Before I talk about the highs and lows of the 2014 Scion FR-S, let’s get one nagging question out of the way.
Front-engined. Rear-wheel drive. Sport. That’s what the FR-S stands for.
Personally, I think the name is one “S” short. FR-SS is really more appropriate. Not because I think the FR-S is a “Super Sport”, but rather a “Simple Sport”. And I mean that in a good way.
You see, the Scion FR-S is a car that delivers on a lot of levels. Just don’t expect luxury. Or comfort for that matter. It’s a great looking basic sports car that gives a lot of fun for the money. But since the FR-S starting price is only $25,470 you need to understand that getting that fun requires trade-offs.
Let’s start with the highs. The FR-S is a great looking car. It looks good outside and it looks good inside. I remember the first time I spotted one in the real world. It was on a street in Toronto and it looked just so darn exotic. It’s sporty and sleek. Your first thought is that it’s a two-seater. Look inside and you’ll discover the FR-S actually has four seats, but just barely. The rear seat is not ready for adults, or even large kids. There is pretty much zero leg room plus it’s pretty narrow. In fact, you’re better off just flipping the rear seat down and pretending it doesn’t exist. Not only would that avoid the constant reminder that the rear seat is just for looks, but it would expand the trunk area which is very small (6.9 square feet). On the other hand, the front section of the interior looks properly sporty. Nice fitting seats with sporty looking side wings for support during hard cornering. My test car had black seats with red accents all throughout the cabin. It had a cool looking carbon fiber finish on the dash. I also liked the way the leather side pods blended into the solid pieces. Throw in some drilled pedals and it has a great sporty look.
The instruments have analog gauges. The speedometer swept to 160 miles per hour, but since I rarely drove above 55 during my week with the car I found it annoying that I only really got to use a third of the sweep. For some reason that bothered me more in this car than others. The radio/display was also pretty simple. It had a small video display that controlled sound, climate and phone. But unlike most cars, this one looked like it might actually be relatively easy to replace should it break.
Driving the car is something you’re going to love or hate. The ride is a little harsh and the cockpit is noisy. But then, I think that’s exactly what the people who buy this car will want. The suspension keeps you posted on every twist and turn (along with each little bump). The sound keeps you in touch with the speed at every level.
I didn’t call it a “Super Sport” for good reason. The SS letters have always been reserved for a car with serious horsepower. The FR-S doesn’t qualify. Its 200 horsepower is just enough. Barely. Mated with the six speed manual transmission, the best description is peppy and fun. I found the best power between 4,000 and 6,000 RPM. Having said that, the 2.0 liter horizontally opposed engine doesn’t wow you with power. You won’t be smoking tires off the line. Actually, I was surprised that the 200 ponies didn’t stretch farther. After all, the FR-S is small and light. On the other hand, once you got moving the engine did a good job keeping up with your needs. Mileage is great. 25 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway. My week with the FR-S averaged 29 mpg, and trust me, I wasn’t driving in a way that would save fuel.
Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot to get a great FR-S. My test car didn’t have a single option (although I might have been tempted to spring for the $1,100 TRD Performance Dual Exhaust) and I never felt like I was missing anything. The FR-S was developed in conjunction with Subaru which markets the nearly identical BRZ at practically the same price.
The FR-S fills a very special niche. In some ways it’s a throwback to cars like the Mazda RX-7 or even the Triumph Spitfire. Simple cars that looked great with perhaps not quite as much power as the styling promised. If I had to pick a key demographic for the car it’s probably young males. Or at least males who want to feel young. Girlfriends, spouses and passengers shoved into the rear seat won’t appreciate what the FR-S brings to the street, and more importantly, to the driver. But if you’re someone who will appreciate the F, the R and the S, this car will deliver every day.