By Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service
— You may remember the early Z cars from Datsun in the 70s.
The Z, now a Nissan racer, has long been a desirable set of wheels.
What is the relevance? Good question.
At first glance, the 2013 Scion FR-S brings back the Z look. It is a rear-wheel drive sports car with a horizontally opposed boxer engine tucked under a sleek hood. The FR-S is in a class by itself and there really is no competition for this mid-$20’s priced car except its Subaru lookalike, the BRZ.
It conjures up visions of the first generation Mazda RX-7, the poor man’s sports car introduced in the late 70s. No rotary engine in the Scion however.
Manufactured in a joint venture between parent company Toyota and Subaru, the Scion line of cars debuted in 2002 to address the youthful consumer thought to be missing in the Toyota lineup. For Scion, the FR-S is a big step up the sport ladder from its siblings, the Scion tC and little IQ.
Driver and passenger are held securely in place inside the FR-S cockpit thanks to heavily bolstered front seats. Don’t look for mood lighting and fancy doo-dads inside. Neither is part of the FR-S culture.
Instead, a plain set of gauges is dominated by a large white-faced tachometer. For audiophiles, a Pioneer audio system cranks out 300 watts of power to six speakers and houses connectivity for phone and Bluetooth.
Mated to a six speed manual or automatic transmission, its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine develops 200 horsepower.
There is no skimping on performance hardware on the FR-S. From its D-4S direct and port injection system, electric power steering, front struts and 17-inch wheels, to its limited slip differential and traction control, all are designed for maximum performance. If you want the extra rear freedom for track conditions, the traction and stability controls will disengage through a console switch.
During test week, the six-speed manual version was pure adventure with every turn. It was also a head turner as passers-by would catch a glimpse and strike up a conversation wanting to know more about the Scion.
Keep in mind the FR-S runs like a deer and not so much in the muscle car category of Mustangs and Camaros that are priced much higher. It maneuvers corners, freeway ramps and the open road with precision, agility and the sure-footedness of a nimble racer. In the sprint to 60 miles per hour, the FR-S clocked a respectable 6.8 seconds.
I found the rear seat on the 2+2 coupe is best used folded down for cargo since the hatchback provides a mere 7 cubic feet of load space. The single piece seat back folds easily providing extra storage.
In case you are wondering about the FR-S nameplate, it is derived from the Front engine, Rear wheel drive, Sport according to Toyota. Marketing people at Toyota and Scion hope it will be a big hit for the young, and young at heart enthusiasts looking for a sporty car that won’t break the bank.
Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.