2013 Scion FR-S sports car: authentic, affordable and fun to drive

Thursday I had the opportunity to slip behind the wheel and drive the new 2013 Scion FR-S compact rear-wheel drive sports car for the day in and around Houston.

Scion FR-S very affordable and fun sports car


I had a choice of taking out an Asphalt six-speed manual transmission (MSRP $24,930) or a Hot Lava six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and the Dynamic Rev Management technology ($26,030). Being a purist and since this is a sports car, I went with the Asphalt six-speed manual shift. I was not disappointed.

Scions goal was to create an affordable sports car that true driving enthusiasts could enjoy, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis has said. We accomplished that with a starting price under $25,000, which is a total home run for buyers he boasted when announcing pricing and availability in March this year. I would say Jack had it pretty much dead on right.

In April I previewed the 2013 Scion FR-S on examiner.com in anticipation of being able to drive it at the annual Texas Auto Writers Association Spring Roundup competition at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in May. Unfortunately, Scion pulled that FR-S from the competition to make additional units available for a national press preview to be held the following week in Las Vegas.

My friends at Gulf States Toyota (the Toyota/Lexus/Scion distributor for the mid south) were gracious enough to provide the FR-S for me in Houston last week for a drive test since I was unable to make the other event. I had seen and touched this beauty three times in the last several months and was eager to get it on the road.

My first thoughts when sliding into the cockpit and settling my more than petite frame behind the wheel and buckling into the Recaro styled sport seats were that this was indeed a drivers car. The cockpit of the FR-S is simple and efficient. It is not loaded up with gizmos and glitz. Instead it is clean and crisp with everything you need being easy to see and to reach.

Seats are very roomy yet hold you firmly for control. Leg room is more than adequate with plenty of knee room that allows full leg freedom in handling the clutch and gas pedal as you easily shift while zipping through traffic.

Did I say easily shift? Oh yes I did. This is one of the nicest manual transmissions that I have driven in recent years. From starting out and turning into traffic, I never had any difficulty in clutching and finding the next gear. In fact, this FR-S almost shifts itself. You do not have to feel for the gear. Shifts are precise with a very short throw and the engine responds smoothly to each new gear. Downshifting is equally easy with quick response to driver needs in traffic.

The power plant is not as robust as some would like to see (FR-S is powered by a naturally aspirated 200 hp @ 7000 rpm DOHC 4-cylinder engine delivering 151 lb.-ft. of torque at 6400 rpm) but it is more than sufficient for the greatest number of the customers who would want this sports car. In fact, in a recent competition by Motor Trend Magazine reviewing high performance two-door cars, the FR-S manual shift ran a very respectable 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds.

The FR-S is nimble and quick and does not hesitate to get up to speed, move from lane to lane and keep the driver fully in control with a responsive sporty ride at all times in city and highway driving.

Visibility from the drivers seat is very good. You might think there could be a blind spot at the right rear corner, but (at least for me) there was almost none. The slope of the rear window along with a small window in the rear roof pillar provides plenty of visibility. The rear view mirrors and side mirrors cover your rear and sides completely.

The aggressive performance designed cabin has a 2+2 seating configuration, but it is not really a four passenger vehicle. The rear seats fold down; creating a nice sized multiple use space and, for the enthusiast or casual driver, this will be good enough.

A large center-mounted tachometer is easy to Garage Door Repair Las Vegas read in the three-gauge cluster with both digital and analog gauges behind the very sporty 365-millimeter diameter, leather-trimmed steering wheel that has both tilt and telescopic adjustment. The size and flexibility of the steering wheel add significantly to driver ease and comfort with control of the FR-S.

The touches of leather accents with red stitching throughout the cabin give Garage Door Repair Las Vegas the FR-S a rich look on the inside. A neat touch for enthusiasts that will drive this car on a track is the raised rib in the front center of the dash which functions as a centerline that reflects at the base of the windshield, helping a skilled performance driver intuitively find the center of the car.

This FR-S came with the standard eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/USB 300-watt maximum output Pioneer audio system. It included HD Radio technology and Bluetooth connectivity that allows both hands-free phone connection as well as streaming audio capability. A buyer can add the only optional item for the 2013 FR-S which is a premium connected multimedia audio system called BeSpoke, powered by Pioneers Zypr cloud server.

Priced at $845, BeSpoke features a 5.8 inch LCD Thin Film Transistor (TFT) touch screen for driver touch control of multiple functions. It has an Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL) that adjusts volume as vehicle speed changes. There are six 2.4 volt pre-amplified RCA outputs for front rear and sub speakers allowing the driver to add external amps to boost power and expand sound in the cabin. BeSpoke has USB connectivity allowing music collections to play from iPod, USB device or iPhone.

BeSpoke, using iPhone applications, enables Yelp ratings and reviews, Pandora, NAVTEQ mapping and destination routing (does not include turn by turn navigation) and SNS (Social Networking Service). While parked, BeSpoke allows viewing Facebook and Tweets for selected friends.

For a true enthusiast who wants to do more performance driving of their FR-S, there is an aftermarket ground effects parts system available from Toyota Associated Products and Scion Optomize. Specific parts and full kits are priced from $243 to $2,190. You can add Left and Right side Rockers, Front Lip, Rear Skirt and Rear Spoiler as you like.

There have been lots of rumors and mentions of what Scion plans next to enhance and build on the FR-S. I have heard everything from convertible to supercharger or turbocharger and even some power train engine or transmission technology tweaks to give it more muscle. As always, Scion has no comment. The only thing I am sure of is that this FR-S is the base for an array of interesting and exciting iterations in the future. Given the Scion propensity to innovate, who knows what we may see next in the FR-S.

Lastly, did I mention the 2013 Scion FR-S gets noticed? It sure does. Several times as I zipped around Houston, I got a toot of the horn from a car alongside along with a thumbs up from the driver. Doing ride and drives almost 50 weeks a year, it is only once or twice in a year that a vehicle attracts such attention while we are driving.

I usually consider that a very good omen as the first time I experienced that was driving a first year Cadillac CTS several years ago and we all know how popular it has become as it has evolved.

The 2013 Scion FR-S will be arriving in the dealer showrooms shortly. Go by your local Scion dealer to see and drive one for yourself. You will certainly be impressed at the sports car look plus performance and affordability.

As for me, I want to get one on the track.

Jim Nelson is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association.

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