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2013 Scion FR-S Review Rocky Mountain Review

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2013 Scion FR-S

By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

Much has been made of this year’s introduction of the Scion FR-S. We see stories written by members of the press who’ve never driven the car; we see junkets to Japan to run the thing around test tracks; and of course, we’ve all seen Akio Toyoda’s quote lamenting the lack of passion in the Toyota lineup.

This article is different. We were recently afforded the opportunity to spend a real amount of time (a week) with the 2013 FR-S, in the real world (Colorado) – and whatever the real world brings along with it, from tight parking spots and less-than-perfect weather to other drivers on the roads with us and potholes. Based upon our experiences, we’ll attempt to answer the question that few have – what’s the FR-S like to live with on a daily basis?

Our 2013 FR-S tester was dropped off in traditional sports-car red, a color called Firestorm by Scion, with a black cloth interior. That black interior, by the way, is the only choice. In fact, when ordering the car, the only two choices a buyer can make that will affect the factory build are exterior color and transmission – automatic or manual.

On the outside, the FR-S has low, sleek, sports-car lines; we did not appreciate until seeing up close and in person how squat and low to the ground the FR-S really is. The relatively long hood and short trunk add to the image of sleekness and speed.

Inside, we find token seating for four – really for two, however, as the back seat will put a man of average height’s head into the rear glass, and provides no legroom if the front passengers are comfortable. There’s a reasonably sizable trunk, if somewhat low, and the back seat folds down as a single unit for transporting larger items.

The first thing that the driver may notice inside the cabin is what’s not here – especially in contrast to other MY 2013 cars. Manual climate control. No automatic wipers nor headlights. No dimming rearview mirror. A relatively simple stereo with a monochrome segment LCD display. No back-up camera. There’s really not much to the FR-S, at all; the list of what’s not here is almost greater than the list of what is here.

And that’s exactly what makes the Scion FR-S so much fun.

In any other car, we might lament the lack of these features, draw out comparisons to better-equipped models from other manufacturers. But the realization that we came to is that the lack of more advanced features are actually a strong positive for the FR-S. What it does is enable the driver to be connected to the car and to the road with little electronic distraction getting in the way. The front seats are fantastically comfortable and sit way down low, giving the driver a feeling of almost riding right on the road surface. Visibility is good for a sports car, surprisingly so to the rear due to that short trunk.

Turn the key (yes, there is a physical key – no smart fob here) and the 2-liter boxer engine clatters to life. Our tester FR-S came with a 6-speed manual gearbox which inspires spirited driving. At first, we lamented the performance – saying that “only” 200 hp just wasn’t enough these days. But then we came to appreciate the fact that redline doesn’t come until at 7,400 rpm – we were shifting too soon. So we set the programmable shift indicator for 6,500 RPM and had a much better experience. This little car wants to be pushed – its power comes at the upper end of the band, and driving is a noisy, raucous experience – very much in a good way, but loud enough to make conversation at highway speeds something of a chore. The FR-S is more than happy to go whipping around corners, its skinny 215-45/17 tires holding on for dear pavement. Another pleasure of this car is the non-intrusive traction and stability control – providing more suggestion and slight correction right at the edge rather than shutting down power to the wheels.

Performance wise, the FR-S is certainly not the fastest car on the road, but nor is it intended to be – it is, however, well-attuned to its driver and just … fun! Driving just feels good, owing to the car’s excellent balance and front-engine, rear-drive setup. We found the FR-S made us want to take the long way nearly everywhere we went.

On the highway, the FR-S’ small size and well-weighted steering makes it easy to dart in and out of traffic. Even in congested areas, the light clutch keeps creeping along from being a chore. The nicely-tuned suspension keeps the road ever-present without being jarring. We returned a combined average fuel economy of 30 mpg, making this an excellent candidate as a commuter vehicle with a twist.

Despite its small size, the FR-S comes equipped with safety and security tools in typical Toyota fashion – the aforementioned traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Perhaps most impressive, the FR-S received the IIHS’ highest “Good” rating for frontal offset, side, and roof strength tests.

Not every buyer will want to compromise when it comes to the FR-S small size, nearly nonexistent back seat, noisy interior, and lack of creature comforts – but these same things that some see as weakness, others will undoubtedly see as strength. We enjoyed our week with the FR-S and found it to be quite possibly the most fun to be had from a car under $25,000.


2013 Scion FR-S
Base Price: $24,200.00
Price as Tested: $24,997.00
Engine Type: 4-Cyl Boxer DOHC 16V with dual variable valve timing
Engine Size: 2.0 liter
Horsepower: 200
Torque (lb-ft): 151
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
Wheelbase / Length (in): 101.2 / 166.9
Curb Weight: 2,758
Pounds per HP: 13.8
Fuel Capacity (gal): 13.2
Fuel Requirement: Premium unleaded
Tires: Michelin Primacy HP; 215/45WR17
Brakes: Ventilated disc
Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson Strut / Multi-link
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / observed: 22 / 30 / 30

Base Trim Price: $24,200.00

Options and Charges

Wheel Locks: $67.00

Delivery: $730.00

Price as tested: $24,997.00