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2015 Scion FR-S vs. 2015 Subaru BRZ: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

If you're looking for an affordable new sports car, we have little doubt that your search has taken you to the 2015 Scion FR-S and the 2015 Subaru BRZ. Both offer a lot of thrills for a reasonable amount of money, and both are hot new models that have been getting a lot of press. More importantly, they're just about the same car. In addition to being developed together, the FR-S and BRZ use the same body design, the same platform, the same engine and the same transmissions. So what exactly separates these two cars? You may have wondered for some time -- and now we have the answer.

Exterior

On the outside, there are very few ways to tell the FR-S and BRZ apart. Both cars even share the same wheel design, which makes things even more difficult. But there are a few key differences. Most notably, the two cars have different front-end styling, with different fog light housings and different grilles. There's also one slightly different touch on the side: The BRZ uses a small grille at the base of the A-pillar, while the Scion has a small "86" badge to draw a connection between the FR-S and the 86, or GT-86, name given to the car in foreign markets.

Interior

Differences continue to remain slight inside the FR-S and BRZ. Of course, the steering-wheel pad is different -- it shows a Subaru logo in the Subaru and a Scion logo in the Scion -- but otherwise, there will be few indications whether you're in an FR-S or a BRZ. Perhaps the only other noticeable differences are the infotainment system and the center control stack, which differ ever so slightly between the two cars.

Mechanicals

Both the FR-S and BRZ offer the same exact engine: a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. In both cars, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard, while a 6-speed automatic is optional. As you might expect, fuel economy is identical: Both return 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway with the automatic, and a surprisingly downgraded 22 mpg city and 30 mpg hwy with the manual. Effectively, there are no mechanical differences between the BRZ and the FR-S.

Features & Technology

Although the FR-S and BRZ offer generally the same equipment levels, there are a few differences. Most notably, the BRZ has more options, which means drivers who want a few more luxury goodies will usually find the BRZ more amenable. Examples include a dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, and heated front seats, none of which are offered in the FR-S.

Otherwise, don't expect many differences -- and don't expect much technology. Neither the FR-S nor the BRZ are known for their high-tech gadgets, and neither car offers much in the way of cutting-edge equipment or modern safety features. These cars are bare-bones sports cars, and that's exactly how most driving purists like them.

Driving Experience

On the road, both the FR-S and the BRZ are a hoot to drive, touting planted cornering, excellent steering and impressive handling. But while some drivers swear they can feel a slight difference here or a revised setting there, we don't see it. We think the FR-S and BRZ are almost identical on the road, offering about the same level of driving pleasure, performance and enjoyment. Yes, there are some small suspension differences, but you have to really push the cars in order to experience any changes. For the vast majority of drivers on the vast majority of roads, these two cars will feel exactly the same.

Safety

In crash-testing carried out by the federal government, both cars earned the same score: a perfect 5-star overall rating, made up of five stars in side and rollover crash assessments and four stars in the frontal crash test. The BRZ and FR-S also earned Top Safety Pick scores from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though the firm stopped just short of awarding the twins its Top Safety Pick+ score because the two coupes don't offer a forward-collision warning or prevention system.

As for safety equipment, the two cars offer exactly what you need and nothing more. You'll get side curtains and anti-lock brakes, but don't hold out any hope for a lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert or even a backup camera. Features like that aren't available in the Subaru or the Scion.

Conclusions

There are a lot of things to like about the 2015 Scion FR-S and the 2015 Subaru BRZ, but there are few appreciable differences between the two cars. Slightly different suspension setups, slightly different front-end designs and -- in the Subaru's case -- a few extra features are the only things that separate the BRZ from the FR-S. So which would we choose? Unless we really want the Subaru's extra equipment, we'd go with whichever one offers the better deal -- or whichever one comes in the color you like best.

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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.
2015 Scion FR-S vs. 2015 Subaru BRZ: What's the Difference? - Autotrader