When the Scion brand debuted in the U.S. market back in 2002, its goal was to appeal to young buyers with stylish vehicles boasting affordable pricing and abundant customization options, backed up by the reliability and quality reputation of parent company Toyota.
However, missing from the brand's mix was a high-performance or "halo" vehicle—until now.
A decade later, all the planets aligned for the arrival of the all-new 2013 Scion FR-S. If you're wondering, FR-S stands for Front engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport coupe.
Co-developed with Subaru (which makes the FR-S' twin, the BRZ) the FR-S raises the performance bar considerably from the Scion tC, the second sportiest vehicle in the brand's lineup.
The FR-S is powered by a 2-liter, horizontally opposed, fl at-4 boxer-type engine—the same engine type found under the hood of Subarus, vintage Volkswagens, and old and new Porsches—rated at 200 horsepower and 151 foot-pounds of torque.
While at first you would think 200 horses isn't that much for a performance sport coupe, one test drive is all it takes to prove the FR-S packs plenty of power under its hood.
The secret behind the amazing performance of the FR-S lies in the unique combination of its lightweight and responsive fl at-4 engine, rear-wheel-drive drivetrain, well-balanced but sharp handling, sleek design, compact size and an impressive total curb weight of only 2,806 pounds.
As if that weren't enough, the FR-S boasts one of the smallest turning radius measurements of any vehicle we have tested in a long time, at only 17.7 feet. This not only gives the rear-wheel-drive sport coupe amazing cornering and drifting ability, but also incredibly sharp handling at a level usually found in much pricier coupes.
GREAT FUEL ECONOMY
Surprisingly enough, the FR-S delivers excellent fuel economy, despite its sporty demeanor. Thanks in part to low-rolling-resistant tires, fuel economy estimates stand at 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined for the automatic, and 22/30/25 for the manual.
Given its desirable qualities—low weight and responsiveness—the FR-S will no doubt be a thrill for true driving enthusiasts looking for big kicks for small bucks. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the FR-S in Puerto Rico is $29,995 with the six-speed manual transmission and $31,495 for the six-speed shiftable automatic transmission.
In terms of competition, the FR-S has no direct rivals other than its Subaru twin, as affordable rear-wheel- drive sport coupes are few and far between. The closest in character would be the 2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible, followed by the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
ONE TRIM LEVEL
The new FR-S comes with a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full-power accessories, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth (with streaming audio) and a Pioneer eight-speaker sound system with CD player, HD radio, RCA output jacks, an auxiliary audio jack and USB/iPod integration.
In keeping with Scion's marketing philosophy, in lieu of factory options there are a number of dealer-installed accessories that include foglights, a premium audio system and various suspension and engine-performance parts.
From the outside, the FR-S looks fast even when it is standing still, thanks to its sleek, aerodynamic design and aggressive-looking front grille. It hangs low to the ground, yet with a wide, assertive stance that tells you right away this car is no sports coupe wannabe.
Inside, the FR-S has a simple, business-like cabin. Dominating the interior landscape is a pair of serious sport bucket seats. Firmly padded, their lateral support extends up toward the shoulders, which is a reminder of this vehicle's readiness for cornering at enthusiastic speeds.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel with a thick rim incorporating distinct thumb-relief points further drives home this vehicle's high-performance persona. Large instruments (with the large tachometer taking center stage), a straightforward three-knob climate control setup and a single audio setup complete the sensible, no-frills dashboard.
As you would expect from a 2+2 sport coupe, the FR-S' cramped two rear seats are best left for small children. The small trunk can accommodate just seven cubic feet of cargo, but overall capacity can be substantially expanded by flipping down the single-piece rear seatback.
EXCELLENT ROAD MANNERS
Precise, nimble and eager are the qualities that best describe the dynamic personality of the new FR-S. While the boxer-type engine feels somewhat fl at on the low end, it delivers the goods when revved midrange, then pulling with enthusiasm to redline.
In essence, the FR-S is more about agility and driver engagement, especially when cornering.
With the push of a button, the traction- and stability-control systems can be disabled to allow well-seasoned drivers to fully explore and appreciate the FR-S' exceptional athleticism on twisting roads. Nevertheless, there is enough compliance in the suspension to suit daily use. It is firm, yet it won't jiggle your every appendage when you encounter broken pavement or a speed bump.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes (with brake assist), traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.