A few weeks ago, I took a Scion FR-S out for a spin. It was an automatic dealer demo, so I decided to withhold judgement until I drove the manual transmission car.
Having driven one yesterday, my opinion hasn’t changed much. Alex has already reviewed the car, and Jack will have his upcoming track test (which is a totally different process altogether). As far as my impressions go, I drove it around some empty backroads and urban environments, and came away a little cold.
I really like the styling, and the cut-rate (ok, really cheap) interior is there since the car was built to a price. But the whole driving experience leaves me cold. One of the complaints about the Nissan GT-R was that it had “no soul”, or in less nebulous terms, it felt like a a very synthetic, contrived experience rather than an organic driver’s car.
It’s not that the electric power steering is a let down, or the engine is a poor performer or the suspension is tuned wrong. I think that the real problem is the massive hype surrounding this car and the capitulation that followed. When I told a few other journalists about my thoughts – journalists that I respect and trust when it comes to vehicle evaluation – they were incredulous. “How can you not like it? It’s amazing!” Even as I tried to explain my reasoning, they just weren’t having it. I asked another journalist (who does not wished to be named) about his review of one of the Toyobaru twins. It was a glowing piece, praising the car as if Christ has descended from the heavens. Apparently, his review was less enthusiastic, but some changes were made before deadline…you can figure out the rest. So far, the main critic of the car has been Evo magazine. I didn’t want to believe their assessment of the car, and thought it was more Euro-snobbery, but I can identify with their criticisms now that I’ve been behind the wheel.
WARNING: IMPENDING “ANTI-GM BIAS”. CRYBABIES PROCEED WITH CAUTION
The main problem, as I see it, is the enormous hype surrounding this car. I’m not talking about inflated expectations that require managing. In this world, it often manifests itself as a simple unwillingness to declare that the emperor is naked. Witness Car and Driver praising the Chevrolet Camaro for its “zip and grip through the gymkhana” and “fresh, inventive interior”, both of which we know are patently false. Or how about C/D these gems, which Ezra Dyer highlights in his own New York Times piece about the car
Camaro’s Zeta roots pay dividends, with the suspension striking a brilliant balance between lively, grippy road-holding and wonderfully compliant damping. Meanwhile, the SS offers decent feedback through the steering wheel.
Ezra attributes the change in opinion to the notion that once something becomes popular, it’s no longer cool. I think that they’ve come out of the woodwork now that it’s safe, and they aren’t at risk of getting blacklisted from the gravy train. Most journalists will now tell you that the Camaro is irredeemable garbage, with the dynamics of a Crisco-doused hog and an interior that was dreamed up after a bath salts bender. I’ve always held that view (though the convertible is much easier due to actually having rearward visibility and a stiffer structure).
When I was a very green car reviewer, I gave the Camaro a poor review when it launched, comparing the windshield to an artillery pillbox viewport I’d seen on the Golan Heights. GM was not pleased. In the end, I was vindicated. How long until we see the tide turn for the Toyobaru?