Preview: 2013 Scion FR S scion reviews car previews
2013 Scion FR-S. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Scion Canada

By Paul Williams; photos courtest Scion

Photo Gallery:
2013 Scion FR-S

You may have heard about the Toyota-Subaru collaboration that’s bearing fruit in the form of a slick, two-seater coupe. Subaru’s version is the BRZ, and Toyota’s is being released under their Scion brand as the FR-S.

It makes sense. Scion is targeted to a younger demographic, it wants a “halo” type vehicle to represent the brand’s character, and the FR-S broadens the model line-up to include a high performance rear-wheel drive coupe that is something of a return to minimalist fun.

The concept version of the FR-S was unveiled in 2011 at the New York Auto Show, and this year’s Detroit Auto Show saw the production version revealed.

FR-S, by the way, stands for Front engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport; and the vehicle was inspired by the AE86 generation of the Toyota Corolla, better known to enthusiasts as the Hachi-Roku, or “8-6″ in Japanese. These cars were available in North America in the mid-1980s as the DX, SR5 and GT-S, and are notable for their rear-wheel drive platform, light weight, and motorsports history.

Preview: 2013 Scion FR S scion reviews car previews
2013 Scion FR-S. Click image to enlarge

Although unrelated to the AE86, the last rear-wheel drive performance coupe from Toyota was the Supra, and like the AE86, many Toyota enthusiasts still worship that car. Unfortunately for buyers of normal means, by 2002 it ended up being a near supercar, costing upwards of $80,000.

The Scion FR-S won’t cost that much (high 20s, according to one Toyota executive), and it’s expected mid-year as a 2013 model.

Powered with a Subaru-engineered, direct-injected, 2.0-litre flat-four cylinder engine making 200-horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 pound-feet of torque at 6,600 rpm, the FR-S features a low centre of gravity, short wheelbase, and rides on 215/45R/17-inch tires. A choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters will be offered.

Preview: 2013 Scion FR S scion reviews car previews
2013 Scion FR-S. Click image to enlarge

The FR-S weighs “just over” 1,227 kilograms (2,700 pounds), and in the interest of chassis rigidity has a solid roof instead of a sunroof and a trunk instead of a hatch. Weight is reduced by using an aluminum hood.

Inside, the car features low-mounted seats, and a large, centre-mounted tachometer. The 2+2 configuration permits the rear seats to be folded, producing a cargo area, “large enough to transport a full set of race tires for a fun day at the track,” said Scion Vice President Jack Hollis at the vehicle’s Detroit launch. The notion that some buyers can and will use the FR-S for recreational or competitive track activity implies that this vehicle will deliver straight from the showroom floor. The FR-S is balanced 53:47, front-to-rear.

The drivetrain is Subaru’s area, but Scion is responsible for the styling, which harkens way back to the iconic Toyota 2000GT (one of the James Bonds drove a 2000GT in the 1967 movie, “You Only Live Twice”). The FR-S also recalls the flat-two cylinder Toyota Sports 800 which was Toyota’s first production sports car, so there is Toyota history in the use of a “flat” engine in one of its current vehicles.

Preview: 2013 Scion FR S scion reviews car previews
2013 Scion FR-S. Click image to enlarge

Subaru is 19-percent owned by Toyota, so the BRZ/FR-S partnership is a way for Toyota to leverage its ownership stake in Subaru in such a way that it can produce a new model without having to invest in the production and development of new drivetrain technology.

Also present at the Scion FR-S launch was Scion Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada, who introduced the Scion Racing/GReddy Performance FR-S built to compete in the 2012 Formula Drift season. With 600 hp and over 500 lb.-ft torque, this is one formidable Scion.

The production FR-S is also the first Scion to offer the company’s “next generation connected infotainment system” called BeSpoke, powered by Pioneer’s Zypr technology.

All in all, the Scion FR-S is an interesting development (departure…) for Scion, and one that should generate more attention for the brand in Canada.

Preview: 2013 Scion FR S scion reviews car previews
2013 Scion FR-S. Click image to enlarge

But what about the joint venture? At first, it seemed to me that Subaru was getting the better deal, as they would access Toyota’s direct injection system (Subaru still hasn’t developed a direct injection for its vehicles) and styling expertise for this model (let’s face it; Subaru hasn’t been strong on styling).

However, now I’m thinking that Toyota (Scion, actually) ends up with a very cool car and acquires some real performance credibility while Subaru is taking something of a risk by abandoning its “exclusively all-wheel drive” commitment. After all, Subaru has spent going-on 20 years identifying itself as the all-wheel drive company, and here’s a significant departure for them.

In other words, Subaru may have to explain itself, whereas a sporty rear-wheel drive Scion just hits the track and goes.

About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).