2014 Scion FR-S Review: Two Girls, One Car.
After spending a weekend and a few days with the FR-S, there are at least two things that I can say about it with unequivocal confidence:
1. It is indeed possible to fit three people in this car.
2. It really helps when two of those people are small.
Now, that might not be what you’re expecting from an FR-S review. Presumably I should be power sliding through stoplights on my way to work and drifting through highway on ramps as “testing.” It is, after all, supposed to be one of the best drivers cars in the world. As much as I love racking up traffic violations, people will probably use this car for more than chasing Hondas on their local back road. I took it to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles with two ladies in tow to see how it fares in the real world.
The first thing you notice after turning the key in the FR-S is a distinct lack of burble. Subaru’s boxer flat-four hums, but there’s no lope to the idle like you have in WRX. Honestly? This is probably the most disappointing thing about the car. It’s not even that the engine sounds bad. When you’re expecting the tell-tale bumbling exhaust pulse of a Subaru though… It’s a little anticlimactic. The culprit is the equal length headers that the FR-S has and WRXs don’t.
Instead, the FR-S feels distinctly predatory. It’s a false sense of power obviously—the nearest V6 Accord would dust my ass at a stoplight—but it feels that way thanks to the steering and low profile stance and firm suspension. I think it looks stylish without being aggressive. Handsome is a good word for it. My passenger in the sunglasses called it “cute.” Take that as you will.
The Natural History Museum is a pretty neat place. It’s filled with precious stones, and science, and dinosaur bones. Honestly though, it was difficult to keep my mind off the FR-S. I was seeing the thing everywhere.
The girls liked the car, but weren’t terribly interested in driving stick. From a non-enthusiasts point of view, this makes sense. There’s no bucking with an automatic and there’s no stalling in a dual-clutch gear box. It makes the car easier. I suppose the Scion would be better with an automatic transmission from their perspective… But I’m fond of the manual’s inefficiency. The action of physically shifting isn’t one that I’m going to get over anytime soon. I was especially grateful for that third pedal later in the afternoon. After everyone else went home, I went to the canyons.
The internet is, for once, completely right: There is likely no better location to drive the FR-S. Up here, the weighty steering wheel makes sense. It might’ve been a minor pain to hustle the car around parking structures, but it’s a god send when guiding the BR-Z around hairpins (at any speed). Put simply, it inspires confidence. When you turn the wheel you can practically feel the level of grip in the front wheels change through the base of your palms. Compared to cars with electric steering like the Lexus ES or the IS 250, the FR-S is like night and day. Both of those cars are extremely accurate: they go where you tell them too without hesitation, but there’s no communication. This is the difference between having a conversation with the road and calling it on a cell phone.
Capable, but ultimately not threatening.
There’s not a lot of power, but after driving it, you can understand why. Sure, I might lose an impromptu drag race against… well, most cars, but it’s an appropriate amount for spirited mountain driving. With the traction control on, you’re never going to get this thing sideways. Ever. In sport mode the FR-S will allow a little bit of powersliding, but will kick in if you start driving like you’re Ken Gushi. The magic with the FR-S is that even with all the safety nannies off, the power is low enough to not completely upset the car with and ill timed stab at the throttle. It’s a pussy cat. Capable, but ultimately not threatening.
What it comes down to is this: The FR-S is a car that inspires confidence and encourages fun driving. That’s all. If the Toyota Corolla is for people who want a car that’s as reliable as a refrigerator, then the FR-S is a car built to provide an entertaining drive, safely, for everyone.
This is the first, real, true successor to the 90s era import sports car. All the people out there still driving 240sxs, and MR2s, and 2nd gen Rx7s, hell, even the guys driving around in EG Civics should love it. Not just because its a good car, but because it represents the return of a type of car that hasn’t been around for a while. And, if the rumors are true, this is only the beginning.
It’s a good time to be a car guy.