All too many modern cars seem to be designed to insulate the driver and passenger from the driving experience. If you have ever driven a Lexus or Buick, you understand. In fact, there are reports that today's teenagers are not as anxious to get a driver's license as Baby Boomers were. Given how numbing some cars can be, that isn't all that surprising.
Happily, the car enthusiast still has options. Even more exciting, the new Scion FR-S and the nearly identical Subaru BRZ not only give the driver an entertaining ride, these cars do it at a remarkable price.
First, these cars are a throwback to the golden age when sports cars had small, peppy engines up front, a short, crisp manual shifter and drive wheels out back. (Note - a paddle shift automatic is optional.) The Scion's 2.0 liter 4-banger boasts 16 valve technology and puts out a respectable 200 horsepower at a relatively stratospheric (for the price) 7,000 RPM. Torque is 151 lb-ft at 6,600 RPM. Certainly not neck snapping numbers, but when you consider that the Scion (and Subaru) barely weighs around 2,800 pounds, it does give the manual-shifter more than adequate performance. The "as tested" 0-60 time for the manual transmission equipped FR-S of just 6.2 seconds should give some indication of the effectiveness of the power package. Because the engine is a Subaru-sources "pancake" or horizontally opposed engine, the center of gravity is lower than a standard 4 cylinder engine, aiding the designers in both packaging and handling chores.
Next, a sports car makes or breaks its reputation based on great handling and here, the Scion FR-S does not disappoint. Equipped with 215/45 tires on 17 inch rims and beefy front and rear sway bars, the Scion FR-S never met a corner it didn't like. The car's grippy hip-hugging buckets help here as well. Road feel through the fat, leather wrapped steering wheel is a lesson in how to communicate what's happening on the road to the driver. From the driver's seat, it's all good.
While early 2-seat sports cars offered little in the way of creature comforts, the new Scion FR-S comes to the buyer surprisingly well equipped. Standard features like a 300W sound system, Bluetooth technology, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows and door locks and leather appointments will come as a surprise to anyone shopping in this car's price range.
On the track, the Scion FR-S was involving, entertaining and toss-able. Its brakes stayed firm and direct through several hot laps making this a definite candidate for the occasional car-club track day. On the street, the narrow power band requires that the driver work the shifter on hilly roads but the snick-snick precision of the manual transmission made that more fun than chore. Even the automatic shift model was fun on the street - less so on the track.
Gas mileage will depend on how hard you push the engine. The EPA numbers say you should get 25 MPG as a combined number with 30 MPG possible on a long trip. If you are having fun on back roads, 25 MPG is about what you should expect on premium fuel.
This $25,000 sporty two seater offers great value and what may be the best way to reinvigorate your love for driving. Unfortunately, I suspect that some dealers may try to jack up the sticker price with add-ons that you don't want or need (think paint sealer, pin stripes, undercoating and extended warranties.) However, if you can grab one at sticker or below, you will have one of the best smile-producing cars around. One test drive should be all you need to find out if this car is for you.
Highly recommended !