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2013 Scion FR-S Overview
Overall User Score
Based on 9 reviews
I can’t wait for the Subaru BRZ. An affordable enthusiast’s sport coupe with a killer 3-pedal manual, Torsen LSD and a center of gravity that makes most Porsches jealous is a near-perfect recipe in my estimation. But a rear-wheel-drive Subaru? The quirkiness only adds to the appeal, but now we’re getting even better news.
In its joint venture with Toyota, Subaru initially shied away from the project over the AWD issue—it wanted to stay true to its principles. It ended up sticking around—and providing the engine—but the result is two cars set up a little differently. The companies explain that while the BRZ tends toward stability and perhaps a bit of understeer as a result, its Scion FR-S pseudo-sibling aims for agility.
That’s right. By all reports the Scion version of this unexpected entry may be even better than the BRZ from a performance standpoint, with softer springs and more aggressive dampers that make it even more flick-able than the BRZ. And it might even look better than the Soo-B.
Honestly, the visual differences are subtle at best, but with the Scion your mind more easily recalls icons like the 2000GT and the Supra, and some have even noticed similarities to the Lexus LFA. A stretch maybe, but the lineage is there at least. And fitted with that 2.0-liter, Subaru-sourced boxer-4 certainly wins quirk-points, which are always fun in an enthusiast’s vehicle.
Not that Toyota was left fully out of the mix, supplying the mill with its 8-injector direct and port fuel injection, which helps achieve its 12.5:1 compression ratio. The result is 200 hp at 7,000 rpm while still retaining a nearly 30-mpg rating. Never mind that the much heavier, 305-hp Mustang V6 will do still better—a V6 is boring and much too tall. The burbling piston-pusher beneath the aluminum hood here is a special beast and will be afforded some concessions. After all, the engine was fitted with a shorter and lower intake manifold, a more compact lubrication system and a shallow-bottom transmission, allowing the engine to sit 4.8 inches lower and 8 inches further back in the chassis compared to the flat-4 in the Impreza. And all that room under the hood atop the shallow engine means there may be room for a turbo in the future. Count on it.
Besides, the FR-S isn’t about numbers, it’s about feel. Yes, it’ll jump to 60 mph in 6 seconds and it’ll top out at 143 mph, but the real pleasure is in the fun you’ll have getting there. A well-proportioned and properly set up RWD sports car is getting increasingly rare, especially with a 3-pedal manual and a CoG that would make a Cayman cry. Or an M3. Or a 458 Italia.
Yes, the FR-S is that serious. And if you don’t feel like messing with a clutch and stick, there's a paddle-shifting automatic too. Both are 6-speed Aisin units, but the manual had over 80% of its architecture changed or redesigned for shorter throws and better engagement, with the clutch worked over specifically to benefit heel/toe shifting. It’s where the true connoisseur should end up.
Open the door and you’ll sit in front of a chunky, 14.4-inch steering wheel with a 13:1 ratio. With the skinny 17-inch tires the FR-S is rolling on—taken directly from the Prius’ performance options list, no less—the FR-S will come around with authority as you yank the wheel. It’s the kind of control we’ve missed in a world where stability and traction control are constantly telling us what bad little boys we’re being. Cars are supposed to be about freedom, and it’s hard to remember that when your every move is mitigated.
Thankfully, just lean on the stability control button for three seconds and the nanny systems take a break, allowing you to toss around this 2,700-pound harbinger as you see fit. That’s right, the FR-S weighs in at 100 pounds less than a Civic Si, and 600 less than a Genesis Coupe, and with a svelte little thing like that, I don’t want anyone chaperoning our dates.
But don’t think all convenience and comfort has been stripped away to achieve that comely curb weight. The FR-S still comes with a Pioneer sound system, a full power package, air conditioning and contrast stitching and trim. It’s an affordable daily driver that’s engaging and fun to drive. A Toyota with passion. And that’s even more quirky than a RWD Subaru.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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