Recently I had the pleasure of test driving a brand new model for the Toyota/Scion brand that was co-developed by Subaru. The car is based on the Toyota GT86 in Japan and is sold under the Scion brand as the FR-S as well as under the Subaru brand as the BRZ. The car is brand new for 2013 and represents a unique joint venture between the two brands. Subaru, well known for its engineering and performance capabilities has done exactly that with the new car and Toyota has designed a stunningly sharp exterior/interior for the car. The two cars – by Scion (FR-S) and Subaru (BRZ) are almost identical with a few small differences. There is an extensive overview of the differences with very nice detailed pictures however for the most part the differences are cosmetic / convenience related. For example, the Subaru is a bit pricier but comes equipped with HID headlights and a Navigation unit among a few other features.
Before I delve into the details, lets talk price. I will be reviewing the Scion version of the car, which is the FR-S which starts at a couple bucks under $25,000 at around $24,930 and comes standard with a 6-speed manual. The automatic version starts at $26,085 and is quite a bargain. There are a few options available currently and there are many more to come however, currently, the most notable is the upgrade to the Pioneer touch screen audio system which is just shy of $850.
I won’t be discussing too much about the technical details but for a start, the car is equipped with a 2.0 liter boxer engine that provides 200 horsepower and 151 lb. ft. of torque. Additionally, the automatic version (as tested) provides 25 mpg city and 34 mpg hwy. Both these estimates seem to have been fairly consistent with the averages I have seen but there was one article on Examiner.com that caught my eye.
In our week of both freeway and city driving we observed an average of 34 mpg combined. On a 30 mile long freeway jaunt from East Mesa to downtown Phoenix we even saw a highway average of 43.5 mpg.
The Scion FR-S is one sharp looking car with nice curves throughout the car. The front fascia holds the daytime running lights with some dealers even adding fog-lights as a dealer-added option. The headlights are projector beam headlights which provide very nice illumination at night. The front-end of the car also swoops a bit lower in the center resulting in two raised corners which is great while driving as it allows the driver to notice the two corners of the car at any given time.
Making our way to the side of the car, you can notice the throwback to the GT86 with a symbol of a piston with the numbers 86 on them towards the front of the car. The raised line towards the back of the car results in a nice aggressive design element for the FR-S.
Standard on the FR-S are the 17 inch rims with the black/silver finish which are a nice touch. The rims actually look way better in person and they utilize the same tires that are optional on a Prius but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, even though a lot of reviews make it seem that way.
Going towards the rear of the car, there are a couple things to note. First are the dual sport-tuned exhausts. Due to US regulations, they aren’t as large and don’t protrude out as much but do provide a decent exhaust note. You will also notice the lights towards the bottom of the car that has a triangular red light with strips of white on either side. The triangular red light is actually a reflective piece and the two strips of white are the reverse lights. In the Toyota version of the car, the reflective light does actually function.
Since I had the automatic version with no add-ons the interior is fairly nice yet, basic at the same time. You’re greeted with fantastically bolstered seats with a nice red stitching. The stitching is fairly nice and follows through into various parts of the car including the steering wheel.
On the drivers side door are the auto up/down driver and passenger window controls as well as the power mirror controls. The door handle on the inside is a nice silver finish which is also used in the center console.
The steering wheel itself is one of the smallest Toyota claims to have used in their entire line-up and I have to say it’s a great size. It also features the nice red stitching and the leather wrapped exterior. In the automatic version, there are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel which seem to be of great quality.
Moving to the dash of the car, the speedometer is located on the left hand side and the center is where the tachometer is located and other gauges are on the right side. It is interesting to have the speedometer located on the left specially when 60mph is only about a 1/4 of the way through and is on the lower side of the speedometer. Interesting however, I never seemed to glance at it since I would mostly focus on the digital display in the middle of the tachometer. The gauges are very nice however and easy to understand.
Looking to the center console, there is the standard 300-watt pioneer audio system which seems fairly brand on first look but it is used in the other Scion models and actually puts out a very decent sound for a standard audio unit along with the 8 dynamic speakers in the FR-S. Below the audio system is the clock as well as the hazard lights button. Below these are located the climate control buttons and that pretty much rounds out the center console. You can note that the silver finish from the door handle flows into the sides of the center console as well.
Lets take a look at the shifter. In the automatic, the gear knob set-up does make it look like a manual from a distance and I was told that this was done on purpose and I really like the setup and I think it lends itself to be sportier.
The center console also features a power outlet and some storage space as well as an adjustable/movable cup holder (good for 2 cups). Moving back towards the center buttons, there is a VSC Sport button which allows the driver to experiment a bit more of the driving experience without completely letting go of the vehicle assist features and then of course, there is the traction control off button which essentially turns all computer assists off and lets the driver take control.
Going back to the seats in the car. The Scion is a 2+2 sports coupe and the rear seats are mostly around just for the sake of saying you have them (at least it seems that way). I think it also helps for insurance purposes as it results in a tad bit lowering of the insurance costs. The seats themselves however, are very nice and do seem to hold me down very well. The bolsters on the side make me feel comfortable enough to want to drive the car on long trips.
Rear space is limited however, once you are back there, there is enough head room for someone on the taller side but for the most part, I would limit that to a need-to-basis only.
The rear seats do fold-down to make way for the trunk which is a pretty nice size for the size of the car and with the seats folded down, the space is actually quite nice.
The finish of the dash on the car is a faux carbon fiber finish and some like it and some don’t. I am one who does really like it quite a bit. Although it may not be what you’d expect, I think it does look quite nice when you are inside the car even though the material quality wouldn’t be one that you’d see in a higher end sports car — but then again you’re under the 25k price point with the FR-S.
I have to say that the FR-S does deliver and delivers strong when it comes to the driving experience. I tested the cars at low speeds and at higher speeds on a few different road types. It is quite smooth for being a sports car and being so low to the ground that you won’t mind it as a daily driver on your way to work/school but when it does need to tear it up, its up for the challenge on the highways.
Toyota was also smart to channel some of the engine noise to the cabin which really helps you feel the performance of the car as you shift through gears, which brings me to my next topic, the transmission. The automatic mode allows you to drive without any human interference to shift gears, or you could use the +/- by moving the gear forward or backwards or then again you could use the paddle shifters. In all 3 of the driving modes, the shifts were fantastic and seamless. It almost made it feel as though I was driving a manual. The shifts were sharp, quick and provided me with a thrilling experience.
Road noise is very minimal in the cabin and that is a good thing. The car is fairly small and low to the ground so sometimes road noise can be an issue but I didn’t really hear much aside from the nice little engine note when I was driving (partially from the engine and partially from the sound being channeled into the cabin via the speaker).
Additionally, the audio system on the FR-S is very impressive and the speakers do provide a nice clear sound with good highs and moderate bass (it can be adjusted). The location of the speakers is quite nice as well and I am surprised to have seen 8 speakers in this car to begin with.
The car did perform extremely well and yes, 200 horsepower may not be what the speed daemons are looking for but its adequate for the car and it doesn’t seem to miss the extra horses either. The drive quality is very nice and it makes the driver feel one with the car. The pillars on the back of the car as well as the smaller windows do help reduce the blind spots and work quite well.The gear position is pretty nice and the driver positioning is nice as well.
Although I didn’t have the car on the track, I would say its very easy to control and it turns very nicely. I was able to test it via some very sharp quick turns and the car not only responds well but also turns on a dime. Very impressive to say the least.
In the end, is this car worth the hype? Most definitely. Is it worth the price tag? Without a doubt. The FR-S is a come back for Toyota into the sport car market and what a comeback it is. The FR-S may not have the horsepower of some of the competitors (namely the Ford Mustang and the Hyundai Genesis) but what it does use to its advantage are its good looks, fun driving experience and maneuverability. The FR-S provides a driving experience like none other and with Toyota backed quality, there isn’t much to question here.
For those who are new to Scion, every Scion comes with a 2 year, 25,000 mile complimentary maintenance package as well as 3 years 36,000 mile warranty. Additionally, Scion believes in “Pure Price” meaning the price you see is the price you pay – in this case, its MSRP. For those who graduated within the last two years, you may be eligible for the $1,000 college graduate rebate on this car (pending confirmation).
If you have any questions, I’d love to hear them. Thank you for reading!
Additionally, I would like to mention that I have checked around a few dealerships and it seems like a lot of them are adding an A.D.M or Adjusted Dealer Markup due to Market Value adjustments. This is essentially an amount anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000. I recently traveled to Florida where I took the picture below at one of the dealers that had marked up the car due to customer demand. If you can wait, wait it out and place an order rather than having a dealer wanting to mark up a car by a significant amount just because of limited production.