2013 Scion FR-S
Lightweight, inexpensive, small, rear-wheel-drive sports cars were once a thriving part of the automotive landscape. Then, one-by-one, they began to die-off. The Celica turned into a front-wheel-drive economy car. The Corolla AE86 bit the dust in 1987. The rotary-engined RX-7 at least held on until 2002. The Toyota MR2 and MR Spyder were brief glimpses of hope, but both soon dimmed. Come 2012, the only lightweight RWD sports car was the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Some of you might complain that the 370Z is out there, but that car is neither inexpensive nor lightweight. I’ve also hear complaints that focusing on rear-wheel-drive ignores cars like the WRX, but I would argue while the WRX of the 90s was lightweight and small the WRX of today is more akin to an SUV than a sports coupe. After years of rumor, speculation and hope Toyota showed a concept called the FT-86 to us at the 2009 Tokyo Motor show. Enthusiasm erupted. Production was quickly announced and the countdown to a new rear-drive Toyota began. We have arrived.
When my tester FR-S arrived at my front step I couldn’t help but smile. The edgy styling is the first thing you notice looking at the FR-S. Lines sweep from the curve of the front fender to the bottom of the fascia and the hood features rounded contours that taper to a point in the front, from the front the FR-S looks serpentine, ready to bite. It’s aggressive, but maintains composure unlike some of the early FR-S concepts.
From the side, a profile reminiscent of the Toyota 2000GT can be seen. The front fender vents, although non-functional, accentuate the front nicely. The opposing-piston “86” logo is clean and simple. Typical of a sport coupe, the FR-S carries a steeply-raked windshield and a high beltline. Proportionally, the car looks perfect. From the rear, a set of tail lights echo the shape of the cars headlights. A large plastic fascia takes the bulk of the rear styling and dual exhausts remind you of the cars sport intentions. I applaud Toyota for not adorning the trunk with a giant wing or overdone spoiler.
The interior of the FR-S is the definition of no-frills. Honestly, that is not a bad thing either. Sports cars don’t need sparkly distractions or frills, sports cars need to deliver data to the driver and quick access to car functions. The FR-S, though no-frills, is not bland as its interior aesthetics include faux-carbon-fiber on the dash and contrast red stitching on the seats and steering wheel.
When it comes to getting data to the driver, the FR-S excels. Instruments are laid out intelligently for sporty driving. The primary gauge is a large tachometer with high-contrast numbers and it sits front and center with a simple driver information display along with a digital speedometer tucked inside. There is a shift light on the gauge as well so you can keep your eyes forward at all times. Flanking the tachometer is an analog speedometer and a fuel/temperature gauge. Front seats were designed for spirited driving with plenty of bolstering and support to handle any twisties. The seats are also perfectly comfortable for everyday driving as well. They’re thin, sporty, covered in grippy sueded-fabric though they do lack any kind of lumbar support. Given the cars price point and sporty nature I couldn’t imagine a better seat.
Rear seats are hilariously small. No normal sized adult human being will be able to fit back there as leg room amounts to about 1cm. They’re for insurance purposes only and cargo space beyond that. Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine, a joint development between Toyota and Subaru. The engine puts out 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, not huge numbers until you consider the cars curb weight of about 2,800 pounds. You must also remember the purpose of the FR-S, though it puts out a respectable 0-60mph time of 6.7 seconds, the car is all about handling and speed through the corners not massive torque, tire burning acceleration. That said, I wouldn’t be opposed to a bit more power and I’m sure the market will soon be flooded with exhausts, intakes, forced induction kits, etc… Economy in the FR-S is surprisingly good at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, although those numbers are highly variable based on how you drive the car.
The first thing you notice when driving the car is how light the clutch pedal is, great for those new to moving through gears on their own. I’d prefer something a bit stiffer, but the car is perfectly functional as is. Shift throws are short and precise, making the FR-S the best shifting Scion I’ve driven. Above 3,000 RPM the FR-S really finds its comfort zone. Going fast in the FR-S is all about momentum and keeping it in that 3,000+ RPM range. In corners the car grips hard and feedback is fantastic. If you’re willing to pay attention the FR-S will let you know what’s going on at all times.
It’s a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sportscar that you can take home for less than $25k.
My Scion FR-S came in at $24,997 with wheel locks and delivery.
As the first new and affordable rear-wheel-drive sports car in nearly a decade, the Scion FR-S is an absolute automotive out-of-the-park homerun. If you don’t need a backseat and if you not only don’t mide a stiff ride but rather prefer one, the FR-S will reward you with precise handling and a level of fun that is hard to describe. I’d buy one in a heartbeat.