2013 Scion FR-S Extended Review
Taking a longer look at Scion's sporty two-door.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: March 6th, 2013
Scion boosted its--and by extension, parent company Toyota's--performance reputation when it unveiled the FR-S sports coupe in 2012. The lithe little four-seater (if one can call it that, the rear seat is really only useful as an extra parcel shelf) earned our praises for being a great handling car at an affordable price when we first drove it. The catch was that our first drive of the FR-S took place at a racetrack outside of Las Vegas and on the sun-splashed roads surrounding Sin City. How would the little sportster hold up in daily driving on crumbling urban roads?
There are two transmission choices on the FR-S, a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, and our tester was equipped with the automatic. This was a bummer, as we prefer the shift it yourself option, especially since it can help bring the best out of the 200 horsepower/151 lb-ft of torque from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Perhaps it was for the best, though: one of our few beefs with the FR-S is the lack of power from the four-banger, and with the automatic, we didn't need to spend time working the gearbox to get it matched correctly to engine RPM.
Even so, we still wish that more power, especially more acceleration-producing torque, was on hand. A turbo would be nice, although Scion opted against it in favor of simplicity and lower weight. The FR-S doesn't move away from a stop light the way a sleek coupe like this should, but get the engine in its sweet spot (in the middle and upper reaches of the tachometer) and all of a sudden it can deliver a swift kick.
The FR-S is designed to handle twisty roads with aplomb, and it does. The steering seems to be hard-wired to the driver's brain--it knows what the driver wants to do and it sets out to do just that. Scion gave the steering the right amount of weight--not too heavy, not too light--and a precision accuracy that's uncanny. The phrase "go-kart-like" is often tossed around to describe steering this accurate and responsive, and it's cliché because it's true.
Of course, ride is sometimes the trade-off for great handling, and that's the case here. The ride isn't punishing, but the FR-S is stiffly sprung, and potholes will get noticed. The car is also high-strung on the highway--that same steering that's so responsive when cornering gets nervous and jumpy in a straight line at highway speeds, requiring plenty of corrections. The FR-S is great when pushed hard, but a little tiring when used for commuting duty.
Like most two-door sports coupes, the FR-S has swoopy styling to go along with flared fenders, a short deck, and a long hood. The look screams "sporty", and it gets attention. Scion is laser-focused on performance with this car, and the look gets that message across.
Scion's focus on simplicity carries over to the cabin, which is spartan at best. Scion intentionally chose not to place audio-control buttons on the steering wheel, and most other controls are easy to use. Few buttons clutter the cockpit.
Although Scion lists the FR-S as a four-seater, as noted above, the rear seat is more or less useless for adults. If your family has more than two members, the FR-S will be relegated to weekend toy status.
The trunk opening is small, and cargo space isn’t generous, although it's enough to carry a small amount of luggage.
We love the Scion FR-S when we're driving it hard, but it truly is a car that has no compromises. Scion gave it one mission--handle well on challenging roads--and it succeeded, to the detriment of daily commuting. The car never aggravated us, but it did annoy, mostly with its freeway nervousness and general lack of practicality.
Scion created an awesome sports car with the FR-S, one that deserves all the plaudits that the automotive press has bestowed upon it. It may not always be easy to live with, but that's a price we'd be willing to pay.
Specs, Features, and Prices
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Drive Wheels: Rear-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway (22/30 w/ manual transmission)
Base Price: $25,600
Available Features: Bluetooth, USB port, auxiliary port, fog lamps, rear spoiler, cold air intake, 18-inch wheels, strut tower brace, sway bar, dual exhaust, limited-slip differential, cruise control, streaming audio.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2013 Scion FR-S, click here: 2013 Scion FR-S.