it's very forgiving if you misread a line and dive abruptly toward the apex. Oversteer is easily achieved and easily controlled, and if you don't have the nerve or skill to turn off the stability control entirely, the "VSC Sport" button gives you a lot of rear-end-out fun before the stability cuts in. On a wet track, this was a swell, giggle-inducing experience. The engine, which is fitted with Toyota's D4-S combined port injection and direct injection, isn't raspy like most Subaru fours nor a high-RPM screamer like, say, the Honda S2000's four. Yet it heads readily to its 7400-RPM redline and never seems short of breath. The redline itself is pretty forgiving, but the window between 7000 RPM and redline is exceedingly short, and an upshift-alert light blinks furiously if you're not efficient with your upshifting.
Furious track activity is clearly what the FR-S is for, as evidenced by a series of hot laps conducted at Sodegaura by Scion Formula Drift star Ken Gushi, who drove the car for the first time today just like us. "Drove" is perhaps the wrong verb, because Gushi launched, hammered, battered, finessed, coaxed, directed, and manipulated the Scion around the rain-swept road course in a nearly nonstop drift that was an equally violent and controlled maneuver, a dramatic display of this car's potential. Okay, so he did a complete spinout in one corner, prompting him to observe wryly, "It's a little snappy when you're driving it stock." Indeed. "And how will the drift FR-S differ from the production version?" we asked. "Well, of course we will put on huge rubber, and 200 hp isn't nearly enough for competition, so we'll have to turbocharge it," the California Drifter replied.
"Where will you wedge in the turbocharger?"
"That's the problem," came Gushi's grinning reply. "We don't know yet!" Rest assured, the Scion Formula Drift shop, among myriad other tuners, will be figuring this out soon.
Even with a far, far less talented driver behind the wheel, the FR-S dives into corners with enthusiasm and a minimum of understeer. We haven't had the same editor in both the Subaru and the Scion, but comparing notes, it appears that the Scion is less susceptible to understeer than the BRZ. Chief engineer Tada-San says that his goal in tuning the FR-S was agility, whereas Subaru focused more on stability, so this makes sense. "We have softer springs and stiffer dampers in front than Subaru does," Tada-San tells us. "At the rear, I chose the same spring rates as Subaru but different valves in the dampers."
Which brings us to the whole notion of this Subaru/Toyota partnership. How did this happen? Well, it's difficult to get the entire story from either side, but this is what we've managed to piece together:
By the middle of last decade, Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru's parent company, was no longer associated with General Motors. (You remember that association; it produced the Subaru WRX-based Saab 9-2. So you can see why the association ended.) Through some combination of national pride, Japanese government prodding, and goodwill, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) began a relationship with Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) after Fuji's divorce from GM. At about the same time, Toyoda family patriarch Akio Toyoda, who is now president, asked, "where is the passion in our lineup? I want to build a sports car." TMC established a sports car planning division, which quickly decided on a brief for the new car. Its styling would be inspired by the Toyota 2000GT supercar of the 1960s, its engine would follow in the footsteps of the flat-two-cylinder engine in the diminutive Toyota 800 (a.k.a. Yotahachi), and it would be conceived in the spirit of the famous mid-1980s Toyota Corolla GT-S, known to aficionadoes by its internal Toyota code name, AE86. (In Toyota nomenclature, the A referred to the 4AGEV engine, the E to the Corolla model line, and the 86 was a sequential number. "86," or "Hachi-Roku" in Japanese, has taken on legendary status among Toyota fans; hence the use of the two digits in non-USA models and even on a little fender badge on the FR-S.)
The project progressed for about a year, but Subaru rejected the first proposal. Here's where things get murky, but it's fairly apparent that Subaru was having a hard time stomaching the thought of a rear-wheel-drive car, since their entire brand identity is predicated on all-wheel drive. Subaru walked away from the table and the entire project was in limbo for about half a year. Subaru finally decided to make a prototype car with a very low center of gravity, which eliminated the possibility of all-wheel drive. That prototype both surprised and amazed Toyota, which enthusiastically supported its development. The joint project proceeded in late 2007 and now, four years later, we see the fruits of the two companies' work. Styling is by Toyota, development and manufacturing are by FHI, and each company, obviously, will be in charge of marketing and sales for their respective products.
At this juncture, it seems like Toyota might have gotten the better end of the deal. After all, the FR-S falls neatly into a historic lineup of rear-wheel-drive Toyota sports cars and should give the Scion brand a huge dosage of street cred. Subaru, for its part, has staked its entire brand on the concept of all-wheel drive, so it's not clear how the BRZ fits into the Subaru lineup. That said, these cars just feel right to us and are destined to shake up the world of affordable sports cars in a big way.
2013 Scion FR-S
On sale: spring
Base price (estimated): $24,500
Engine: 2.0L DOHC H-4; 200 hp @ 7000 rpm, 150 lb-ft @ 6400-6600 rpm
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
2013 Scion FR-S
2013 Scion FR-S

New For 2013

The FR-S was introduced in the spring of 2012 for model year 2013. It is nearly identical to the Subaru BRZ; the FR-S is slightly less expensive, but it has a bit less standard equipment.


The FR-S is the first-ever sports car for Scion, and it’s a radically different machine from the boxy subcompacts that the brand is best known for and is nothing like even the sporty tC coupe. The FR-S is the result of a collaboration with Subaru, and Subaru is selling a virtually identical car, the BRZ. Subaru also builds both versions, and the engine in the FR-S is a horizontally opposed Subaru four-cylinder. The benefit of a so-called boxer engine is its low overall height, which allows the FR-S to have a lower center of gravity. The 2.0-liter is good for 200 hp and comes with a six-speed stick or a six-speed automatic with shift paddles. In keeping with the pure sports car idea, the FR-S is rear-wheel drive and, equally important, is very light weight, at about 2750 pounds. The small two-plus-two does have rear seats, but they’re pretty cramped; the rear seatbacks do fold down to expand trunk space. Performance-wise, the FR-S is not a powerhouse, but it’s definitely quick. The car’s overarching character, however, comes from its beautifully balanced chassis, which makes for neutral handling. The FR-S is fun to drive in a way that no previous Scion has ever been and few other cars are.


Front, side, and side curtain air bags; traction and stability control; and ABS are standard.

You'll like:

  • Light and lively
  • True sports car experience
  • Ultraresponsive handling

You won't like:

  • Cramped rear seats
  • Tiny trunk
  • Boxer engine thrum

Key Competitors For The 2013 Scion FR-S

  • Honda Civic Si
  • Hyundai Genesis
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Subaru BRZ
Scion FRS 2013 Profile
Rally fans, rejoice — Toyota has announced that its European motorsport division Toyota Motorsports GmbH (TMG) is developing a GT86/Scion FR-S rally car. Dubbed the TMG GT86 CS-R3, this rally FR-S will be eligible for competition in the R3 class.
2013 Toyota Gt86 Front Three Quarters 2
Although many were disappointed that the recent Subaru BRZ STI preview turned out to be a mild tuning upgrade rather than a full-on STI model, fans of the sports car twins may be able to turn to Toyota for a higher-powered version. This is exciting news for those who have expressed their concern that the standard car's 2.0-liter, 200-hp boxer four-cylinder is simply not enough power for the capable, balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis.
TRD Griffon GT86 Front Three Quarter
Toyota Racing Development has released photos of its newest project car based on the GT86 (known here as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ). Called the TRD Griffon GT86, the modified sports coupe will make its public debut July 12 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
2013 Scion FR S Front Three Quarter 2
So Toyota's GT 86 (sold here as the award-winning Scion FR-S) is a success--what's next for the automaker and its stable of sporty cars? We hear that the Toyota/BMW sports car project briefly mentioned late last year is still taking shape.

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2013 Scion FR-S
2013 Scion FR-S
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22 MPG City | 30 MPG Hwy
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28 MPG City | 39 MPG Hwy
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2013 Scion FR-S
2013 Scion FR-S
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2013 Scion FR-S Specifications

Quick Glance:
2.0L H4Engine
Fuel economy City:
22 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
30 MPG
200 hp @ 7000rpm
151 ft lb of torque @ 6400rpm
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats (optional)
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control
  • Sunroof (optional)
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
36,000 miles / 36 months
60,000 miles / 60 months
Unlimited miles / 60 months
25,000 miles / 24 months
25,000 miles / 24 months
Recall Date
Potential Units Affected
Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing

Recall Date
Southeast Toyota is recalling certain model year 2008 and 2010-2013 Toyota Tundra, 2010-2012 Rav4, 2012 Toyota Sequoia, 2010-2011 Toyota Corolla, 2010-2011 Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid, 2010-2013 Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid, 2010-2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser, 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser, 2010-2013 Toyota Venza, 2010-2011 Toyota 4Runner, 2010-2013 Toyota Tacoma, 2011-2012 Toyota Sienna, 2012 Toyota Prius, 2013 Scion FR-S, 2011 Scion XD, 2011 Scion XB, and 2012 Scion TC vehicles. These vehicles were sold with labels that were outside the allowable one percent of accuracy of actual weight added. Thus, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) Number 110, "Tire Selection and Rims."
An inaccurate label could lead to owners overloading their vehicles and tires. An overloaded vehicle can result in a tire failure which may result in a vehicle crash, personal injury, or property damage.
Southeast Toyota will notify owners and provide a corrected label with instructions concerning its installation. A small group of the affected vehicles will need additonal remedies which are still being developed. The recall began on May 28, 2013. Owners may contact Southeast Toyota at 1-800-301-6859.
Potential Units Affected
Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC

NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rollover
Not Rated
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
IIHS Overall Side Crash
IIHS Best Pick
IIHS Rear Crash
IIHS Roof Strength
IIHS Front Small Overlap

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