2013 Scion FR-S – Behind the Wheel

Not every year a vehicle gets introduced that causes a group of enthusiasts to fall in love with on sight. From what I can recall, the Scion xB created a huge buzz, but that was a style that had to grow on you. The restyling of a retro design on the Camaro or Mustang did too, but those platforms already existed. The FR-S is something new.

In 2001ish, Toyota brought over a handful of bB’s into the United States. A few of their partners like Pioneer had the opportunity to work on them and was displayed at events throughout the country. The bB was small, quirky, almost alien-like, nothing so boxy existed in the United States.

In 2003, Toyota released a USDM model of the bB, the xB, to California under a new brand called Scion. Scion means, a descendant, which is very fitting for Toyota’s tier of vehicles. The Scion launch was accompanied by 2 models, the xA and xB, and was sold only in California for the first 12-months, then they were rolled out in segments to the remainder of the United States. The xB alone rejuvenated the Sport Compact industry which seemed stagnate at the time. Almost every aftermarket manufacturer was jumping on board with the new brand, it became the hottest car at SEMA for 2-years.

9 years later in 2012, Scion does it again. Introducing the 2013 Scion FR-S, the hottest car of 2012. The FR-S is a sports coupe inspired by the popular AE86 (Corolla in the States). Scion’s intention wasn’t to create a rocket-ship, but to bring the fun and passion back to the enthusiast.

So much hype was brought to the FR-S. At the 2011 New York Auto Show, Troy Sumitomo and the Five Axis crew showed off the FR-S concept which blew people’s minds. Later in 2011, the actual FR-S was unveiled to a selected group in an event held in Hollywood. (found here)

June 1st, 2012, marked the official release of the FR-S, and we were fortunate enough to have an FR-S loaner for a week.

Overall exterior of the FR-S is sexy – sleek lines with an aggressive flare.

Small details such as these deflectors on the taillights aides in the aerodynamics of the FR-S.

I must admit, I’m really fascinated by the fat rear-end of the FR-S. The engineers even rolled the fenders for the people wanting aftermarket fitment that is more aggressive than the factory 215 tires. The stock height is a bit tall, but what enthusiast really keeps their cars factory height?

The front of the FR-S has an aggressive large grill and a swooping chin. The headlights are equipped with standard halogens bulbs and the housing pose an imitating stare.

Stepping into the interior and the bolstered seats fit nicely snug up against the body. The instruments are nicely placed but nothing extremely fancy. The tachometer does come with a programmable shift light which is an added bonus.

The awkwardly placed window switches take a little of getting used to, but the comfort of the door handles are impeccable.

The steering and shift knob are leather with sporty red stitching. Everything related to driving is comfortable. The steering wheel is smaller than most passenger cars but thick and form fitting. It reminded me of a MOMO Corse steering wheel I used to have in my Civic. The shifter indexes well and the shifts are short with slight wrist movements.

The FR-S lives up to the hype. It’s steering was nimble and takes very little effort to point in the direction you want to go – it’s very responsive. At first, it took a little bit to adapt to the steering, but after a few miles through traffic, it becomes natural. The clutch was a bit high and moving the thighs were sometimes necessary.

During my time with the FR-S I took it to run errands, cruised Pacific Coast Highway, and took it on the freeways to experience everyday driving. The suspension was firm, sometimes a little jarring but leaves an impression of a sporty handling vehicle. The flat-4 revs nicely and sounds throaty with the tuned intake. Our FR-S was equipped with a manual 6-speed, during acceleration from a stand still, 1st, and 2nd, were quick, but made more intake noise than speed, but the higher gears made up for it. Even in 6th gear at freeway cursing speeds, stomping the pedal and passing vehicles were a breeze. The FR-S was such an amazing and enjoyable car and Scion accomplished what they wanted to do, with the design and engineering catered to the enthusiast, it will be interesting to see what manufacturers will challenge them.

The following day, I played co-pilot with Jayson as he took the driver’s seat on a day trip to the central coast to visit a site contributor, Angela, and here are Jayson’s words.


I was fortunate enough to be invited to the exclusive reveal of the Scion FR-S / 86 / GT86 held in LA.  My initial impression based from its looks alone – I felt that it was simply stunning.  I am anticipating skyrocketing sales similar to the first generation xB and tC where it took a great percentage of the compact vehicle market.  However, I was one of the skeptics and thought that the FR-S was all looks alone.  I thought that media was just hyping up the FR-S to bring back the sport compact segment that Toyota has been lacking for years…then the FR-S proved me wrong.


As I sat on the driver seat getting ready to take the FR-S for a spin to Santa Barbara, I immediately felt the sports seats as it kept me intact and supported for any side to side movement. Dash gauges, AC knobs and radio were simple and ergonomically optimal for any driver. Driving off, I noticed the tone of the horizontally opposed four go to work and made me feel immediately in-control of the car.  Shifts were short and easy as I went through first, second and third before jumping onto a freeway on ramp.  Not driving a car with a manual transmission for a couple of years didn’t help either, as I “clutch-ride” through gears entering Freeway 22.  As I got the hang of driving manual, I observed how the vehicle contoured through the freeway.  The stock suspension felt firm while steering reacted instantly as you point it to a lane you want it to go to.


Don’t’ get me wrong, the FR-S isn’t perfect; as most sport compacts out in the market today.  One, I wasn’t really fond of the taillights.  It reminded me of the Altezza tails that was heavily copied sometime in 2005 where every car or truck had it.  I wish the designers kept the full red tail lights that the concept FT86 had.  Torque could be improved.  As I downshifted and kept the engine at high rpms, it seemed that the vehicle didn’t move quickly enough but created that grunting engine noise as I shifted through gears.  And don’t expect to fit a person on the back seat, it was uncomfortably cramp seating at the back.  However, pull that back seat down and trunk space becomes plenty -asking to be filled with track tires for weekend run sessions.  These are just minor things that I whine about – No vehicle in this sport compact segment will be perfect. And for its price, I felt you get a lot of bang for your buck.


Overall, did I enjoy my day of long driving using the FR-S? You bet!  The firestorm (red) color of the FR-S definitely broke some necks too while on the freeway and city streets.  The general balance of the FR-S from its looks to the feedback that it provides the driver is remarkable. Toyota / Scion certainly gave the car enthusiast something special.  Without a doubt, Toyota/Scion unquestionably is back in the sport compact market segment. -DaYUUMJayce

After our day trip, Nilo and I took the FR-S to an event in L.A. and then he took it home to evaluate the FR-S.

Ever since I was invited about 3-4 years ago to look at some new concepts Scion was planning, I didn’t realize at the time that it was the FR-S, a RWD sports coupe concept, they were talking about. When I first seen the production car, the styling were to my expectations, clean and very sporty sleek lines, but when I got a chance to drive it, things got even better.  The car felt very nice and comfortable, instrumentation were on point except for the radio, I drove the 6-speed manual, the clutch was a bit too long for me with too much play. 1st and 2nd were a bit weak, but as the speeds increase, the FR-S held its own on the freeways. The FR-S was nimble and cruised at higher speeds very well.  The brakes were pretty responsive and the suspension for being stock was not bad around the corners as I tried it out in hilly roads of Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills. Overall the car was fun and enjoyable, it could use a bit more power and maybe a shorter sports clutch may be in that order too. I say it’s a win for Scion. -DaYUUMNilo

Paul Dabao also had the opportunity to take the FR-S for a drive. He was lucky enough to hit the mountains of San Gabriel to test out the FR-S hype.

I had the opportunity to test drive the new Scion FR-S, with my time, I took it to Glendora Mountain Road in the San Gabriel Mountains. It was a perfect Wednesday and the road was relatively empty. It felt like I was in a private driving session. As I started the ascend to the top, I was trying to get a feel of the car and by the time I was about 2 miles up, I started to drive a bit more aggressive. I can feel my face start to grin with excitement. There’s a lot of sweeping turns as well as some tight curves all the way to the top. There was no time to relax. The way the FR-S enters the corners seems so agile for the first few miles but once you learn the characteristics of the FR-S you suddenly realize how precise this car is in guiding you into an apex and out. The steering is light and precise, not too fast, not too edgy. You can feel the LSD work when you attack the corners, the FR-S has very minimal oversteer even with the factory tires, I can only imagine the handling with gripper tires.

Finally, I arrived to the top, parked on the side to take some photos, then proceeded to drive the FR-S down the mountain one more time. My face was pretty numb from smiling by the time I reached the base of GMR and back on regular roads. It was an amazing feeling that I ordered one. Can’t wait for my own FR-S to arrive. – Van_DaYUUM_Paul

Since this FR-S was a pre-production and the 3rd off the line, some of the quirks are probably ironed out. The FR-S is definitely a car to be modeled after, especially at the price of under $25,000!

Thank you Scion for this great opportunity to drive the FR-S we had such a great time and it lived up to the hype!

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