2014 Scion FR-S - Driven

The Scion FR-S and its corporate cousins the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 are still relatively new to the sports car scene, having been launched in 2012. The cars represent an interesting alliance between Subaru and Toyota , two Japanese automakers, with Toyota taking care of the design work and Subaru handling the greasy bits underneath.

Though the cars have been well received by journalist and enthusiast the world over, it seems sales, at least in the U.S., arn’t living up to the hype with just over 40,000 FR-S units moved since 2012 and roughly 18,000 BRZs sold. That’s an oddity considering just how well the cars fulfill the sport car checklist.

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of a Scion FR-S getting to know its personality. My tester came equipped with nothing more than optional six-speed automatic transmission. No navigation or SiriusXM; just an honest sports coupe with a willing powerplant and skinny tires that made driving anywhere an exciting event.

Click past the jump for the full rundown of the 2014 Scion FR-S

TopSpeed Garage

Exterior

Scion FR-S - Driven
Scion FR-S - Driven
Scion FR-S - Driven

Coated in a beautiful dark-gray Scion calls Asphalt, each line, curve, and crease shows through with the utmost elegance.

The FR-S’ exterior looks set the tone for the driving experience. A long, sloping hood with bulging fenders humps, a steeply raked windshield, and a fastback rear window add together to create the look. Coated in a beautiful dark-gray Scion Scion calls Asphalt, each line, curve, and crease shows through with the utmost elegance. The metallic flake in the pain makes it shine in the hot sun. It’s a looker for sure.

The large lower grille helps feed the flat four-cylinder under the hood while aggressive-looking projector beam headlights stare forward. The 15-spoke, 17-inch wheels look fantastic with the Asphalt color scheme and the small bits of chrome brightwork really pop against the dark background.

Outward visibility is pretty good when looking forward and sideways. Rear quarter-panel blind spots are somewhat big, though the three mirrors help keep things in check. Direct rear visibility is actually not bad.

Interior

Scion FR-S - Driven
Scion FR-S - Driven
Scion FR-S - Driven

Everything is where it should be for pushing the car further down the road or track, and not much else.

The cockpit of the FR-S is all business — no frilly extra stuff. The seats are heavily bolstered for good support and covered in a sport cloth material. The steering wheel gets a touch of leather with red stitching to match the stitching along the seats, dash, door panels, and floor mats. The otherwise dark interior has a few satin chrome-colored bits to lighten up the atmosphere. The dashboard holds a 6.1-inch touchscreen from Pioneer but isn’t fitted with navigation, though a trip to the dealer would likely cure that.

Ergonomics are purpose-built for driving. Everything is where it should be for pushing the car further down the road or track, and not much else. The cup holders are too far rearward and the window controls are sort of in an awkward position, but it doesn’t matter. The leather-wrapped wheel, the shifter, and bright pedals are all placed in just the right spots.

There were a few livability issues I had during my week. Most memorable is the passenger seat’s inability to stay folded forward when trying to enter the rear seats. It just kept sliding back on its track and needed to be constantly held while getting in. Wind and road noise are also on the loud side, but becomes acceptable when considering the added weight of insulation might somehow detract form the car’s fantastic handling. I also found it odd that there was no release mechanism on the outside of the trunk. It must be released either by the key fob or a button on the dash.

Once the trunk is opened, there’s actually a decent amount of space in there. That grows even more when the rear seatback is folded flat. I’d say two people would have no trouble packing a week’s worth of luggage inside. The FR-S.

Drivetrain

Scion FR-S - Driven

My tester came mated to the optional six-speed automatic gearbox with manual shifting capabilities via both the shift lever and steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Sure, the FR-S isn’t the perfect daily driver for Mr. John Q. Public and his 2.5 kids, but that’s not its purpose. The FR-S is a track toy that’s livable on the street. Powering this and its two Toyota Toyota /Subaru cousins is a Subaru Subaru -built, 2.0-liter, boxer four-cylinder. No turbos, no fancy supercharger, no other performance add-ons — just good ole-fashioned, naturally aspirated goodness. The engine does enjoy a direct fuel-injection system, but also employs a port injection system. The double dose of gasoline helps it make 200 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 pound-feet of torque at 6,400 revs.

My tester came mated to the optional six-speed automatic gearbox with manual shifting capabilities via both the shift lever and steering wheel-mounted paddles. The unit is derived from the same gearbox found under the Lexus IS 250 sedan. It routes power to the rear wheels through a Torsen limited-slip differential. Skinny 215/45R17 Michelin Primacy HP tires squeal at the slightest bit of over input.

The engine is fitted with dual exhaust tips that give off a raspy sound that emanates throughout the cockpit even on casual drives. Getting into the power, things get even louder, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The 2.0-liter boxer likes to create power between 4,000 and 7,000 rpm, so sport manual shift modes come in handy to keep the engine spooled.

Driving Impressions

Scion FR-S - Driven

The FR-S likes to push when thrown hard into corners, but isn’t uncontrollable.

The FR-S handles very well, even despite its tiny tires. Turn-in is crisp and steering feel is direct. The wheel gives decent feedback of what the front tires are doing and the seat bottoms do their part in communicating the car’s attitude. This is a place where seat-of-the-pants driving is easily practiced.

The FR-S likes to push when thrown hard into corners, but isn’t uncontrollable. In fact, adding throttle balances out the car as the rear end falls in line. The transmission shifts pretty quick for a standard automatic and helps get the boxer engine in the powerband for quick acceleration. Bringing things to a stop are a decent set of vented rotors. I didn’t get the chance to really push the car, so fade was never an issue.

Driving the FR-S is a visceral experience and I feel the only thing that would make it better is a manual transmission. So if you’re an enthusiast who likes to row their own gears, save the extra scratch and ditch the automatic.

Pricing

Scion FR-S - Driven

This may be the best part about the FR-S. Scion has given the car no trim levels, only available options to select. Its base price starts at $25,470 with the manual transmission. Jump up to the automatic and you’re looking at $26,570. My tester was bare-bones stock, so only the $515 destination charge was tacked on.

All told, my tester came in at $26,315.

Competition

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT - Driven

The Mazda Miata has long been the benchmark sports-car enthusiasts measure affordability by. Its tight suspension, peppy engine, and its smooth-shifting transmission make a pretty big yard stick, and there’s plenty of cars that don’t measure up. Simple sport is the Miata’s M.O.

Power comes from a 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder that, when mated with the six-speed manual transmission, makes 167 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. Automatic cars make do with 158 horsepower.

Pricing for the MX-5 Miata starts at $23,970 for the soft top version and $28,665 for the power retractable hard top. Enthusiast will enjoy the lighter soft top version, but those looking for more of a grand touring car will enjoy the convenience of having a hard top when the weather turns foul.

2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is perhaps the most underrated performance coupe on the market today. It combines all the ingredients of a solid performer yet its sales drastically trail that of the Miata.

The Genesis Coupe packs the biggest punch under its sculpted hood. Its 3.8-liter V-6 makes an impressive 348 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque routed through a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. The stout V-6 pushes the Hyundai to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds on its way to a 13.8-second quarter mile run.

Pricing for the Genesis Coupe is competitive with the bunch here, starting at $26,750 for the base car and $29,500 for the 3.8 R-SPEC performance trim. The 3.8 Ultimate offers more luxury starting at $33,400.

Conclusion

Scion FR-S - Driven

The FR-S proved itself to be an amazingly fun car to toss around. It would be a great car for a single twenty-something who loves a visceral driving experience or even perhaps the middle-aged car fiend who wants a fun weekend toy without breaking the bank or driving a Miata like all his friends.

The car’s personality definitely shines through in even the most mundane drives. Its nearly uninsulated cabin reverberates every outside sound and engine rev, while its firm seats transmit every bump and jostle in the road. All that is fine though, as the car creates its own events in daily driving. It’s certainly a looker, garnering attention wherever it goes and making its owner feel good about their driving skills. To say the least, the FR-S is a rewarding car to drive.

LOVE IT
  • Balanced chassis is loads of fun
  • Just enough power
  • Good driving position
  • Solid bang-for-the-buck
LEAVE IT
  • Might be hard to live with
  • Just enough power
  • Squeaks, rattles, & road noise galore

What is your take?

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