2013 Scion FR-S BaseView Vehicle Profile
2013 Scion FR-S could become cult classic
Toyota’s Scion FR-S exhibits spectacular performance when the right hands are on the wheel.
I’m not a big fan of drifting but it’s becoming an increasingly popular form of motorsports entertainment. A race, whether on an oval, drag-strip or road course emphasizes speed; the winner is usually the one who crosses the finish line first — simple and straightforward.
Drifting, on the other hand, is not a race but an entirely different form of motorized competition where judges crown a winner based on four drifting criteria: line, angle, style and finally, speed. Think of it as a motorized form of gymnastics — but faster and louder. And there’s no checkered flag.
Whatever it is, drifting is an extreme sport and it is spectacular to watch. This is why it’s so popular among Generation Y youth; many drift competitors come from BMX and motocross racing backgrounds.
Drifting is even more spectacular when riding shotgun, as I am with Mississauga’s Pat Cyr, who’s at the wheel of a manual-shift Scion FR-S. Cyr competes successfully in the Drift Mania Canadian Championship (DMCC) in an aging yet potent Toyota AE86, the car that inspired Toyota to design the FR-S in conjunction with Subaru (as the BRZ). One of the reasons the FR-S is being used for a drift demonstration at Autodrome St-Eustache, just north of Montreal, is that like the AE86 it’s a rear driver. But Toyota also wants to demonstrate that this car isn’t about the commute or family outings; it’s about the sheer enjoyment of driving, so they’ve also organized some lapping sessions at the track.
Cyr’s hands are a blur behind the wheel. I brace as he steers into a full-lock slide on pavement at about 70 km/h, then in a flash he swings the rear end over full lock to the other side. He initiates a slide by pulling momentarily on the handbrake, then keeping the gas pedal floored to maintain a steady drift. Without skipping a beat he fans the clutch and downshifts from third gear to second as the turn tightens up, all the while smoking the rear tires with the engine screaming near red line, often bumping the rev limiter. The only way I can describe this sideways madness is total mechanical abuse — and more fun than you can shake a shifter at.
Despite the sadistic manner in which Cyr manhandles the FR-S, it manages an entire day of drift demonstrations without a hiccup — aside from burning though about a half-dozen rear tires.
Although these drift demonstrations are remarkable, the FR-S is not yet competition ready. With 200 horsepower under the hood it can — in the hands of a professional — drift impressively at lower speeds in lower gears, but competition often calls for horsepower figures easily double what the Scion produces, and speeds in excess of 160 km/h.
Cyr plans to develop the FR-S throughout the 2012 season for competition in 2013, including dropping a modified 2.5-litre Impreza engine under the hood that will pump out more than 400 hp.
After a few sessions with Cyr, I come close to tossing my lunch, so I take to the track myself for some lapping. Like the Subaru BRZ I’d recently sampled, the FR-S is nimble, well-balanced and low. The only difference I notice driving the FR-S is that the suspension seems to have a bit more damping dialed in, providing a slightly firmer ride.
Aside from the logo on the steering wheel, it’s hard to tell the FR-S from the BRZ from the driver’s seat. There’s a slight variation in trim materials and a different style of the buttons and knobs on the dash, but otherwise they are very similar. The base FR-S has a touch fewer standard features than the base BRZ, lacking a standard-issue navigation system, HID headlights and LED daytime lights, but it also retails for $1,300 less at $25,990.
This makes it a pretty good value when you factor in the spec sheet of its competitors. Although it has a 110 kg weight deficit on a comparably equipped Mazda MX-5, it produces 33 more hp. And despite being 74 hp down on the turbocharged Genesis Coupe, it also carries 270 kg less weight. The real kicker is that it costs between two to three grand less than either of those cars.
Comparisons can be drawn to the MX-5 and Genesis Coupe, and inevitably to its Subaru twin, but I reject those comparisons and suggest perhaps a more obscure, yet entirely apropos association. Being an avid motorcyclist, for me the FR-S feels like the four-wheeled equivalent of a 600cc supersport motorcycle — not in terms of power-to-weight ratio or outright performance, but in character. You might find this an odd pairing, but there are certain aspects of the FR-S that are too similar to ignore.
Like on modern sport bikes, Toyota has placed a heavy emphasis on centralizing mass. Mass centralization, a technique adopted on high-performance motorcycles for about a decade now, is an engineering philosophy that places items of great mass, like the engine, transmission and other hefty components, closer to a vehicle’s centre of gravity. By resorting to a boxer engine and locating its centre of mass almost in line with the front axles, the car’s polar moment of inertia has been reduced, providing very quick steering transitions. Motorcycles benefit in a similar manner to such improvements.
And like a 600cc sport bike, the FR-S also rewards a smooth driver and thrives on momentum. It has a very forgiving chassis, readily recovering from slight cornering miscues with little effort at the wheel. It’s actually quite easy to drive fast and is a great platform for someone intent on developing their track driving skills.
There’s little doubt the FR-S will be quite popular with the drift crowd, as well as with track-day devotees — it has a natural penchant for the racetrack. It’s likely to be modified and customized, too, and Scion already has available a multitude of tuner accessories like a high-performance air intake system, exhaust system and suspension components among other items, and it won’t be long before the aftermarket follows suit.
I think, like the AE86 that preceded it, the FR-S has the makings of a future cult car.
2013 Scion FR-S
PRICE: $25,990 (6-speed MT); $27,170 (6-speed AT)
ENGINE: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder boxer
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.2L/100 km (MT); 7.2L/100 km (AT)
POWER/TORQUE: 200 hp/151 lb.-ft.
COMPETITION: Honda CBR600RR, Kawasaki ZX6R, Suzuki GSX-R600, Yamaha YZF-R6 — or, alternately the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Mazda MX-5, Subaru BRZ
WHAT’S BEST: Relatively cheap thrills.
WHAT’S WORST: This is not a family car.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: Screaming rear-wheel slides in the right hands.
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