New Car Review: 2013 Scion FR-S

Front three-quarters view of Red 2013 Scion FR-S in desert setting
The 2013 Scion FR-S.
For eight years now, Scion has been plugging away (or flailing about, depending on how you look at it) trying to finally be what Toyota intended it to be...the first truly hip youth brand in cars. The formula: Keep prices low, make the styling a bit out of the box, and make sure it's got a killer audio system.

The first-generation xB (aka "The Toaster") was a mild success, but the second generation xB....not so much. The xD sedan is virtually a synonym for "meh" (would anyone really buy an xD over the new Toyota Yaris...or even the old Toyota Yaris, for that matter?).

About the only sense that Scion has a groove to find has been in the tC coupe.

Until now.

Rear three-quarters view of red 2013 Scion FR-S in desert setting
The 2013 Scion FR-S.
On looks alone, the 2013 Scion FR-S is a move of the needle not usually seen at Toyota (or outside CalTech's seismic lab). It looks low, mean and ready to race.

It's low. And it handles well. But anyone who goes racing with only 200 horses under the hood these days is likely to be looking at a lot of tailpipes. Bascially, what we have here is a pony car in muscle car clothes. Imagine if the first-gen Mustangs and Camaros had appearance options for the Boss 302 and the Z/28 but the mid-range engine was the only choice.

Actually, the pony car analogy really works here, because what this really is is a modern-day Toyota Celica (not the Supra). In fact, this would have been a great way to bring back that nameplate. But they didn't, and I guess that means Toyota isn't giving up on Scion.

Base price is $24,200, which gets you the aforementioned 200 horsepower from a 2-liter four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve boxer engine (built by Subaru, which gets its own virtually identical version of this car, the BRZ) with dual variable valve timing, a six-speed manual transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear ventilated disc brakes, a double-wishbone rear suspension and a Torsen limited slip differential. Oh, and it's rear-wheel drive...making it a better car to drive in a sporting manner (gotta keep those revs up, though).

The chrome-tipped dual exhaust? Standard, along with vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, smart stop technology, a full set of airbags in case those things don't keep you out of trouble...and tire pressure monitoring for the stock 215/45R17s.

Interior view of the 2013 Scion FR-S
The 2013 Scion FR-S interior.
Inside, the FR-S keeps up appearances...a study in black with red accents...no flimsy surfaces, everything meaty and substantial. Actually, that describes the audio system (still a key component in Scion's playbook), too...a 300 watt Pioneer AM/FM/CD/HD Radio system with 8 speakers, AUX and USB connection, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.

There's also remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, bolstered sports seats, a digital/analog speedometer, an analog tach with programmable rev indicator, drilled aluminum pedals and scuff plates and...oh yeah, air conditioning (black interior, July....).

The only option on the one we drove for a week was wheel locks (a bargain at $67). Fold in the $730 delivery, processing and handling fee and you're at $24,997.

The only knock I have on the FR-S is that its looks raise expectations beyond what its engine can deliver. But there's nothing that says that fun requires blinding speed. The FR-S isn't slow by any means, and the excitement it delivers comes in the handling. As we've been reminded everytime we get behind the wheel of a Mazda Miata, the real fun ones know how to dance. The FR-S does.

EPA estimate: 22 city/30 highway.