By on August 13, 2012

 

[Editor’s note: TTAC does not review cars, TTAC reviewers do. The reviews can be as different as the reviewers are, and they voice their opinions independently. Due to the high interest the FR-S has received, we put a whole squad of TTAC reviewers into the car, and we are not done yet.]

Alex’s initial look at the pre-production Scion FR-S had a few feathers getting ruffled in the comments section. Then came Derek’s discussion of the hype surrounding the car and his own disappointing drive, and even more feathers were bent askew. Now Jack’s had a go at dissecting the FR-S on the track (his natural environment, if not the car’s), and it’s basically been like firing chickens into a snow-blower.

So, while the little Toyobaru sits in the middle of crossfire of angry verbiage that is like, so totally not what usually happens around here, I’ll belly up to the bar. We’ve had the launch event, we’ve had the track comparo; I had the FR-S for a week to evaluate it as a daily-driver, and one thing right off the bat:

“Make no mistake; it’s a good car.” -Derek Kreindler
“First things first: your humble author kind of loves the FR-S.” -Jack Baruth

Unlike my colleagues, I’d like to avoid the mistake of simply stating that I like the car in the midst of a discussion of its foibles and short-comings. This erroneous method seems to have resulted in much furor including accusations that TTAC is anti-FR-S – we’re not.

Instead, I place my overall conclusion right at the beginning, in 72-point font so you can’t possibly miss it. This is a good car, and I liked it…

eventually.

Initial Thoughts:
Five minutes or fifty feet: that’s all it takes to fall head-over-heels for the MX-5. I loved Mazda’s little red roadster so much I went straight to craigslist and starting hunting for used ones, temporarily forgetting that shopping for drop-tops shouldn’t be a priority when your wife is 38 weeks pregnant. Oops.

Not so with the FR-S. Those of you who’ve been able to snag a test-drive or a spin in a friend’s new purchase and walked away feeling fairly disappointed: you aren’t alone. My first reaction upon winding out the 2.0L boxer was, to paraphrase Katie Holmes on her wedding night, “Is that all?”

The double torque peak – and in-between crater – makes the FR-S a bit weird to drive in stop-and go. It’s got decent off the line punch, but then you’re revving through a wasteland with little to encourage you forward. Things pick up a bit towards redline, but the 6-7/10ths mid-range (where the MX-5 is such a joy) is lacking something.

What’s more, I couldn’t really fall for the engine note either. It was loud and somewhat tasteless, like – oh, to pick an example at random: this. Frankly, the whole first five minutes was a bit of a let-down. But I persevered.

Inner Space:
Things that do work well? The seats are fantastic. The interior is extremely cheap, but it’s also spartan and uncluttered: no buttons on the steering wheel to accidentally change radio-stations during an apex.

The sizing feels right, not quite as little-car chuckable as the roly-poly MX-5, but low and light, like an early Integra or 240SX. What’s more, if you don’t fit in a MX-5, you’ll likely fit in this car – it’s spacious enough, and the roof has bulges high enough to accommodate a helmet.

Forward visibility is pretty good, beltlines are low, and rear visibility can be perfectly ok if you set your mirrors correctly and trust in the shortness of your car. And then there are those kid-size back-seats: perfect for me you’d think, with a little hellion on the way.

Family Values:
Not even close. First, hoisting a pregnant lady in and out of the passenger’s seat isn’t winning you any purchasing points. Second, rear-facing child seats are all the size of Volkswagen Beetles these days: cramming one behind the passenger’s seat is going to require storing your spouse in the glovebox. Booster seats will be ok, but this is not necessarily an ideal young-family second car in the early stages of child-rearing.

Tofu Delivery Rating:
As a grocery-getter, the FR-S does fine. It’s got a trunk, not a hatchback for chassis-stiffness reasons, and at just seven cubic feet, you’d better be good at Tetris. For larger objects, the seats do fold down; obviously the marketing department is touting its effectiveness at loading up a set of race tires and rims for the track.

Unfortunately, there’s a height issue. Taking back the empties on a Thursday left me with puzzle I never had to face with my WRX: I couldn’t get the truck closed. Some careful rearranging did the trick, but there’s certainly a limit to the FR-S’s trunk capacity: nowhere near a huge practical advantage over the Miata.

Image:
Sorry, I mean “MX-5”. I know that’s currently the correct nomenclature for Mazda’s little roadster as the scripted “Miata” was seen as too girly. Here’s an advantage for the FR-S then: in the public view, it’s a dorifto-machine, not some limp-wristed mincing-mobile.

Admittedly, the Miata minces through the corners just fine, and I couldn’t care less about its supposed “girl’s-car” image anyway. But then there are those who worry about that sort of thing, so perhaps the imagined stigma was always too much for you.

Flip-side to this is the V6 Mustang: currently the automotive catch-all du jour. “Why not a V6 Mustang?” Why not indeed?

Here are two reasons: it’s a Mustang, and it’s a V6. Ford’s Pony car won’t work for everyone, and as good as the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter V6 is, it’s still seen as the lite option. Someone will inevitably ask you why you didn’t buy the V8 version just as, if you go for the FR-S, someone will inevitably ask you why you didn’t buy the V6 Mustang.

Fun-to-drive:
Either way, Saturday night found me at Canadian Tire, purchasing a cordless weed-eater for my tiny suburban lawn. The parking lot is fairly open in the evenings, and an impromptu car show had popped up: Oldsmobile 442s, some Mopar Iron, a Volvo 122s – a very mixed bag.

Just a bunch of guys shooting the breeze over their definitely-non-concourse machines. I strolled through briefly, admiring, listening and nodding, and found myself in a bit of a mood to go for a drive.

I took the long way home, after fiddling with the FR-S’s traction control system (engage sport mode, then hold down the traction control button for a further 2-3 seconds). The car was the same as it ever was. I pushed harder. It got better.

Here, finally, caning the FR-S along the curve, things started to click. It’s not the sportscar second coming of Christ, but it sure works when you thrash the bejesus out of it.

Finding Greatness:
Part of the deal with the old AE-86 is that everyone forgets what a piece of junk that car is, although good fun to flog. Modify it though, and things start getting interesting.

At the last track day I did, an FR-S owner on Dunlop Star Specs was fairly easily keeping up with more powerful machinery. How? He also had a brake upgrade swapped out of an STI. Looked like fun. Did it look like more fun than the NC MX-5 which showed up with Hoosiers stacked on a mini trailer? Uh…

YouTube Preview Image

Oh yeah, and there’s this. Want the power the manufacturer isn’t providing off the bat? No problemo. This turbo kit puts out a nice smooth power curve and still uses stock injectors. No need to overnight parts from Japan either – these guys are in Ohio.

Reliability:
Buying a first-year car is always a bit of a crap-shoot. Even the Miata buggered it up with early crank-nose issues. From leaky tail-lights to idle speed problems to erroneous panel-gap fitment, the FR-S has had what can be charitably called teething issues. Here’s a list.

Even still, would I recommend this car? Let’s see: it’s not a better drive than the Miata, but work at it and you’ll find the reward; there’s bound to be aftermarket support to correct most of the issues (the clutch uptake is horrible, but the community’s already all over that one); there’s enough space to just pip the practicality meter. Add this to the fairly reasonable fuel-consumption – though premium is required – and sure, it’s worth a good hard look.

But so’s the ‘Stang, and so’s the MX-5, and so’s a ‘Speed3, and so’s an Abarth, and so is the surprisingly good Genesis coupe. No two ways about it: we’re living in a golden age for cheap motoring. The FR-S is a good choice, but it’s not a no-brainer. None of them are.

Scion Canada provided the car tested and insurance.

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122 Comments on “Off-Track Review: 2013 Scion FR-S...”


  • avatar
    cyberc9000

    I’m sorry, that interior is just unacceptable. It looks 10 years old already, right down to the aftermarket-looking tacked-on head unit.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      This is the problem I have with these types of cars. Maybe it’s just a Japanese, or more specifically a Scion thing, though?

      I remember reading, quite a few years ago, a review of one of the Scions (they’re all so alike in their cheapness, to be fair) and the reviewer quoted one of Toyota/Scion’s executives as saying the reason the radio head unit in their car looked like crap was because they expected people who purchase that car to immediately go and swap it out.

      They never stopped to think “maybe the first thing that comes to mind to somebody who just spent $15-20k isn’t ‘gee, now I get to go to Best Buy and spend a grand upgrading my stereo’.”

      The vehicle’s pluses and minuses aside, is it really fair in the year 2012 to sell a car that has fit and finish issues all over the place, a problem where “it won’t go after you fill it up with gas” and “makes a funny noise when going faster than 70?” And keep in mind, we aren’t talking a $13,000 Kia here, this vehicle is priced right in the thick of “I just got my first decent paying job and am ready to buy a *real* car” money.

      Call me crazy, but when I spend $25-30k, I expect my car to shift in a manner th at feels ‘normal’ and not sound of crickets. Maybe it’s just me?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I haven’t driven this car, so with that big caveat out of the way, I’m beginning to resent it.

        A car in need of a question to answer.

        It’s not significantly more practical than a MX-5, with worse steering feel, stick shift precision, and apparently, ‘problematic’ clutch uptake.

        It’s significantly slower than a WRX or Gen Coupe 2.0T, or Mustang V6 (yeah, I went there, fanbois).

        It’s as expensive as decently equipped midsized sedans and quite a bit more than decently equipped compact ones.

        It has an interior that gets cheaper with each passing glance, and exterior panel gaps that would have made the 1992 Dodge Neon ‘good’ by comparison.

        It has quality control and various mechanical issues that make it very much the poster child of Toyota’s decline in such things as anything….I don’t know the technical term….uhmmm….let’s see………

        ….good.

        Who got/is getting excited about this, again?

        If a test drive works miracles and blinds me to the apparent warts o’ plenty, somehow, someway, I’ll come back and do a mea culpa (though I’m not optimistic that will happen).

        Until then, I declare thee Toybarus the Honey Badger of sporty, rwd coupes, not giving a shit, but lacking any of fierce attributes of the one, true Honey Badger.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        DeadWeight…

        Splendid, funny analysis. Thanks.

        I can add the following to your list:
        1) 53%/47% front-heavy weight distribution.
        2) Needs more HP: bring it up to 230 or more.
        3) Double torque curve, offering an automatic 20% reduction when you need it most, 3500rpm!

        (The torque reduction comes presumably as a no-cost option that can’t be de-contented. (^_^))

        ——–

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        “They never stopped to think “maybe the first thing that comes to mind to somebody who just spent $15-20k isn’t ‘gee, now I get to go to Best Buy and spend a grand upgrading my stereo’.””

        Or maybe they did, and came to a different conclusion than you. The first “new” car I bought ($15,300), I skipped having a radio installed at all, and reserved $1k of my budget to immediately go have a decent system installed.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Unacceptable for what? A $30k car? They should have pulled out all the stops to get this car down to $23k, cardboard interior be damned.

      The people looking forward to the mod-ability of these things see the “aftermarket-looking” head unit as a virtue.

    • 0 avatar
      Slare

      On the completely opposite view I very much prefer to see standard double DIN head units in cars, especially affordable ones that are prone to be customized by their owners.

      I understand many people do not want to mess with it, but the fact is most factory audio/Nav units are already 2-3 years out of date when the car is launched.

      So if I can skip a $2-4k factory Navigation package and slap a standard, loaded double DIN in there for $1k, I see that as a big winner.

      Makes a ton of sense in a car like this, and I still prefer it to cars where everything is tied together. I don’t want a cheesy looking pop-up NAV screen in $50k car that is outdated compared to a $100 Garmin portable.

      And I don’t want climate controls and radio/NAV handled on the same screen.

      To each his own.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Agreed – in fact a radio delete option would be welcome. OEM stereo units are overpriced and under performing especially on more budget friendly cars.

        Kind of surprised not to see a square bottom steering wheel fitted to the FR-S.

      • 0 avatar
        daveainchina

        I can agree to the Cheesy looking outdated pop-up nav screen.

        Which is why any vehicle that I want to buy I will NOT get the nav system if I can avoid it.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Agreed. That is by far the most unflattering dashboard pic I have ever seen anyone show on the FR-S. Completely dated looking sea of hard black plastic.

      GM is calling, they want their interior back.

    • 0 avatar

      You buy this car or the BRZ, and you are paying for the research&development that went into making it – not the interior quality.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark MacInnis

        R&D? WHAT R&D? You mean bench-marking the original Z-car? That 15 minutes cost exactly HOW MUCH?

        Seriously…the R&D on this car didn’t cost Toyota that much. There’s not a single bit of tech that hasn’t shown up on any of their other cars before….

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        @ Mark MacInnis – cost amortization, I’m sure even mighty Toyota isn’t interested in a loss leader at any point in the game and the quicker they get that money back, hopefully the better the product will get (hopefully) – case in point, had the current Mustang sold in abysmal numbers early on, the improved interior, successive styling changes and even the better tuned suspensions and improved powertrains might not have materialized until the next generation car.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Funny, that’s what GM said about the supercharged W-body Grand Prix too.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      I don’t see what the problem with the dash is – it’s not a particularly inspired design but it looks just about right to me for a car whose focus is supposed to be the experience of driving. Big easy to read analog gauges for the important stuff, nice large and unambiguous controls for the HVAC, and just a handful of switches and knobs for whatever functions are left over without a bunch of clutter. Looks fine to me – I guess i just don’t get what the problem with a sea of black plastic is.

      The radio does look a bit aftermarket but that certainly wouldn’t stop me from enjoying the car and as long as it functions well and isn’t too distracting to use I wouldn’t feel like I hadn’t gotten my money’s worth out of the car. An engine that lets down the rest of the car though, that might be disappointing.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        A problem with the dash I noticed in a co-worker’s car (who is a late 40’s professional who traded an Audi TT, not a basement dwelling youth) was how easily it showed wear. He must have been one of the first people in this area to get an FR-S and the large plastic piece on the dash in front of the passenger already had a long scratch on it. It looked like the entire interior would be covered in cosmetic scratches before long.

        I had a limited drive around the block in his red on black model and came away disappointed for the same reasons every review on TTAC has listed. Felt slow and I couldn’t look past the cheap, scratched interior. My spin was kept to under 30 mph so maybe a more spirited drive would’ve caused the revelation others have when able to flog it a little. He loves the car, obviously what matters.

        As has also been mentioned all over TTAC, if I could have a ‘just for fun’ car, hands down it’d be the Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      eCurmudgeon

      “I’m sorry, that interior is just unacceptable. It looks 10 years old already, right down to the aftermarket-looking tacked-on head unit.”

      My understanding was that Toyota/Subaru was anticipating the aftermarket “tuner” crowd. Therefore, why spend money on an interior that was likely to get stripped out?

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      If I ignore the hype about reviving the “AE-86 heritage”, this is beginning to sound more and more like the new Celica [it used to be rwd too, pre 1985]. However, I am glad it exists, and will hopefully lead to a revival of a segment with interesting, affordable and fun-to-drive cars. For all the beating this thing is getting, it isn’t a bad car – it just kinda fell short of being the hyped-up legend right out the door.

      Since you mentioned the prospect of putting a rear-facing seat in the back, I would strongly discourage buying anything that cannot accommodate at least one adult in the back with the poor tyke.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      The interior beats the snot off the Dodge Caravan rental I have this week. And is comparable in quality / plastics to my wife’s ’01 Camry. It’s not luxury but the touch points nice and padded and if they wear as well as the 11 year old Camry (which they probably will), then it will be parted out before Murilee can photograph any totaled ones in the junkyard in 15 years.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Maybe I’m crazy but I actually loved the interior. Yeah the head unit thing is a bit weird but that’s just how all Scions are since it’s part of the customizable thing, and if you really do want to swap the head unit it’s definitely easier with an actual double din sized hole. All the areas you’d actually be resting your hand were soft touch and I actually think there was actually some real leather. It’s not a luxury car by any stretch but it doesn’t feel like a penalty box at all. Sure, cars like the S2000 had nicer interiors, they also had MSRP’s way, way, way higher even before you correct for inflation.

    • 0 avatar
      Wolfy

      I like that i don’t need tech overload.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I’m guessing the 4 Figaros are owned by a collector whose taste I admire, or a bunch of friends called each other up and asked, “what are you driving today?”

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      You have a good eye — I only see two…

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        It gets a lot less clear as you go down the line, but there’s four cars parked there. The mirror of the 4th one looks the same as the Figaro in front, and the other one doesn’t have any obvious visible features eliminating it. So two for sure, one probably, and one maybe.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        In the large photograph you can also make out the lower trim strip on the 4th car in the series, which along with the fender shape and headlamp bezel indicate what is most likely another Figaro. Blowing up the image in a viewer has me thinking it’s a nice sampling of blue, lavender, yellow and green variations there.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I wonder if a tune wouldn’t fix the torque/responsiveness issues. I don’t have any experience with this – just pondering…

  • avatar
    mjz

    This should have been the new Toyota Celica. “Scion” as a brand is a dumb idea. Neighbor has one in dark blue. Good looking car.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Apparently the tire choice really was a mistake for the purpose of generating good track reviews. Road & Track put a set of original equipment sized Dunlop Star Specs on an FR-S and their lap time dropped 2.3 seconds, from 1:29.3 to 1:27.0 at Spring Mountain. They also found the feedback to be considerably improved too. UTQG Treadwear fell from 240 to 200, but it probably would have been worth it to have their coupe beating the perceived competition at most tracks.

    • 0 avatar
      racingmaniac

      The whole Prius tire point probably helps to keep the cost down since Toyota must be buying those Primacy HPs by the boat load. Heck if they go to the new Michelin PSS they can get a 300 UTQG summer tires…but cost will probably be more…(also not sure if they have a 215 size…)

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I remember a time when Toyota didn’t make these kinds of decisions and did what was right, right out of the box.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        When was that? For many years Japanese cars almost all shipped with Japanese tires that were not competitive with the best American ones of the day, which was before Michelin bought BFGoodrich and made them a value brand.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Probably a concern about ride comfort and cost as mentioned by racingmaniac since its the Pilot Primacy HP (lux perf tire), easily fixed when they wear out in 20-30k and then replaced with something more aggressive.

      Michelin makes the same size tire in the excellent Pilot Super Sport and its a bit cheaper by about 24 bucks as listed on Tirerack.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    No no no, not 72 point font. Use 86 point font!! :)

    Vintage Brendan review. I appreciate your secondary message that when buying a car, you needn’t please everyone, just yourself. …. and your spouse (almost forgot!)

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Mincing…the automotive “Slap Chop”?

  • avatar

    I’m a little confused here … What advantages does this have over the Mazda, which seems to be enormously more beloved by reviewers? Why would you pick this instead?

    D

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      It can accommodate taller drivers and has more cargo space (seats folded or simply putting things in the backseat). A couple that packs efficiently might be able to go away for a weekend with the toyobaru. I’m guessing that’s not the case with an MX-5.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Jaeger

        It’s possible to put a couple of overnight bags in a Miata but it’s tight. If you want to do something like a wine tour you won’t be bringing much wine back with you in a Miata.

        I love my Miata but even I’m tempted by this car for the advantages mentioned. Even a tiny back seat and a solid roof really does add an enormous amount of practicality for hauling stuff with you.

        I couldn’t imagine putting a canoe or kayak on a Miata, but I think such things are possible on the Scion.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      It has an advantage that seems to be routinely ignored or dismissed. It’s not a Miata. It’s also not a Mustang or a Genesis coupe. Alternatives. More are almost alwyas better than fewer.

    • 0 avatar
      smokingclutch

      Fold down rear seats also mean that while the trunk isn’t much bigger than the Miata’s, that if you fold down the seats much larger cargo can be loaded. Or more of it, if you’re taking a road trip.

      It is a shame it isn’t a hatchback, the amount of crap I’ve been able to fit in RX-7s over the years is impressive.

      I do think it is unfortunate that Mazda didn’t do a hatchback coupe 2 seater or 2+2 on the NC Miata chassis, which shares its transmission tunnel with the RX-8 and hence is tall enough for the higher output shaft on rotary engines. Before you say “well they made the RX-8,” but the RX-8 has a 106 inch wheelbase compared to the 92″ of the Miata. All 3 generations of the RX-7 had a wheelbase between 95 and 96″ inches, and a vehicle in this size class with the Renesis back in say 2006 or 2007 could have eaten this car’s lunch.

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      Having driven both, but not being a professional reviewer: I think the FR-S is a lot more fun than an NC MX-5. It has more power, the structure is vastly more rigid, and at least for the moment, it feels more “special” – there are nearly a million Miatas on the road, they blend into the scenery.

      Speaking as an NB Miata owner: the “slight” practicality advantage of having a small-but-legal, fold-down rear seat and a trunk that’s not bigger by volume but is significantly deeper and better-shaped can’t be overstated. At the end of the day the FR-S is pretty much as practical a daily driver as a Civic coupe. Daily driving a Miata for the past near-decade has involved a lot of compromise and a hell of a lot of understanding from my wife that the quieter, comfier FR-S would not have.

  • avatar

    No buttons on the steering wheel to “accidentally” change stations…problem is, it’s so goddamned hard to change stations with that horribly thought out radio – that was one of my main complaints with this car. No Nav system either.

    BR-Z offers so much more.

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      I have yet to find a use for a stereo in a car with a boxer engine. They make their own music.

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      Um, I programmed six of my favorite FM stations to the buttons on the front of my FR-S’s base model radio. There aren’t many buttons on it, so that row of six along the bottom is pretty easy to find, even just by touch. The “odd” fit of the radio provides a bit of a lip around the edge of it. (I don’t think it’s a QC issue.) Makes it even easier to find the edge of the radio with those buttons without taking my eyes off of the road.

      The funniest part is this:
      Now when I press one of those six buttons, which I can find by touch and which are physical buttons providing conventional tactile feedback, it magically changes the radio station.
      Even better, it changes it to a station that the radio “somehow” knows that I like.

      Horrible. Just horrible.
      Think of the children.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      Brendan didn’t note that his tester appears equipped with the optional “Bespoke” sound system – pseudo-navigation (via iPhone app only). I don’t know why anyone would pay $800 for this system over a real aftermarket system.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    “I really like this car.”

    Okay, first of all, the image is shrunk to fit, so it’s not really 72 pt type. And where are the exclamation points? Not a single one in the whole piece.

    Why does TTAC hate the FR-S?

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Great review! I’d love one of these someday, a fun little daily driver and for quick trips through the mountains to the cabin. Keep the Outback for all my other driving (just lifted it with King Springs). Once the youngest is in a booster, it’d be just right. Of course, then the oldest will be 9 and start running out of leg room. Damn.

    Well, maybe in a few years I’ll just replace the OB with a Crosstrek (definitely if there were to bring a turbo or a diesel model) or WRX wagon. Still need something AWD/4WD for certain roads and weather conditions in Idaho.

    As a tangent…We just got an Accord ($6k under invoice on a new EXL) for my wife’s daily driving and road trips…everyone doubts Honda but the Accord is still a great sedan and very roomy. I tried the trunk with the travel crib, stroller (slightly larger than an umbrella style), luggage for 4, plenty of room left. With rear-facing carseat, plenty of room in the front. Averaged 36mpg driving it back from Houston to Boise.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    I must have accidentally been bumped up to business class. I’ve sat in these cars and found the interior to be purposeful and taught. Brendan should have been more impressed by the fold down flat rear seats, but some of these comments are downright wussified. And if you think the tires need more grip, please tell me why getting near the limit makes you cry.

    Sheesh

  • avatar
    Morea

    “The double torque peak – and in-between crater – ”

    There is the deal breaker right there.

    Torque curve here: http://blogs.insideline.com/straightline/assets/frsdyno.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      I would guess that’s from a variable runner length manifold tuned for peaks too far from each other. Looks like they’ve tried to maximize low end torque for normal driving and pushed the high-RPM torque plateau up as far as they could for maximum HP, both at the expense of midrange power. Nothing some more displacement and/or a turbo wouldn’t fix!

      Or perhaps they purposely put that dip in so that the engine would feel like it’s coming on cam as you climb the RPMs.

      Ideally, if the gearing is right, it’ll always be between 4500 and redline when you mean business (except starting from a dead stop in 1st gear unless you slip the hell out of the clutch) and when your cruising you’d always be below 3500. In the real world, people don’t usually drive like that and I could see how that dip could be annoying.

      • 0 avatar
        Morea

        Agreed patman.

        If you come out of a corner at less than 4000 you are going to be sorely disappointed and perhaps have some unexpected power-on oversteer when you reach 4500.

        So those who have had it on the track, can you effectively keep the engine above 4500?

        Paging Jack Baruth. As the resident TTAC driving instructor, what do you say???

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Is it necessary to use a larger engine or turbo to fix the torque crater? Could the aftermarket fix this with a reflash?

        Maybe if enough people complain, Toyota/Subaru will change this for 2014 MY production. It seems like an odd compromise on an otherwise focused car.

      • 0 avatar
        portablenuke

        I suspect they had to put it the dip somewhere, and they decided 4000 rpm would be better then 6000 rpm when the engine should be rewarding the driver.

        My SR20DE has a nice meaty torque band until 6000 then it’s nothing to the 7000 rpm redline. It’s really anti-climactic. Nissan should have just cut the engine off at 6200, and it looks like Toyota or Subaru should have done the same thing to compress the power band.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Wow…

      Thanks, Morea…you are absolutely right. Furnishing that plot was very revealing.
      The “Double Torque Curve” is not just a little hiccup.
      It’s a big deal, as in unexpected 20% loss when you need the push most: 3500-4500 rpm!

      % Torque Reduction (based on stable valley bottom) = 100 * (143-120) / 120 =~ 20%. That’s huge.

      ————-

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        I can understand the reasoning behind the tetonas. One peak for cruising around town in traffic, and a higher peak for flat-out touge antics. That said, the hole in between is diametrically opposed to what most people expect from a car with sporting aspirations, and makes driving the car too much of an either-or proposition.

        Unfortunately, I think the only remedy would be new cams and intake, and a thorough overhaul of the direct+indirect injection mapping. It can be done, but only as a labor of love unless Toyota decide to do an about-face.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        bumpy ii – –

        I understand the performance rationale you’ve given but are you sure that Toyobaru didn’t just generate their double peak torque curve as an accidental result of their flat engine design?

        As far as I am concerned, there is no digital distinction between performance driving on the street (country roads) vs performance driving on the track. I would want a simple plateau that starts and stops at known points, with no weirdness going on in between ,— but especially NOT “in the heat of battle”.

        Even just passing somebody who speeds up on a curvy mountain road with my Z4 can be demanding. At some point in the torque curve, I step on it and get only moderate acceleration; then I let up to tuck in, …. and bloody thing unexpectedly accelerates even more!? Go figure.

        ————-

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        @NMGOM –

        I with bumpy ii. The double peak torque seems like an intentional trade-off to get some low-end torque. This lets you drive around town and be relatively fuel efficient.

        When taking it on the back roads, the 2nd torque peak lets you wind out the engine.

        Certainly an unusual setup, but it actually sounds like a fun new challenge to me. Like driving a manual, this is another way to engage the driver.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        WheelMcCoy…

        Well, I’ll have to defer to you and bumpy ii on whether it’s intentional/useful/fun or not.
        Certainly this reviewer (link below) from CNET did notice the “flat” power band in the middle, but he liked it, and felt it made the car more drivable. For me, the jury is still out on this, but we’ll see.

        http://reviews.cnet.com/coupe-hatchback/2013-scion-fr-s/4505-10867_7-35370104.html

        ————

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Good review. The interior works for me, it’s not meant to be a luxury car.

    The most important point I have is:

    BRENDAN!!!! HOW DID YOU FIND A STREET IN CANADA WITH TWO NISSAN FIGARO’S RANDOMLY PARKED ON IT!?!?!?!?

    Seriously, a cool photo, a cool car (I think) and a good article. Yes, there are a lot of other good choices. And yes, we need to be more appreciative of that.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendan McAleer

      I was interviewing their owner. He owns five Figaros, each painted a different colour, two Subaru Sambas converted to VW Micro-Bus-look, and a Nissan Pao.

      If you look closely, there are actually 4 Figaros in the shot. Also kind of a cool airstream trailer off in the background.

    • 0 avatar
      Feds

      15 year import rule. From what I understand, Van-city is literally crawling with JDMs.

      Heck, I’m even starting to see more in Onterrible despite our insurance companies doing their damnedest to keep them out.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    Excellent review. The line about chickens and snowblowers made me laugh.

    I’m the market for this car. I wouldn’t buy it because it doesn’t have motor, and I spend too much time driving in a straight line to be entertained solely by handling. I’d still choose it over the Mustang, but really, if you don’t mind slow, the Miata’s already there for the taking.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    On all the FR-S reviews and comments, the thing that puzzles me most is that this site has apparently allowed reviewers to express their genuine opinions on the car while examining its faults and strengths, but the result has managed to upset a lot of people. While I may not agree with a reviewer’s assessment, may question some of the methods and comparisons, nor even like it, I certainly appreciate the honesty and willingness to make a sober evaluation of what each reviewer feels the car is and is not. So, thank you. Similarly, I can appreciate the comments questioning or asking for clarification of the methods used, but simply attacking—although most of those I saw were in the YouTube comments of the Jack Baruth comparison—is inane.

    As for my personal experience, I have not managed to drive one. I hoped to and still might when the hype settles. For now, however, the local Scion dealer only recently received four that did not go to pre-orders, but all are automatics. I also checked with a Subaru dealer and got a How-much-over-list-are-you-willing-to-pay-then-maybe response. So, I had a bit of an epiphany and decided that, for the price of an FR-S/BRZ, I could buy a Mazda 3 with the new engine and have a pretty fun, fuel efficient, practical commuter/all around car then look to the used market for a pure, non-practical, rear-wheel drive sports car like a Miata or, for a little more, an S2000.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Its nice to know theres two steering wheel designs on the market, Audi and Scion.

    I’m not really in the market for this car, I’m more interested in comfort and longevity than “chipping and slipping”.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Great review. Totally had me dreaming of trading in the now paid for Astra XR for a romp in the FR-S. So off I went to the Scion website to Build-My-Own just to see what options I could look forward to exploiting for a future test drive and was turned off by the very first select-box.

    Choose your transmission: Automatic or Automatic.

    Er, could be a Scion USA website thing, but most likely not. With a car like this not having the full 6 spd manual as the default setting makes it so much less appealing and so much more a Toyota appliance and completely unacceptable in a Sports Coo-peh. Thanks Scion for helping me dodge that car payment.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The actual drop down menu reads automatic followed by manual. Alphabetical order befuddles the best of us.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Indeed, a friend of mine has the 6th one off the boat in the US and it is fitted with an M6 transmisison.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Tried again and the Scion website still have only the AUTOMATIC in the drop down menu. Maybe I’m on the wrong website.

        “http://www.scion.com/buildyourscion/select”

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Works fine for me. More likely your browser is broken. Possible that you have some sort of popup or ad blocker that’s interfering with the pulldown function.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Works fine here too… so probably your browser.

        But honestly, after the gazillion articles and posts/comments about this car, all the build up, pictures on thw website, etc, did you REALLY think it was only available as an automatic??

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Scion’s website often just limits your “build” to cars available in your region of the country at the moment, so the fact that the manual doesn’t show up is simply because they’ve all been purchased. You can still special order (from the factory) a manual one and wait in line for it. All it takes is going to a dealership and telling them that you would like to order a manual transmission FR-S.
      If you want to build it out just try a few zip codes and you’ll see the manual. Once they get more manuals back in stock in your region it should show up in your build list as well.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I quite like the look of the car and the interior. This isn’t meant to be a luxo barge but an entry level sports car. The deal breaker for me are the quality issues and the power delivery. A Toyota product should at least be built to Camry quality standards (not VW). There is no also excuse for the torque dip between 2.5 and 5K RPM. This car is a great start and very promising but it looks to be underdeveloped.

  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    “obviously the marketing department is touting its effectiveness at loading up a set of race tires and rims for the track.”

    I can’t get a set of 16″ Hoosiers in the trunk of my Mazda3, two have to go in the back seat, and I have a door there. You MIGHT get two tires in that trunk (but I doubt it) and a couple more in the back seat, but what a PITA.

    Anyone that is serious about autocrossing or doing track days in one of these will have to have, at the minimum, a small tire tire trailer to haul tires, jack, and basic tools.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Why would you want to put nasty dirty, and ESPECIALLY stinky tires INSIDE the car? A little trailer is totally the way to go.

      Though personally, if I was so serious about tracking the car that I had a second set of wheels for that purpose, I would be bringing the CAR to the track on a trailer. But that is just my paranoid self.

      • 0 avatar
        MZ3AUTOXR

        Putting tires in the back seat isn’t ideal, but I bag them in contractor bags to keep the smell and dirt down.

        Tire trailer is in the future, probably when I can afford to get my daughter a kart to autocross in.

  • avatar

    You know we’re living in great times when discussion over cars like these devolves to nitpicking interiors, nuances of torque curves or just asking “why not the _____”.
    (and that’s outside of the automotive idiocyclone)

    Depending on what you’re shopping for, there are so, so many options in the mid-to-upper 20s for a fun car.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    Someone at my office has one, I actually like the lines and the fit and finish on the exterior makes the car look more expensive than it is.

    The style reminds me of a 3/4ths Toyota Supra. And that’s probably the “problem” it seems a little too small, it will probably get instantly labeled as a “chick” car like the Miata was.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Nice review Brendan. Any thoughts on how it handles crappy roads? Road, wind, and engine noise at highway speed? I know these aren’t areas the car was designed to excel at, but they are pertinent when reviewing any car as a daily driver.

    It’s interesting that you only started to enjoy the car once you thrashed it. That’s not easy to safely do on the street. This suggests you need to take it to the track to enjoy it. While Jack liked the car, he suggested there are better cars out there for the track. This doesn’t leave the toyobaru in a good spot.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendan McAleer

      It handles the bumps fairly well (I thought the soft-suspension Miata does this a little better and the sport-suspension model a little worse), but it is quite a noisy car. Highway road-noise is acceptable for a lightweight machine.

      As for thrashing it, it is quite slow. You might get a tut-tut from an officer (I did), but you won’t be going fast enough to get your car taken away. I actually told the guy that it was a momentum car and that I needed to keep my speed up not to hold up traffic on the on-ramp. “Carry on then.”

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    The trunk is a dealbreaker. If the car was a hatch, it could be far far far more useful, and really worth the few pounds of weight penalty to add a bit more stiffening.

    But with that tiny trunk (for reference, the Miata and S2000 have 5 cubic foot trunks), and the low opening, the passthrough is not very useful so the cargo room really REALLY suffers. Compare this to the last gen Acura RSX, which was a far more usable car because you could fold the seats down and load a bunch of stuff through the hatch.

    Which means its off our list for replacing the 95 saturn (which is similar layout to the toybaru but bigger trunk), since we really want something that can load stuff up.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Nicholas,

      In’t the Acura RSX a FWD vehicle? If so, forget it. No comparison. Not part of the “family” (^_^)..

      ——

    • 0 avatar

      Toyobaru + turbo + big trunk = WRX Wagon

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      I agree: Having no hatch makes any car irrelevant to me. Toyota is lucky there is no Nissan 240SX hatch anymore, or a Miata Shooting Brake — yet?!

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      “95 saturn (which is similar layout to the toybaru but bigger trunk),”

      Um… what? The only Saturn which was remotely similar to this car is the Sky.

    • 0 avatar
      sastexan

      I forgot to check if my carry on suitcase would fit in the trunk before buying my FR-S, which would have been a real pain to throw my suitcase into the front seat (or worse, back seat) as I travel often for work. My max carryon size bag (Travelpro) fits flat in the trunk without an issue. I even fit two bags of cellulose insulation from Home Depot in there without an issue. It is versatile.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Two Nissan Figaros behind the FR-S?

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Maybe you guys should start publishing these FRS/BRZ articles with the first few comments pre-filled in, to save the B&B from chiming in with exactly the same comments that already went into every single other FRZ article?

    – The interior sucks
    – The engine needs 30 more hp
    – It doesnt handle as good as a Miata
    – It should have been bigger
    – That engine isnt going to be reliable
    – It should have been a Celica (ok, I am guilty of that one too!)
    – I cannot possible imagine why anyone would buy this over:
    Mustang
    Miata
    Genesis
    Any used sports car the commentor likes or already owns

    Might save some time, and also be faster to read through the other comments that arent repeats. :)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The FR-S should be the GT-S edition of a base RWD Corolla. A mass produced entry – level Corolla with 14″ wheels and spongy suspension would pay the bills and allow a Corolla GT-S or FR-S to be priced under $20K where it should be.

    Since Scion, Toyota and Subaru won’t be selling a couple 100K of these cars combined, what the heck’s the point of a low volume loser.

    Its current price will guarantee low production once its freshness dies off.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Yup. And you won’t get the breadth and depth of aftermarket parts for an FR-S ecosystem. Toyota has made it clear, this is one and done, there won’t be a second generation – that isn’t why Scion exists.

      Unlike the countless Mustangs, Camaros, and Civics (to list a few) on the road, some aftermarket companies are going to be very unwilling to do the R&D to develop aftermarket parts sold to a VERY narrow community (admittedly enthusiastic) and have to deal with a red ocean of other competitors.

      Personally, I don’t see the point of buying a brand new car with the idea that step one will include, “fixing everything that is wrong with it.”

      Now buying it used, depreciated, after some other guy went through that expense is another story. The net value of many after market parts when reselling is about zero, and in some cases can be negative.

  • avatar
    ajla

    What I think the car really needs is a targa top, some “2.0L Boxer Dual Injection” decals, and a new LCD version of the Subaru XT’s digital IP.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    There’s nothing wrong with this car that 305 bhp and 280 ft lbs torque won’t fix.

    Modify the front hood/front end so you can push the engine forward and UP (power bulges are cool, see the M3) and install an AWD system.

    Install a heavy duty clutch and racing brakes that don’t fade.

    Give it a cool name, like “Interceptor” or “Penetrator.”

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Or just weld the rear doors shut on an Impreza STI… because that is exactly what you’re asking for.

      Subaru actually has a chance to sell a car to me again. Their AWD is plow city thanks to that lump of metal hanging off the nose and the gas mileage sucks (unless you put a CVT on it… fun times!!) My daughter was born last week. I’m counting down the days until she’s in a front facing child seat. The FR-S or BRZ will be in my garage. I’ve driven 2 of them in anger and it is simply the perfect car for me. Easy on the eyes, easy on gas, just big enough, great handling, not a convertible, and it puts a smile on my face. A WRX/STI simply won’t do.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        This.

        It also seems that the bench racers who cry in their applesauce for big-blocks, turbos, and heated shiatsu seats have no concept of mass. Add lightness, and joy will follow.

      • 0 avatar
        FJ60LandCruiser

        The wife has a WRX. I’ll take it any day over the FR-S. It’s just too heavy as a 5-door hatch and you can feel it when it changes direction, so it isn’t fun. The FR-S is fun to drive, but has zero power. None. Not a bit. It is limp and has a weird power band. It’s like having Jessica Biel as a girlfriend but she won’t go down on you, it starts to get frustrating after a while.

        Subaru needs a superlight AWD sports car. A modified BRZ would fit the bill nicely. I’m tired of Japanese sports car being used in the same sentence as underpowered. We need a poor man’s Cayman S, or the 1 M that you couldn’t buy because they made like 2 of them for sale in the US. Just cheap. There’s nothing stopping Subaru.

        And you can still have your underpowered BRZ. I won’t stop you.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        “There’s nothing stopping Subaru.”

        Except the yen and physics. The former means that all the extra lard you want will push the price up over $30k. The latter means that an AWD turbo coupe needs to be based on something much smaller than an Impreza to keep the curb weight under 3,000 pounds.

      • 0 avatar
        sastexan

        I have fit my younger daughter in a gigantic rear-facing Britax Boulevard without an issue in my FR-S. No one would want to sit in front of the car seat, though. And I fit the same Britax as front facing for my older daughter without an issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Sastexan – good to hear!

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      I do hope you’re being facetious.

      ————-

  • avatar
    arbnpx

    As an FR-S owner, I thank you, Brendan, for not taking the “I sort of like the FR-S, but (laundry list of negative points)” track.

    On the FR-S’s engine note, if you’re a power junkie (which I suspect Jack and Derek are), and if you’re not a fan of an inline-four engine note (which I suspect Jack, Derek, and Brendan are not), then you won’t be passionate about the FR-S’s engine note. Additionally, if you’re a fan of the Subaru rumble, expectations will also have you disappointed. What the FA20 engine is supposed to sound like is the 4A-GE from the AE86. Do a YouTube search for “AE86 Keiichi Tsuchiya”, then compare that to the “Chris Harris On Cars” video at Jarama Circuit, and you’ll hear an uncanny resemblance. While others were disappointed in that sound (including Autocar’s Steve Sutcliffe at Jarama), I loved that sound. Then again, I did fall in love with the AE86 in the late 80’s when I was a kid.

    I’ve also read about complaints of the stock suspension in the MX-5 (NA, NB, and NC generations) not being stiff enough to counteract body roll. In comparison, the FR-S has an uncanny ability to stay near-flat during hard cornering, partially thanks to its low center of gravity. I don’t think any of the reviewers touched upon this, since they were too busy praising the steering and shift feel. Meanwhile, Motor Trend covered on the MX-5’s excessive body lean, and the Best Motor TV video at Motegi (as linked to by TTAC, but since taken down) showed the body lean clear as day.

    All I ask is that for the next motorsports comparison, someone please take the FR-S out on a short twisty Solo II course, instead of a long raceway like VIR or TMS that would give an obvious advantage to the type of car that the FR-S is not.

  • avatar
    chas404

    Interior is fugly.

    I like idea of light rwd simplistic sports car (aka RX7) but tell me again WHY they needed a subaru boxer engine?????

    Toyota has no decent 4 cylinder motors anymore?

    Japanese design is just yucky. Sorry. Exterior looks Ok.

    I dunno.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Toyota could have stuck one of their garden variety 4 bangers in there with a supercharger mounted, or better yet, they could have put the WRX motor in it, and 50% of the criticisms of this over-hyped, under-delivering vehicle would have never been made.

      Another 40 horsepower would have worked wonders.

      Shame about that Fisher Price dash, still, though.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Not sure if this is a real question, but I’ll play ball. They used a boxer engine for a low center of gravity.

      I’m not sure why they couldn’t use the WRX engine though. Gas mileage? Cost? Weight? Brendan’s pictures of the interior don’t do the FRS any favors. After seeing them, I’m at a loss as to why it costs as much as it does. Lack of scale? How can Ford offer the Focus ST for the same (or is it slightly cheaper) price?

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      chas404…

      Why that engine? I think Toyobaru officials wanted a flat-4 design to get the COM as low as possible for cornering to compensate for their mediocre weight distribution (53/47, F/R).

      ——-

      • 0 avatar
        daiheadjai

        I think the FA series (what is in the FRS) is not the same as the FB series in the WRX etc., which is a taller motor.
        The FA is supposed to be very flat for a flat four (see what I did there?).

        And FWIW, isn’t the Miata about 53/47 or 52/48 F/R?
        I don’t imagine people complaining about the Miata’s “mediocre” weight distribution.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        daiheadjai…

        If I were a Miata person, I’d start complaining (^_^)! 53/47 is just not that great.
        On a Corvette forum, I read of one guy who remembers he was told that “Corvette now has a 50/50 weight distribution”. Well, he took his new Corvette to gravel-yard scales, and found 53/47, just like the Miata. What appears to be the reality is that the ZR1 is 50/50, but he bought a base Corvette. He was upset beyond mere complaining, to say the least.

        ———–

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Car and Driver have measured quite a few Vettes and if you check through their results it seems the 6.2L C6 and the ZR1 are both about 52/48. The Z06 is very close to 50/50.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        rpn453….

        Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps those scales, used for huge trucks, may not have had the precision to tell 52/48 from 53/47 for something as light as a Corvette?

        But your important point is this: it is the Z06, not the ZR1, on which Corvette went out of its way to get “close to” neutral balance. (BTW: How close is close?)

        ———-

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Mazda’s website indicates that the Miata has a 50/50 weight distribution, with an average weight driver (whatever that is) and with the gas tank two thirds full. Also, you have to be driving along the equator. :P

        Just kidding about the last part.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        “Miata has a 50/50 weight distribution, with an average weight driver (whatever that is) and with the gas tank two thirds full”

        And there’s one uncomfortable truth the all the spec sheet racers ignore… weight distribution is dynamic.

        There’s also the fact that precise 50/50 weight distribution doesn’t necessarily contribute anything in the real world. It’s just one more tuning tool, like spring and damper rates, alignment settings, or CoG.

        Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of Formula one racers dangling from a hook. Some of them showed really dramatic departures from 50/50, in both directions. The experimental Deltawing racer has 28/72, and did just fine with it.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        “Miata has a 50/50 weight distribution, with an average weight driver (whatever that is) and with the gas tank two thirds full”

        So, the trick to maintaining a 50/50 weight distribution is to keep eating that big mac while powering out of that turn! :)

        BTW, I learned that the average crash dummy driver weighs 170 pounds and is 5 feet 10 inches tall.

        http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/i-i-h-s-frontal-crash-results-dulls-the-gleam-of-some-midsize-luxury-sedans/#more-169866

        Another factoid: the gas tank in the NSX is positioned between the driver and the mid-engine for a 42/58 gasoline weight distribution. This will change by a mere 0.5% when the tank is empty! In contrast, the Porsche 911 will change by 2.25%

        http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Technical/FuelCapacity.htm

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Why the Subaru boxer engine?

      A year ago, when I showed a friend a picture of the FR-S/BRZ prototype, he muttered Porsche copy-cat. Exactly.

      Tada’s design tried to emulate the best parts of the Porsche Cayman. He had to start with the boxer engine because — as other have pointed out — it allows for a low center of gravity. Also, the boxer engine, by being flat, allows for a low Porsche-like hood line.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Has anyone looked at this car? It’s dreadful. The designer is stuck in an era that includes MC Hammer pants and blazer with shoulder pads.

  • avatar

    What a amazing car this is !!!! this car’s inside and outside both are well designed and looking stylish . Its engine looking like a roaring lion . black color suits this car . Headlight shapes are also attractive.


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