The Truth About Cars » br-z http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:11:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » br-z http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Scion tC (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-scion-tc-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-scion-tc-with-video/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:23:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517425 Many assumed that with the new FR-S hitting the dealers, it would only be a matter of time before the front-wheel-drive tC was sent out to pasture. However with an average buyer age of 28, the tC is isn’t just the youngest Toyota, it’s the youngest car in America. With demographics like that, product planners […]

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2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Many assumed that with the new FR-S hitting the dealers, it would only be a matter of time before the front-wheel-drive tC was sent out to pasture. However with an average buyer age of 28, the tC is isn’t just the youngest Toyota, it’s the youngest car in America. With demographics like that, product planners would be fools to kill off the tC and so the “two coupé strategy” was born. The last time we looked at the tC, the FR-S had yet to be born, this time the tC has been refreshed in the FR-S’ image. Which two door is right for you? Click past the jump, the answer might surprise you.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s start with the nitty-gritty. Starting at $19,695 and barely climbing to $20,965, the tC is 25% cheaper than an FR-S. This pricing delta is why (in my mind) the tC’s sales numbers haven’t fallen since the FR-S was released with 2012 slightly above 2011. If you think of the tC as the budget FR-S alternative, the two-coupé strategy starts to make more sense. From dealers I have spoken with it seems to be working. Prospective buyers that can’t quite afford an FR-S or are having troubles justifying the cost to themselves have been looking at the less expensive tC.

With strategy in mind, Scion decided to remake the front-driver in the FR-S’ image. Wise choice since the FR-S is one of the best looking modern Toyota designs. Because hard points remain the same on this refresh, tweaks are limited to new bumper covers, headlamps, tail lamps and wheels. I think the tC’s new nose suits the coupé surprisingly well since most nose jobs range from peculiar to downright Frankenstein. Similarly, the new rear bumper cover fixed the 2013′s tall and flat rear bumper cover by breaking it up with a black panel and a non-functional triangular red lens. What’s the lens for? That’s anyone’s guess.  To see how the two Scions stack up, check out my 5-second Photoshop mash-ups.

tC vs FR-S Front  tC vs FR-S Back

While some found the new clear tail lamps too “boy racer,” I think they work better on the tC and with the tC’s target demographic than the old units. As is obvious by the photos,the FR-S is quite low to the ground with a low slung cabin creating the low center of gravity it is known for. The tC on the other hand is mainstream economy coupé.

Since this is just a refresh, the tC’s major styling problem is still with us: the ginormous C-pillar and small rear window. Aside from my personal belief that the look is awkward, the shape has a serious impact on visibility creating large blindspots for the driver and not permitting rear passengers to see the scenery. The new tC’s new looks should be enough to get FR-S shoppers short on cash to give the tC a once-over before cross-shopping. Mission accomplished. Compared to the other FWD competition I rank the tC second, below the new Kia Forte Koup and above the somewhat bland Honda Civic.

2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Once inside the tC, FR-S shoppers are likely to be disappointed as there is very little FR-S inside Scion’s FWD coupé. Hard plastics in a mixture of black and charcoal hues continue to dominate the cabin, something I was OK with in 2011 because the competition was coated in hard polymer as well. Nearly three years later, the competition has upped the game with the 2013 Civic bringing soft injection molded dash parts to the segment followed by the 2014 Forte’s stylish new interior. It’s also worth noting that Scion continues to offer the tC in one interior color: black. Sticking with Scion’s model of streamlined inventory, all tCs have a standard dual-pane glass sunroof which is an interesting touch but I think I would trade it for upgraded materials.

Front seat comfort is strictly average in the tC.  Front seats offer limited adjustibility and little lumbar support (the seats do not have an adjustable lumbar support feature). tC drivers sit in a more upright fashion than in the FR-S thanks to the tC’s overall taller proportions but thanks to that large C-pillar, visibility is worse than the low-slung FR-S. The tC’s rear seats are a different matter. At 34.5 inches, the tC sports nearly two inches more rear legroom than the Forte Koup (2013 numbers), four more than the Civic and five more than the FR-S. Combined with a surprising amount of headroom, it is possible to put four 6-foot tall adults in the tC for a reasonable amount of time. Thanks to the hatch back design and a trunk that’s 50% larger than the Civic and more than 110% larger than the FR-S, you can jam luggage for four in the back of the tC as well.

2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

The only major change inside the tC is a new Pioneer head-unit. Instead of borrowing radios from Toyota, Scion has generally gone for consumer branded units that are designed for Scion but share nothing with the Toyota parts bin. The notable exception was the old Toyota derived navigation unit which was found in a few Scion models with an eye watering $2,250 price tag. For 2014 Scion is using a new Pioneer made system featuring 8-speakers, HD Radio, iDevice/USB integration and an integrated CD player. The software looks like a blend of Pioneer’s interface and something from Toyota’s new Entune systems. The over all look is less elegant and far more “aftermarket” than the well-integrated systems from Kia or even Honda’s funky dual-level system in the Civic. Sound quality however was excellent in the tC with well matched speakers and moderately high limits.

Should you feel particularly spendy, you can pay Scion $1,200 to add the “BeSpoke Premium Audio System” which is a fancy way of saying navigation software and smartphone app integration. Take my advice, spend your $1,200 on something else. The tC’s lack of infotainment bling is troubling since Scion positions themselves as a brand for the young. At 33 I’m still in the vicinity of the tCs target market (average age 28) and even to my elderly eyes, the entire Scion brand lags in this area. Yes, the idea is: buy an aftermarket radio and have it installed, but I can’t be the only one that wants a super-slick system with a large touchscreen, navigation and smartphone apps as the standard system. Anyone at Scion listening?

On the gadget front, the tC and the Civic are well matched but Kia’s new Forte is rumored to offer goodies like a backup camera, color LCD in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate controls, push-button start, keyless entry, HID headlamps, power seats, etc. That leaves the Scion in an odd position having no factory options at all and competing only with relatively base models of the competition.

2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

The tC uses the same four-cylinder engine found under the hood of the Camry and RAV4. The 2.5L mill has lost 1 horsepower and 1 lb-ft for 2014 (for no apparent reason) dropping to 179HP at 6,000 RPM and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. Sending power to the front wheels is a standard 6-speed close ratio manual transmission and an optional revised 6-speed automatic that now features throttle matched down-shifts. If those numbers sound healthy, they should. I have a preference toward engines “symmetrical” power numbers (HP and tq are nearly equal) as they usually provide a well-rounded driving experience. That is certainly true of the tC, especially when you compare it to the 2.0L engine in the FR-S.

Boo! Hiss! I know, it’s sacrilege to say anything less than positive about a direct-injection boxer engine, but let’s look at the fine print. The FR-S’ 200 ponies don’t start galloping until 7,000RPM, a grand higher than the Camry-sourced 2.5, but the real problem is the torque. The FR-S has only 151 lb-ft to play with and you have to wait until 6,600 RPM for them to arrive. That’s 2,600 RPM higher than the 2.5. This has a direct impact on the driveability and the character of the two coupés. The FR-S needs to be wound up to the stratosphere to make the most of the engine while the tC performs well at “normal” engine RPMs. Hill climbing and passing are the two areas where the difference in character is most obvious. The FR-S needs to drop a few gears in order to climb or pass while the tC can often stay in 6th. Sure, the FR-S sounds great when singing at 7-grand, but you’re not always on a majestic mountain highway, sometimes you’re just on the freeway in rush hour. Thanks to a lower curb weight and gearing differences, the FR-S ran to 60 in 6.7 seconds last time we tested it, 9/10ths faster than the tC.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Don’t mistake me, the FR-S has higher limits than the tC pulling more Gs in the corners and having a very neutral handling RWD nature while the tC plows like a John Deere in the corners. What might surprise you however is that despite the nose-heavy FWD nature of the tC, in stock form, at 8/10ths on a winding track, the FR-S is likely to pull away. Some of that has to do with the tC’s improved suspension and chassis for 2014, but plenty has to do with the stock rubber choice on the FR-S. Scion fits low-rolling-resistance tired to the RWD coupé in order to improve fuel economy AND to make the FR-S capable of tail-happy fun with only 151lb-ft of twist. When it comes to the hard numbers we don’t have a skidpad in the Northern California TTAC testing grounds so I’m going to have to refer to “Publication X’s” numbers: FR-S 0.87g, tC 0.84g. Say what? Yep. regardless of the publication the tC scores shockingly close to the FR-S in road holding. Surprised? I was. More on that later.

How about the competition? Let’s dive in. The Civic Si is a bit more hard-core. Available only with a manual transmission, a wide demographic has to be removed from the comparison. However those that like to row their own will find a FWD 6-speed manual transaxle that is, dare i say it, better than many RWD transmissions. The shift feel and clutch pedal are near perfection and the limited slip front differential helps the Civic on the track. In the real world there’s less daylight between the two however with essentially the same curb weight, equal torque numbers and only a 20HP lead by the Honda. The result is a Civic that ties in my mind with a better interior and better road manners but higher price tag ($22,515) and a loss of practicality when it comes to cargo and people hauling.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’m going to gloss over the Golf because, as I learned on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other. How about the Hyundai Elantra Coupe? It’s considerably down on power (148 HP / 131 lb-ft), has a cheaper interior and handles like a damp noodle. If you’re wondering why the Elantra GT had to get its bones stiffened, the Elantra Coupé is why. How about the GT? Like the Golf, it’s not quite the same animal. Altima? Dead. Eclipse? Ditto. The Genesis plays with the FR-S and the other bigger boys which brings us to the oddly spelled Kia Forte Koup.

The 2014 Koup has yet to be driven, but based on our experiences with the 2013 Koup and the 2014 Forte 4-door sedan, I expect great things. Kia has announced the Koup will land with an optional 1.6L turbo engine good for 201 ponies and 195 lb-ft of twist. I expect the chassis and manual transmission to still be a step behind the Honda Civic Si, but the interior and gadget count on the Koup look class leading. Unless Kia gets the Koup all wrong, I expect it to slot in around 20-23K. I also expect it to lead my list.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

That brings us full circle to the tCs fiercest competitor: its stable mate the FR-S. No matter how you slice it, the tC isn’t as good-looking. It may seat four with relative ease, but the interior isn’t as nice as the FR-S either. It delivers good fuel economy and is plenty of fun on the road, but the appeal of the tC is more pragmatic than emotional. Still, when the numbers are added up the tC delivers 75% of the FR-S’ looks, 85% of the handling and 90% of the performance for 78% of the price. Being the deal hound I am, that makes the tC the better Scion.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Well priced
  • Excellent handling (for a FWD car)

Quit it

  • Cheap plastics inside continue
  • The steering isn’t as precise as the Civic Si.
  • Lack of premium or tech options young buyers demand

Scion provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as Tested

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 89 MPH

Cabin Noise: 76db @ 50 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 29.6 MPG over 459 miles

 

2014 Scion tC Engine 2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-002 2014 Scion tC Exterior-003 2014 Scion tC Exterior-004 2014 Scion tC Exterior-005 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-007 2014 Scion tC Exterior-008 2014 Scion tC Exterior-009 2014 Scion tC Exterior-010 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior 2014 Scion tC Interior-001 2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-003 2014 Scion tC Interior-004 2014 Scion tC Interior-005 2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-009 2014 Scion tC Interior-010 2014 Scion tC Interior-011

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Vellum Venom: 2013 Scion FR-S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/vellum-venom-2013-scion-fr-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/vellum-venom-2013-scion-fr-s/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2012 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461441 Damn near everyone in the Industrial Design department at CCS said my engineering/gearhead/history buff background was killing my potential Car Design career. In hindsight they had a point, but most were complete jerks about it.  With three art history courses at three different colleges in mind, automotive brands/models/trim levels do indeed nod to something more […]

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Damn near everyone in the Industrial Design department at CCS said my engineering/gearhead/history buff background was killing my potential Car Design career. In hindsight they had a point, but most were complete jerks about it.  With three art history courses at three different colleges in mind, automotive brands/models/trim levels do indeed nod to something more than PR-hyped styling takeaways: perhaps a vintage automobile, a vague reference to a sub-culture not normally associated with a large corporation, or an entire genre of fine art. But the Scion FR-S isn’t retro…

…it’s retro-futurism.

 

Toothy and fang-like.  The FR-S has an assertive stance, made clear with pointy scoops at the base of the bumper and a hard cut line separating the bumper’s snout against the headlights.  Nissan 370Z it ain’t, there’s another hard crease between the headlights and the fog light area, making for three pairs of hard lines that give the FR-S a very angry look.

The round bulge for the low-beam headlights adds a more-than welcome soft point to all these fierce elements, but something about the Scion emblem in the center looks less like an organic extension of natural facial features…and possibly more of a wart on an otherwise lovely face. Even the hood cut lines are clean and logical.

 

The depression around the emblem is what kills the nose. This is far too cute and soft, which has nothing to do with this car.  While corporate logos housed in round casings is more than a little trite, combining it with the bumper’s reverse pimple takes away from the design’s overall aggressiveness.

A mail slot grille, individual S-C-I-O-N lettering…heck even the flat spot/round logo combo of the last Toyota Supra is a huge improvement.  Maybe on the mid-cycle refresh!

 

We discussed the hard, fierce lines before, but there’s more to the FR-S.  Note the gentle bend in the hood and bumper, creating a new point of surface tension.  It keeps the bumper from being too bloating and boring. If there was a slotted grille (a la mid-cycle refreshed Lexus SC400) using this soft curve and its genesis, the nose would be far more aggressive. It would no longer have a self-congratulatory wart for the Scion brand.

And if you missed the round element of the headlight, note how it breaks the surface tension of the front end from this angle.  Less techno-future, more retro Ferrari headlight from the 1950-60s.  Retro and future combine to form one being.  Dang.

 

The fog light pod is a different story.  The gigantic black plug is pretty tasteless, though I am sure the aftermarket can make it into a functional speed hole for something.  Perhaps a brake cooling duct, or something turbo-intercooler related. No matter, the entire form is a key element to the FR-S’s fierce nose.  And the strong linearity of the beveled edge around its bottom and outer edge looks pretty trick.

 

The angry creases of the lower bumper, the headlight, the fog light look absolutely sinister.  But the subtle crease above the headlight? That’s like a flirty eyebrow on a very pretty face.  It’s like a Maserati Gran Tourismo coupe, but not Italian super car pompous. Me likey.

 

Nicely integrated signal light!  But the front end’s angry lines look so tough because of one design feature: front end overhang allowing for an organic tapering of the snout.  Repeat after me, “Overhang is a good thing. A GOOD THING!”

Put another way: you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, Mr. Scion FR-S!

 

OMG SON, am I really seeing a non-Ferrari-Corvette-Panther with an impressive amount of space between the firewall and the front axle?  This dash-to-axle ratio is more than a little delicious, and such a great value compared to the others! (except the Panther, ‘natch)

 

While this 86-boxer emblem is “emblematic” of the limp-wristed motor beneath, you can’t deny the presence of such a “fast” looking line on the expansive canvas of a rear-wheel drive fender. Even better, this painted fender trim lies on a separate plane from the sheet metal itself, adding surface tension to a tall (by retro standards) belt line.

But I’m seeing another, far bigger problem. More on that later.

 

Thank goodness my camera phone couldn’t properly show this fake fender vent.  Oops on my part, double oops on the designer’s part.

 

That “far bigger” problem mentioned two photos ago?  Take a look at the sheer number of panel gaps, and their terrible sizing!  The door to fender is the worst, until you spend a little more time with the plastic cowl trim that starts with the wipers and ends at the base of the A-pillar.

 

Chintzy. Cheap. In poor taste for any non-Yugo product.  Go back to the last photo and note the sloppy end-point installation of the black plastic cowl trim. Hell, even the Yugo didn’t f–k up a fender’s meeting point this badly.  It doesn’t take much to visualize a fender that fixes this problem, too bad they couldn’t metal smith that plastic tab out.

 

You can see a bit of the black cowl plastic here too.  And the gigantic panel gap of the A-pillar to fender.  While Toyota generously gave a glass triangle instead of the typical DLO FAIL at this point, this area suffers from a unique form of FAIL: the DLO slides below the A-pillar, the fender AND the fender vent panel, adding another unnecessary line to the profile!

On the plus side, the unique plane of the fender vent/emblem continues across the top of the door.  Back on the minus side again, the side-view mirror’s black plastic base fights this plane with pudgy, bulge-y, overlapping curves. It reminds me of when I used to pour batter into the waffle iron as a child, and spill it over the “lines”.

 

In collector car speak, the FR-S is definitely more of a 20-footer. The ungainly cowl plastic, the hideous panel gaps and unnecessary meeting points blend into a smooth and slick coupe.  While the FR-S is still tall and mid-heavy like most modern cars, the ample greenhouse, flowing C-pillar and elegant “swoop” of the door’s cut line are an instant classic.  I love the complementary swoop of the rocker panel, especially as it naturally flows to the rear wheel well! Retro-futurism, indeed.

 

Not as lovely as a Porsche Cayman from this angle, but quite a stunner compared to everything else on the market.  While I’d like more chisel to the quarter panel’s “shoulders” on the C-pillar and a bit less hard/perfectly round negative area behind the door handle, this car is still the business.

Except for that droopy, chubby side view mirror.  I can’t wait for the aftermarket to “fix” this with a more suitable replacement.

 

Ack! The door cut line doesn’t end at the same point where the B-pillar begins!  While not as horrendous as the CTS coupe, it’s the same buzz kill.  The extra line presented here never had to exist.  And the FR-S deserves better.

Then again, this ain’t nothing compared to the nightmare of panel gaps and extraneous lines at the A-pillar…so the B-pillar is like totally my second favorite pillar on this car!

 

But kudos to the team responsible for the window trim and weatherstripping: the mating of two unique parts above the B-pillar is super tight and very intuitive. Yup, this is totally my second favorite pillar on the FR-S.

 

But there’s something about the FR-S’ C-pillar: it starts with this reverse power dome roof, continues to the glass shaped like the “T” of Toyota’s Truck emblem…even the black plastic rain gutter looks fast and powerful.

 

Note the amount of tumblehome between the roof and the quarter panel’s wheel arch/flares: significant!  This is a straight up sexy roof.  The Toyota Truck themed glass is very Toyota/Scion modern, but the forms presented in silver paint are just so, so classic. Retro-futurism ahoy!

 

The trunk shares its endpoint with the rear glass. The quarter panel and trunk share a common line with the side of the glass. Combined with the classical goodness of a proper RWD sports coupe in proportioning, this is one of those classic moves we just don’t see enough.

 

Oh yeah baby, that’s a C-pillar to die for.  Like I mentioned before, the gentle bend above the gas door should be a little more creased: this blends the hard edges in the bumper to the rest of the body far more elegantly.

 

What the heck is that???  As a Lincoln-Mercury fanboi I’ve always enjoyed the round Continental kit, grudgingly appreciating the goofy trapezoidal butt of the 1977 Mercury Cougar…but seeing this all over again on the FR-S? Some elements of retro-futurism MUST DIE!

This trunk needs a serious diet.  Just like the Cougar, when 1983 rolled around and that bustle got borderline beautiful.  Perhaps just raise up the bumper’s middle section to make the trunk a little smaller…but do something, ANYTHING to get that gaping maw outta my face!

 

Far less annoying is this subtle Bangle Butt on the rear.  Trunks don’t need flame surfacing, nor do they need a solid chunk of chrome tail light for no good reason.  Don’t make me wish this was an AE-86 liftback instead!

 

The Bangle Butt goes up.  The bumper slides down like Homer Simpson’s gut. The trunk thinks it’s a 1977 Mercury Cougar for a new millennium.  I really hope Toyota cleans this mess up in the mid-cycle refresh.

 

Flush-mounted tail lights would help too.  The chrome spear adds another layer of gravel to this talus pile of FAIL.  Imagine lights that are flat and form-fitting, and the FR-S could have more of a Lotus Elise “cove” treatment instead!

 

Another problem: the flat face of the trunk fights the downward sloping curve presented from corner-to-corner of the bumper. I’ll go into further detail, three pictures from now.

 

I guess the red triangle in the backup lights is cool, but it is another busy element to this convoluted rear deck.  It also reminds me of the over-the-top literal rotary theme on the Mazda RX-8 in the same place: considering their flawed engines, is it no surprise that both of these machines have this quirky styling element?

 

I’d prefer a smaller version of this emblem on that massive plastic mustache above the license plate instead.  Leave the Scion emblem in its place, but shrink it down a good 25% too.  Then put “FR-S” in the lower RH of the mustache.  Maybe emboss it into the plastic…nah, that’s a bit much: stream of consciousness writing FTL.

 

Remember what I said about the trunk needing a little slope?  If it leaned (from the top, leave the bottom’s location as-is) juuuust a bit, if the signal light didn’t thrust toward the center of the trunk so violently, there’d be a sweeter face to this sour puss.

 

The gas filler door is slightly melted over the fender bulge, but not bad enough to offend.  Safe!

 

One last curve: now you know why my professors/classmates at CCS said my automotive passions handicapped my designs!  How slow can you go? Sure it’s got a pretty face and a lovely hood, but open the bonnet and the FR-S’ retro-futurism officially failed.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a great week!

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FT-86: Will It Blend, I Mean, Doooorift? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/ft-86-will-it-blend-i-mean-doooorift/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/ft-86-will-it-blend-i-mean-doooorift/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2012 20:34:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439612 So here’s what’s going to happen… They’ll drive it as hard as they dare, swinging it through corners and stamping on the gas, chucking it into hairpins and willfully trying to unsettle the rear, and all the while traction will be total. And you know what, not one of those drivers will say anything about […]

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So here’s what’s going to happen… They’ll drive it as hard as they dare, swinging it through corners and stamping on the gas, chucking it into hairpins and willfully trying to unsettle the rear, and all the while traction will be total. And you know what, not one of those drivers will say anything about it, because they’ll be too scared to be the limp-wristed bloke that can’t even drift what they’ve been told is the most driftable car in decades

So says Ben Barry in a recent Car editorial. He’s driven the car, we haven’t, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s correct. Well, so what? What if all that additional dealer profit won’t even get Joe Sixpack (sixpack of Sapporo, of course) sideways? What if the new Toyota can’t deliver the tofu?

Before we consider this question seriously, a brief personal disclaimer: I think drifting is literally the most idiotic thing someone can do with their car. I literally mean “literally” in this case. Ghost-riding the whip? Compared to drifting, I believe that is street ballet, the Joffrey of the parking lot. Street racing? Go ahead, you little rebels, you! Running over a group of nuns carrying baskets of kittens to a home full of lonely orphans? Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of vehicular homicide, my good man! Exiting a fourth-gear corner of the North-Shuh-Lyfe Ring just a little hot in a P7-shod ’76 Turbo Carrera is bad-assery on the hoof; modifying a Corolla so you can put the thing sideways at walking pace with no particular place to go is synchronized swimming on asphalt, without the women and the difficulty. Oh, look, you’re drifting. How impressive. Now get out of the God-damned way so I can win this race.

Luckily for just about everyone in the civilized world, drifting is a lifestyle more honored in the breach than the observance. Possibly as many as twenty FR-Ses will be dressed up in Affliction-style fake-tattoo vinyl and listlessly stroked around Cal Speedway or some Japanese backroad somewhere. The rest of them will be driven by people for whom “drifting” means nothing more than “tail-happy behavior”.

The man from CAR says the Toyobaru isn’t tail-happy. This should surprise precisely no one. Since the disappearance of the swing axle from even the most stubborn German manufacturers’ products, no car sold in the United States has had handling characteristics which include steady-state oversteer, “snap oversteer”, “surprise oversteer”, or any other thing of the sort. If you are a consummate dumb-ass who has no idea how to operate a vehicle correctly, your million-monkey-like banging on the pedals may occasionally produce the Shakespeare of a mild yaw. If it’s snowing outside, this may even kill you, in which case I hope you don’t mind if I stop by the accident scene and steal the $189 Porsche-branded valve caps from your Panamera Ultimate Turbo 4 GTS Collector’s Edition Sonderwunsch and put them on my 1984-vintage normally-aspirated 944 so they can live with dignity in the cathedral of my garage. But when you have your face-to-face with St. Peter, Karl Marx, or whomever, don’t blame your demise on “oversteer”. Steve McQueen will laugh at you, and rightfully so.

Is it possible to make production cars go sideways, deliberately? Of course. It takes effort. You are trading momentum along one axis for movement on another. You can pull the e-brake, trail it in with your left foot, wig-wag the wheel in time with the oscillation moment of the suspension. The way most people do it, however, is to get the car in a corner, using something like 70% of the available tire grip, and stomp on the accelerator. This reliably produces “oversteer” in Corvettes, Mustangs, AMG Benzes, and lightly-laded F-150s. The only problem is that you aren’t inducing “oversteer”. Real oversteer happens when the car is at its absolute limit of traction and the rear end has a natural tendency to rotate in towards the corner. That isn’t what you are doing. You are simply spinning the back wheels, depriving them of grip, and scaring your passenger.

Naturally, the above activity is highly amusing, which is why people do it. The FR-S can do it. Chris Harris recently did a whole video showing him pulling that trick. The problem is that, due to the car’s relatively modest power, you apparently need to use 99% of the car’s traction before it works, not 70%. Chris Harris can get to that 99%. He’s a licensed, experienced racer with a free pass to shitcan someone else’s $25,000 car sans consequences. The man on the street is likely to find himself in someone’s lawn if he tries the same thing, and the consequences will be greater than a half-scolding from a PR rep terrified of having his product ripped in a major publication.

“Ironically,”, Barry notes, “it actually takes a whole heap of skill and years of experience to unlock the potential of a car that we’ve been told is perfect for rear-drive novices.” I’m not sure I see the irony in it. Novices, by definition, are given novice-level equipment. This is a slow car with big tires on it, just like a modern MX-5. If you start with this car and graduate to a new Z06, no matter whether we are talking about trackday use, street use, or actual drifting competition, you will have a better result than you would have going from the Chevrolet to the Toyota.

No matter what happens to drivers of the FT-86, it will happen at a lower speed than it would in a Corvette or Mustang GT. That is why it is a novice car. The handling limits of the vehicle will appear at a lower speed, the accelerator will get you into less trouble, and the brakes will work approximately as well as they would on a high-performance vehicle. No, it won’t be easy to drift, but so what? No factory-spec car is easy to drift correctly, and you might as well start in something that hits the wall at eighty miles per hour, not a hundred and twenty.

Most importantly, the little coupe is properly balanced and it has “proper” rear-wheel drive. If you learn to drive it well, you will eventually be qualified to drive something similar that operates at a higher speed, like an E92 M3. You won’t learn those correct reflexes and responses in a Civic Si or Volkswagen GTI. Those only “qualify” you to drive more powerful FWD cars, like… um… a Lucerne Super or something like that. Congratulations. You’re Lucerne Super Qualified. Now move over, you are holding my Town Car up on this off-ramp

My enthusiasm for the FT-86 hasn’t been diminished a whit by any of the pricing issues, the specification concerns, or the vehicle’s supposed non-drift-ability. As long as it’s cheap to operate and honest to drive, I will recommend it every chance I get. Even if I don’t get to go to the fancy press intro, even if I don’t get free shoes or commemorative USB drives, even if I have to find a TTAC reader who is willing to let me drive the thing before we can provide a proper review. We’ve waited a long time for a car like this. My companion in crime, the infamous Vodka McBigbra, invented the word “premorse” for situations like that. Pre-remorse. Premorse. I’m not going to premorse about the FRSZ86whatever, and neither should you. Let’s drive.

The post FT-86: Will It Blend, I Mean, Doooorift? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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