2014 Scion FR-S
Not every cheap, exciting sports car needs to be a used one.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: March 18th, 2014
2014 marks the second model year for the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins. Both cars are essentially the same, although Scion's cheaper FR-S is a bit rawer than the more expensive (and better-equipped) BRZ, which is aiming more for a mini-grand-tourer feel.
The BRZ comes with quasi-luxurious appointments, like high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights with LED eyebrows, heated leather seats, and automatic climate control. The FR-S, on the other hand, focuses on the performance aspects of the car; there's no liner in the trunk, the seats are cloth, and the suspension is tuned more aggressively (read: with more oversteer).
This year, the FR-S does gain a little bit of refinement, albeit not much. There are now cushioned knee pads on the doors and the transmission tunnel, and Toyota's touchscreen audio system becomes standard — although you still need to pony up dough to access the navigation and premium audio options. Speaking of options, there aren't many; besides the aforementioned infotainment upgrades, you can opt for fog lights, a rear spoiler, a center armrest, and Toyota Racing Development (TRD) intake and exhaust modifications.
The FR-S is the most expensive offering from Scion, Toyota's sub-brand aimed at the hip, younger demographic. In its short existence, it's grabbed that demo by the throat, getting people excited about a brand that is otherwise known for building reliable toasters on wheels. It didn't come over here as a Corolla Coupe, but it reminded everybody that Toyota is capable of building some extremely fun cars from time to time — even if it did split development costs with Subaru.
There are two reasons to expect a no-frills interior in the FR-S: First, it's built for sporty driving and track-day antics; and second, it's a Toyota sub-brand. And that's exactly what you get. The headliner is an afterthought, hard plastics cover most surfaces (although the dashboard has some sort of softer, sticky plastic), and there are no controls on the steering wheel. But who cares? You're there to drive the piss out of the car, not marvel at how coddled by luxury you are. All you need is a steering wheel, gauges, a shifter, and a radio in close proximity with actual buttons. And that's exactly what you get.
I stand firm by the belief that the rear seats are some sort of poorly-translated Japanese joke about Americans being the size of small planets. A child seat barely fits, and unless the front passenger wants to hone his or her contortion act, good luck finding anywhere to put your feet back there.
The FR-S is aggressive in the way that every proper sports car should be, regardless of cost. The fenders are flared, but not comically so. The windshield is raked. The car is mostly hood, and the whole package is slammed to the ground. On the Scion-specific front fascia, the grille's lines slope downward and outward, creating a set of ersatz fangs. There are even two lumps on the roof (and in the headliner underneath) so that your helmet will have enough space to move around. It's a joy to look at, almost as much as it is to drive.
On the Road
If the FR-S's toothy appearance doesn't give away its sporty nature, then driving it most certainly will. Clutch engagement happens nearly immediately into the pedal throw for quick shifts. The shifter itself is the best factory shifter I've used since the S2000 — it's crispier than bacon, with short throws between gears and a very satisfactory snick-snick feeling when you're shuffling about.
That sense of immediacy is present in more than just the transmission; in fact, it's present pretty much everywhere. Body roll and excessive shock travel are practically nil, while steering response is near-predictive. Throttle response is equally fast, with the naturally-aspirated flat-four content to get going at any RPM, and with power delivery ramping up as the car noisily approaches redline. Provided with enough steering angle, the FR-S is capable of power oversteer at surprisingly low RPMs.
With the optional TRD exhaust system, our tester left me sitting at red lights making race-car noises like a five-year-old.
There are bound to be a few cut corners when trying to build an exciting rear-wheel-drive sports coupe for the same price as a compact economy car. And there are a few — the interior is pretty harsh, the Scion-specific suspension became a real (literal) pain in the ass on Chicago's bumpy streets, the passenger-side airbag sensor is so poorly tuned that putting a phone on the seat will activate it, and the rear seat in its entirety is a joke. But you will forget all of that when you have some halfway decent pavement in front of you.
Despite what many are saying, 200 horsepower is ample for this car; any more, and it would overload the chassis without suspension upgrades and other costly add-ons. At that point, it's probably closer to a $40,000 car, throwing it out of reach for the very demographic that it's trying to pull in. It's the most fun you can have at this price without buying a used car.
Specs & Price
Engine: 2.0-liter, naturally-aspirated, direct-injected flat-four
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
Power Output: 200 hp / 151 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 22 city / 30 highway
Base Price: $24,700
As Tested: $27,534 (incl. $755 destination)
Optional Features: BeSpoke premium audio and navigation, TRD exhaust system, TRD air intake, fog lights, rear spoiler, center armrest
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Scion FR-S, click here: 2014 Scion FR-S.