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2013 Scion FR-S First Test

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/24/2012 Julia LaPalme, Rory Jurnecka

We're a lot alike, you know. I'm talking about automotive journalists and enthusiast consumers. We both want cars to be excellent to drive; we both want them to live up to automakers' hype. We're both excited and terrified to drive new, highly anticipated cars for fear that they'll fall short of our expectations. And we're both ecstatic when a car -- no matter the door count, engine specs, or what badge adorns the hood -- is just as good as we want it to be. We can say, without a doubt, the 2013 Scion FR-S is a car that makes us pretty damn ecstatic. MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

You know the story by now: A joint project with Toyota and Subaru, the FR-S is the Scion-badged version of the rear-wheel-drive sports coupe that will also hit U.S. showrooms as the Subaru BR-Z (and in Japan, the FT86). The engine, a front-mounted flat-four, delivers 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque from its naturally aspirated, direct-injected 2.0 liters and is mounted low enough in the chassis to give a lower center of gravity than a Porsche Cayman, according to Scion. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard equipment (and was fitted in the car we drove), as is a Torsen limited-slip diff. McPherson struts are found up front, and a multilink setup suspends the rear of the car. Brakes are vented discs front and rear at 11.6 and 11.4 inches, respectively, and 17-inch wheels are standard. Mechanically speaking, the Subaru and Scion versions are the same, though final tweaking is done independently. MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

Differences in styling are also few, although the Scion's nose is unique, as is the faux vent treatment in the front fenders. (Look for the subtle "86" molded in to this section.) The interior gets traditional dials on the center stack, and the upholstery design and white-faced tachometer are also only found on the FR-S. The seats are very good, with supportive bolstering and comfy padding, and the driving position is excellent. The pedals are spaced well for rev-matching, and we found it easy to adjust for optimal reach to both steering wheel and pedals for several different body types.

But enough about the details. Many a sports car has looked perfect on paper, only to disappoint on pavement. The real test of the FR-S is how it drives. Twist the fairly ordinary-looking key and the flat-four fires up and settles into a low, thrumming idle. A couple quick jabs on the accelerator reveal that there's not too much of the classic, uneven Subaru exhaust note to be had, but that's fine with us -- this isn't a Subaru. Clutch effort is near-perfect and the take-up has good feel as we slot the shift lever into first and set off. The shifter feels solid, lacking the rubbery sensation we've come to expect from the manual transmission in, say, the WRX. The gear change is short and precise, requiring good effort but without feeling notchy, as it can feel in the STI. MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

Bringing the car up to speed, it's clear the engine is no powerhouse. That said, power is more than adequate, and the way the engine spins up feels smooth and quick, thanks, in part, to the "square" design, with an 86mm bore and stroke. In testing, we achieved a 6.2-second 0-to-60 mph time that puts it right in line with what we'd expected. MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

We pointed our FR-S towards some local Southern California back roads to see how its rear-drive chassis coped with the real-world conditions. From the first turn, the FR-S had us impressed with its quick turn-in and light, tossable feel. Steering is electric, as with so many cars today, but it's one of the best electric systems we've experienced. Effort is very much a Goldilocks middle ground between too heavy and too light, and precision is good. A famous conductor once said, "The best percussionists are the ones you don't hear." Truth is, the best steering systems are the ones you don't notice. The FR-S' steering just works, placing the car accurately and transmitting enough feel to let the driver know what's happening under-tire.

The FR-S is one of the most playful and enjoyable cars we've driven in quite a while. Throw the car into a tight 90-degree bend and after initial front-end push, the rear end will start coming around predictably and controllably. Countersteer and dial in a little throttle, and suddenly you're drift star Ken Gushi, sashaying down a stretch of switchbacks in perfect rhythm. The car stays tremendously flat in both corners and under braking, and the brakes feel more than up to the task, offering a very firm pedal that's easy to modulate, along with impressive fade resistance and stopping force.

During our testing, we recorded a 25.9-second figure-eight run at a 0.67 g average -- a full second quicker than the Fiat 500 Abarth we recently tested, a half-second quicker than the Honda Civic Si coupe, and even three-tenths of a second quicker than the Subaru BRZ.

The FR-S is about more than just performance numbers, though. The FR-S is about driving dynamics that are some of the best we've experienced, combined with an affordable price (it starts at just under $25,000) and a total package that can be used for both the weekday commute and the weekend track session. Scion nailed this one. Now, that's something to be ecstatic about.

2013 Scion FR-S
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUTFront engine, RWD
ENGINE TYPEFlat-4, alum block/heads
VALVETRAINDOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT121.9 cu in/1998cc
COMPRESSION RATIO12.5:1
POWER (SAE NET)200 hp @ 7000 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET)151 lb-ft @ 6600 rpm
REDLINE7450 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER13.7 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION6-speed manual
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO4.10:1/3.14:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REARStruts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO13.0:1
TURNS LOCK-TO-LOCK2.5
BRAKES, F;R11.6-in vented disc; 11.4-in vented disc, ABS
WHEELS7.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum
TIRES215/45R17 87W Michelin Primacy HP
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE101.2 in
TRACK, F/R59.8/60.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT166.7 x 69.9 x 51.2 in
TURNING CIRCLE35.4 ft
CURB WEIGHT2737 lb
WEIGHT DIST., F/R55/45 %
SEATING CAPACITY4
HEADROOM, F/R37.1/35.0 in
LEGROOM, F/R41.9/29.9 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R53.1/45.3 in
CARGO VOLUME6.9 cu ft
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 2.2 sec
0-403.2
0-504.6
0-606.2
0-708.2
0-8010.4
0-9013.5
0-10016.8
PASSING, 45-65 MPH3.3
QUARTER MILE14.8 sec @ 94.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH118 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.93 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT25.9 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)
1.8-MI ROAD COURSE LAP91.15 sec
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH2650 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE$24,930
PRICE AS TESTED$24,930
STABILITY/TRACTION CONTROLYes/Yes
AIRBAGSDual front, front side, f/r curtain, driver knee
BASIC WARRANTY3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY5 yrs/60,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE2 yrs/Unlimited miles
FUEL CAPACITY13.2 gal
EPA CITY/HWY ECON22/30 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS0.78 lb/mile
MT FUEL ECONOMY24.3 mpg
RECOMMENDED FUELUnleaded premium

2013 Scion FR-S© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Scion FR-S
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