I for one am glad to see the return of the rwd compact car. The new Scion FR-S sets the benchmark pretty high so the likes of Nissan have definitely got their work cut out for them creating something to compete.
We don’t normally do features on stock vehicles or brand new vehicles for that matter, but the Scion FR-S is one we will make an exception for. GTR’s and LFA’s are great to look at but being realistic, chances are small that I will own one of those, at least anytime soon. The FR-S fills the massive void in the affordable rwd sport compact market that has been left vacant by manufacturers that have forgotten cars can be and should be fun.
For me it’s tough to feel like I’m doing this car justice in my description but I’ll do my best without getting into massive detail. There are countless sources out there to give you all the specs and details. I’ll just give you my thoughts and do a bit of comparing to a car I know very well. My trusty companion of five years, my 1992 Nissan 180sx, one of the last compact rwd cars that the FR-S will easily step into the shoes of.
When you first jump in you’ll notice a simple clean interior. Very few buttons, and gauges set up for a drivers car. A tach front and center and even a rev indicator you can set to remind you when to shift without the need to take your eyes off the road.
The other thing you should notice is the supportive seats, these really hold you in place well for factory seats in a car at this price point. The big difference I took note of is how tall the dash is compared to my s13. I definitely liked feeling more closed into the car then how open to outside the s13′s sloped dash makes you feel.
Under the hood there are a lot of good things going on. First off this picture doesn’t do it justice but in person you can really see how low the engine sits. Now look at the location of the oil filter (right above the airbox), for anyone with an sr20 that doesn’t have a filter relocation kit that is a huge deal! The last point is the efforts for weight reduction and distribution. Battery is where is should be and no extra metal in the front of the fenders, just black plastic fender liner. While under the hood you also can see how much collaboration actually took place, there are subaru logos all over the place.
Now to actually driving this thing. Everything you touch feels perfect, clutch travel has got to be less than half that of an s13. Shifter throws are short and direct, not easy to mess up shifting, heel toes are also easy to get a feel for. I only noticed that I needed to shift my foot up on the brake a bit in order to actual find the gas with my heel. Overall it was a huge improvement over a 180sx with a tranny from a 240 with 200k + km on it.
Acceleration was quite different from that of a turbocharged car as you would expect. The FR-S doesn’t have a lot of low end grunt but has more than enough to get you going. The power feels very linear up the revs, unlike my 180 where you get that surge of boost coming on half way up the revs, the FR-S does make for a more predictable experience. It makes me think of a scene from the drift bible where Keiichi Tsuchiya is driving the corolla and is giddy at the fact he can drive the car with his right foot planted to the floor. This thing feels great and 200hp is the perfect amount to have a ton of fun with.
You wouldn’t have to look very hard on the internet to find forums full of ideas of what the FR-S should have been. A 300hp, turbocharged, race car for the street. That was never the point, the FR-S is exactly what it is suppose to be by all the things it doesn’t have. This is the philosophy that earned the original AE86 such a cult following. It was light, simple and fun. That is the FR-S… well as light and simple as a modern car can be but every bit as fun.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Janson at Taylor Scion. It was amazing to have a chance to drive this car and really get to see for myself what all the hype is about.