GOOD SPORT: Spunky Scion FR-S coupe to be reimagined as Toyota 86
With the demise of its Scion division, Toyota has reabsorbed the FR-S sportster into the family fold, henceforth to be known as the Toyota 86.
The FR-S was originally conceived as an affordable sport coupe, designed in tandem with Subaru which manufactures the vehicle in Japan and markets its virtual twin as the BRZ.
Scion was supposed to appeal to the youth market with utilitarian, affordable small cars that could be customized to fit a buyer’s desires for personalized, economical transportation. It just didn’t quite work out the way it was anticipated. Its vehicles, while frugal and reliable, came across more as cheap than funky.
So Scion sought to create a halo offering with the FR-S, a compact coupe with sharp styling, superb handling and braking, and rear-wheel drive for a true sports-car experience.
Toyota provided the exterior and interior design, while partner Subaru handled the chassis engineering and provided the basic “boxer” four-cylinder engine.
A pair of six-speed transmissions – manual or automatic – send 200 horsepower to the rear (an anomaly for Subaru, renowned for its all-wheel-drive, all-the-time vehicles).
The flat-four sits low in the chassis, and its compact size permitting placement toward the back of the engine bay delivers near-neutral weight distribution. This, along with a laserlike focus on weight reduction, produces the FR-S’ remarkably agile handling.
Its quick, precise but slightly numb steering, our test vehicle’s near-perfect six-speed manual tranny, and a Torsen limited-slip differential all contribute to the tidy coupe’s outstanding performance quotient.
To deliver all this goodness at a palatable price point – $25,305 base – there were bound to be some compromises. Hence, there is an awful lot of hard plastics in the rather somber but driver-centric interior. The front buckets, though, offer superb support and comfort for spirited driving. (Rear seating is best reserved for cargo of the non-human variety.)
And due to limited insulation, saving weight as well as cost, the cabin is awash in engine and road noise. But run the FR-S along a twisty two-lane back road and chances are you’ll be having such a good time behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel you’ll hardly notice.
Piloting the FR-S will definitely hone your driving abilities – and best of all, it’ll do it on a tight budget.