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Once known and revered for its affordable rear-wheel-drive sporty coupes, Toyota, along with the rest of the industry, largely abandoned the layout in favor of more fuel- and packaging-efficient front-drive cars. That's finally come to an end, through the company's Scion and Subaru brands, with the introduction of the 2013 FR-S and BRZ.
The FR-S is the fruit of a joint project with Subaru, and though each version wears different badges, they're all essentially the same car.
There are some differences in styling, and the FR-S gets a slightly different (better, in our opinion) rear suspension tune, but all share the same classic coupe proportions. The FR-S gets its own front and rear look, with bumpers molded to show curved intakes, an oblong grille opening, and at the rear, a dual-exhaust outlet with very mild aerodynamic-look features. Inside, the 2013 Scion FR-S is basic, but well-executed. The style is modern, with a racy look provided by carbon-textured accents and matte-black plastics.
Under the hood lies a 2.0-liter flat four-cylinder Boxer engine rated at 200 horsepower. Most of the power comes high in the rev range, leaving the lower and mid-range feeling a bit anemic. Once it's wound up and running, however, the FR-S is a willing companion. A sound pipe lets in a tuned version of the car's intake noise, but there's almost no exhaust sound to be heard.
Behind the wheel, the 2013 Scion FR-S is a balanced, nimble sports car, its light weight making cornering a joy. The steering is an electric power assist system, which numbs the feel somewhat, but it's not enough to get in the way of enjoying the car. Brakes are progressive and strong, with little in the way of fade or overheating noted even after several laps on track. The overall balance is very neutral, with a ready tilt toward rotation when required.
The cabin of the 2013 FR-S is comfortable and spacious--for front-seat occupants. The rear seat is very short on leg room, and a bit short on head room, but will serve for children or smaller adults. The cargo area consists of a moderately-sized trunk, or, with the rear seats folded, a large flat load bay that can accept quite a bit of stuff--including four full wheels and tires, a toolbox, and a helmet, according to Scion.
As for features, the 2013 Scion FR-S comes with a standard base specification for all models. The main choice is between manual or automatic transmissions--from there, all options can be added a la carte. Standard equipment isn't bad for the $25,000 starting price, with Bluetooth, USB, keyless entry, and automatic climate control all included. Optional upgrades include a BeSpoke premium audio system with apps compatibility and a 5.8-inch touch-screen LCD display, plus a range of appearance accessories. Sometime after launch, a range of performance accessories will also be made available.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the 2013 Scion FR-S yet, but the basics of modern safety equipment are covered, with six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and traction control. The traction and stability control systems offer a sport mode that allows more spirited driving while still providing a safety net.
- Great handling
- Light weight
- Nice, simple interior
- Low price
- Classic coupe styling
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- Lack of low-end torque
- Rear-seat space is minimal
- Automatic transmission can be balky