Posts tagged: scion
Not many 200hp vehicles make auto journalists gush like it’s their first time behind the wheel of a sports car. The 2013 Scion FR-S is doing that to nearly everyone that can get their hands on it. One week with the coupe convinced me to drink the Kool-Aid too; I’m sold. I want one.
The FR-S represents one of the most important wins for auto-enthusiasts in recent memory. Purest driver’s cars built from the ground up to deliver exactly what the driver is capable of drawing out of them are mostly a thing of the past. Affordable ones are nearly extinct all together.
Starting at under $25,000 the FR-S is a wet dream come true for every car guy that’s been waiting for an automaker to start producing a true sports car at a reasonable price point. Toyota conceived the FR-S to fill this void as well as the one in their lineup for a fun, passionate car the average Joe could get his hands on.
On paper the FR-S fits the mold: Rear wheel drive, lightweight and incredibly agile.
In reality it’s completely in tune with the driver when driven properly, embarrassingly sloppy when not. In other words, once again, it’s a real driver’s car.
The FR-S accomplishes its noble endeavor so well it almost doesn't matter its 0-60mph time is nearly identical to a V-6 Camry – power just isn’t the point.
Before gushing anymore it should be made clear the development of the FR-S was spurred by the glorious idea of Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, but the bulk of the car was built by Subaru in an unprecedented joint effort by the two companies.
In the United States FR-S and Subaru BRZ are brothers from different mothers. Their estranged sibling sold globally outside of the U.S. is the Toyota GT 86 – homage to the original car so many greasy shirted young men still lust after for drifting purposes.
Instead of digging in to the subtle details of how the Scion differs from the Subaru and Toyota variants, one defining characteristic of the FR-S does a better job of representing its essence than anything else:
It runs Prius tires. The FR-S’s Michelin Primacy HP tires are exactly the same to those in the Prius’ optional Plus Performance package. They aren’t all that grippy and are skinny by sports car standards.
The idea is to let the car drift at lower levels of g-force. That’s where real driving happens. Also it’s really, really fun.
The FR-S cabin keeps with the ethos. There are very few buttons or any semblance of Scion’s usual barrage of youthful interior styling cues. Yet predominately displayed just below the gear-shift is a button that turns the traction and stability control completely off.
Did I mention it runs on Prius tires?
If that weren’t fun enough, power, though clearly not the point as mentioned earlier, is still plenty adequate.
Beneath the hood lies a Subaru 2.0-liter flat four boxer engine to which Toyota added its impressive eight-injector direct and port fuel injection. For the nerds out there, that makes the FR-S the world’s only direct-injection flat-four rear-drive sports car.
At 7,000RPM power tops out at 200hp, at 6,600RPM torque hits its peak at 151 lb-feet. At 2,800lbs-2,900lbs the FR-S is good for 0-60mph times of about 6.6 seconds.
Those aren’t impressive straight line numbers. In fact they’re an embarrassment waiting to happen in a street race. Where the FR-S separates itself the most from the likes of a Hyundai Genesis or Ford Mustang V6 isn’t on a drag strip, but in balance.
I’m six feet tall. The top of the FR-S boxer engine sits at the middle of my kneecap, making for an incredibly low center of gravity. Weight distribution is also very impressive at 53% front, 47% rear.
With the traction and stability control defeated (as it most always should be), the FR-S lets the back end step out in precise conjunction with how much throttle it’s given. Ease off and she’ll hop right back in line.
This is a car that will do exactly what you want it to; it’s as good as you are, no more, no less.
For as much of a purist’s car as the FR-S was designed to be, it wouldn’t be blasphemous to opt for the automatic transmission. Besides the obvious choice of the six-speed manual a six speed automatic with paddle shifters is available. It uses rev-matched downshifts and is an impressive accomplishment unto itself.
The new automatic is based off the 8-speed auto in the Lexus IS-F. It doesn’t let the FR-S down in any of the ways an automatic easily could. When left alone it will downshift on its own before the car enters a corner.
For all the wonderful ways the FR-S lives up to the hype that’s been lumped on to it as this generation’s triumph of the everyman’s driver’s car it definitely looks the part as well.
One warm sunny evening I drove it down to a beachside 7-11 to return a movie. Two twenty-something girls wearing bikinis in a new Audi yelled across the parking lot:
“Is that your car?”
Several minutes later a pair of high school guys in a ’96 Mustang pulled up and prodded,
“How fast is your car?”
“It’s really more about handling…”
When they pulled out of their parking stall a middle-aged guy in a late nineties BMW pulled in and wanted to know what sort of car the Scion was.
I told him it was a driver’s car. And that it runs on Prius tires.
You know you’re in a hot car when high school kids try to race you without provocation. Scion strummed this chord delightfully with the second generation tC – the successor to the young brand’s best-selling model.
On my maiden voyage behind the wheel of the 2011 sports coupe I passed by several South Seattle high schools shortly after classes ended for the day, unaware that a number of youngsters impassioned by The Fast and the Furious franchise were about to hit the streets in an onslaught of zippy machines.
I wove through the early rush hour traffic with the tC’s RPM’s jacked up to four grand, the angsty exhaust note at full drone. In a span of fifteen minutes an Acura, BMW and Infiniti driven by racy young men appeared in the tC’s rear view mirror, jockeyed into position next to the car just long enough to make their presence known and gassed it hard to pass.
From what I had seen in the movies these were blatant attempts to bait me into “Aggressive Driving”.
Any question of the restyled tC’s street persona were laid to rest when Vin Diesel screamed up beside me stuffed into a 1995 Honda Civic with a coffee can muffler and spray-can paint job. We locked eyes momentarily before he veered off towards the parking lot of a Bed Bath and Beyond.
Well then. The new tC certainly APPEARED to be a venerable successor to the original, and a race-worthy one at that. But as Vin Diesel had so aptly demonstrated looks could be deceiving. On paper at least the enhancements to the tC were clear.
Engine: 2.5-liter four-banger borrowed from the latest Camry producing 180hp (19hp more than the previous tC)
Transmission: Six-speed manual/automatic
Handling: Traction Control, Vehicle Stability Control and Brake Assist – all standard.
Styling: Inspired by the athletic look of a racing helmet
How and if these changes would translate to serious performance on the back roads remained to be seen. After a god-awful eight hours at work I drove the tC directly into Snoqualmie Pass with the idea that Johnny Law wears a looser belt in rural areas, particularly those in the woods. As night fell I veered off I-90 East at the Snoqualmie exit in search of a cliché small town back road and soon discovered a wonderful loop of fun off Mill Pond Road.
Lined by heavy forest the Loop’s speed limit topped out at 35mph and ran twisty for nearly 4 miles without the illumination of a single street lamp. It was a perfect location to run a little sports car through its paces or crash the Henderson family station wagon into a Sasquatch.
Wound up to the top of second and third gear the tC’s high beams revealed enough of the juking road as it developed from the darkness to properly calculate the turns. Pushing it too hard could have sent us into the Evergreens like a little Metallic pinball.
I was impressed by the added punch of the tC’s new engine and the traction control flattered the responsive handling but it was hard to discern if the upgrades had transformed it from an around-town zipper to a serious contender or if the dark turns were more responsible for the excitement.
The only way to reach an educated conclusion on the tC’s sports car credibility was to find a testing ground with improved visibility and an even dizzier element of danger. That weekend I drove it back into Snoqualmie Pass at high noon in search of a mountain road with twistier twists and a more thematic threat of peril.
I discovered a camping road off the Asahel Curtis exit that corkscrews down along the ridges of a hillside composed entirely of jagged boulders. Losing control here would mean flying from the pavement, exploding in mid-air and plummeting from terrace to terrace in slow motion for nearly two minutes as the rocks sheared the car away to an unrecognizable hunk of metal seasoned with the scraps of a fledgling auto-journalist.
Upon further observation at the death course the tC is not a true sports car. But that isn’t the point. It looks like one, is plenty of fun to drive around town and has one major selling point above the sportier competition in its class:
At first glance the tC doesn't look like a hatchback but it is. The rear window pops up from the rear of the car in one big piece and the rear seats fold down to make enough room for a single dresser drawer. With those seats up there’s room for two overfed six-foot tall men. Most of the tC’s competition can't touch that.
All things considered the second generation tC is better than the first is most every way. While not for the hardcore driver it packs plenty of attractive image and won't disappoint someone who would get bored with a Honda Civic Coupe.
Throw in a standard eight-speaker sound package with an available Alpine upgrade designed to flatter iPod addicts and there’s plenty of reason for young buyers who want a bit of excitement from their car to give it a serious look.
Plus, the racer kids seem to think it means business; that feature comes standard.