Thursday, December 20, 2012

'13 Scion FR-S: A sporty funster


Here are the Cliff Notes for the Scion FR-S:

Scion is an entry-level product line that Toyota developed to herd kids into the corporate corral.

The four Scion vehicles are affordable (three of them start in the mid- to high teens) and range from the IQ, a quirky minicar that vies with the Smart Car to be crowned king of the urban parking crevices, and the FR-S, a small sports coupe capable of putting a large smile on your face.

The new-for-2013 FR-S is the product of a Toyota/Subaru joint venture. Its Subaru counterpart, the BR-Z (are you growing weary of these cattle brands yet?) is largely identical mechanically and aesthetically, although there is some styling differentiation up front.

Despite its reasonable price (it starts at $24,200 with the manual gearbox and $25,300 with the automatic), the FR-S is a true sporting machine, a real funster. It's blessed with excellent driving dynamics, thanks in part to its suspension design and the fore-to-aft weight balance afforded by its rear-drive layout.

As a consequence, the FR-S proved a lot of fun to throw around on a back road. The car stayed flat in ambitious corners, exhibiting little body lean, and turned in promptly for those spirited changes in course. The steering is, indeed, another plus. Most electric power steering systems are pretty numb, but this one passes along a decent amount of road feel. It's also very precise, and requires just the right amount of steering effort.

Braking also earns a 4.0 grade-point average. The brake discs are vented, and pretty large for a car with this little body fat - it weighs only a tad over 2,700 pounds. This means the curtain comes down on cruising very quickly if it has to. These binders also please with a firm pedal that's readily modulated.

Motivation is courtesy of a 2-liter four whose diminutive lungs exhale 200 horsepower, thanks, in large part, to the munificence of direct fuel injection. While the FR-S is no stoplight serial killer, its 200 horses and low body weight make for reasonably brisk motoring. The tester, equipped with a six-speed automatic gearbox and a Torsen limited-slip differential, got from 0 to 60 in about 6.5 seconds. That's fast enough to be fun.

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