Tested: 2013 Scion FR-S
By Jeff Naeyaert and Steve Rockwood
Nearly every mass-produced car we come across today is governed, designed, regulated, or otherwise manipulated by a committee. As a result, nearly all of them stink. When Toyota and Subaru set out to design the FR-S in 2007, the first thing they did was throw out the committees. Finally, after hearing about this car for seemingly a decade, MotoIQ gets a chance behind the wheel on the track and on the road.
The sad truth is that cars affordable to Joe C. Average have either become boring transportation pods, overweight people movers, or gimmick-laden sporting poseurs. Take a tour at just about any new car dealership, and you will certainly see plenty of extremely well-engineered cars that proclaim awesomeness on the window sticker, but sitting in the driver's seat does not give you that same sense of satisfaction. The transportation pods may get you from point A to B with minimal fuss and reasonable economy, but they get you there by reducing your involvement with the machine beneath you to as minimal a level as possible. Infotainment systems and gimmicks distract you, overly intrusive stability control systems keep you from stepping out of line, and forgettable and lousy handling dynamics await you should you remember that secret computer handshake that defeats the anti-hoon software – secret handshakes that make those of us who are products of the 80s reminisce about the video game Contra. In short, ho-hum is pervasive throughout the average transportation pod. The sporting-poseurs can be more of an affront than the pods, as they merely imply that you can accomplish feats of supercar strength, but ultimately fall short when the time comes to deliver with overweight handling dynamics, recalcitrant interfaces, and other unwanted products of the spec-sheet age.
No auto manufacturer better epitomized the transportation pod than Toyota, whose lineup of fuss-free cars became so appealing to the soon-to-be-retired that AARP memberships should've been a standard option on every vehicle. Years of selling nothing but family sedans, minivans, trucks, and SUVs had turned the company that brought you the AE86 into a company whose chief engineering feat was the supremely boring Prius, and whose last idea of a trackday special was a truck. While wildly successful in the last 10 years, the company lacked an enthusiast's car, and CEO Akio Toyoda knew it. Without success in the youth market, who would be the Toyota faithful in the future to buy their cars? Enter the Scion FR-S, designed with Akio's mantra of “if it's not fun to drive, it's not a car” firmly in mind.
The idea for the “86” concept, as the FR-S/BRZ were internally known, came about after Toyota's alliance with Subaru in 2005 as a symbol of the two companies. Rather than going the easy way out with a high-priced supercar, or moderately priced 3 Series killer, the two companies sought to make a true entry-level sports car that would give people a direct idea of how cool a car could be. The basic goals were ambitious, yet simple: keep it light, keep it rear wheel drive, make it fun, keep it cheap, and keep everything in balance. Using the boxer four would represent Subaru's engine mastery, and the front engine, rear drive layout would represent Toyota's return to some of its sporting roots with cars like the 1967 2000GT.
|The 1967 Toyota 2000GT is said to be the spiritual predecessor to the FR-S, and some of its styling cues can be seen. This pristine model was on hand during the press event.