In a world with too much horsepower and every electronic nanny possible, the 2013 Scion FR-S is the greatest car there is. That’s pretty much the gist of the review right there. Just go and buy one… now.
Sporty cars are a dime-a-dozen these days. Every press release has some sort of written lecture on how this new car is sportier than ever, with pointless paddle shifters, a racing inspired gauge cluster, radio, and HVAC controls, etc. It’s gotten way out of hand, and quite frankly, really annoying.
So when Toyota said they were making a real rear-wheel drive sports car some years ago, I know I had a good laugh. Oh, and they were working on this project with Subaru. I’m sorry, a FWD gas conscious company that created the Prius is making a car with one that only does all-wheel drive sedans and crossovers purchased mainly by wannabe rally kids and the LGBT community? Oh Lord. You can’t make this stuff up.
In the States we were to call this joint sports car the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ. The rest of the world gets the Scion as a Toyota GT-86.
Then the concept from both Toyota and Subaru showed up on the auto show circuit, and my LMAO turned into “HFS, this thing’s glorious”. “There’s no way they’ll make it, though”, I thought. We car guys no longer have a chance with this dimwitted community of automotive buyers and the executives that want to make billions. Everything has to have an automatic or dual-clutch gearbox with paddles and sporty suspension and steering that feels less real than softcore porn on Cinemax.
So wasn’t I interestingly surprised when a 2013 Scion FR-S in Firestorm Red showed up in my driveway. I was a little disappointed that it was sporting an automatic gearbox, and it seemed to have too few horses and lb-ft of torque at 200 and 151, respectively, for an as-tested price of $26,085. Navigation isn’t optional here. In fact, the only options are the exterior color, gearbox, a premium sound system from BeSpoke ($845), and a few accessories, such as LED daytime running lights ($399). Interior quality isn’t something I’d shout from the rooftops, but the buttons are easy to see, push, and nothing is difficult. The FR-S is 100% about ease of use. There’s plenty of cubby holes to throw your phone, iPod, sunglasses, and nice big cupholders that pop out to make more space in the center area.
At a glance you notice those flared wheel arches that are straight out of the ’80s, and that muscular tone that makes the FR-S share its curves with Kate Upton. I’m digging the hell out of this. Getting behind the steering wheel and turning the key in the ignition seemed to spark up a low grumble from the 2.0-liter flat-four Boxer designed by Subaru. Hmm… this doesn’t sound so great, but maybe there’s something to it.
Once I hooked my iPhone up to the Bluetooth audio system and cranked some tunes, I decided to get some lunch. Let’s take the long, winding roads near my house.
I put the car in drive and started rolling out of my driveway. Steering is light, but well connected; brakes are tight and stop you well; throttle response is immediate, with a lack of power being apparent in a straight line. The gearbox is interestingly great in its holding of gears, as well as keeping a good shifting pace up and down. Color me impressed… thus far. And that sub-30K dollar sound system was pretty good. I was rockin’ and rollin’ all day and night, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Upon happening on some decent driving roads where I like to test chassis quality, body roll, suspension capability and cornering speed, I came to a revelation: this could be the greatest car made in the last 30 years.
You see, I’ve driven a wide variety of modern sports cars. Some fast, some just plain crap. And the Scion FR-S is up there with the greatest of heroes, such as the E30 M3, E46 M3, Acura NSX, Lotus Evora, and Porsche’s Cayman and 911. Even greater is the fact that Toyota and Subaru created the FR-S/GT-86/BRZ around the perfection that is the Porsche Cayman. Mission accomplished. Car companies love saying they mimicked another car when they designed it. Most of this is just PR talk to get the buzzwords up for potential buyers and SEO/social media purposes; hardly ever does the car come close to its target. Not only does the Scion FR-S nail its target in the Porsche Cayman, it could wear the family’s coat of damn arms.
I couldn’t believe the drivability of the FR-S, because it allows you to have complete control at your fingertips -it’s about time a car lets you in this era. Even though it carries a very low amount of power and torque, there’s not a lot of car to pull since weight is at 2,806 lbs with an automatic gearbox, and 2,758 lbs with the manual. Less than 3,000 lbs with safety gear, and all the things you really need in a car? This is nuts, because we’ve been told for years now that it’s just not possible. I guess some just aren’t trying as hard anymore. Thanks to the motor and little weight, the FR-S with a manual or automatic is able to get as much as 22/25 city, 30/34 highway (manual/auto), respectively. And that’s easily achievable, too. For the month that I drove this FR-S I was getting well over 30 mpg on the highway, and about 21-23 in the city with all of my spirited driving.
Driving the Scion FR-S right onto the apex of a corner couldn’t be easier, unless you were a professional racing driver. Controlling the car before, in the middle of, and out of the corner is easy as reciting your ABCs, too. You have this really great mid-corner control that allows some nice rear play with a fine balance from the great feeling steering, which means you can balance entry and exit with literally two fingers on the road. Just be careful, because the FR-S enjoys sliding overall, and it doesn’t take a lot to provoke it, especially in wet weather. Pulling out of my driveway I was able to hold a slide at just 10-12 mph in the wet, and about 15 mph in the dry. But even so, with moderate driving abilities, you can learn to easily control the FR-S in nearly any condition. That’s not to say you should go out and start practicing your Formula-D moves on the back roads of the US of A.
Comfort isn’t the greatest in the Scion FR-S, though. The suspension is rough and stiff at times, yet it will cruise happily regardless. A few times I found myself actually changing octave on the highway when speaking as the car hit a rough patch. With that said, I found the front seats very supportive and comfortable on any drive, especially flying around back roads. Not once was I bracing myself with my left leg trying to keep myself upright in a hard corner.
And those back seats are another area of upward eyebrow glances. Let’s just say, they definitely had the 911 in mind when designing the rear seating area. The trunk, however, is deceivingly roomy. I didn’t think it was until I went by a friend’s house to pick up lots of boxes with magazines and books about the history of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. His grandparents and parents were Rolls collectors and restorers, as well as members in good standing with various clubs (his grandmother served as the treasurer of the largest Rolls-Royce owner’s club in the states). Well decades of this provides you with thousands of pieces of documentation on such a storied brand. Six boxes filled with books and ‘zines filled the trunk and stayed there without issue. Nicely done, boys.
One thing you really have to commend the boys and girls at Subaru and Toyota for doing is giving car enthusiasts something we really wanted. All too often I hear from PR people and car executives something along the lines of, “Well if enthusiasts want it, tell them to step up and buy it so we can build it.” Well you have to give us the opportunity first, chaps. If you want us to buy manuals, then you have to build a car with one. If you want us to buy your sports cars, then you have to make it affordable for us to do so. However, guys with big wallets and women do the talking these days. The problem with that is, the car industry has basically rolled over to what they think is true from their “research”.
There’s been research for years showing that the FR-S would work at the right price, and of all companies, Toyota saw the writing on the walls. No gadgets, nothing fancy, just the enthusiast and his/her machine. That’s what the Scion FR-S is all about, staying true to the slogan that defines us here at RawAutos.com. That’s why if there were a rating scale, the FR-S and BRZ would get 5 out of 5 stars. It could be covered in dog poo and smell like burnt hair, and it would still be the best car in the world for any person who actually gives a damn about driving. Go on with your bad selves, Toytoa, because the Scion FR-S is the greatest thing this world has to offer.
Here is our most recent video review of the 2013 Scion FR-S:
2013 Scion FR-S VITAL STATS
Engine: 2.0-liter Boxer flat-four
Power: 200 HP/151 LB-FT
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-60 mph Time: 7.0 seconds est. with automatic
Top Speed: 146 mph
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
Curb Weight: 2,806 lbs automatic/2,758 lbs manual
MPG (manual/auto): 22/25 City, 30/34 Hwy
Base Price: $25,255
Price as tested: $26,085
[Photos and text by Josh Lewis]