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Car Review

2013 Scion FR-S: First Drive

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author photo by David Boldt

As a location for the introduction of a new sports coupe, Las Vegas is like opening your hand and finding an inside straight. After all, the development and marketing of a sports-oriented 2+2, such as Scion's all-new FR-S, is (at best) a roll of the dice. Even the most attractive entries in the coupe segment burn brightly for but a couple of years after launch and then are all but forgotten - by both the dealer body and customer base - for the balance of their production cycle. Toyota Motor Sales would hope their new Scion beats the odds and - in the process - reignites both Toyota showrooms and the Scion franchise.

A developmental partnership with Subaru, in which Toyota has a minority stake, led to a real-wheel drive architecture unique to this specific project. While there remains a public relations tug of war regarding who-did-what in developing the FR-S (think Fast Running-Scion), it's generally accepted that Subaru supplied the basic drivetrain, while Toyota provided the 2.0 liter engine's direct injection and sheet metal. The joint effort, initiated at the behest of Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, begat Scion's FR-S and Subaru's BRZ. (And were it not for today's obsession with alphanumeric nomenclature, we would have called it the Scion Shizzle.)

With Toyota taking responsibility for the overall look, there's more than a little of the hyper-exotic Lexus LFA in the 2013 Scion FR-S' overall profile. With its horizontally opposed, Subaru-sourced four-cylinder engine placed low in the chassis and set back from the front axle, the 2+2 enjoys a classic long-hood, short-deck proportion, set on a wheelbase of 101 inches and within an overall length of just under 14 ft. The contours are clean and devoid of excessive ornamentation. We wish the alloy wheels were visually simpler, but (to their credit) Toyota claims them to be the lightest alloy in the lineup.

Simplified Pricing

In keeping with Scion's 'pure pricing' policy, the FR-S will be available in but one trim level and enjoy only one factory-installed option. Cost of the Scion FR-S with manual transmission is $24,200 plus $730 in destination and handling (figure 'under' $25K), and increases to $25,300 plus destination for those equipped with automatic transmission. In that it's a Scion, dealers will transact the FR-S as they transact the xBs and iQs, with one price and a no-haggle policy. And despite a limited number of factory options, personalization abounds, with audio upgrades, cosmetic modifications and - via Toyota's TRD - even some performance enhancements.

An Inside Job

If you like the outside, you'll both enjoy and be surprised by the inside. Getting into the cockpit doesn't require the yoga-like folding of many sports coupes; in fact, it seems like something you could do every day. Once behind the ergonomically shaped wheel, you'll enjoy a great view of the instrumentation (with its big tachometer complemented by a digital speedometer and logical array of fuel/temp/etc.) and - amazingly - those cars and pedestrians around you. In short, this isn't the claustrophobic tunnel of the 370Z. Instead, the FR-S cockpit, where you're supported by seats with padding and lateral support fully appropriate to the coupe's sporting mission, provides the personal feel of a GT with the approachability of a daily driver.

With that, the rear seat is best left to your 3-year-old or briefcase. Access requires the aforementioned yoga-like folding, and once there it will take your fire department's jaws of life to extract you. We'd suggest a delete option for the rear cushion, offering (perhaps) a more generous platform for your track day kit.

Obsessively Driven

Toyoda-san envisioned the FR-S as an injection of adrenalin (or testosterone - your pick) for a Toyota showroom bereft of compelling product. And that job - we're happy to report - is done. With a balanced platform, responsive acceleration and oh-so-connected steering, the Scion FR-S is a delight to drive. And with its Subaru-sourced powertrain and assembly, it should be a delight to own. Would those driving it prefer an additional 50 horsepower? Sure, especially when navigating Pahrump, Nevada's Spring Mountain Motorsports track. But like driving the standard Cayman compared to its 'S' sibling, there's a lot of fun in cranking the Scion's small, 200-hp output to its absolute limit and - instead of going to jail - paying only a ticket.

The line for Scion FR-S customers is forming at your neighborhood Scion store, with deliveries beginning this June.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.