By Barry Spyker
The Miami Herald
February 23, 2013
The FR-S is an all-new sports car from Scion, Toyota's youth-oriented brand, and it is fun — holds the road like it's Velcroed to it. And it's not too bad on the wallet, either.
Plus, it is probably the sharpest-looking car to emerge from the Scion nameplate, with bold fenders, sleek profile and aggressive front end.
So what does FR-S stand for? Well, officially, it means front engine, rear-wheel-drive and sport. But creative critics have also defined it as For Retired Seniors, and Fun but Really Slow.
Ah, yes, Houston, we do have this one problem.
Jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru, the rear-wheel-drive FR-S is not a speedster. It is not for those who dream of a large herd of horses and torque that will blow away the Mustang next to you at the stoplight.
The sole engine available is a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder plant that corrals 200 horses and puts out 151 pound-feet of torque. All that adds up to decent, but not riveting, acceleration, especially in the middle of the torque band.
Now, to be fair, it's going to get you to 60 mph in around 7 seconds, maybe even a few tenths less. And that's better than its Subaru twin, the BRZ. But it could be better — by today's sports-car standards.
Fortunately, acceleration is not what the FR-S is all about.
I'm gambling that this sports car will bring lots of grins, and that most who drive it won't give the 0-60 figures another thought.
Reminiscent of the British sports cars of old, the FR-S has been balanced for perfection, not at 50-50 but with 53 percent up front and 47 percent in the rear. The engineers figured that's even better.
Steering is wonderfully responsive and cornering with this thing is a blast, with superb flatness and grip. Braking is firm and strong, too. And the MacPherson struts up front combined with the rear double wishbones help to provide plenty of sweet road feel.
So the FR-S is ready to race, drift and yet scoot on down to work, too. The ride is on the firm side, as it should be with a sports car, but not so uncomfortable that you wouldn't want to drive it every day.
The test car was equipped with a 6-speed automatic which was smooth-shifting and programmed for aggressive driving. I've read that the alternative, a 6-speed manual, is equally spirited and a breeze with which to run through the gears.
On the highway, the FR-S feels comfortable and composed. Road noise may be an issue with some but, hello, this is a sports car.
Besides, once inside, there is enough to distract you from the sounds outside. The optional 340-watt BeSpoke audio system, for one, is excellent. It's relatively easy to use with its 5.8-inch screen and nav system, and it even has a feature that lets you access iPhone apps by voice.
And the seats are wonderfully supportive, good enough for brisk rides and comfortable enough for the weekender trip, too.
That said, the rest of the interior won't blow you away. It's not even as sharp as the other Scion entries. Nothing flashy, and no mood colors to illuminate the space. In fact, it's rather plain and basic, and the materials are less than elegant.
Also, rear seat space is nearly nonexistent, with legroom and headroom a real concern for anyone who dares to enter. Trunk space is not a selling point, either, offering less than 7 cubic feet. But the rear seats fold flat and make carting things around more manageable.
FR-S carries the usual safety goodies, including antilock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, and front-seat airbags and full-length side curtain bags.
So let's discuss trim choices — oh, wait, there's only one trim. But it's nicely equipped: Standard are AC, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, Pioneer 8-speaker sound system with CD and Bluetooth and auxiliary and USB inputs.
Looking for more? Well, not from Scion/Toyota, but there are a number of dealer-installed options, such as 18-inch wheels, rear spoiler, fog lights, upgraded brakes and the aforementioned BeSpoke audio.
Long overdue from the Scion lineup over the past decade has been performance. Well, it's all here with the FR-S. It's not dripping with speed, but it's loaded with brisk, nimble performance. It's ready if you are heading to the rally track on Saturday.
And if it's just to work, well, at least you'll have a ball on the way.
2013 SCION FR-S:
-Base price: $24,500
-Price as tested, including destination charge: $26,930
Parting shot: Great performance, despite underwhelming speed.