Scion's new FR-S was a joint endeavor between its parent, Toyota, and Subaru, which sells a nearly identical version as the BRZ. The project satisfies the need for a low-cost enthusiasts' car that adds driving excitement to both automakers' lineups. For us, the FR-S awakened memories of our fun first rides — back when cars still had names.
Appearance: Peter thinks the little coupe's design is fairly generic, with its only striking feature the indented "pagoda" roof that's said to help the car's aerodynamics. Lyra was much more impressed, saying it harkened back to Toyota sports cars of the '70s and '80s, and declaring the low-slung car sexy in its contours and creases.
Performance: The FR-S, to the delight of enthusiasts, is all that's right with the world: It's rear-wheel drive. Plus, it has relatively skinny, 17-inch tires, and Subaru's low-sitting 2.0-liter flat-four boxer engine. The low center of gravity and nonperformance rubber make the FR-S a thrill to drive, allowing you to get the rear end loose at the drop of a hat with the stability control turned off. We drove the FR-S with a six-speed manual, which seems to Peter to be the only way to go; Lyra wants to drive the automatic before making up her mind. Still, exit an off-ramp, then downshift while cornering quickly; the seat-of-the-pants sensation you get will reveal this car's reason for being. On Top Gear recently, Jeremy Clarkson said of the FR-S: "You could drift this car while reading a book." He did. And this fun is courtesy of only 200 horsepower, which is more than adequate but left us wanting a little more low-end torque. (Of course, if you'd rather have a more composed ride, keep the stability and traction control on.) Its steering is amazingly precise — and sensitive — and carving corners is pure joy. The simplicity and fun of the FR-S experience reminded us of our first cars: For Peter, a 1970 Pontiac Firebird; for Lyra, a 1977 Toyota Celica 2000 GT. Good memories.
Interior: The snug cockpit is simple and all business, meaning the controls are all within easy reach. The sport seats have red trim and stitching, and are well bolstered. Peter found them on the narrow side and wondered if larger drivers would be comfortable. On the dash, the tach is the prominent gauge, which befits a car that comes alive at high revs. Elsewhere in the cabin, there is a lot of plastic with some faux-metal trim. Is it cheap in spots? Yes. Are the tiny back seats practical? No. Is connecting to your Bluetooth device a frustrating exercise in deciphering abbreviations on a tiny screen? Yes. Do we care about any of this? No. This car is not about amenities. Still, for the practical-minded, it does have decent trunk space (for a sports car) at 6.9 cubic feet.
Our 3 favorites
Philosophy: Who needs 500-plus horsepower to have fun?
Rear-wheel drive: Welcome back to lower-priced cars.
Steering: Precise, with good feedback.
Engaging drive: Nothing fancy. It's you, the car and — hopefully — the open road.
Simple interior: Just the basic buttons and controls. Refreshing.
Price: It's a bargain for a sports car.
The bottom line: Finally, a sports car for the rest of us. The Scion FR-S might be the most fun you can have in any car for around $25,000, and even sports cars that cost a lot more.