There is a well traveled myth in the animal kingdom when it comes to dogs.
Seven years = One human year. In reality, dogs will often reach their version of adulthood within the first year to two years of their life.
The same is true with certain sports cars.
The Mazda Miata quickly became a car of legend within the first two years of its release. The first Ford Mustang did so well, that Ford managed to build over a million units in the first 18 months alone.
On a far smaller scale, the AC Cobra, Ferrari 250 GTO, and Jaguar E-Type may never be a common sight in the flesh. But they have adorned millions of posters and magazine covers, and established a benchmark of what sports cars represent in the eyes of auto enthusiasts.
The Scion FR-S may not ever come near these heights of popularity. However, it will help redefine the current image of a sports car as some testerone poisoned icon that tries to invoke power and muscle above all else.
Hedonist: This car reminds me of a well-designed suit; smooth, svelte, with an eye towards the conservative side of design. It’s not meant to draw attention in a brutally obvious way like most other sports cars of today.
There is no bling. No steroid ridden look to the front fascia, and as a result, it doesn’t get the eyeballs of anyone other than the enthusiast.
Frugalist: I consider that a good thing. There seems to be a minimal level of ostentation to the outside that blends well with the extreme focus on functionality and sport with the interior. The driver’s window lowers itself about a half inch when you grab the door handle and you see…
Hard plastics are kept to the simple functional aspects of the dashboard along with the precious few buttons that adorn it.
The armrests on the door panel are well padded and well stitched. Speaking of which…
You better like the color red when it comes to all the stitching on the door panels, steering wheel and seats. If not, then just enjoy the road ahead.
Hedonist: I rarely stopped smiling for the first thirty minutes I had this car on the road. There is a linearity to the handling, the acceleration and the overall design that makes the FR-S a fun daily driver.
For perhaps 25% of the population.
If you are in a part of the world with rough roads. If noise is not your thing. If you have even a slight orientation towards driving isolation, don’t buy this car. The Scion FR-S is a noisy, hard riding vehicle that is nearly as unforgiving as a first generation aluminum bodied Honda Insight.
But if you live in an area where the roads are relatively smooth. If driving involvement to you is not so much about speed as it is about handling and finding that quick little spurt of joy in a humdrum commute, this car should be right at the top of the list.
Frugalist: 34.5 mpg overall and 37 miles per gallon on the highway. That is what I averaged in a long commute through metro-Atlanta where I spent about 20% of my time stuck in various traffic jams and construction backups. The Scion seems to take an almost perverse pleasure for those drivers who feather the pedal when the road ahead is chock full of cars.
There is one down side, or good virtue, if you want to look at it through the economics of long-term driving.
When you’re not in an enjoyable environment, the Scion will lock in 6th gear at around 37 mph and keep the car moving without the feel of a heavy pedal or lag in the acceleration. This makes the FR-S a far easier and economical vehicle to drive on a daily basis than most other sports car of today.
Hedonist: But where it excels is in the country. If you’re one of those folks who gets to enjoy endless winding one lane roads in your commute, the Scion FR-S will represent a sweet spot of satisfaction well worth the $26,000 MSRP. Precise real world handling devoid of nervousness. Solid mid-range torque. Exceptional fuel economy. In real world driving it’s all there.
Frugalist: Most sports car enthusiasts will never spend any time in a race track. Even the ones who would like to have that experience simply have too many other things going on with their life. The real world of driving is where a Scion FR-S can outshine a heavier and more powerful sports car because it never feels ponderous or laborious while handling the misfortunes of traffic.
Hedonist: Lightness has its virtues. A 2700 to 2800 pound drivetrain engineered with a focus on handling and balance is a far better companion for most daily drivers than a high revving glorified go-kart or an overwight muscle car.
Even the noise levels and patterns of acceleration for the FR-S are designed for you to find a comfortable limit, and enjoy it. Many sports cars encourage stupid behavior on the open road. This Scion is the exact antithesis of a stupid sports car. The set of tools that it provides you; a 2.0 Liter 200 horsepower engine devoid of turbo boost or lag, and a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters, is a solid fit for the winding road.
There was one other surprise underneath this car.
It’s maintenance friendly. Oil changes are easy to do. All the fluids and nearly all the basic maintenance procedures should be easy to perform. Unlike most other cars of the modern day, the Scion FR-S seems to take pride in letting the owner get to know the vehicle and be directly involved with its long-term care.
Hedonist: There are a slew of competitors to the Scion FR-S. The Fiat Abarth is a bit lighter, smaller, even more go kart like, and has the thrill of turbo boost. But the interior and packaging are not up to the same standards as the FR-S.
The Ford Mustang V6 is an excellent alrternative consideration if you want more power and plenty of fun. But the spirit of that car is from a different age and the greater curb weight makes it a better fit for those seeking an American styled daily driver. The Camaro and Challenger have nearly the same virtues of the Mustang. But all three are hard to find well equipped in this price range.
Then you have a slew of four door models and European hatchbacks. The upcoming Ford Focus ST, the VW GTI, the Mazda 3i and Mazdaspeed 3, the Hyundai Genesis coupe, the Mini Cooper S. Even the Subaru WRX and FR-S cloned BRZ will fight the Scion FR-S for the souls and pocketbooks of American sports car enthusiasts.
The competition is exceptional (let’s not forget the Mazda MX-5 as well). Overall, Toyota has performed an exceptional job as well. If you are in the market for a $25,000 to $28,000 sports car, test drive one.
It will be time well spent.
Note: Toyota provided gas, insurance, and the Scion FR-S pictured for a full week.