No sooner than we took our seats in the movie theater-turned presentation room at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas that we knew this was unmistakably a Scion program.
Thumping music, flashy images and video – and everything product-centric.
Scion is the new, trendy little division of Toyota and we were here to experience the all-new rear drive sport coupe co-developed with Subaru and marketed as the Scion FR-S here in the States.
With the exception of its Lexus luxury division, Toyota has been out of the rear wheel-drive car segment in the U.S. for quite some time. Well, they’re back.
Drawing on the heritage of rear drive sports cars, the Scion FR-S (known globally as the Toyota FT-86) is the modern interpretation of the AE86 sports car of a few decades ago, a fact not lost on the fender logos affixed to each new FR-S model.
We were treated to a mix of driving situations including some time at the Mountain Spring Motorsports Ranch for a no-holds-barred road course experience along with a competitive autocross course (where yours truly placed third despite my recovering shoulder).
I have to say that Scion veep Jack Hollis nailed it when he opened his presentation by throwing out the first acronym of the day for FR-S as “Friggin’ Really Sweet!”
The car was conceived by a small “black-ops” group of enthusiasts inside Scion who then teamed up with similar thinkers over at Subaru. The vehicles are all built in the Subaru plant in Japan with about 60 percent of production going to Subie and the remainder split between Toyota and Scion versions.
At the heart of the vehicle is a new 200hp 2.0-liter direct-injected boxer engine. Thanks to the horizontally-opposed engine design the motor is able to be placed lower in the engine compartment allowing for an overall lower center of gravity and better balance on the road or at the track.
And speaking of track, the FR-S handles as beautifully on that road course all out as it did while were taking in the scenic drive in the Red Rock Canyon park on our way to Mountain Springs.
Hair on fire or taking it easy the new Scion FR-S is easy and fun to drive with great support and comfort coming from its sport bucket seats up front. The car is listed as a 2+2 sport coupe but we would not suggest making anyone sit in the rear seat area and although it does have child seat latches I am not sure that even a baby seat would truly fit back there without the front seat passengers having to slide their seats all the way to the dashboard.
The Scion FR-S is what it is: A Scion. That means it will appeal to many across the board. While primarily going after the street tuner crowd (especially with the offering of a manual gearbox) I believe the take of the car with the automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters (and Rev Match downshift technology) will be much greater than Scion’s anticipated split of 50/50.
Scion demonstrated its new BeSpoke infotainment technology that will arrive when FR-S does. It is app-based and available only on the iOS platform right now. An Android version is in the works and should arrive with the next year model Scion.
The version we tested offers voice command usage and turn-by-turn directions along with allowing use of many other apps but lacks a few things to be able to keep up with the latest that Ford and GM offer.
Pricing. As scion enters a new segment with the FR-S it also enters new pricing terrain. Base MSRP is around 25 grand and with a few goodies one can now purchase a Scion vehicle for north of $30,000.
The car is not a street racer – lack of low-end torque sees to that – but it does come alive in the midband at the track and thanks to a new standard Torsen rear differential constantly seeks maximum power to the pavement.
The first generation is good and can only get better. And while automakers never discuss future plans, one look around the Subaru engine plant will tell you they do make turbocharged engines and one could surmise a performance edition may be somewhere down the road for the shared platform.
The first 86 vehicles were sold in ceremonious fashion (again, Scion paying homage to its “86” heritage) but expect the new FR-S to arrive in dealerships nationwide around the 1st of June –just don’t be surprised if you hear “We’re sold out already.”