I have just sold my Single Turbo, 325HP 93 Mazda RX-7. I have also owned two AE86 Corolla GT-S cars, and even preferred driving the GT-S’s. Call me crazy, but I did.
Tore one down to the bare uni-body, scrubbed and oiled it. Wire wheeled every bolt and nut and oiled them. Cleaned every part and reassembled the entire car. Without any left-over bits either. I’ve drifted them in competition. Completed two engine rebuilds between them. In fact the Corolla GT-S taught me how to drift and handle a Rear Wheel Drive car. With my car history, the FR-S had a HUGE wheelbase to fill with me. This review was personal.
You can’t possibly imagine and how excited I was when I got the email that I would be getting the 2012 Scion FR-S. I was very interested to see how this car handled, how it stacked up with what I knew and had experienced from the vehicle that originally held the torch that this car now had the task of carrying.
The very first thing that impressed me about the FR-S was its height. Much like Scion Vice President Jack Hollis here, the new FR-S sits below my chest at a mere 48.19 inches tall! This was a good indication of things to come. In fact there are many clues and cues that let you know what you’re about to get yourself into.
It quickly became obvious that a low center of gravity was a necessity for the engineering team. This is also made clear under the hood. To make a long story short, there is basically next to nothing there. While there are engine covers and a few fluid reservoirs it’s easy to see the size of the boxer or flat-4 cylinder engine which is quite small. Smaller still – the transmission. It’s very easily visible as it disappears back and underneath the car. Once inside more there are more indicators of its potential.
The seats are far more firm than you would expect a reclining unit to be but they excel at doing the job of holding you snuggly in place. Once in place it’s a must to adjust the seating for a good pedal travel and comfortably working the steering wheel. Which took some getting used to. With your feet straight out in front of you the pedals are orientated just to the right of center. A trait found on some very impressive Its then that you notice the seats seem to be made of almost nothing. Now I’ve driven some pretty cheap cars in my time, most my own personal vehicles. But even newer quality econo-boxes like the Mazda2 have a more substantial feel to their seat.
Adjusting mirrors and playing with buttons makes it clear that all of the interior plastics were quite Spartan in substance. In ANY other car, this would be the point at which I would start to dread the idea of spending time with a test vehicle. In the FR-S however my attention to these light-weight details only served to raise my expectations and work the butterflies in my stomach into frenzy. Seeing so many different things done to save weight did a lot to work up my apatite to turn the key.
The Starter is very loud. No clue why either. Several times though I actually wondered if something was wrong with it.
Just pulling away from its parking space revealed yet another clue to the treat I was in store for. Given all that was done to save weight in this car it had been given the convenience of Power steering which managed to transmit a great amount of resistance and feedback thru to the steering wheel. It would be a while, though, before I had the courage to disengage the VSC and Traction Control.
The throw on this transmission also seems a lot longer than it needs to be, but the shift leaver sits very low. This requires a small amount of wrist action to navigate the gears. And no matter what impression you get from this picture there is absolutely NO leg room in the back buckets while the front passengers are comfortably seated. There are reportedly only one or two booster seats that fit back there and just one infant car carrier manages to do the trick. Truth-be-told though you’re not buying the FR-S to transport the children back and forth to daycare; basically making those points quite moot.
In fact the only complaint that everyone I talked to could put to me was that “it needs more cowbell”!(READ: Power) Well I can smugly report that there are now drivers of one Lotus Evora, two Lotus Elise, one Cayman S and a Lamborghini Gallardo who will tell you the opposite. Anyone who makes that statement are, not only completely wrong but, simply need to have a ride along on-track with someone who is experienced in maintaining momentum. Enough about that though. You’ll have to wait for a later post where I release the details of everything that happened that day.
That having been said the handling of the FR-S isn’t as magical as all the other reviews would have you believe. Even without traction control it has its under-steering moments if you drive like a hoon. On the other hand when driven well the experience will be a lot better than you expect and very rewarding for any driving enthusiast.
The thing is, you see, the FR-S is very difficult to not drive quickly. Believe me I tried. Desperately! After just a few miles of sensible journalistic driving, somehow my brain would laps into a very familiar and comfortable spot as I realized the grin on my face was actually from ear to ear.
Breaks are good…very good! I know a whole family of dear that will attest to that. On the way back home after a night out with the wife we decided to take the long way home. This road has a very short and tight S-Turn with an over 10 foot elevation change. Once on the other end said family decided to relocate to the other side of the road. In a benevolent effort of assistance the breaks made short work of next 60’ or so bringing the FR-S to a complete stop. With just one pump of the ABS no less.
After my time with the FR-S was said and done I had had several conversations with the wife about our next car purchase. The experience is still fresh in my mind. The FR-S does seem to be a return to the pure driving enthusiast’s sports-car. And we can only hope that other automakers are taking a few notes.