By on July 7, 2014

2014-scion-frs-001

If you purchase a Scion FR-S with an automatic transmission, I hope you’re deeply ashamed. There might be a legitimate reason. I’d accept a condition that prevents you from working a clutch and shifter. You know, something like losing a tussle with gangrene as a child or an advanced Type-II Diabetes induced foot-ectomy.

Harsh, inconsiderate statements, but why the hell would you want this car with an automatic?

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I was deeply disappointed by this 2014 Scion FR-S, and I was disappointed by a 2013 FR-S before that. Both were afflicted with automatic transmissions. When it shifts on its own, it’s only half as good. Instead of working in harmony with the excellent chassis, the dopey automatic slams and locks the door on driver engagement.

There are still brilliant elements. The styling is handsome, restrained and timeless. If it only lasts a single generation, the FT-86 is going to be a classic the instant it’s no longer available. The long hood, short deck, stubby little trunklid, and fenders arching over the front wheels make up a great-looking car.

Greasy Prius tires, the story goes, were chosen to bring the limits down and make the car more fun on every drive. It works. The FR-S doesn’t need a race track to make you smile. Other ToyoBaru legend-making will include threadbare references to the old AE-86 Corolla. I contend that we’re looking back too fondly. The FR-S isn’t cheap speed, either, racking up a $28,711 price tag configured as I drove it. Options were limited to the rear bumper applique, fog lights, rear spoiler, and the BeSpoke premium audio package, which at $1,198 makes up the bulk of the increase over the $25,800 base MSRP.

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For 2014, Scion added some leather-like padded vinyl to cover what had been areas of cheap plastic. It’s an effective trick that premiums up the place. The BeSpoke infotainment system includes navigation, voice control, and Bluetooth connectivity, but it will make you work for it. The unit is fiddly to use, the screen is small, and the Bluetooth sound quality will annoy the people you’re calling. Still, it’s refreshing to get a cabin that’s more of a business office. The important controls are located well and easy to use, and that discourages getting distracted by the electronics. After all, we’re here to drive.

The FR-S is a swell trainer. All of the attitudes and responses of a performance car are available to you without the need to plunge past 100 mph. Much like a Miata is a great performance driving starter kit, the FR-S is an accurate-handling car with well-weighted steering, an alert ride, and responsive turn-in. There’s a Torsen limited slip differential standard, and 17″ wheels with 215/45 tires are small these days, but about all you need with the modest curb weight. The FR-S is certainly equipped as a serious driver’s car, ain’t it a bitch that it’s got no lungs to match the legs?

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If only the FR-S had about 100 more horsepower. Actually, I wish for about 75 lb-ft more torque, no need to be greedy. The 2.0 liter Subaru boxer is tweaked up with the Toyota D-4S dual fuel-injection rig that uses its direct injectors all the time and supplements with port injection under certain conditions. Scion touts the 100 hp per liter, and it is good for a naturally-aspirated engine. Thank the high 12.5:1 compression ratio for the 200 hp the engine delivers, but torque is a paltry 151 lb-ft to move 2,800 lbs. That’s something not even a 4.10:1 final drive can make up for.

Wimpy engines are more palatable with manual transmissions. While the automatic may help with off-the-line torque multiplication, I hated the mushy flat spot in the middle of the rpm range. Flatten the pedal, nothing much is going on until you clear 4,500 rpm. That’s a long wait. Dyno tests of the FR-S have shown a deep drop-off in torque from 3-4,000 rpm, and boy howdy do you feel it behind the wheel.

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Despite the sharp handling, the FR-S is a chore to drive with the auto. It’s less involving than it could be, it doesn’t have enough power to be responsive, and even with a sport mode and paddle shifters, the entertainment is marginal. I’m not a fan of automatics masquerading as race-bred automated gearboxes, and this six-speed in the FR-S is no exception. Up or down, shifts happen too slowly, and that’s something no amount of gimmicky rev-matching can fix. By the time the transmission gets around to delivering what you’ve asked for, the moment has passed, the apex you were clipping is in the mirror, and that’s that. Yawn city instead of yee-haw.

The aftermarket can help, just like it’s been supporting Miata buyers in search of increased wattage for years. Superchargers are a start, V8 swaps have happened. “You’ll mess up the balance!” they’ll cry. Yes, some, but the FR-S could use a little irresponsible imbalance. Trading some increased understeer and a slightly higher center of gravity for a deeper, more flexible well of whoop-ass would be a worthwhile transaction.

The official line is that the wonderful new turbo version of this engine in the WRX won’t fit. There’s also nothing in the Toyota or Subaru dugout that’s packaged like a pushrod small-block, so dreams of a dry-sumped aluminum OHV V8 snuggled against the firewall are just that. Subaru and Toyota are telling the truth. Automakers have to make stuff fit, meet crash standards, avoid setting things on fire, and be reliable for tens of thousands of miles. That’s hard and expensive, and it’s why we can’t have nice things.

They say turbo plumbing won’t fit, and as neat as it would be to drop the 3.6 liter flat six from the Outback in the nose of one of these things, that’s about as likely to happen as a turbine. A talented individual with money (lots of money), time (lots of time), and skill (lots of skill) can turn the FR-S into whatever he or she pleases, powered by whatever can be made to fit. It’s a great platform for the modern-day AC Cobra or Sunbeam Tiger. Box-stock, especially with an automatic, the usefulness of the Scion FR-S is limited.

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The problem comes down to money. A Mustang GT is a squeak away at $31,210, less if you can find a dealer hot to move the now-finite S197 models to make room for the 2015 S550 platform Mustang. For a little bit more every month, or a slightly longer loan with a quarter or half point more on the interest rate, you’ll get a 420 hp V8 and a chassis that’s not anywhere near as disciplined as the FR-S, but good enough. A Mustang GT can make the FR-S a small speck in the mirror and keep it there, whether the road is straight or twisty. A Mustang V6 Premium is priced right on top of the FR-S and will whip it, good. Any multitude of ratty used performance cars are truly vehicular methamphetamine capable of deeply embarrassing the guy bringing his $30,000 Scion to track day.

It probably sounds like I don’t like the FR-S. That’s not true. The upgrades for 2014 dress up the interior. The BeSpoke infotainment option is a nice suite of tech where previously there was none. The chassis is still the standout feature, though I wish they’d get over the hybrid tires and put some real performance rubber on it. The entertainment-versus-efficiency tradeoff is good, delivering a lot of fun with a small appetite. The FR-S remains a nimble, good-looking car. It also still screams for some real power and the automatic could make a yogi have a tantrum. Just learn to shift.

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88 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Scion FR-S...”


  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I’m not about to shame anyone who wants a lightweight cheap efficient fun grand tourer.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I haven’t driven the FRS/BRZ twins, but I’ve often thought the car would be better if Toyota had done the drivetrain, and Subaru the suspension. And I don’t buy the ‘center of gravity’ argument posed by boxer engine fans.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I wonder if Toyota could put in that new 2.0 turbo found in the new scary-faced Lexus CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      Physics is not actually open to opinion, whether you “buy” it or not.

    • 0 avatar
      jdogma

      The ‘center of gravity’ thing is real. The higher the mass is in a vehicle, the less the tires are loaded evenly right to left in a turn. In a car with high CG, cornering is primarily being done with 2 wheeels. In the case of an SUV with a loaded roof rack, cornering may be on 2 wheels. Perhaps even more important is the transition from left turn to right or vv that you experience in a slalom. I had a chance to drive an MX5 and an RX8 back to back on a slalom course. I was amazed at how much more composed the RX8 was compared to the MX5, even though it was a bigger, heavier car. The low CG from the rotary mounted low was very noticeable, as was the high CG of the twin cam 4 in the MX5.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I can’t remember any Toyota sports car that didn’t come to market late, overpriced and underpowered.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      Oh, there were plenty. That AE86, for example, was inexpensive and entertaining. The MR2 and Celica, too.

      I guess it depends on what your definition of “sports car” is, too. The Supra certainly wasn’t underpowered.

      The anticipation for the FT-86 created so much hype around this car that it’d be impossible for it to live up to all of it

      • 0 avatar
        Hezz

        I can’t think of any consistent way to define “sports car” other than a car designed primarily for leisure driving. This is clearly such a car, as were all of the old British sports cars with 60HP pushing a ton around.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Agreed. This and the Miata are the very definition of sports car.

          I have been thinking about why these FT-86s aren’t selling all that well. They are too noisy and bouncy to be a good commuter car, which means they are relegated to weekend errands / Sunday drives. But for those duties, if I am buying a third car, I want to be able to drop the top.

          Which means I’ll be happier buying an NB Miata and saving $15K.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    MR-2.

  • avatar
    319583076

    so…the answer to this question remains “miata”.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Miata is available with a 6speed automatic as well. With only 167hp under the hood, I’d be surprised if it was much better than the slushbox Scion.

      Seems to me Winston was taking great effort to say the answer to the question is “manual transmission”

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Because convertible.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          Yeah, whenever Mazda gets around to the fixed roof Miata, they will sell. If I want wind noise and exposure to the elements, I have a motorcycle.

          • 0 avatar
            360joules

            The problem with this website is that you learn the ugly reality of government certification. I think a shooting brake/sports brake Miata might sell 8-10000 units a year…but the big “IF” is compliance. The Volvo C30 (my lust commuter car for the last 5 years) didn’t do much for Volvo but if a hatchback Miata could be certified without EPA testing and crash testing, Mazda could pick up extra sales. But my swell idea dies a quick death if the compliance monster rears its angry head.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Funnily enough, manual to manual, the Miata is just about as quick. Maybe a tenth down against the clock versus the FR-S, but in the real world, the more linear torque curve makes a mockery of the on-paper and drag-strip advantage of the FR-S.

      Sure, the Miata is softer, but it flows with the road better, and even on similar tires, it feels like it has a more planted front end and a more neutral (50:50 versus 52:48) balance.

      The FR-S is easier to control over the limit, though.

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatic

        Where do you get 52:48?

        Car and Driver has it at almost 56:44 (55.8:44.2)and that is my major problem with this car. The weight distribution is worse than an Mustang Boss almost 55:45 (54.7:45.3).

        For reference the FR-s WD can be found at

        http://media.caranddriver.com/files/2013-scion-fr-s-automatic-instrumented-test-review-car-and-driver2013-scion-fr-s-auto-test-sheet.pdf

        and the Boss Mustang at

        http://media.caranddriver.com/files/2013-ford-mustang-boss-302-laguna-seca-instrumented-test-review-car-and-driver2013-boss-302-laguna-seca.pdf

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          @pragmatic: Going off hearsay and faulty memory, actually… :D

          Seems that it’s officially about 53/47… I see C&D’s test is of an auto… which probably (likely, maybe, whatever) has a heavier transmission.

          -

          Yeah… that extra weight up front is something you can feel when you drive it back to back with the MX-5.

    • 0 avatar

      Miata is too small for many. I tried and I cannot fit in MX-5. I can in FR-S.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Correction: these are not Prius tires and never have been Prius tires. Not unless you happen to live in Japan and order the Prius with a JDM only touring package.

    Perhaps that just gives this car more JDM cred?

    Seriously though, stop calling them Prius tires, as they’re shod from the factory on all sorts of makes and models from Audi, Mercedes and others.

    Also, 400 more horse powers are needed for winning bench races on the internet. That is all.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      Sure – but I’m not saying I wanted more power so I could engage in internet one-upmanship. The car is underpowered, straight-up.

      The automatic makes it worse.

      So – I’d like it more with:

      A – a manual transmission
      B – more power, or a different tuning that results in a more linear torque curve
      C – both A & B
      D – a better automatic that shifts quicker
      E – Both B & D

  • avatar
    niky

    The Supra was not underpowered in any sense of the word. :p

    -

    The 6AT is a real downer on these cars. Just not suited to it. Takes forever to get up into the powerband, and once you’re there, it’s not as sweet shifting or as intuitive as some of the better auto-boxes.

    -

    And, if you want a grand tourer… there’s lots out there that will do better… even with an automatic.

    -

    Still, best way to get this car is with a stick, the barest trim possible, and a swap out to some nicer tires.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I went on a test drive with a buddy of mine in a used auto FRS. It also had the TRD exhaust. He drove it like a crazy person and I was shocked by how responsive it was with the paddle shifters. I drove the manual when it first came out but had the sales guy in the back “seat” so I kept it pretty calm. So I don’t really know how the two compare. But knowing how the auto performed, I would think the manual would be fantastic.
    The TRD exhaust sounds great as well. However after a while on the highway I would think the noise in the cabin would start to give you a headache.

    • 0 avatar
      Winston Braithwaite

      The TRD exhaust – ew. On anything. Terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The First Drive event back in 2012 had 6AT FR-Ss with some TRD bits. I rather enjoyed it on the autocross course and thought the AT was pretty solid overall. Driving it in the sport mode made a decent difference, IIRC. The only times I’ve driven an AT was in hard driving/sporting driving situations, so maybe it isn’t well suited for daily driving. For sports driving, I liked it, though.

      That said, I still got mine with a 6MT. Hard to convince myself to pay more for an automatic transmission when I have competently driven a stick since I was 16.

      • 0 avatar
        balreadysaid

        That’s exactly what I heard! if you know how to race an auto the scion auto is fast on track, and a dog unless you know how to hit the notes.

        really sounds like they need to add some displacement to keep it predictable and add torque. a turbo might make it fun to burn the tires but I would rather have a 3.o boxer 4 NA. M roadster from back in the day about the same thing and trust me beyond fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      I drove an automatic FR-S around the block in SF a few years ago. (The line for the autos was 10 minutes, vs over an hour for the manual.) I wouldn’t buy one that way, but it certainly wasn’t a boat anchor. And when I downshifted it twice, pitched into the last corner, and booted it, the back end stepped right out. I caught it about the same time as the stability control. The ride-along minder from Scion just laughed, and told me I was the first all day to manage it.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Seems 10 grand overpriced to me

  • avatar
    ajla

    Is it crazy to wonder how this compares to the base ATS?

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I suspect you’re right and that these cars will have a strong following (and hold their values well) after they stop making them new.

    We’ll all look back fondly at the “purity” of the design and the balanced driving experience… about how potential buyers just didn’t know what a good thing they had at the time… how they were seduced by more power for less money…

    Similar used car buys right now: Honda S2000. Miata (though their vast volume out there keep the prices lower), MR2s, etc. There were similar examples in the motorcycle world of bikes that were hard sells when new but are huge cult classics now. I’ve owned a few: Honda Hawk GT, Honda GB500, Kawasaki W650s, etc.

    I guess the common theme is that these are vehicles that seemed designed around passion and a particular theme rather than mass-market appeal. They can sell “ok” when new but enthusiasts typically are cheap, uh, knowledgeable, and know to let someone else take the initial depreciation hit.

    These will be hot buys in 3-4 years.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Only the manuals will be desired. Goes the same with older Acuras. MT RSX’s sell off Craigslist almost as fast as they are listed, and AT’s just sit in driveways. The 2003 CL Type-S MT is highly desirable too. AT’s are a dime a dozen.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    I’ve driven these three times now – an auto FR-S at a short-course event, a manual FR-S on a highway test drive and a manual BRZ when comparing to the ’15 WRX. The auto wasn’t terrible if shifting manually, but at that point you might as well buy the manual.

    I keep wanting to pull the trigger on one, but the constant wet roads here and lack of back seat room for the offspring say ‘no’.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Review could have been a copy/paste of other reviews we’ve seen here. The FR-S prioritizes weight and feel over power. If power is your priority, buy something else. If you don’t like revving the snot out of a car, buy something else. There are ample vehicles out there that do what you are suggesting this become with an H6 or turbo, etc. This fills a previously untouched segment… and if that isn’t what you want, that is fine, but for the niche it is filling, it is a fantastic car.

    Back in 2009, I posted on Nasioc that I wanted something ~2600lbs, great handling, ~180hp, RWD, ~$23k, and revvy N/A powertrain. Back to basics sports car that was joy driven. The FR-S basically hit all those numbers at 27xx lbs, 200hp, RWD, $25k, and revvy N/A powertrain. And the handling, atypical to what Subaru has been putting out the past few years being overly soft and plowy, is fantastic. I feel like they built exactly what I asked for when I saw the first FT86 concept. Simple fun. I like the Miata and the S2000 a lot, but 2 seats and convertible tops are pretty big black marks considering that beautiful little blonde thing in my avatar. It is a matter of expectations. For what makes me happy as a driver, $25k can’t buy a new car more fun than an FR-S.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I was waiting for one of these since their announcement but got impatient and bought a used S2000 instead. My previous car was an RSX-S, so going FR-S seemed like a natural progression.

      What I don’t get is this: The RSX and Civic Si never were lambasted for “wheezy” powertrains, even though their power/torque/weight numbers were near identical to the 86 twins. For one, I thought the RSX was a quick and fun car, and was never at a loss for power, though more would have always been nice. The only thing that was said against the Hondas was that their newer competition in the WRX and Mazdaspeed 3 had more power, but that didn’t necessarily make them any better. My S2000 has a dead area for power below 3500-4000, that never stopped anyone from praising it, though I assume the batshit insane part above 6k makes up for it.

      I also don’t understand the aversion to shifting. Maybe it’s because I’ve been driving revvy cars for the last 8 years, but if I need more go, I just drop a gear, no big deal. That said, I’ve never really had the need to drop a gear at highway speeds in either car to pass, though going down one certainly would have made it happen more rapidly.

      If I didn’t already have the S2000, my money would put me in an FR-S, no questions asked. If you can’t be asked to keep the revs high or downshift when you drop below 50, maybe you should be driving a Mustang instead.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I’ve never driven an FRS, but from what I read journalists have complained about its lack of top end as well.

        You have to rev the FRSBRZ to get going, but you don’t get the sensation of Vtec kicking in, nor to stupidly high RPMs of a rotary, just more noise.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          There is no problem with the top end. It isn’t S2000 awesome, but it is good and the car likes to rev. Where the car falls flat is when the driver won’t fully commit. If you like to rev to 5000 and shift, buy a GTI or a new WRX. Their powerbands will not disappoint if that is how you like to performance drive.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I still really like these cars, no matter how much interwebs hate they generate. It’s a good looking car, nicely balanced handling, and the power/efficiency trade-off is fine for me. I think $26k+TTL is a bit too pricey, I would be much happier with it at even $22k. But I have seen the Suby base version advertised on sale for around $24k and that would split the difference enough for me, especially with the included HIDs. I too would like a bit more HP, though I have been doing a little research lately and there are now complete supercharger kits for about $3600 that solves that problem as well. Maybe a slightly used one with the cheap stage 1 S/C would be the perfect compromise? Never an auto though, manual only please!

  • avatar

    I’d take the current engine any day over one that is heavier. The car has plenty of power, but I would not want one iota less handling. I might have gotten one if it had more headroom, and if the visibility were better. (No clutch, no sale.)

    I would echo what Quentin and mnm4ever said.

    Uh, “bespoke” does not require capital letters, and it’s just a pretentious way of saying “custom,” or “made to order.”

  • avatar
    ant

    A brief gander of the FRS forums shows that these cars have a lot of, ah, issues. Very UnToyota like issues.

    How much of that is just that the buyers of these things are more likely to be fussy?

    I’ve never been in one, but they sure do look nice going down the road.

    If it were me, I get the front drive Scion TC, due to its more reliable reputation, and more useable configuration as a hatchback.

    Ya’ll sure do spill a lot of digital ink on these things.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      I know little about the TC beyond how it looks. That alone is a dealbreaker, and I’m not really an aesthete or anything.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      You have to wonder if those issues are caused by SubaruToyota, hard driving (sorta what this car encourages), or poorily installedutilized aftermarket mods.

      The engines more Subaru than anything, I recall an article Baruth over at his site that briefly touched upon FRS’s that would break early into track days.

  • avatar
    krayzie

    Funny none of these so-called “reviews” mention that it’s probably due to emissions and EPA ratings that it comes with Primacy HP tires and an engine that doesn’t have as high an output as it could have been. Why didn’t Winston review a manual variant this time around? 2014 is not much different than a 2013 save for like 6 larger head flange bolts since October running change.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Other cars also have to comply with emissions regs and try for high EPA ratings – you make it sound somehow unfair that these cars do, too.

      And the running change – sounds like a head gasket sealing issue they’re addressing – on a Subaru engine – ?

      Uh, no thanks.

      No free lunch, folks – a non-shared platform means no way to amortize costs and so what you are getting is that nice balanced platform and a powertrain, suspension components, brakes, interior, infotainment, etc. built to a viciously stringent price point. Power upgrades are expensive and ANY power increase overwhelms tires and brakes (that’s brakes…not just pads, either). Keep it stock and go hunting Miatas or perfect your low-speed drifting skillz and you’re fine.

  • avatar
    SELECTIVE_KNOWLEDGE_MAN

    “It probably sounds like I don’t like the FR-S. That’s not true.”

    Could have fooled me. I think I have read this review in various forms on a Ford Forum back before the car was released. What gave it away? “Prius tires” and how much superior a Mustang is.

  • avatar
    srh

    I’ve got the BRZ, in manual. It’s a fun little car but the ride is harsh and the cabin is noisy. The interior feels like a $14,000 car. The radio doesn’t work well.

    As a daily driver which, for me, consists of a mile of dirt road and 10 miles of highway, those make for an unpleasant experience. To those who say it has plenty of power, yes it does. Above 5000 RPM.

    None of that matters on track-day where, at least at our small local track, it hangs with cars that vastly out-power it. I’ve just added belt-driven FI to mine. While it obviously does very little to help with everyday-driving, it does clean up the torque dip and above 4000 RPM it starts to feel downright lively. I’ve yet to track the SC, but presumably it’ll help with the straights where the M3s could previously just walk away.

    The car is a looker, but for road use there are a lot of cars that give you 90% of the handling with a lot more *usable* power, better interiors, and for less money.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    It’s time to face the facts. This car is a flop.

    Sales are middling (and yes I get production numbers were never meant to be high) they are no where near global targets (and depending on which numbers you use, North American numbers can in just below or on the low end of target).

    The product quality and reliability has been less than stellar, it’s a black dot queen in CR and pulled the whole Scion brand down in quality ratings. The wonky torque curve is the subject of much complaints. The interior shots still make the car look like a Coleman cooler on the inside (at least it doesn’t cost Alfa money for the privilege).

    The car was held up to an impossible pedestal before its release, which in itself probably hurt things. The Scion badge in the United States sure doesn’t help – give the brand is a zombie.

    For the TTAC reader, they completely get the difference between a tC and an FR-S. For the 98% of Americans walking into a showroom, they see two different two-door coupes. Both with four bangers under the hood, one sexy, one looking a bit like a World War II German helmet, one with RWD and one with FWD. Careful how you talk about them Mr. Salesman!

    At $28K as tested, you’re past Hyundai Genesis 2.0T money (admittedly a dead version in 2015). Not as fun to drive but way nicer interior, 74 more HP, way better torque curve, and a lot more features/content. Oh, and more reliable with a 10/100 warranty. You can’t even go, “well shoot, it says Hyundai on it,” because Scion sure doesn’t have a lot of brand credibility anymore.

    This is a car I think so many of us want to love – but it just never delivered on the promise for – well – anything – beyond handling (ugh, those greasy tires, why didn’t they…never mind).

    It didn’t come with the hype numbers of power, it didn’t match the price point projected, it doesn’t have the reliability, for Subbie buyers the BR-Z doesn’t offer AWD, there is no “high performance” variant nor any plans to make one.

    The worst part of all is Toyota/Subaru bean counters will likely conclude, “the buying public doesn’t want a car like this, we will never build a Celica/Supra (and for Subbie meh, we still have the WRX) for the North American market because this car was rejected.”

    The reality is it never delivered the goods, and has too many problems.

    *sigh*

    Sad – very sad.

    I now look back to the 80′s and think that in a way I was very lucky to grow up in an era of numerous affordable “hot hatches.” Sure they were down on power compared to 2014 standards and most of them where somewhat under steering messes to varying degrees, but there were numerous low cost options. That was the promise of the FR-S, in a beautiful RWD package.

    We were promised jet packs by now too.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      From the armchair, I agree with you. But the FR-S has enjoyed fairly steady sales of ~1000-2000 units a month since it was introduced (the BRZ runs about half that rate), so it actually is delivering the goods for some people.

      Miata sales are fairly low – about 300-700/month.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    The 50-something person I know who bought an FRS chose the automatic specifically so that his wife could be the designated driver when needed.

    At least he’s choosing between drinking and driving. I’d forgo the drinking though.

  • avatar

    Yet another “more power” whine. It’s 200 hp for crissakes. Just buy a Camaro already if you want power bragging.

    • 0 avatar

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      As I read it in this review and as I have read it in other reviews, the power issue isn’t simply about total horsepower or torque – it’s about the way this engine delivers horsepower and torque. It’s non-linear power delivery is a legitimate issue. And it’s an issue that the driver has to deal with on every single trip because anything short of lapping a closed course will force you to drive through the hole in the middle of the powerband. Over and over and over again.

      This “feature” among the many other “features” covered in the review and the comments here is enough to keep me away from these cars permanently. The fact that the same money can buy more power (with linear delivery) and more features dominates this discussion because the Toyota marketing machine promised us a hero car but delivered to us a Scion, i.e. – promises were broken and the real-world value proposition didn’t manifest.

      I expect these points to made roughly 1.6 x 10^8 times which is my guesstimate for the amount of times we were promised the hero car by aforementioned marketing apparatus.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      200hp IS enough, but the torque hole is really, really, really annoying, and for me kills much of the joy of driving this car. It is RIGHT where you are when just driving around. It’s fine if you are keeping the revs right up, but who drives like that every day? If ever a car screamed out for a light pressure turbo this is it. Or just make the thing at least linear across the rev range. I think even tuning it for a little less on the low end and a little more on the high end would be preferable to the current state.

      Comparing these cars to Mustangs is silly, regardless of the pricing similarity. This is a rapier, a Mustang is a broadsword. Both fun, but entirely different things.

      • 0 avatar

        So basically it’s S2000 AP1 versus AP2 all over again, if I understand that complaint right.

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          The S2k had the benefit of going, as duffman13 so colorfully puts it, bat**** insane over 6k.

          The boxer motor pulls well for the first 2-3k, then goes into a sort of midlife crisis of just chugging along at its job listlessly while the hours tick away, filing its paperwork but not putting in the extra effort, and then finally it gets to 5k rpm and it wants to play again… puts in extra hours at work… flirts with the secretary, etcetera.

          -

          Likely emissions. I’ve driven a number of naturally aspirated motors of late that are like that. But there are many emissions compliant engines that *aren’t*. I’d trade fifteen of those horses in the 6-7k region for the equivalent amount of torque between 4-5k. Losing it that high up will not affect the FR-S’s abilities on the track by much, but the extra torque will give you more flexibility mid-corner and out in the real world.

          -

          To note: I’m not a power-hungry meathead… but when a 160 hp “warm” hatch feels livelier than a 200 hp sports car, then you know there’s something wrong with the engine programming. Other than that (and the so-so tires… I like the dorifto, but I also love carving up canyons), it’s a fantastic car to drive.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Two people in my office have these and what’s with the chirping noise they have at idle? Is that a defect or just the way they were designed?

    • 0 avatar
      bodayguy

      The chirping is common (but I don’t think mine does it). Sort of a defect but not harmful and I’m not sure they have a repair for it that lasts.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        The chirp is largely responsible for the black dots via consumer reports. Is it a long term issue for reliability? Who knows. I think it annoys people more than anything.

        • 0 avatar
          bodayguy

          Yeah I also think the condensation in the taillights and the chirping are the Consumer Reports dots – but neither are more than annoying. Hey – my 5.0 Mustang lost a power steering rack! That’s a lot bigger deal! Anyone care? Anyone killing on a GT for having issues, like any new car will??

          • 0 avatar

            We had a TTAC B&B who had a major SUA on a one of the new longer Mustangs. Cured by disconnecting the battery for a few moments. Stuff like that happens on all cars, I think. Jeeps have The Death Wobble – can be a real trouble when it happens.

    • 0 avatar

      If you think hachiroku chirping is bad, you should hear the idle knocking on Lexus 2.4L v6. When I heard it the first time, I was sure a valve adjuster died on the car.

  • avatar
    maderadura

    There is nothing wrong with this car that 250 hp wouldn’t fix.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    This is nothing new. When I ocmmented on Jack’s shootout I said the same thing I am going to say now. This is a goldilocks car. It is not as powerful as some cars (mustang, genesis), not as useful as others (focus st, fiesta st, wrx, etc), and not even the lightest car out there (miata). It is for those that want a great handling coupe. It also continues to have problems (my friend’s brz got a new engine and a neighbor got his lemon lawed and drive s a ’13 wrx now)and is around ~27-28k out the door. If not for the reliability problems, I am the type of guy that would own this car. The problem is that it could not get me through winter and the cost of it makes it prohibitive to me as a third car. What did I do? I kept my paid for DD and found a hardtop sw20 mr2 for a fraction of the price. It comes with a more reliable engine to boot. Had this been the price of a scion tc with the Camry 2.5, it would have been a no brainer as I could have kept my current ride as my DD and still paid for both. I think I ended up with the prettier car though.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    Yet another “reviewer” complaining that the car is exactly what it was always intended to be, complete with the standard laundry list of “improvements’ to make it into something altogether different. And the de rigueur “a Mustang is better” line, for those who drive spec sheets instead of cars.

    If you want a muscle coupe, go buy a Genesis/G37/370Z. How about leaving this one alone for those of us not indoctrinating into the “more/bigger is better” mantra? I would find this car substantially LESS desirable with 300hp.

    It’s especially amusing to see a huffy whine about the automatic transmission (we’re here to drive, right”) followed by praise for the infotainment functions being “more like an office”. Because of course, I want my “driver’s car” to be more like an office.

    • 0 avatar
      Occam

      The entire automotive world is like that. Whine because SUVs are as soft and cushy as minivans. Whine because large sedans aren’t as taut and responsive as German sport-sedans. Whine because economy cars are underpowered. Whine because pickups are crude.

      When pickups can’t be had with manual tranmissions, and sport-compacts have back-doors, but both come standard with lighted make-up mirrors, the whole industry has gone off the rails.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Said it a million times, but all this thing needs is 500ccs of displacement. A base Cayman can run a high 13 second quarter mile with just 200ccs more than what this needs… if this thing had 500ccs, it could run a hearty mid to low 14 second quarter mile, most importantly without gaining any weight or adding any cost. There are plenty of engines that got displacement bumps without adding weight/cost… most obvious example being the VQ.

    Also definitely needs a more aggressive and robust auto option. Maybe a DSG. I think folks would be willing to pay $1000-2000 more for an auto worth buying.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      What you want and what it “needs” are completely different things. And it’s exceedingly tiresome to continually see commenters who believe that the latter is the former.

  • avatar
    bodayguy

    The torque dip is bad and well known. There are already aftermarket headers that cure this though. I would expect the refresh for this car next year to feature a better engine curve, at the least, if not an engine with more displacement.
    What’s great, to me, about the twins is how they beg to be modified. Of course, doing that tastefully will probably be a deciding factor in longterm values of these or else we’ll end up with Integra redux.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    On a random note, I saw this exact configuration pulling out of Wal-mart today, and I didn’t realize until then just how stubby these cars are. Could be an artifact of the high beltline, but even an S2000 looks noticeably longer.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    I’ve owned my manual FRS for about 2 years now. This car, unlike any other car I have ever driven, connects with me. I know what the car is doing at every point. I feel like I have learned so much from this car. I’ve put almost 50,000 miles on the car because I drive it everyday, to work, for fun, in the snow and rain. I never knew a car could be this good at communicating with the driver. I never considering buying a Porsche before but having driven this car I want to see if there are better chassis out there. Another thing, this car feels rear wheel driven. I can instantly tell where the power is going when I power out of a turn. It feels about as rear wheel driven as the 1967 corvette my dad taught me to drive stick on. I think if you drive this car for a week and get used to it you understand just how amazing it is out of the box. If every car communicated with the driver like the 86 does I think there would be a lot more auto enthusiasts in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Takumi788

      You understand what its all about. I too have owned a manual FRS for 2 years and I love it more every time I drive it. It’s pure entertainment every where you go.

  • avatar
    balreadysaid

    that’s exactly what its for! learning its a learning car for drifter enthusiast! like going out and buying a cbr1000rr before riding a xr100. when you drift the cbr1000 and never have drifted before most people get nervous and let off and highside.

    when you are done with these cars the only flavor you’ll have a taste for is of the Bavarian breed! ;)

    once you realize NA is the drivers car choice look for a v10 and then giggle like the schproket

  • avatar
    SOneThreeCoupe

    @bal- What?

    @everyone who likes the FR-S/BRZ:

    I wanted to like these cars, I really did. I joined all the forums, I followed all the hype, I got in internet debates about horsepower vs. chassis dynamics. I did the math, I figured out I could afford one, and I made sure I could buy if the opportunity presented itself.

    I finally got a chance to head to a dealer and get a test drive in a manual FR-S and… it just didn’t live up to the hype.

    The engine is alright, it really is. I was coming from a Mini Countryman S, a Miata and a Range Rover Classic- the power was entertaining and I saw no problem with it.

    The gearbox was pretty good, as was the clutch. No problems there.

    Interior quality- don’t care. As long as it doesn’t fall apart, I don’t care about how things feel or the quality of the switchgear.

    Steering feel was horrible. Felt anesthetized. The car went where you pointed it, but it went there as if you were playing GT5. I didn’t feel involved in the process.

    Ride quality was hilariously atrocious. On local roads, you’d be constantly playing catch-up rather than enjoying yourself. Was typically valved too stiff to pretend to be sporty rather than actually being sporty. I talked the salesman into letting me take the car into the hills for some driving on roads I know and the car would lose composure too rapidly to be much fun.

    I left the dealership disappointed and with my entire view on the car ruined- I can make it ride and handle easy enough but making the electric steering actually provide feedback seems impossible.

    About a month later I bought my brother’s ’96 M3, which even in its dilapidated state gave better steering feel. Now that I’ve replaced all the bushings (stock replacements), dampers (Konis), sways (UUC) and springs (H&R OE Sport) in the suspension, the car is light-years ahead of the FR-S in terms of ride, ultimate grip and adjustability. The car has become tossable, unflappable and easily steered with the throttle. My total investment in the car is less than $10k, but it’s my favorite daily I’ve owned by far. Does the E36 M3 have faults compared to the FR-S? Of course- it weighs about 450lbs more and gets an average of 20mpg if driven enthusiastically on a 14-mile round-trip commute.

    For me, the best FR-S is a used E36 M3. Your mileage may vary, and if you’ve only known econoboxes and FWD crap-wagons, the FR-S is a wondrous machine. I appreciate the fact that Toyota and Subaru built it, but it’s just missing anything resembling a soul.


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