Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Watch Toyota celebrate UAE launch of GT 86

Toyota has officially launched the company's GT 86 sportscar in the United Arab Emirates. The Japanese automaker rolled out the rear-drive hero with a fancy new video shot in the hills around Fujairah. With plenty of drifting, tire smoke and slow motion, the clip serves as a proper introduction to the lightweight coupe. Judging by the quick video, there are a few market-specific changes to the UAE Toyota GT 86, including the availability of one very massive rear wing. The piece has more than a passing resemblance to the exaggerated aero work found on the lusty Subaru WRX STI sedan.

Will the Toyota GT 86 find favor in the UAE? We certainly think it's got a shot. If there's a more car-obsessed culture on this planet than the one found in the U.S., it lies in the well-funded Middle East. You can check out the launch video for yourself by scrolling below, or head over to the Toyota UAE Facebook page for a little more information.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

From Bayous to Beltways: Two for the Road

Even after driving his truck more than 1 million miles, Glen Allen doesn’t think the old girl has reached the end of the road. She keeps on rolling, even on a long trip.

“I can leave right now, punch your address into my GPS and drive with as much confidence as I have when I drive to the grocery store a quarter mile away,” says Allen, who lives in St. Amant, La.

That’s important for a man who makes his living driving across the country, escorting vehicles carrying oversized loads.

Allen bought his 1996 pickup truck in January 1997 from Price LeBlanc Toyota in nearby Baton Rouge. The truck had six miles on it.

It was his fourth Toyota vehicle, the only brand he’s ever owned. “I bought my first one when I was 21 years old,” he says. “It was an ’84 Xtra Cab, white with gray interior.”

He later bought a ’91 Corolla and a ’93 Toyota pickup truck. “I’ve been very impressed with Toyota’s products,” he says. “I really don’t have the desire to purchase anything else.”

He’s particularly pleased with his current truck. “For a small truck, it has plenty of leg room and head room,” he says. “It’s been a comfortable little truck for me. I can reach anything I need from the driver’s seat.”

Comfort is vital to Allen, who can rack up 90,000 miles a year escorting trucks carrying bulldozers, cranes and other heavy equipment. “I could get a call in the next five minutes telling me to go to Minnesota,” he says. “I never know where I’m going or when I’m going. I’ve got to keep my bag packed.”

Despite the uncertainty, he says, “It’s exciting because I get to go to a lot of places I never dreamed of going. I’ve been to 38 states and Canada. I enjoy taking back roads, running into little hole-in-the-wall restaurants.”

Allen doesn’t spend all of his time on the road. He sometimes spends hours in parking lots while the big trucks are being loaded. But he doesn’t mind waiting because his cabin is comfortable enough for naps. “I get some of my best sleep in my truck,” he says.

Even during Louisiana’s scorching summers. “I can sit in my truck all day long with the air conditioning on, and the temperature never goes up,” he says.

Allen calls his truck “My Little Red Demon.”  As for the gender, he says, “I think a vehicle is always a ‘her,’ isn’t it? You treat her nicely, and she’ll take care of you.”

Allen has treated his vehicle nicely. “I don’t dog the truck,” he says. “I don’t hot rod it at all.”

He gets the tires rotated regularly and changes the oil every 5,000 miles. He replaced the original engine at 658,000 miles. “The original clutch looked so good, the mechanic was tempted to put it back in.”

He got the truck painted a couple of years ago because “I wanted her to look good when she turned a million.”

Yes, Allen was confident his truck would reach that milestone. “Once I saw how far the first engine got me, I thought I could get to a million.”

Today, his truck has about 1,080,000 miles on it. Although his family and friends have urged him to get a new truck, he’s in no hurry. “It’s still in great shape,” he says. “Even if I get a new truck, I’ll keep this one for local jobs.”

When the time does come, Allen will probably get a Tacoma “unless I’m just completely blown away by a Tundra.”

In the meantime, he says, “I take care of my truck the best I can and boogie down the road. We spend a lot of time together. She’s the love of my life, what can I say?”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

BMW, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz Are The Most Valuable Auto Brands


How do you value a brand -- not a company, not a world-renowned CEO, but a brand? Marketing research firm Millward Brown knows, and its recent rankings of international brands puts BMW, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz at the top of the automotive sector.  

Millward Brown starts with quantitative data, looking at how much money brands have made and how much they're likely to make in the future. The firm is careful to strip away distractions related to marketing, product placement, and such to calculate the earnings that can be tied back solely to the brand itself.

Then, the firm looks at things qualitatively, asking consumers to express their feelings about various brands. Do they love it? Hate it? How much? Combine the two, and you've got brand value. (Methodology fans, there's a fuller explanation here.)

Millward Brown just released the data from its 2012 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands study (PDF). The tip-top of the chart is dominated by a bunch of likely suspects: Apple, IBM, Google, McDonald's, and Microsoft. But a bit further down the line -- around #23 -- we start seeing automakers. Here's a list of the top ten, with overall rankings in parentheses for those brands that landed in the BrandZ Top 100.

1. BMW (23)

2. Toyota (28)

3. Mercedes-Benz (46)

4. Honda (65)

5. Nissan (81)

6. Volkswagen (96)

7. Ford

8. Audi

9. Hyundai

10. Lexus 

In its comments, Millward Brown gives some interesting perspective on the auto sector as a whole.

As we know, the strength of auto markets varies wildly from country to country. However, consumer demand in the U.S. has been huge, hitting heights not seen since 2006. That's due in part to the increased availability of high-tech, inexpensive vehicles.

In fact, Millward Brown says that's causing problems for luxury automakers. Conveniences once available only in the cushiest of rides are now available on vehicles that cost less than $20,000. Lexus and its ilk are going to have to engage in some major innovation to differentiate themselves from the mass-market pack.

Two other key factors at play in the auto sector are fuel-efficiency and Generation Y. The increased importance of the former explains how Toyota has been so quick to recover from the recall fiasco of 2010 and from the natural disasters that curtailed production in 2011. Thanks to the company's Prius lineup, when consumers think of fuel-efficient vehicles, they often think first of Toyota.

And as for Generation Y, Millward Brown believes -- as we've mentioned before -- that those young whippersnappers are forcing automakers to think very differently about the vehicles they make. Millennials are more interested in gadgets than gears, so finding effective, cost-efficient ways to turn 18-to-35 year-olds into car buyers will be key going forward.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Vote for Pet Helpers in Toyota Cars for Good!

PET HELPERS Is One of 500 Finalists for Toyota's 100 Cars for Good Program

Help us win a new car to make an even bigger difference!

PET HELPERS is proud to announce we've been selected as a finalist in Toyota's 100 Cars for Good Program. Now we need your support!

Tell your friends and vote for PET HELPERS at on May 17th.

Toyota's 100 Cars for Good program will be awarding 100 vehicles to 100 nonprofits over the course of 100 days based on votes from the public. A total of 500 nonprofits were selected from more than 4,000 applications nationwide. We are hoping to win a new Toyota Sienna to help save the lives of animals in the Lowcountry!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Toyota 100 Cars for Good: The Click Song

A lot of clicks go to waste, but now your clicks can give cars to nonprofits in need. Every day until August 21, cast your vote for Toyota's 100 Cars for Good at

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Voting begins in Toyota's annual charity car giveaway program

Your favorite charity could win a minivan that can accommodate children in wheelchairs.

Or maybe an SUV or a full-size pickup truck to transport equipment and people to an event.

On Monday, online voting started for Toyota's 100 Cars for Good, a program that awards a vehicle to 100 charities nationwide.

Four South Bay nonprofits are participating in this year's program.

They include Community's Child Inc. in Lomita, Boarding for Breast Cancer in Redondo Beach, Friendship Circle of South Bay in Redondo Beach and Beacon House Association in San Pedro.

Torrance-based Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., the Japanese automaker's U.S. sales and marketing headquarters, launched the annual program last year.

In the 2011 contest, Providence TrinityKids Care, a Torrance-based hospice program for children, won a Sienna minivan to transport young patients and their families to outings, appointments and other destinations.

"We'd love to win any vehicle to utilize for our activities we have here servicing children with special needs," said Yossi Mintz, executive director of Friendship Circle of the South Bay, which is among the 500 charities vying for the 100 vehicles.

The contest is an example of the growing importance of social media in philanthropy.

For example, Friendship Circle won

about $70,000 more than a year ago from Kohl's Department Stores based on public voting through Facebook, Mintz said.

Social media savvy even helps to organize events such as summer camps, sports leagues or youth hangouts.

"We get the best response from social media from the teenagers and even the adults," Mintz said. "With emails, you can wait. Whether it's Twitter or Facebook, we get an immediate response. It works for us."

For 100 Cars for Good, Toyota features five charities each day on its Facebook page. The public can vote for a favorite. The one with the most votes wins a Toyota vehicle, which could be worth more than $50,000.

The four other charities each walk away with $1,000 in cash.

No South Bay charities were featured on Monday, and it's unclear whether they will be competing against each other or different charities from across the nation.

Toyota also helps the charities attract votes.

"We give them social media tools," said Michael Rouse, vice president of diversity, philanthropy and community affairs for Toyota's Torrance sales and marketing operation. "We give them sample tweets and direction on how to use various forms of social media. And you'll find some that will use their traditional stuff."

Traditional approaches include newsletters and emails to supporters as well as promoting their cause on the radio.

Rouse noted that a New Jersey food bank that competed last year was staffed by elderly people with little social media experience. So they persuaded local children to help them mount an online campaign.

"We have found, based on last year's program, they get very, very creative," he said.

Involved charities also benefited from the added exposure of participating in the Toyota program, Rouse said.

"They gained a whole new community of fans and supporters and greater notoriety in their communities," the Toyota official said.

The contest, which involves at least one charity in each state and the District of Columbia, fits well into Toyota's branding, Rouse said.

"We're not just out writing checks to people," he said. "Our product becomes the star of this campaign."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Car Review: Toyota’s Yaris 2012 redesign is its snappiest econo-hatch

Small, but efficient and redesigned for 2012, the Toyota Yaris might be one car you don’t want to pass up when searching for the perfect small vehicle that is big on handling and short on gas guzzling.

Since the Yaris has been fully redesigned it comes with better handling while being stylish to a fault, and it’s roomier too with 2.9 inches added this year giving it more luggage space for the long haul.

Competition includes the Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Sonic and the Nissan Versa, to name a few. Since it is a subcompact, you can get the 2012 Toyota Yaris with either two doors or the four-door hatchback. There are the L and LE trims in either option and there is also the sportier SE trim that can be had in the four-door.

The only other option you can expect on the Yaris is cruise control and that is only on the LE trim level. Otherwise, the standards on the L are 15-inch steel wheels, an intermittent front mono-arm windshield wiper, a rear windshield wiper, power door locks, air-conditioning, four-way-adjustable front seats, a tilt steering wheel, a trip computer, a fold-down rear bench seat, a cargo cover and a four-speaker CD player, a USB audio interface, and satellite radio.

On the LE the standard features are power windows, remote keyless entry, a six-way-adjustable driver seat, auxiliary steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, an upgraded interior, 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, and Bluetooth audio and phone connect.

On the sporty SE trim level there is sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, a notably cool grille, fog lamps, cruise control, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and upgraded cloth upholstery.

Under the hood look for front-wheel drive only and that is with a 1.5-liter inline-4 engine that will give you 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is the standard with a four-speed automatic as an option.

Safety, as in all the subcompact models, offers antilock brakes meaning rear drums on all but the SE, which has four-wheel discs instead. You can also expect traction and stability control, active front head restraints front seat side airbags and front and rear side-curtain, and a driver knee airbag.

Inside the Toyota Yaris, it’s a comfortable ride that offers support for the driver and front-seat passenger. Even the back seats offer a fair amount of room given the subcompact class and there is plenty of leg room overall, except for perhaps the tallest passenger.

While the Yaris in years past might not have garnered a high confidence factor, this one is a change for the better since the cabin is trendier, modern and comfortable.

Another plus with the redesign is the stereo system with the four speakers that are now standard and a sound quality that won’t disappoint.

The luggage space is 15.6 cubic feet and, while less room than in other subcompacts, some of the competition certainly won’t offer such confidence overall.

Easy to drive and easy to handle means that if you are in the market for an inexpensive compact, but still want a flare for the sporty, the SE trim is a must to look at before making a final decision.

Should You Need to Know: While it’s a subcompact with a fair level of competition, the 2012 Toyota Yaris will still inspire confidence in that it feels solid and takes the road and the turns with grace and ease.

Miles Per Gallon: I drove the 2012 Yaris LE Liftback and got 30 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles per gallon on the highway.

Cost: For the LE Liftback, the price came in at $16,815.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2012 Venza: Overview

Check out this overview for the 2012 Toyota Venza. Youtube has tons of guides for your new Toyota if the manual doesn't quite do it for you. Options shown. Not all features available on all vehicles and model grades. Please see your Owner's Manual for further details and important safety information.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Scion FR-S convertible coming by early 2014

With an epic chassis and the lowest center of gravity in the business, there's plenty for enthusiast to love about the Scion FR-S. Except, that is, for those who prefer to take their nimble, affordable sports cars with the roof down. Their choices are rather limited in this price category to the Mazda MX-5 and Ford Mustang, but if the latest reports prove accurate, the FR-S – which is, of course, virtually identical to the Subaru BRZ and sold overseas as the Toyota GT 86 – is preparing to throw its hat in the ring, as well.

Long rumored, a convertible version of the jointly-developed "Toyobaru" coupe could stand to boost sales figures and help the bean-counters justify the expenditure on the new platform. However while the speedster concept recently showcased at Long Beach lost its rear seats (along with most of its windshield), Car and Driver predicts that the FR-S convertible will keep the auxiliary pair in the back – though the addition of a folding roof mechanism would likely mean that would come at the expense of most of the trunk room.

We're told to expect the FR-S convertible to arrive sometime late in 2013 or early in 2014, with a price tag that would tack a few grand onto the coupe's $25,000 MSRP. Look for the same 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower boxer four to carry over with a choice of six-speed transmissions in either manual or automatic configurations. Beyond that, Toyota may be considering basing a larger four-door sedan and coupe off the new platform, which could stand to make the money men back at headquarters – to say nothing of the enthusiasts – even more happy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Toyota dominates annual Top Picks list

As the competition grows stronger with each passing year, it has been increasingly difficult for a single automaker to dominate Consumer Reports’ annual Top Picks list. This year, Toyota is the first brand to earn half of the top 10 spots in nearly a decade.

The redesigned Toyota Camry Hybrid and Highlander edged out the competition to become Top Picks in Consumer Reports’ family sedan and family SUV categories respectively. The Camry Hybrid delivers 38 miles per gallon overall fuel economy - the best in class and as good as some smaller and less versatile hybrids.

The two new Toyota additions join the incumbent Prius, RAV4, and Sienna as the best in their individual categories.

The Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories, chosen from more than 275 vehicles the organization has recently tested. Top Pick models must meet stringent criteria.

They must rank at or near the top of their category on overall road test scores. They must have earned an average or better predicted-reliability rating based on a survey of the magazine’s subscribers. And they must perform well if included in crash or rollover tests by the government or insurance industry.

The Toyota Prius was named Consumer Reports’ Top Pick Green Car for the 11th time and the ninth consecutive year - both records claimed by no other model in the history of the Top Picks. The Prius, including the recently tested Prius V wagon version, continues to set the standard for its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality, and affordability.

The 44 overall miles per gallon for the hatchback is still the highest of any five-passenger, nonplug-in vehicle tested and the 41 mils per gallon for the new Prius V wagon easily tops its class.

Toyota picks by category:

FAMILY SEDAN: Toyota Camry Hybrid ($29,052). In addition to its impressive 38 miles per gallon overall fuel economy, other high points include a comfortable ride and fairly quick acceleration.

SMALL SUV: Toyota RAV4 ($24,405 to $30,328). With a four-cylinder engine, the RAV4 delivers some of the best miles per gallon in its class (23).

FAMILY HAULER: Toyota Sienna V6 ($35,810). The Sienna fits the bill nicely for families looking for a comfortable, roomy interior, plenty of features, and the ability to carry up to eight people. Among its high points are lively performance, decent fuel economy (20 miles per gallon), and a comfortable ride.

GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius ($26,750 to $28,217). The Prius sets the standard for fuel efficiency, practicality, and affordability.

FAMILY SUV: Toyota Highlander ($38,578 to $47,255). The refined, comfortable, and quiet Highlander has consistently ranked near the top of its class in road tests.


Courtesy of

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Newcomers crash April's Top 10 best-selling vehicles

Eight of March's 10 best-sellers returned to the table in April, but one of the newbies may surprise you.
In March, an incentive-heavy 2012 Nissan Altima (the redesigned 2013 will be on sale soon) fell just 1,517 cars short of the redesigned Toyota Camry, clinching the No. 2 best-selling car position. Incentives remain high, but Altima sales dropped drastically enough to knock it off the top 10 list. Instead, shoppers drifted toward the Honda Accord and Toyota Prius.
The Accord, one of April's two newcomers, gained 25.6% last month, snapping three months' sales malaise to fall just 1,435 cars short of the hard-charging, recently redesigned Camry. The shift surprised us, given the Accord is in its final year before a redesign while incentives are about the same as a year ago.
There's little surprise that the Prius' sales catapulted 101.7% despite gas prices leveling off this month. Three new Prius variants — a subcompact Prius c, larger Prius v and rechargeable Prius Plug-in — accounted for 76% of that rise. Strip those away, however, and even the original Prius handily outpaced its year-ago sales.
The Chevrolet Malibu is this month's other newcomer. Malibu sales are down, but April 2011 was a banner month for the sedan.
If the Malibu and Accord reshuffled the deck for top-selling family cars, their compact counterparts stayed in closer order. Despite stable incentives, the aging Toyota Corolla stayed in the top 10. The redesigned Honda Civic fell 8.8% but stayed put, too. However, the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra lined up offstage, with Elantra and Cruze sales down more than 20%. Focus sales were up 12.5% but not enough to keep a top 10 ranking.
Detroit's pickup trucks gained some traction in April, as combined sales for the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Chrysler's Ram trucks gained 7.4%.
April auto sales rose just 2.3% overall, falling short of the industry's double-digit rise in the first three months of 2012. GM and Ford posted slight losses, while Chrysler's meteoric rise continued with its best April since 2008. Toyota took up some of the slack, with sales up 11.6%, while Hyundai-Kia, Nissan and Honda stayed about even.
Why the slowing? For starters, April overlapped five weekends, leaving buyers three fewer days to shop than a year ago -- only twice in the last decade has there been three fewer days year-over-year in a month, GM spokesman James Cain noted.
Moreover, April saw the incentives gap narrow for the first time in months. CNW Marketing Research data show car buyers reaped 15% off the average MSRP in total dealer and automaker incentives. But rising MSRPs outpaced the discounts, so transaction prices shot up: The average car sold for $31,216 in April, or $1,657 (5.6%) more than a year ago.
This month's numbers might seem average, but they portend a stabilizing. April 2011 also saw relatively normal inventories from Japanese automakers as the impact of the March tsunami hadn't been felt at the dealer level. We expect May 2012 sales for Japanese automakers to have huge spikes versus 2011 numbers that saw drastic drops versus 2010. The upswing in 2012 could look shocking.
Here's the Top 10 Best-seller list for April, with totals sales and percentage change:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Return of the Sports Car

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, making a sports car like the 2013 Scion FR-S apparently requires an arduous collaboration between two automakers, a stubborn chief engineer and a whole lot of waiting.

This might be the sixteen-thousandth time you've seen the 2013 Scion FR-S show up on Inside Line. Endless spy photos and auto show teases have finally led to this, our first proper test of the Toyota's highly anticipated rear-wheel-drive coupe.

The birth of the 2013 Scion FR-S and 2013 Subaru BRZ twins may be overdue, but the end result is worth the wait.

A New Sports Car
Skip ahead to our test numbers if you must, but know this: the FR-S is more than the sum of its performance results. The tactility and control afforded by this chassis belies its modest sub-$25,000 price tag.

For the 12 readers unfamiliar, the FR-S is the product of a collaboration between Subaru and Toyota to produce an affordable, back-to-basics 2+2 sports car for each of them. The true division of responsibility is a bit fuzzy, but it went something like this — Toyota provided much of the direction, handled the styling and assisted with powertrain hardware, while Subaru performed the engineering and development work and manufactures the car in its own plant.

Its body shell is entirely new, the idea being to create a stiff, lightweight sports car that has a center of gravity somewhere below the earth's crust. A new six-speed manual gearbox was developed for the car, as was a heavily reworked version of Subaru's FB-series flat-4. About the only carryover parts are suspension components from Subaru's parts bin.

Approach the 2013 Scion FR-S in person and the first thing you notice is its size. Rather, the lack of it — at 166.7 inches long, it's a half-inch shorter than a two-seat Nissan 370Z and nearly 16 inches shorter than a Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Sitting 50.6 inches high, it's lower than either of them. The FR-S's compact form is the first clue that this car is unusual.

Get Busy With It
To access the car's personality, press and hold the "VSC Off" button for about 3 seconds. This removes all nannies. Forget the VSC Sport setting. It's simply unnecessary in a car as communicative and predictable as this one. Indeed, the car's limits are ultimately capped not by its chassis but by its relatively skinny, plucked-from-Toyota's-shelf 215/45 Michelin Primacy HP low rolling resistance summer tires. In our testing the FR-S generated 0.88g on the skid pad and turned out a 67.3-mph slalom performance; results that trail those produced by the BRZ we tested. The reason is balance — the FR-S's slightly more tail-happy character makes the numbers less big.

It's exactly this character combined with the control this chassis lavishes upon the driver that makes the FR-S so much fun to drive. In steady state cornering the FR-S is neutral tending to mild understeer, but by working the weight transfer — and getting rowdy with the steering and throttle — it can be provoked into easily catchable powerslides. Though its ultimate cornering ability won't yank the wax from your ear canals, the breakaway is so progressive that you can use every iota of grip. It's a rare car that won't bite neophyte drivers, yet encourages and rewards those drivers who are willing to manipulate its cornering attitude.

But you don't have to fling the FR-S to enjoy it. The chassis is pinprick-precise, every steering input from the quick rack is rewarded by immediate, slack-free response. You think it; it does it. You won't find this kind of immediacy in a Hyundai Genesis Coupe or Ford Mustang. Meanwhile, there's enough compliance in the suspension to suit daily use. It's appropriately sporting-firm without jiggling every appendage.

In our testing the 2013 Scion FR-S halted from 60 mph in 117 feet, again a tire-limited exercise. The pedal has minimal idle stroke and a solid feel that softens just a bit when you give the brakes a good thrashing.

Between The Turns
The modest grunt from the 2.0-liter boxer four power plant relegates the countersteering hooliganism to low-speed corners. It's an engine that needs to be revved to deliver the goods — its urge flags a bit in the midrange and then pulls with relative enthusiasm to the 7,400-rpm fuel cut. The factory rating is 200 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft at 6,600 rpm.

This engine's 4-2-1 exhaust manifold eliminates the characteristic chuffling warble we've come to expect from Subaru boxer engines, so the engine note is something of an amalgam of a flat- and an inline-4. It's not particularly thrilling-sounding, despite the inclusion of a honkus that pipes induction noise to the cabin. But the FA20 is smoother than previous Subaru boxer engines and thrives on high revs, which is where it needs to be to get the most of the engine.

Sixty miles per hour is reached in 6.6 seconds (6.3 seconds with one foot of rollout like on a drag strip), and the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 93.8 mph. Yes, this result is notably quicker and faster than the BRZ, which did those deeds in 7.3, 7.0, and 15.3 seconds at 92.1, respectively. What's going on?

The data reveals that the BRZ actually accelerated quicker initially, but at 19 mph the Subaru laid over a bit and the Scion powered ahead and never looked back. The explanation is equal parts launch technique and gearchange speed. The Scion's tire-spinning launch allowed it power through the 4000-rpm torque hole we observed in our dyno testing where the Subaru bogged down briefly. Plus, our BRZ tester was plagued with a finicky 1-2 gearchange which ate up precious time en route to 60 mph.

So is the 2013 Scion FR-S fast enough? Yes and no. It isn't slow, but it's so capable and communicative that it could easily exploit more power.

Function Over Form
When you drop into the driver seat it immediately feels well positioned deep into the chassis. There's enough room in the pedal box for easy heel-toe movements with size 11 shoes, the wheel is tidily sized and the gearchange lever moves through its gates fluidly. Crucially, there's enough headroom for your 6-foot, 1-inch all-torso author to don a helmet without it touching the headliner.

Few concessions to style adorn the simple and businesslike cabin. Manually adjusted grippy cloth seats provide ample support in full-attack maneuvers without compromising comfort for daily use. The steering wheel is devoid of buttons, the tachometer is granted a prominent central placement, and there's a basic three-knob climate control interface. While nothing about it screams "cheap," the interior is where the FR-S's price point is most apparent.

The backseat is perfect for people you don't like. It's cramped back there. Toyota says the car's 2+2 layout was the result not of a desire to increase its marketability but to provide just enough space to package a set of track tires and tools when you fold the backseat down.

According to the EPA, the FR-S delivers 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. We netted 22.6 mpg in a few days of mixed driving that included a photo shoot. Such jackassery isn't representative of normal driving, so don't put too much stock in our result.

Notes From the Chief Engineer
We also chatted with Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada at an FR-S preview at Spring Mountain Raceway outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. In his personal stable is an AE86 rally car that he exercises in anger on a semi-regular basis. Yeah, he's the right guy to head this project.

Ease of modification played into the decision to adopt the rather expensive port- and direct-injection D-4S fuel system. Tada-san was insistent that the car produce 100 hp/liter from its 2.0-liter engine, and direct injection was required to achieve this goal. However, the chief engineer also wants the FR-S/BRZ to be a blank slate for the tuning community. Making a direct-injection system bend to tuners' will is difficult, but port injection is easy.

The suspension calibration of each car reflects the sensibilities of the two manufacturers: Subaru's customers are accustomed to AWD cars with a lot of stability, and so the BRZ is tuned accordingly. The FR-S's rear suspension is slightly stiffer for less understeer, while the front has a bit less spring rate and revised damper valving to improve steering feel. The remaining suspension components — stabilizer bars, bushing durometers, tires — are identical between the two cars.

Tetsuya defends the FR-S's front weight bias (55.4 percent of the FR-S's 2,745 pounds sits at the front axle according to our scales) as suiting the power level of the car better than a 50/50 weight distribution. If the car had 300 horsepower instead of 200, he says, then he'd prefer a less nose-heavy weight bias to facilitate traction.

Looking under the hood, the engine sits low but there's a curiously large gap between the rear plane of the engine and the firewall. This car doesn't need to package axles to the front wheels (there will never be an all-wheel-drive variant), so why not shove the engine to within a millimeter of the bulkhead, thereby reducing the car's polar moment of inertia to an absolute minimum?

Tada-san's explanation boils down to this: They had to make room for the steering rack. A front-mount rack location à la Mazda MX-5 was not an option since the boxer engine layout is inherently wide and blocks the way for a steering shaft. To accommodate a front-mounted rack the engine would have to be located where the pedal box currently resides. As such they instead employed a rear-mount rack location that places the rack between the engine and firewall, in the process pushing the engine forward somewhat.

Oh, and according to Tada-san, the twins will undergo continual updates on an annual basis, similar to the approach Nissan takes with the GT-R.

The Wait Is Almost Over
Pricing is very straightforward, as the 2013 Scion FR-S starts at $24,930 with destination when equipped with a six-speed manual. Heretics who insist on the six-speed autobox will have to cough up an additional $1,100.

Other accessories will be available à la carte in usual Scion fashion, the most substantial of which is the 340-watt Pioneer BeSpoke premium audio that features a novel app-based multimedia interface. This system will debut with iPhone capability only, with other device compatibility to follow in the coming months. Pricing for this isn't finalized yet, but it's expected to cost less than $900.

Scion says the FR-S will reach dealership floors on June 1st. That's not too long to wait for the most gratifying sports car to come along in years.


Courtesy of