New & Used Scion FR-S: In Depth
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The Scion FR-S is a rear-drive 2+2 coupe designed specifically for driving enthusiasts. It is built by Subaru alongside the very similar Subaru BRZ, with both cars featuring a 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder that is just powerful enough to make for a fun sports car. The FR-S counts its Subaru twin, the Mazda Miata, and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe as rivals, while some will also judge it against certain models of the Ford Mustang.
Brand-new for the 2013 model year, the FR-S hasn't developed much history yet--but it has already spread widely through Toyota-group companies. Toyota itself also has a version of the car, the GT 86, but it's not offered in the U.S.
It's powered by a 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder engine rated at 200 horsepower. While that's not a whole lot in the sports coupe realm, the FR-S tips the scales around 2,700-2,800 pounds depending on trim, and the combination makes for an entertaining, if not quite thrilling, driving experience. The rear-wheel-drive layout alone gives the FR-S more sporting credibility than anything that's yet been offered in Scion's ranks. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, while a six-speed automatic is available. The tires are actually low-rolling-resistance pieces, allowing the driver to more easily overpower the grip with the engine's modest torque output and also re-vector the car through some momentary loss of traction.
Fuel economy ratings for the FR-S are quite respectable, though not as high as you might expect for a small four-cylinder paired with a manual transmission: the EPA estimates 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. With the automatic transmission, things get noticeably better, rising to 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. To balance power and efficiency, the Subaru-based engine uses Toyota's combination port- and direct-injection fuel delivery. The two companies co-developed this powertrain along with most of the rest of the vehicle.
Inside, the FR-S is sporty, with a youthful, modern design and a minimalist ethos that puts the emphasis on the driving itself, rather than coddling occupants with rich materials and intricate features. It suits the sports car nature of the FR-S well, and considering the affordable price point (around $25,000 for most models), it's well within expectations. The driver gets a large and readable tachometer front and center, with other gauges off to the side and a digital speedometer inset in the middle. There are few other distractions in the interior, which is as it should be.
The Scion FR-S has earned excellent safety ratings, including top 'good' results in all categories from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the IIHS's Top Safety Pick status. It also nearly aces testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with a five-star overall rating and a full five stars in all but the frontal crash category, where it earns four stars.
As it does with the rest of its models, Scion focuses on customization with the FR-S, and there are plenty of aftermarket companies making parts for it and its Subaru cousin. Some of the Scion-direct pieces even come with a warranty and include items like spoilers, wheels, shift knobs, and trim pieces. Tuners took a shine to the FR-S immediately, offering performance and appearance upgrades of their own.
For 2015, Scion is offering a release series FR-S, something it does with its models to help spur sales once they get on in years. The FR-S Release Series 1.0 features super-bright yellow paint (the color is called Yuzu), HID headlamps with LED running lights, a TRD body kit, a TRD exhaust, special seat fabric, TRD lowering springs, a TRD short-shift kit, and a lot more, making it the most highly optioned FR-S to date and easily the most expensive, as the base price crests $30,000.
Rumors of higher-performance versions, a hybrid, or at the least, a factory-backed set of upgrades, persist for the FR-S. A convertible version of the car is also possible; a concept droptop version of the car was shown at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. Given the coupe's limited sales to date, however, chances for other variants and offshoots are looking less and less likely. Subaru and Toyota have both said they are working together on a second generation of the architecture.