Pre-Production Review: 2013 Scion FR-S

Alex L. Dykes
by Alex L. Dykes

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.”

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 The system is expected to cost under $90 and since it’s an App on your phone, it’s never out of date.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)

Alex L. Dykes
Alex L. Dykes

More by Alex L. Dykes

Join the conversation
5 of 140 comments
  • Niky Niky on May 09, 2012

    A lot of people won't get it. But there are people who will... I think the car most in danger from the BRZ86FRS triplets is the MX5. Not because it's more powerful. Not because it has a fixed top. But because you can fit four tires in the back for track time. Goodbye two seat convertible and trailer... Helloooo track days. ----- But that's just me. I'll drive anything on track, actually, that has four wheels. A V6 Toyota minivan is awesome fun out there...

    • See 2 previous
    • Niky Niky on May 09, 2012

      If it's no more than 10% of Miata buyers... that's a whole lot more than for many cars. There are few cars in the world that are raced as much as Miatas. Fewer still that have their own dedicated spec series in dozens of different countries. In fact, for a car that doesn't qualify or compete in any class but its own spec races... it's amazing how many people track Miatas. To the point that several manufacturers build LoCost style kits that use Miata parts, and there's even one really nice Atom-alike that uses Miata parts. The one big problem for NC Miatas and trackdays is NA and NB Miatas. Specifically, the older Miatas may be much slower and may have brakes less convincing than anthropogenic global warming, but they're dirt cheap to buy and run, which is why they're popular on the track. But if you were to buy a new trackday car to replace a Miata... you want something with similarly low limits. Similarly predictable and easy-to-control breakaway and an uncomplicated (read: no turbo to take a pee on track and no overheating dual-clutch automatic that goes into limp mode every ten laps) drivetrain. Something with similarly low running costs (fuel, spares, cheaper tires... okay... so perhaps "low" is relative in this case, because there's little that's cheaper to track than an old Miata...). And... given that there's barely enough room in the new Miata for spares and a helmet... let alone tires... I think that some of those people might just be looking at the Toyota and wondering... Perhaps the typical "hairdresser" crowd won't move to Toyota... but the guys who aren't buying automatic-equipped PRHTs will be sorely tempted.

  • Mr Nosy Mr Nosy on May 13, 2012

    I applaud the restraint shown in the styling.Lack of power?If this number sells,I'm sure Subaru or Toyota will add a performance model.They probably just don't know yet if anybody in this market can afford their student loans and a car note.To those worrying about smartphone compatibility:Do attempt to spend more time attending to the driving task.As for backseat comfort,there are oh so many other rides that flagrantly indulge your concerns.

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.