2013 Scion FR-S first drive review: Join the cult

2013 Scion FR-SHere’s an easy prediction: The 2013 Scion FR-S will become a cult.

It’s a simple prognostication because the Scion FR-S is that kind of car, with the same basic elements as the original Mazda RX-7 and Miata, the Datsun 240Z, and Toyota’s own MR2 and particularly, the little-known Toyota AE86. They were attainable as they were entertaining, but not everyone understood what all the fuss was about. But those who loved them were hooked.

2013 Scion FR-S interiorThe same should apply to the Scion FR-S.  The 2013 Scion FR-S is a sports coupe in the truest sense of the word. It’s designed for performance first, and although the FR-S is not uncomfortable, it’s at the far end of the scale from “luxury.” Driver and front passenger are accommodated, but only as elements of the sports coupe whole.  The back seats, on the other hand, lack leg and headroom, and could be considered vestigial if only the FR-S had been derived from a sedan in the first place.

It wasn’t. The 2013 Scion FR-S is all new from the ground up, though except for relatively minor bits, the identical twin of the 2013 Subaru BRZ. Indeed, the two were developed together, a joint project between Toyota and Subaru (note: the Scion FR-S is sold as a Toyota in the rest of the world), begun after Toyota bought a major share in Subaru.

The project to share a sports coupe between the companies was the brainchild of Akio Toyoda, descendent of the founder, genuine car guy and authentic sports car racer, having competed at Nurburgring, taking turns with Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez behind the wheels of the Lexus LFA and Aston Martin V12 Zagato. And where some car company execs might be content to watch race cars go by, Toyoda used his clout to try out a NASCAR-ready Camry stock car. It’s good to be the boss.

2013 Scion FR-S instrument panelThe project began in 2007.  A team of engineers from Toyota and Subaru was put together to build the car to take the best from each and make it one. The team was named Team 86, drawing from the heritage of the Toyota AE86, a cult car in its own right and, front engined and rear drive, light weight and sporty, a true inspiration for the car that would be, as a Toyota/Scion, the FR-S, which appropriately enough comes from front-engine, rear drive, sport.

Team 86’s motto would be Built by Passion, Not by Committee.

The engine layout selected for the Toyota/Scion FR-S was a horizontally-opposed four cylinder, a Subaru tradition, which would become the world’s only horizontally-opposed (or “boxer”) engine combined with rear-wheel drive. Subaru’s new engine was equipped with Toyota’s D-4S injection system that uses both direct and port injection.

2013 Scion FR-S engine

The 2013 Scion FR-S engine is powered by a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed engine.

Developed originally for the Lexus IS-F, the D-4S system uses the direct injectors at all times, adding the port injectors “at certain engine speeds and under certain engine loads.” It’s said to fill out mid-range torque as help vehicle emissions. Intake and exhaust valve timing vary using Dual VVT-i. Compression is a remarkable 12.5:1—premium fuel is required—with output from the 2.0-liter engine rated at 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque.

The boxer engine has several benefits of the Scion FR-S. It’s shorter than a conventional inline four-cylinder engine and it’s much lower overall, reducing the center of gravity significantly–lower than the current Porsche Cayman and allowing a lower hoodline.