Monday, October 20, 2014

A halo car for Toyota


Typically, when you think of Scion, your head may not go to the thought of a small, rear-wheel drive sports car. The only car that even comes close to that profile is the tC. The Scion tC is by most accounts, not a sports car at all, just merely a sportly looking car. Well, when Toyota/Subaru decided that they were going to jointly develop a car, they were going to go to sports car roots, ala the Mazda Miata. For Scion, this resulted in the very rewarding to drive, and fantastic to look at FR-S. For Subaru, it resulted in the very unconventional for them (i.e. rear-wheel drive, when the rest of your line-up is AWD.) Both vehicles are very very similar. With all of this being said, lets take a deeper look into one of the best driving cars around, the 2013 Scion FR-S.


 When you first look at the FR-S, or the BRZ for that matter, you might notice a very strong resembelance to the Toyota GT86 Concept from a few years back. With strong, flared wheel wells, it gives the car a muscular, yet somehow lean look. Looking at the front of the FR-S, you may very well notice that the fenders are rather flared.

     Scion makes it a point to brag about the FR-S’s low center of gravity, and a lot of the car’s liveliness is indeed likely due to the location of much of its mass. The flat-four sits low in the engine compartment, and even though Subaru stresses how far back the engine is compared with those in other Subies, it’s still surprisingly far forward. The transmission, a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, is right behind the engine, preventing it from being mounted farther back. A transaxle would allow for the engine to be placed more to the rear and would better balance weight distribution, but transaxles cost a lot of money, especially ones made specifically for one car. The transmissions in the FR-S are Aisin gearboxes that are similar to the six-speed units found in the Lexus IS. The manual shifts with a solid, no-nonsense feel. Although the manual suits the character of the FR-S better, the optional automatic with paddle shifters is a responsive and quick-shifting ally.

     Subaru’s flat-four engine still gives off a bit of the characteristic boxer thrum at lower rpm. Above 6000 rpm and to the 7400-rpm redline, though, the four begins its chain-saw impersonation. It’s a bit uncouth, but it feels and sounds like a machine with purpose. On paper, and in the face of the ever-escalating pony-car horsepower war, the FR-S’s 200 hp might seem inadequate. It’s not. With a 0-60 time of just a tick over 6 seconds, it is more than quick enough to put a huge smile on your face. It is worth noting however, that this test unit was a prototype, no. 7 to be exact, and therefore some of the fit and finish, as well as driving dynamics might not be totally accurate.

 The FR-S is more than happy to be played with, as this reviewer almost manged to do an unintentional drift one night. However, it was more than easy to control, as the steering gives you moderate feedback, while still managing to be fun. As just stated, the manual is certainly the way to go with this car, keeping true to the sports-car heritage, but look for a possible review of an automatic equipped FR-S in the future, the fine folks at Toyota/Lexus/Scion PR willing, of course. To sum up this car, it is amazingly fun to drive, yet fairly economical to operate thanks to the 4 cylinder engine.

     The brakes on the FR-S provided amazing feedback, and after several hard stops, no fade was noticed. Shifting was smooth, and once you get the clutch figured out on this vehicle, it really is a blast to drive. In a way to describe this car, if this reviewer had a choice between driving either the Audi S4, or the FR-S, that would be the hardest choice to make, but the FR-S just might win out over the German stud. One downside to be noted is that the seats are certainly made for smaller folk, however if you are of a larger size like I am, they will still be comfortable, you will just have to get used to the sides of the seat digging into your kidneys. The seats do certainly hold you in place however, when you decide to spice things up a bit.


     Overall, Toyota/Subaru made one heck of an effort, and produced on heck of a car. If you are looking for a car that combines style, power, and raw emotion, than this certainly should be on your shopping list. I would even hazard to say that if you are looking at buying a Ford Mustang, or Chevrolet Camaro, or any other small, sporty car under $25k, than this is more than worth a look, and certainly worth a test drive. Will it be a good family car considering the small size of the back seat, no, but then again you don't really ever buy a coupe to be a family hauler. If this reviewer had a Best Driver's car like Motor Trend does, this car would without a question in my mind, be on that list. Stop in to your local Scion dealer to take a look at this amazing car.

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