Monday, January 5, 2015

Review Redo: Halo Car

     If you have been following my reviews, you will know that I have reviewed a Scion FR-S earlier in my career. However, over the past month, Scion was gracious enough to send me another one for review. These are my findings on the second car.

     Introduced just last year, the 2014 Scion FR-S carries over with hardly any changes. However, a touchscreen audio system now comes as standard, and they have added some extra padding to the door panels and center console of the car.

     Co-developed with Subaru, the FR-S easily outpaces the tC, the next sportiest car in the Scion lineup. Coming equipped with a 2.0 liter, flat 4 cylinder engine, that sends about 200 horsepower to the rear wheels, the car won't overwhelm you with acceleration, or power, but it is more than enough to make you feel like you are driving a rather sporty car. However, with the cars' light weight, almost perfect weight balance, low center of gravity, and rather good steering feel make driving on back roads a fun delight. If Porsche were to build a cheaper Cayman, you could assume that it would be a lot like the FR-S.

     Aside from its Subaru twin, the FR-S has no direct competitor. However, the closest competitors are the Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and the Nissan 370Z offer stronger engines and much quicker acceleration. Meanwhile, close in price performance hatchbacks like the Ford Focus ST offer better practicality, and a minimal loss in terms of numbers based performance. That being said, if big smokey burnouts and everyday use are things you are looking for in a sporty coupe, the FR-S might not be the car for you.

The four-seater, 2014 Scion FR-S comes in one trim level. Standard equipment includes such things like 17-inch wheels, A/C, full power accessories, a height adjustable drivers seat, a hard to find in smaller cars tilt-and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and an 8-speaker sound system.

     In lieu of factory options, like all other Scion's, you can get an overwhelming number of dealer-installed accessories, like fog lights, or this testers performance exhaust system, which has quite a happy sound to it.

     Under that sleek looking hood is the heart of this beast, a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder boxer engine, that kicks out a healthy 200 horsepower, and 151 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual comes as standard, however you can get a 6-speed auto if you prefer to have the car do all the shifting for you. All power is routed to the rear wheels only.

     In performance testing, the automatic equipped FR-S made the sprint to 60 in a slow 8 seconds. The heavier yet more powerful coupes mentioned earlier could do it faster, for obvious reasons that don't need to be said.

     Fuel economy is  25 city/34 highway, which is ok, but given that it is a smaller car, it could be a little better.

     Standard safety features on the FR-S include ABS, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, and full length curtain airbags.

 In brake testing, the FR-S came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet, a respectable distance for this little hot rod. In crash test ratings, the FR-S earned the highest possible rating of good from the IIHS in the moderate frontal overlap, side and roof strength test areas.

     Scion has made hardly and concessions in the cockpit of the FR-S. It is a simple, business like cabin that emphasizes driving, with a does of Toyota and Subaru materials and switches. The cockpit likes a little barren, compared to the likes of the Ford Focus ST, yet it feels like a back to basics sports car that Toyota has been missing since the departure of the Supra. As mentioned earlier, a touchscreen interface for the audio system, but opting for the BeSpoke system is still the only way outside of aftermarket units to get nav and smartphone app functionality.

     The front seats are quite firm, but offer great support for hard driving, but they remain somewhat comfortable over longer distances as well. Drivers of almost any size will be able to find a comfortable position, and the long, low hood offers a great view of the road ahead.

There is a backseat, but almost nobody will fit back there. Legroom is almost non-existant, heads bob up and down like a dinghy on rough seas, and the center tunnel impedes hip room. Trunk space is a small 6.9 cubic feet, although folding down the pretty much pointless back seat will increase that space generously.

     If you prefer a car that can set the freeways ablaze in a screen of tire  smoke, the Scion FR-S might not be the car for you.  Power is sufficient, but not much more than that. The FR-S compensates that with amazing grip, feel and thrills around bending corners. The level of control and communication with the driver is beyond anything in this price range. In addition, the feel of the brake pedal is firm, and the chassis remains happy, even over some of the worst roads in the area.  Even the automatic gearbox is tuned for sporty driving.

     Away from the twisty roads, driving the FR-S is still fun. It's quite easy to drive, with a good ride that makes civilized work of the daily commute or flat stretches of the road trip you want to take. However, there is a good amount of road noise coming through the cabin, especially on concrete freeways.

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