Car review: Toyota Scion FR-S
- Written by Wilson Calvert
What it is: Easily the best car Toyota has made in the last 10 years. OK, maybe the Prius, which has changed the direction of fuel economy in cars, is more important, but in terms of all-around excellence and fun, the FR-S takes the cake. The FR-S is actually being sold under Toyota’s youth-oriented Scion brand, and the FR-S is exactly what the Scion brand needed, some excitement! The FR-S was designed to be a sports car for the every (wo)man, and they were definitely successful with an MSRP under $25,000 for the 6-speed manual equipped car. There are lots of ‘sporty’ cars out there for less money, but most have front-wheel drive or gain epic amounts of weight (like a V6 Camaro). The FR-S definitely serves its own niche, but the closest competitors would probably be the Hyundai Genesis Coupe or the Mazda MX-5 Miata. What the FR-S delivers is incredible handling and a very driver-focused approach to the sports car. The FR-S is powered by a 2.0 liter, naturally aspirated, four cylinder that generates 200 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft of torque, which is mated to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. My preference between the two was the manual transmission (and the $1,100 savings) over the automatic, but for the first time I would completely be OK with someone getting the automatic and considering themselves a sports car enthusiast. They developed this transmission for the car and it features excellent paddle shifters that pair with a rev-matching technology called “Dynamic Rev Management” which allows fast and wonderful control. The handling experience is near-legendary, but off the line performance is a little lacking. The engine loves to be wound up in the RPMs, but takes a little time getting there. The car was not designed for drag racing though, it was designed to autocross or be thrown around a road course. I was definitely longing for the low-end grunt of a turbo or supercharged engine though. Driving the FR-S on the track was a blast though and the car didn’t feel like it was missing any power when you were competing against yourself. It would be tough to see the higher torque cars pull away from you exiting out of turns though. You probably would catch them in the next corner as the braking power of the FR-S is incredible. Even while full on the brakes, there was almost no wobble or pull in the steering when doing a 100 mph to 0 braking test and the car stopped in a great distance. With a curb weight of only 2,700 pounds and great brakes of nearly 12” diameter that is to be expected! Another aspect I really enjoyed of the car was the level of fit and finish. The exterior looks incredible and the paint choices all look spectacular. The interior was equally impressive with several bits of contrast stitching and soft-touch materials used throughout the cabin. Everything felt a lot nicer than a $25,000 car. They definitely didn’t skimp with the technology as every car is equipped with a Limited-Slip Differential (LSD). My explanation of what an LSD does wouldn’t do it justice (just go read the Wikipedia article), but know that it’s a really good thing and costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars. MPG: MT: 22/30 AT: 25/34 Upsides: Unquantifiable amounts of fun to drive. Great starting price. Downsides: Backseat basically unusable. Wrap-up: The FR-S is an incredible car and Toyota/Scion should be extremely proud. It is difficult to convey to you, the reader, how special the car is without you getting behind the wheel and getting to experience what a true driver focused car is all about. Toyota has resisted the urge to compete in the horsepower wars (2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500 at 650 horsepower. Are you kidding me?!?) and delivered a car that is incredibly fun to drive and will definitely turn heads. The FR-S will be a “controversial” sports car because people will blindly think that due to its relatively lower horsepower that it shouldn’t be a sports car or that it isn’t fun to drive. Owners of the car will be signing themselves up to explain this to the myriad of Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro owners out there that just don’t “get it.” The FR-S is a treasure to drive and at a super-friendly price point. The only problem for future owners will be to try and find one for sale!