Never say never, but it’s doubtful that uber-rivals Ford and GM would ever collaborate on anything, much less the joint development of a sports car. Too much pride, too much sacred brand identity, too much competitive drive.
And that’s OK, because Toyota and Subaru have no such reservations. Say hello to the twins, Scion’s FR-S and Subie’s BRZ. They’re slightly different in looks and comfort, but in terms of greatness they’re identical.
No less an authority than Consumer Reports magazine labeled both cars a “Top Pick” in its April auto issue. Considered by many to be the most influential annual industry auto report card, CR waxed positively enthusiastic:
“If you take your driving fun seriously, these almost identical twins were built for you. Co-developed by Subaru and Toyota, which builds Scion vehicles, both are exhilarating to drive, with super-sharp handling, excellent braking, and ample acceleration. Other draws: impressive gas mileage and reasonable sticker prices. Yes, they are purebred, rear-wheel-drive sports cars, with a jittery ride, noisy cabins, and small rear seats. So Camry lovers might want to cruise on by.
Test score: 82-83
Reliability: Above average
Overall mpg: 30”
Well said (that’s why we’re quoting them). What they didn’t say: If you’re looking to thrash curves and corners, enjoy neck-snapping acceleration and laugh when slamming brakes to a smoking “Whoa” while looking awesome, welcome home.
Both vehicles have astonishing balance and reflexes, making even a quick drive to the market an adventure. Power isn’t overwhelming but plentiful: 200 horsepower and 151 torque are plenty for a 2,800-pound roller skate, especially at a throaty 7,000 RPM, aided by the super-snickety six-speed precision clutch. Heretics can opt for a perfectly acceptable automatic with paddles but must be prepared for mass ridicule.
And then there’s this: Driving through a grocery store’s parking lot, we heard a little kid say, “THAT! That’s what I want, Paw-Paw!” We can only presume there’s a grandfather out there writing a check even as we speak.
Differences? Minor. Subaru engineered the chassis and power train while Toyota finagled the design. Subaru’s 2.0-liter boxer flat-four is matched with Toyota’s port- and direct-fuel-injection system. Interior-wise, the Subaru is a bit nicer. That’s pretty much it.
One word of advice: Trash the wimpy tires for something more aggressive.
Another word of advice: If you want either one, don’t wait. Both Subaru and Toyota are accepting preorders, but supplies are limited. In fact, most of the 15,000 models from both partners are already spoken for and the FR-S looks like it’ll be Scion’s best-selling model ever.
The only thing missing: A drop top, a situation that is expected to be remedied in 2015. We can’t wait.
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