The Truth About Cars » fr-s The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 » fr-s Capsule Review: 2014 Scion FR-S Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:00:31 +0000 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?


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.


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?


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.


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.


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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QOTD: Choose Your Own Parts-Bin Sporting Coo-Pay Fri, 21 Feb 2014 21:21:37 +0000 orochi

Oh my, this Toyobaru GT86 situation is a shame, isn’t it? QC issues, dealer gouging, controversial tire choices, sundial acceleration, the catastrophically depressing drone of the engine as it asthmatically stumbles to its powerless redline before the injector seals fail and it vomits out its component parts in a single “FehhhrrrrrrrrggggggghhhhPOP.”

If only the people at Subaru and Toyota had asked you instead of letting their own accountants engineers make the decisions. As Andre 3000 once sang, you know what to do-oooooh-ooooh.

All the parts for a great affordable sports Coop are out there, man! You just have to, like, know how to assemble them! How about an RX-8 with the engine from the Mazdaspeed3? Better yet, a Miata Coupe with the engine from the MS3! Or an M228i with roll-up windows! Or, um, a roadster body on the Ford Ranger with an Ecoboost six!

Clearly, my robotic creativity could never come close to what you humans could imagine. So hit me with your best shot. Put the parts together from various bins, come up with an idea for styling and specification. And if we need rules… let’s say an MSRP of $34,999 or less, shall we? Just do me a favor: make sure the Forester’s base motor doesn’t make the scene in your dreams.

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Nurburgring Diaries, Part I: 2013 Toyota GT86 Sat, 05 Oct 2013 15:31:21 +0000 DSC_9912_1200

(Everyone please welcome Speed:Sport:Life alumnus and Cayman owner John Kucek to these pages. Upon hearing that John was going to the famous Burgerkingring, I asked him to get me a review of a car not available here. Strictly speaking, he did what I asked him to do. Frankly speaking, if he comes back next time with a review of a Toyota iQ or any other badge-engineered cars we’re firing him! — JB)

“Get me a couple of forbidden-fruit car reviews”. Jack’s words were still ringing in my ears as I gingerly walked up to a rental counter in Dusseldorf a few weeks later. I knew what this particular outfit had to offer, having been here almost three years earlier to the day on another Nordschleife-bound excursion, and it was good stuff. Imagine numerous E92 M3 Coupes, with the Competition Package even, lining the airport garage tower stalls. There was an Aston V12 Vantage standing on display in the terminal, the circular kiosk next to it touting its availability “from 169 Euros a day”. At least, I think that was the gist. It could have been 169 Euros per hour, but since most of my comprehension of the German language has been cobbled together from watching Inglourious Basterds on repeat, I might have been wrong on that count. Either way, the fact that a run-of-the-mill rental counter in Germany even offers such metal bodes well for my reservation, a “Premium” class upgrade that promised a new BMW 1er, VW GTI, Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse or similar.


“Or similar” apparently translates in German to “or vaguely reminiscent of”, because the cars available to me when we arrived weren’t the newly released Mk7 GTI, A45 AMG and M135i I had been crossing my fingers for, but instead an Audi A3 1.4TFSI, or a *gulp* Toyota GT86. I suppose you could call the A3 forbidden fruit since we’re without a current-generation A3 for the time being, and even when one does arrive stateside, it’ll be in sedan form only, the Sportback shape of the first-generation car apparently now verboten on these shores. But the Toyota? Sure, the badge on the back might be forbidden here, but any fanboy with fifteen minutes and an eBay account can make the swap from Scion to Toyota happen. So, I was left with two car choices that were more fruity than forbidden. Still, I was here to conquer the Nurburgring: I couldn’t do it in a FWD car. It had to be something properly driven, something that could kill you if you really tried – although the ‘ring can do that to you all by itself if you aren’t careful.


And therein lies its appeal, its mystique. This track still has an air of danger to it, as former stop on the Formula 1 calendar (before the modern GP track was built next door) that killed or maimed so many greats and continues to do the same to tourist drivers and riders year after year. I left most of those details out when selling the side trip to my girlfriend, since if I stood any chance at all of visiting the place with her in the car, it had to at least seem like a fun day out. It is still quite possible to die in the “Green Hell”, but you usually need to be lacking either common sense or two driven wheels (perhaps both) to do it – most of the casualties here during the Touristenfahren public drives are motorcycle riders. In fact, we witnessed one such accident on our second day there – a bike nosed into the Armco at speed after a time-trial-prepped BMW E36 wagon got out of shape, leaving fluids on the track and nowhere for the rider behind him to go. Poor fellow left the circuit in an ADAC air ambulance, and as is often the case with accident reports on the ‘ring, the public was left in the dark as to his outcome. It’s estimated that a dozen or so folks lose their lives to the Nordschleife each year, translating to more than one per month during open season. It’s possible that what we witnessed was one such unlucky soul taking his very last lap.


You can’t have any of that in your head as you’re circling the track, however, because there’s far too much going on to even begin processing grim statistics. What in-car videos and images completely fail to capture is the staggering elevation changes that take place over a single lap. They say the track rises and falls nearly a thousand feet between start and finish, putting to shame any roller coaster extant. Such is the sensation you get when you’re driving the place – you’re strapped into a roller coaster that is controlled directly by the size of your manhood. Also, there are other drivers ahead, behind, and – often- directly next to you enduring their own roller coaster rides. Most of the time, they’re lunatic Germans in modified GT3 RSs, M3s and Renaults that give exactly zero fucks about the racing line or passing you in a safe manner. They just want to get past you post-haste, so that when they download the lap video from their GoPro later, they’ll find they were that much closer to the factory’s published time for their car.


I didn’t bother to look up the factory time for a Toyota GT86. Maybe there isn’t one – lap timers probably don’t count that high. But honestly, it wouldn’t matter anyway – we’re not going for outright speed here. As a retired racer once told me, there’s no sense in trying to be fastest at a track day – there’s always somebody faster. The best approach is to try to improve a little bit every time I go out, and while I’m at it, glean some driving impressions and try not to die. Obviously, the not-dying part worked out surprisingly well, despite the best attempts of ze Germans. In terms of driving impressions, I walked away from the FRSGT86 feeling enthused, as well as slightly melancholic.

I had a BRZ press car for a week earlier this year and absolutely loved it. On the street, it felt truly keyed in – every control reacting to your input intuitively, instantly. I had the chance to autocross it as well, and despite the laughably bad OEM tires, I still posted close to the fastest time of the day – at a Corvette club event, mind you. The Hoosier-shod-Z06 drivers were none too amused. From the rental counter in Dusseldorf to the village of Nurburg, a route which takes you over a mix of autobahn and hilly country roads for the better part of two hours, the impression behind the wheel of the GT86 was much the same. As it should, considering it’s a carbon copy of the BRZ. Nice steering, easily-modulated brakes, crisp throttle response, precise shifter. By now, I’m looking forward to a few laps.

The track is packed on this late summer Friday afternoon. DTM is at the Grand Prix track this weekend, so the whole village is busting at the seams. Coupled with the region’s waning annual warm season, now every keen driver within a day’s drive has come out to enjoy a few laps, or watch others doing the same. Having secured four laps on a Ring card, the only thing standing between us and destiny is a thin automated gate arm. Card swiped, gate arm up, we’re off. Flooring it down the main straight under the bridge toward Tiergarten, I’m reminded of the unavoidable truth that I hadn’t been confronted with on the street: the Toyobaru twins are slow. Pissy slow if you’re on a racetrack. I’m getting passed by everything from warm hatches to 5-series estates, which I’ll assume were not diesel just for the sake of my GT86’s pride. But by the first series of real corners near Haffenbach, I’ve already put that out of my mind. I’m instead focusing on keeping the Toyota’s slithery tail in line, since any unexpected drift antics can put me either into one of the perilously close Armco barriers, or worse, into another driver or rider. I decide to keep the ESP on, but in the looser-reined Sport mode, hoping it’ll prevent any major slides without simultaneously overcooking the brakes.
It overcooks the brakes. By about the four-minute mark on track, an area of raucous downhill bends, the brakes are starting to stink and the tires are ready to give up the ghost.

You already knew this, but if you’re planning on tracking a FRS/BRZ, upgraded tires and brakes aren’t recommended, they’re required. Unfortunately, I had no such options for this excursion. Better nurse it through the next uphill section and stay right – way right – on track. At least it’s a good way to take in the scenery, which is, it must be said, pretty spectacular. After a short breather from any heavy braking zones, the GT86 has regained some of its composure and I decide to press it a little harder. The next section is my favorite, a snaking portion between Karussell I and Dottinger Hohe, the last miles of bends before you’re spat back out onto the main straight to count your blessings and give your car a healthy pat on the dash. Through this section, the GT86 is on point – it lets you trim your line with the slightest whiff of throttle lift, and if you misjudge the corner exit a bit, it eats up the curbs in stride. Still, more power and more grip would go a long way toward furthering the enjoyment.


Perhaps the GT86’s only fault is the sheer accessibility of its limits. That might not sound like a bad thing, and on the street, it probably isn’t. But for someone that intends to really get the most out of the thing by taking it to track days and using it to hone their own driving craft, the Toyobaru twins come off as being a bit one-dimensional. In order to really use the car safely, you’ve got to fit better, stickier rubber – and by the time you do that, the stock car’s lovely adjustability all but goes out the window. Then, instead of sliding around, balancing on the edge of grip and feeding every nuance back to the driver, it’ll just grip and go. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have enough nearly enough go to match the grip.
They’re a bit of a double-edged Hanzo then, these cars. On the street, they tempt you with tail-happiness and sensory feedback, begging to be unleashed on a track – and when you finally have one on a track, you’ll wish you had left it on the street. I’m sure the vast majority of FRS/BRZ/GT86 owners will be perfectly happy enjoying their cars’ nuances within the confines of public roads, and in that setting, I truly enjoyed what the car had to offer. But for those looking to stretch their vehicles a bit further, to use it as a tool to access greater performance and develop their own skill at the same time, there are better options out there for the money – both in the used market, and new. I’d suggest checking out Jack’s R&T piece last month for precisely the two I would prefer.


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Review: 2014 Scion tC (With Video) Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:23:02 +0000 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.


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


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 ]]> 109
Toyota Allowing Dealers to Drop Scion but Tells Them That New Product On Way: FR-S Ragtop, Small CUV Mon, 19 Aug 2013 15:24:31 +0000 geneva-toyota-86-convertible-front34

Toyota FT86 Concept

A dealer attending Toyota’s U.S. dealer meeting in Atlanta earlier this month has told the Automotive News that the automaker is now letting its dealers drop underperforming Scion franchises without any penalties. Those dealers that keep their Scion stores open will likely get two new products that were teased at the convention. Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter declined comment though he hinted at changes, “We’re not ready to go public with that yet.” Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay recently told WardsAuto that Scion “has a few too many stores.”

About 80% of Toyota’s 1,225 U.S. dealers also have a Scion franchise, about 30% more than Toyota anticipated when it launched the youth-oriented entry level brand a decade ago. Scion sales in the U.S. peaked at 173,034 three years later but deliveries have dropped significantly since than. Other than the FR-S sports car that is sold as the Toyota GT86 outside the U.S. (and also as a Subaru) the current Scion lineup is aging and there has been little news forthcoming about revised or new product.

Earlier this year, at the Geneva auto show, Toyota revealed a convertible version of the GT86, called the FT86 concept. At the Atlanta meetings, dealers were shown the same concept badged as a Scion FR-S. Carter said the FR-S convertible “is under study but has not been green-lighted.” Toyota/Scion dealers were also shown a sketch of a subcompact CUV that one dealer described as having a “racy silhouette”. A Toyota source said that it would slot in below the Toyota RAV4 and compete with Honda’s upcoming Fit based CUV.

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Okay, the Subaru BRZ Is Now Perfect Fri, 21 Jun 2013 17:55:46 +0000 Picture courtesy LSXTV

Last year, the women wept and the teeth were gnashed when we refused to award the Scion FR-S the title of Bestest New Car Spending Marketing Money And Flying People To Fun Places Of 2012. Although we enjoyed the little Subaru to no end — an impression your humble author has since had multiple chances to reinforce at various race tracks and fast roads around the Midwest — it just didn’t bring the heat from one corner to the next.

The good news is that this problem has now been fixed — at a cost of only eighty pounds and perhaps $15,000.

LSXtv has the story on the first LS-swapped Subarota.

For $3,000, Weapons Grade Performance will sell you a “basic” kit, which includes the motor mounts, transmission mounts, driveshaft, oil pan, and clutch master cylinder… This kit will get you started, but for $9,000 the Complete Kit will include all of the above, plus an exhaust system, cooling system, wiring harness, and everything else you need except for the actual engine and transmission… Ask if there were any plans to drop, say, a supercharged LS9 engine into the BRZ, Doug smiles. “Right now hood clearance is an issue,” he says. “But we’re working with a supplier to get a Z06-style hood that should allow us to run a supercharger.” A 638 horsepower Subaru coupe? Yes, please…

Seven thousand dollars will get you a 430hp crate LS3 engine. Figure another three grand for a Tremec TKO. The resulting combination weighs slightly under 2900 pounds. Building it out on top of a new BRZ would cost a total of about $40,000 assuming you needed a little help with the labor.

Thus equipped, the LS3-powered BRZ literally has no effective competition in the marketplace. Comparisons with the Miata or Genesis become ridiculous when you more than double the power under the hood. The Coyote-powered Mustang GT feels a little chunky and slow all of a sudden. The base Corvette Stingray C7 is twelve grand more and will weigh perhaps four hundred pounds above the LS-swapped Japanese coupe.

With that said, if you really want a V8-powered American coupe, you have forty thousand dollars to spend, and you aren’t too worried about a warranty… would the “Weapons Grade” BR-Z stand a chance against a $39,800 used Z06? In a straight line it might be close-ish, but around a racetrack the Vette would use its superior mechanical grip and power-to-weight ratio to walk that sucker. And every possible upgrade you could do to the Subaru’s new engine would be just as easy on the Corvette.

If nothing else, however, the guys at Weapons Grade should put a little fear into the hearts of overconfident Miata drivers at the local road course. Unless, of course, they’re packing as well

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Vellum Venom Vignette: The Aftermarket Fixes All! Thu, 04 Oct 2012 17:00:14 +0000

The problem with the FR-S’ unrefined bumps, lumps and Trapezoid Homage to the 1977 Mercury Cougar now has a decent solution.  And what of this workaround?  It’s brutal. It’s borderline inexcusable.  But my goodness, it works…too bad I’m making you click to see it. 



A gigantic wing with mounting points that emulate the Cougar trapezoid form: all of a sudden the decklid has purpose! The hunks of metal (aluminum?) empathize with the trapezoid butt and the slant of the taillights.  And will you look at the decklid’s Bangle Butt with a big-ass spoiler on it? Not for a while!

Too bad there’s a downside.

Wings are pretty retarded.  You need the stance, the wheels, the wide-body flares and all the streetability compromise that comes with.  (Piston Slap moment: insert LSX-FTW swap here) This is pure race fantasy, but this FR-S (okay, BRZ) makes it work.  And it proves that purposeful race design can be both functional and beautiful.  Just don’t try this at home, kids…

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Vellum Venom: 2013 Scion FR-S Tue, 25 Sep 2012 13:00:51 +0000

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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BRZ/FR-S Hachi-Roku Beats All Cars In Off-The-Lot Race Tue, 18 Sep 2012 18:44:01 +0000

Some bloggers see the BRZ/FR-S (hereinafter hachi-roku) pocket racers as the second coming of Christ, others declared them as declassed by the Hyundai Genesis, the Mazda Miata PRHT (pfft), and of course by the Ford Mustang GT. The hachi-roku may not be the fastest around the race track with Jack Baruth on the wheel and an AWOL timing device. There is one race which they consistently win: The race off dealers’ lots.

Both hachi-roku continue to be on the top of Edmunds’s list of quickest-selling vehicles. The limited-volume FR-S and BRZ monopolized the top ranks of the fastest-sellers list since they went on sale in the spring. An average hachi-roku sells in about 11 days, says Edmunds. An average car graces the lot for 58 days. An average GM full-size truck would be a whole different story ...

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Off-Track Review: 2013 Scion FR-S Mon, 13 Aug 2012 20:00:02 +0000  

[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…


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.

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.

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…

Click here to view the embedded video.

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.

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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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Scion FR-S Wed, 09 May 2012 13:00:49 +0000

Scion has had a sordid past. Originally, Scion was Toyota’s solution to a lack of 18-25 year old shoppers. Over the past 9 years however Scion has lost their way and lost their youth. Their median buyer just turned 42. The tC coupe, which started out as a car for college kids, now has a median buyer of around 30. Scion claims the FR-S is a halo car – to me, that means the FR-S will be bought by older drivers (who can actually afford it), attracting younger buyers to their showrooms. Despite being out of the target demographic, Scion flew me to Vegas to sample the FR-S’s sexy lines to find out.

The rear-drive layout, boxer engine and low center of gravity all play out in the car’s distinctive exterior. Toyota claims it was meant to pay homage to classic Toyotas of the past, but if Porsche and Lotus were charged with penning a Scion, this is what it would look like. Our time with the FR-S was limited to a 100 mile drive and about 6 hours of SCCA style autocross and road course track time in a pre-production FR-S. Jack will be flogging a production FR-S on track sometime this summer, assuming the stars align.

Inside, Scion opted for snazzy faux-suede instead of the coarse fabric of the base Subaru BRZ (the BRZ is available with  leather/faux-suede seating in the Limited model). Scion also swapped out the silver dash trim for something that looks like it might be imitating carbon fiber but is actually a motif based on the letter “T.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like all Scion models, the standard radio is a Pioneer unit with standard Bluetooth and iPod/USB interfaces. Instead of bringing Toyota’s Entune system to the Scion brand, Pioneer was engaged to bring their “App Radio” into what appears to be its first OEM use. Unlike traditional nav systems, the “BeSpoke” system (as Scion is calling it) is essentially just an iPhone app. The app runs solely on your phone and the head unit merely controls the app and displays the video generated by the phone. This means an iPhone is required for it work (Android phones are not supported.) It also means navigating eats up your data plan and you must be in a cellular service area for it to work. The system is expected to cost under $90 and since it’s an App on your phone, it’s never out of date. Much like iDrive, BeSpoke will also offer Facebook, Twitter and internet radio integration.

Under the lies the fruit of the Subaru/Toyota marriage: a 2.0L direct-injection boxer engine. Although it’s based on Subaru’s Impreza engine, it has been re-engineered to incorporate Toyota’s “D4S” direct-injection tech. The addition of GDI boosts power by 52HP to 200HP. Since the engine is naturally aspirated, the torque improvement is a more modest 6lb-ft bringing the total 151 at a lofty 6,600 RPM, while peak horsepower comes in at seven grand. Despite the online rumors, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis indicated there will be no turbo FR-S.

Since the FR-S is intended to be “baby’s first track car,” Scion’s event was held at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Pahrump, Nevada. Out on the track, the FR-S isn’t as slow as an early Miata, but it’s not especially quick either. However, the low center of gravity and light curb weight make the FR-S fairly adept in the corners, whether you’re on track or on an autocross course. The lack of torque is the one major blight, whether on or off track. This deficiency was made more obvious by my trip landing in the middle of a week with Hyundai’s 2013 Genesis 2.0T which delivers more power at far more accessible RPMs, despite its porkier stature.

Unlike most “sporty” RWD cars, the FR-S is tuned toward neutral/oversteer characteristics. When combined with the standard Michelin Primacy HP tires, the FR-S is far more tail happy on the track than the V6 Mustang or Genesis 2.0T. The lively handling is undoubtedly more fun, but inexperienced drivers beware:  getting sideways can be hazardous to your health, not to mention your insurance premiums. Without empirical numbers, I cannot say if the FR-S will out-handle the Genesis 2.0T on the track, however the Genesis feels more composed and less likely to kill you, thanks to a chassis tuned towards understeer and staggered 225/245 series tires (front/rear.) Contrary to the web-rumors, the FR-S is not shod with “Prius tires” as we would know them. The Primacy HP is a “grand touring summer tire” with “lower rolling resistance” tech added. The tire is used on certain Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 models and a JDM market only Prius “with performance pack.” Still, the tire isn’t as “grippy” as the FR-S deserves, so buyers should plan on swapping them for stickier rubber ASAP.

Scion’s “single-price with dealer installed options” philosophy continues. Starting at $24,930, the only options are: $1,100 for the automatic transmission, around $900 for the BeSpoke radio and a variety of wheels, spoilers and other appearance accessories. That’s about $1,295 less than the BRZ, although the gap narrows to almost nothing when you add the BRZ’s standard navigation system and HID headlamps. The nicer standard upholstery, more controlled pricing and a plethora of manufacturer supported (and warrantied) accessories make the FR-S a compelling choice vs the BRZ, but speed daemons will want to drive past the Scion dealer and test drive the Genesis 2.oT. If you want an FR-S, be prepared to wait as Scion expects supplies to be somewhat limited starting June 1st.

 Scion flew me out to Vegas, put me up in a smoky casino and provided the vehicle, insurance, gasoline, track time and admission to the state park for the photography.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

Fuel Economy: 22MPG average over mixed roads (track time not included)


2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Scion logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, FR-S logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Boxer Engine Logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, seats and dash, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, seats, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, 2.0L boxer engine, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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FT-86: Will It Blend, I Mean, Doooorift? Thu, 12 Apr 2012 20:34:42 +0000

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.

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