2013 Scion FR-S HD Video Review

News flash, the Toyota brand is not exciting.  Prius, Yaris, Camry, Avalon and Corolla?  Not a performance dynasty.  The last time they had real fun for sale was in 2007 with the mid-engine MR2.  Even the Scion brand is fairly performance tame until aftermarket pieces get bolted on.  They do “sporty” cars.


Now Scion has done a real sports car, the FR-S.  Let’s cut to the chase, if you haven’t already heard, it’s a blast to drive and- here’s the important part- mere mortals can make the payments.  It lands in Scion showrooms in June.

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In trade for $24,930 (and any applicable taxes and fees), Scion will hand you the keys to a 2,758 pound, 200 horsepower 2+2 with a center of gravity lower than a Porsche Cayman.  Remember, this is a Toyota.

Where It Comes From

The inspiration for the FR-S comes from three cars in Toyota’s past- the 2000 GT, Sports 800 and the Corolla GT-S, AKA the AE86, or hachi roku (eight and six in Japanese).


Akio Toyoda, the company’s CEO, realized there was a serious lack of fun happening in his company and, as an enthusiast, decided to do something about it.  It’s good to be the boss. Toyota had acquired a stake in Subaru, a company that has turned out a few fun cars over the years and the two companies created Team 86 to engineer one product- a very dynamic rear-wheel drive sports car.

Team 86 took the three core elements of those past performance Toyotas, mixed them up in an engineering blender and came up with the FR-S and BRZ which is Subaru’s version.  In other countries it’s the Toyota GT 86.

The two different companies took slightly different approaches to suspension tuning and equipment levels but the two cars look nearly identical inside and out.  Scion’s fender badge depicts two horizontal pistons with a stylized “86” in the middle, meant to look like a drift car in motion.


Passion For the Everyday Driver

FR-S is about the size of a Nissan 370-Z but it seats four.  Kinda.  Sorta.  Rear accommodations are for small people and emergencies only.

Under the aluminum hood there’s a direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a bit of a surprise to those who haven’t followed this car’s development.  The engine is a Subaru Boxer.  The advantage?  Traditionally, engine pistons move vertically, Boxers pump horizontally, laying deep and flat in the bay for a low center of gravity.  Porsche uses this design for the very same reason.


This is the first Boxer to use Toyota’s D-4S injection system which uses both direct and conventional port injection for each cylinder.  Demonstrating the trickle down effect, it’s also used in the Lexus IS F and GS.  The result is 200 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque @6,400-6,600 rpm.

FR-S runs on premium fuel.  The EPA says it drinks at a rate of 22 mpg city, 30 highway for the manual, 25/34 for the automatic.

The six-speed manual has short crisp throws and a light clutch action.  It’s a very nice gear box reminiscent of the one in Mazda’s MX-5 Miata.  Add $1,100 more for a six-speed automatic transmission.  Don’t be a clutch snob, I like manuals too but the autobox is very well done.  Having driven both it would be hard to choose between the two.


Why I Like My Job

The press event is being held at Spring Mountain Raceway outside of Las Vegas.  How I suffer for my craft…

First things first- most FR-Ss will never hit the track and in the real world on real roads it’s fairly comfortable and quiet for a sports car.  As a daily driver it’s as good as the genre gets.

FR-S is quick, not fast.  0-60 happens in an estimated 7 seconds. The power delivery is very linear right up to the 7,400 rpm redline.  Keep the speed and revs up for maximum fun, FR-S is not overly torquey at the low end of the power band.  A “sound creator” routes different amounts of engine note into the cabin depending on how hard drivers mash the pedal.  This keeps it quiet for everyday tooling around and melodic when you’re having fun.


FR-S is a very modern sports car but it’s the old school attributes that make it appealing.  The first corner informs the seat of your pants and the hairs on your neck that they will be in direct communication with the rear wheels.  It’s very easy to know what this car is doing.  Within minutes, I’m comfortable pushing it hard on the track with the ESC set at mid-level.  Very few vehicles talk to a driver the way this one does, and most that do cost twice as much.  Or more.

The closest competitor, pricewise anyways, is Mazda’s MX-5 Miata.  Yes, I’m quite aware it’s a 2-seat convertible and the Scion is a 2+2.  They are both lightweight four-cylinder cars and seem to be soul mates on the tarmac.

In addition to the big track the Scion folks have us competing in a short autocross course.  Turning ESC off completely is loads of fun here, FR-S easily and predictably rotates in tight corners.  Disc brakes all around (11.65 inches up front 11.46 in the rear) have great modulation and strong stopping power.


Flying Business Class

As expected the cockpit is straightforward and businesslike with little to distract the driver.  Color choices include black, and black only.  Good quality materials and just the right amount of trim keep the cabin interesting.  Suede-like cloth chairs hug like a long lost auntie, big drivers might find them too snug.  When I first laid eyes on them I wrongly assumed they were part of Scion’s personalization process.  They are that good.

The steering wheel (with no radio controls) is the smallest Toyota offers.  The gauge cluster with a digital speedo within the analog tach is brightly lighted, simple, and very easy to read.   Stitching throughout the cabin gives it some style.  The perfectionist in me finds my eye drawn towards the sound system bezel.  Wish it could have been one large piece rather than create a seam next to the passenger side dash trim.


The interior is not spartan but you won’t find dual zone climate control, push button start or heated seats in here.  Bluetooth and a USB port are standard.  The base audio system sounds good, and the optional Pioneer unit adds more power and the new BeSpoke apps system powered by Zypr.  While Pandora is something you might want in this car, Facebook integration seems to go against the FR-S mission.

Toyota says the door handles are placed so they won’t get in the way of a roll cage.  Want a sunroof or keyless ignition?  Sorry.  I’m a bit surprised this driver’s car doesn’t have “tap for three blinks” signaling.  Nit picking this pre-production car further, the sun visor is very basic, HVAC knobs are a little coarse, and the headliner a bit flimsy when a guy goes to tap the interior lights.  But then again, this is a pre-production vehicle.

There are two “seats” in the rear.  Convince the front passenger to slide all the way forward and a small adult has half a chance to fit.  Behind the driver?  A small child.  At best.  At least it’s available for emergencies.


Moving on to the trunk it’s not half bad in size (an estimated three packer if I had the chance to do the TP trunk test) and all of it can be used because of space saving hinges.  Considering that back seat won’t be used much, a one-piece foldable seatback is a great touch.  With it down, Toyota claims there’s enough room for a full set of racing tires and a helmet.  Speaking of tires there’s a real spare, surprising in a car that’s all about shedding weight.

2000 GT Design

If you’ve seen photos of this car and thought it sleek but simple, there’s a lot more detail to the sheetmetal when you get up close and personal.  The roof is sculpted, subtle lines are found in changing light, and the rear diffuser in the video is not a Scion aftermarket body kit. The coefficient of drag is a slippery 0.27

If the standard body style is too mild for your taste, Scion dealers would be more than happy to set you up with the optional body kit and loads of other accessories.  At a nominal cost of course.

There Are Always Rumors…

It’s not even in showrooms yet and there is already speculation about different models.  One is that there will be a convertible.  Second, is that a four sedan is being considered for the platform.  A modern day BMW 2002 is something I can get behind.  As you might guess, any inquiries are met with “we don’t comment on future product”.   Scion will not have a factory turbo kit though the aftermarket should take care of that right quick.


To me, FR-S (and by default BRZ) looks to be an instant classic.  This conclusion is not like doing advanced trigonometry without a calculator.  An affordable car with good power, excellent chassis dynamics, appealing design, and limited production numbers will get buyers to Scion stores in droves (10,000 copies are slated for 20120).  It reminds me of the Miata launch in 1989.  If history is repeating itself with FR-S, I suggest you head down with a deposit right quick.

Will Others Follow?

It doesn’t matter who makes them, cars like the FR-S are a gift to us, the 99 percent.  The fact that a car this intuitive is made by Toyota is an eye-opener.  It’s more than a welcome shot of adrenalin for the conservative brand, it sets a benchmark for the industry.  I’d love to see Ford, Chevy, Nissan, Kia, VW- anyone really- step up to the plate and do a competing car.  In a world full of appliance-grade automobiles, it’s good to see fun is back in style.


I’ll leave you with a quote from Jack Hollis, Vice President and general Manager of Scion-  “I think the industry has done a great job of advancing itself, adding technology and electronics and pieces that some people really want.  But there are a lot of people who want just that core driving experience.  They want to bring that back, they want to spend more time in their car, and I haven’t really seen that in the industry in a while”.

Nice to know someone cares about fun.  Now, about the Camry and Corolla…



  1. DCR says:

    Has anyone done a full wrap of their FR-S (bumper, fenders, hood) like the guys below? And, Is anyone’s FR-S looking as scratched as the one in the link from you know, epic drives around the ‘hood and track days. As always some colors hide scratches better than others. In HD, I was able to notice tiny chips on bumpers of cars at the Scion sponsored auto press event. At this price point, one can’t expect a Lexus paint job, can we?


    • TV says:

      For a car that’s only been out for a few months that one’s in pretty tough shape. Someone seems to be having an awful lot of fun…

      • DCR says:

        Well TV, that’s the first time I’d seen a car get the “full front end wrap” treatment verses the peel and stick that Scion is offering as an “option” for a modest fee that you know leaves 1/16″ around the edges unprotected and of course those are the areas that get sandblasted. Also, I read about Mustang Alu hood oxidation horror stories. I wonder just how the FR-S’ own hood will hold up over time? Looks as tho’ the owner did put in some fun miles into his FR-S.

  2. stratrat says:

    I took delivery of my new FR-S last week(7-26-12) and am enjoying every minute on the road except when some brain dead heathen in a cuv/suv/p.u. truck/minii-van pulls out in front of me or tail gates me on the inter-intra/state four lanes!

  3. DCR says:

    Hmm. What the Heck happened with their what you see is what you get pricing so boldly touted on their website?

    • stratrat says:

      My dealer adheres to that principal and I knew going in what I would be paying and @ kbb.com you can get an accurate trade-in number. No problemo!!!!!

  4. DinoParks says:

    another nice review Tom. First one I’ve seen that did not use the word “Toybaru” too. I agree with the other commenters, I would rather have the Subaru badge than Scion on the hood.

    • Cars123 says:

      I agree I would prefer the Subaru BRZ rather than the Scion FR-S. And I’m a Subaru person anyway so i have never been a Toyota fan.

      • TV says:

        Okay, just for discussions’ sake- If you found you preferred the suspension setup of the Scion and the price was $1,000 less (because you were forced to take equipment you didn’t want), would you still go with the Subaru?

        • Cars123 says:

          yes I still would go with the Subaru because they last and they are dependable and i know Toyota make Scion and the engines last for 200,000+ miles but i know i can trust the Subaru over the Toyota. Thanks anyway

  5. vaderprime923 says:

    Are you going to get the BRZ for a week? I’m more interested in that one because of the slightly sportier suspension and would love to see a review as a daily driver

    • TV says:

      I’lll check in with the Subaru people. I can think of worse things to drive for a week. / ; ^ )

  6. VwMkVI says:

    Enjoyed the video! There is a lot of buzz about this vehicle and it was good to see you get a chance to review (though would agree that more road less track would have been useful for most folks who will buy this vehicle, but thanks for noting the TP figure in the above report!). From what I have seen so far, the question is how extra horsepower folks will be able to add to the car with after market turbo’s and other modications. Heard that Scion deliberate use Prius tires, not super grippy tires since the driver would feel more involved? Subaru used grippier tires and slight different mapping and maybe a different suspension setting?

    While the Genesis Coupe and Mustang may not be in the same league due to weight, Hyundai and Ford must be thinking this could affect sales, even Nissan must see that the 370Z might have some more value seeking drivers opting for this Subaru/Scion offer instead of their “budget” racer.

    Tack this on the end, please hope you have chance to try out the Ford Focus ST when it eventaully arrive, I know front wheel drive, but as a GTI owner, would like to know how it stacks up!

    • TV says:

      Yes, I’ve heard that it uses Prius tires. When I’m at those events I don’t get to everything because of limited time. As it is I’m running around like a caffeinated squirrel to get things done.

      Who knows? Interest in this car could cause sales of the others to rise. If someone can’t get an FR-S or BRZ they might go shopping elsewhere. Hard to know…

      I would be more than happy to check out the Focus GT. I too am a GTI fan and would like to see how they stack up.

  7. augaug says:

    Ok Tom. I know you have a bias towards a certain Mazda product. But, I’m putting you on the spot. Forgetting the convertible top, which is the more entertaining drivers car? Miata or FR-S? And what are the differences in the way they drive?

    • TV says:

      The Scion is MUCH better than my 22 year old Miata. I sure hope it is.

      I’ll assume you mean recent vintage though. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a recent Miata but I will say it has less body rigidity than the Scion simply because it’s a droptop. The Mazda’s cockpit is more snug too, you wear that car almost like a jet pack. Trunk? Advantage Scion. I still prefer the manual transmission feel of the MX-5 though, maybe I’m biased there…

      Miata obviously has the convertible advantage and since Scion doesn’t even get the option of a glass roof, sun lovers will know where to turn.

      For those who are truly going to track the car, I’d go with the Scion. However, in the real world, both the Mazda and Scion are more than up to the task of having fun. Pushing them to the limits on public roads is not advisable because those limits are high.

      Question answered?

      • augaug says:

        Yeah.. Question answered. I’m just having a tough time trying to categorize this car. Other big magazines have talked about how much fun it is, and when you check their websites (or apps) and see video’s of the car, all you see is a bunch of videos of guys drifting it, or sliding out the tail around the track. Very few show, or explain what it’s like as a true, regular, everyday car on the roads

        I drive on the roads, not the track. I love the Miata as a fun “road” car, and I’m just trying to figure out where this car sits from a driver’s perspective. It’s not a GTI or a Mini, it’s not really a Miata, it’s not a Mustang or Genesis. It truly is unique. I’d love to drive one, but I’m not one to go bug a car sales guy and pretend like I’m interested. Thanks for your reviews! I really do enjoy them, especially when you get the car outside of a press event. You do an excellent job of providing us with relevant information in an easy to read (and great to watch) manner.

        • TV says:

          I am probably as guilty as the next guy for concentrating on the track aspect of the event. It was a very long day and my co-pilot Eric Trytko was generous to pull of the highway so we could do some “regular road” photography and try a few 0-60 runs.

          In case my piece doesn’t make it clear, I found the FR-S to be a decent daily driver. The clutch take up is easy and the car isn’t hyper or squirley during civilian duty. I never once thought that it was a chore to drive while going through the light city traffic Toyota laid out for us. In many ways I find it’s much like the Miata, the two are similar in driving dynamics (much more than any of the other cars you mentioned). The suspension is actually fairly comfortable for a sports car.

          The real question is how hard will it be to find one to buy. I had a conversation with the Scion folks about price gouging and they have asked their dealers to keep the Scion “Pure Price” policy in tact. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

  8. hiptech says:

    It’s interesting how “badge engineered” cars fell out favor only to return again when the manufacturers find it convenient.

    Assuming demand is strong and both Toyota and Subaru keep production numbers artificially low, I suppose they may not need to differentiate them… that is if demand is strong.

    But competition being what it is, just how does Subaru plan to differentiate their product from Toyota’s?

  9. vwmatt33 says:

    Seems like a nice car. But for that $$$ I’d still get the GTI with out even a blink. To me nothing beats s turbo.

  10. Runs_And_Drives says:

    I may be mistaken, but for ~25K, I think one could have a Turbo Genesis Coupe or 6cyl Mustang, both RWD sports cars (even if a size bigger). If I were in the market, I know I’d cross-shop those. I’d probably also check out an MX-5, even though it is a convertible (so not really a direct competitor).

    • TV says:

      I understand what you mean but none of them are really direct competitors. The Hyundai and Mustang are larger heavier cars and feel quite different. And as a Miata owner I can say they have the same driving dynamic but the Scion is a bit more useful. But if you want to pop the top…

  11. motorstreet says:

    This is a great car. I would get the Subaru BRZ because Subaru did most of the engineering behind this car and my experience with Subaru dealers has been much better than my experience with Toyota/Scion dealers. I’ve heard that these are selling for $5000 over MSRP. I love this car, but I would have to wait for the prices to come down a lot.

    • hallr7 says:

      It’s a nice looking car as far as Scions’ go, but I agree, I’d rather have a Subaru badge on mine as well.