2013 Scion FR-S
Base price: $24,930 – $26,030 (automatic)
MPG: 22 city/30 highway/25 combined (manual transmission)
- The best performance car for 2013
- Absolute bargain for the buck
- Demand could exceed production
- Tight back seat
By Jim Prueter
It started five years ago, more or less as a challenge from Akio Toyoda, current CEO and president of Toyota Motor Corporation, who wanted to build a sports car with “passion.”
Released this year, the Scion FR-S is that sports car, along with assembly-line twin Subaru BRZ, jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru. The two share a Subaru 4-cylinder, 200-horsepower boxer engine with Toyota direct injection and can be purchased as either a short-throw, silky smooth, six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
The engine cleverly fits lower and farther back in the chassis for better weight balance, resulting in better handling. While 200 horsepower may seem inadequate, it’s actually not, when you consider that this car weighs just 2,758 pounds, around 600 pounds less than average.
Available only as a coupe, the stylish FR-S is just 18 inches off the ground, has a lower center of gravity than a Porsche Cayman, and sits 4 inches lower than a Nissan GT-R. The profile is sporty and cab rearward, with a short rear deck and a small spoiler. The look suggests Toyota’s sports car heritage, with 2000GT styling infused, but not imitated, in the window shape and wheel flares. Nice.
Inside, the FR-S is a four-seater, with scant room behind the driver of little use. So, it’s more like a two-plus-one. Suede-like material covers the substantially bolstered sport seats for a track-ready design. The 14-inch diameter steering wheel is the smallest ever in a Toyota product and is leather covered for an optimal performance-driving grip.
Thumbs up for the look and layout of the instrument panel with low-gloss texture for reduced reflection and glare. The tachometer is centrally located and includes a digital speedometer to view engine and vehicle speeds at a glance.
For the race car driver at heart, the rear seats flip forward and the cargo area can hold four standard mounted wheels and tires, a helmet, a gas can, and a toolbox, all loaded through the rear hatch — perfect for the track. It has also been designed to accommodate an aftermarket roll cage.
We drove the FR-S on several tracks at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in southern Nevada, including an improvised drift course, and found it to be everything you’d hope for. This car isn’t about massive horsepower, fat tires, and race-tuned suspension. It’s about the illusion of going fast at sensible speeds.
In fact, the FR-S rides on conspicuously skinny tires, the same used on a Toyota Prius. It also delivers pleasing auditory cues, thanks to resonator tubes that pump intake and exhaust sounds into the cabin. The super-quick electric-power steering, precise brakes, and overall engine response, while certainly not explosive, makes the FR-S an absolute blast to drive. It’s far more fun than, let’s say, a Porsche 911 GT3, Shelby Mustang, or fat-tired M Series BMW.
The FR-S lists at $24,930 and comes mono-spec; buyers need only choose exterior color and transmission. Toyota says they will import 10,000 this year and 20,000 next. We expect a big demand with a long wait. As Akio Toyoda insisted, “This car is not about numbers. It’s about passion!”