Journalist test drive reviews



December 02, 2011
By Edward Loh

Two days after the official unveiling of the all-new BRZ sports coupe at the Tokyo Motor Show, Subaru invited a small group of select U.S. journalists for a quick test drive of the 2013 Subaru BRZ at the Subaru Kenkyo Center (SKC) two hours north of Tokyo.

After revealing that the BRZ name stands for Boxer Rear Drive Zenith, and plying us with all manner of technical specifications, Subaru P.R. released us on a short course that included a high-speed oval, twisty handling track, and a section of broken tarmac. We were given a few 15-minute stints with two U.S.-production models: a high-spec BRZ Limited equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission and a base model BRZ Premium with the standard six-speed manual.

BRZ Limited with 6-Speed Automatic
When the start button mounted just ahead of the gear selector knob is pushed, the BRZ comes to life with a growl that settles into a smooth, burbling exhaust note. But when the car is opened up on the banked oval, the note coarsens into something more animalistic. However, it's not the braaap-braapp flatulence you might expect from, say, the WRX STI. This is a bit more sedate, yet pleasant in the way it resonates throughout the ****pit. Credit goes to supplier Mahle for piping the boxer engine note through the bulkhead in a manner similar to what Ford engineers did with the Mustang. At wide-open throttle, the pipe brings in a pleasing roar, loud enough that you'll be shouting to your buddy sitting next to you, "SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD, RIGHT?"

The steering wheel is small, just 14.4 inches in diameter, and the smallest of any modern Subaru. But the shape and diameter is just right - thick enough given the small size, but oversize and doughy like the ones in recent BMW M cars. The steering wheel is covered in black leather with red contrast stitching to match the dark interior. An obviously Toyota parts-bin cruise control lever hangs off the right side of the wheel, and there are no other controls, giving the wheel sanitary look that compliments the center stack and instrument panel.

Feedback from the tiller is immediate and natural, which is a relief since it is an electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) system. The feel is not as light as an MX-5, yet provides none of the artificial heft of Audi's Dynamic mode (thank goodness). It's just clean and organic-feeling. It is not as precise or direct as one of the handling targets (Porsche Cayman), but it's close enough to its boxer brethren to be mentioned in the same breath. The same cannot be said of everything else in what Subaru claims is the BRZ's competitive set: Mini Cooper S, Civic Si, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Miata MX-5, and of course Scion FR-S.

Outward visibility is excellent, even though the driver sits low in a package not much longer than a Mazda MX-5. The FA20 engine, a 2.0-liter flat-four variant of the new Impreza FB family, is mounted as low and as far back as possible in the chassis, which improves everything from handling to outward sightlines, thanks to the low hood and cowl heights.

The optional Aisin-derived six-speed automatic trans is good enough, but surpassed in shift speed and response by today's dual clutches. Up- and downshifts are appreciably quick for an automatic via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles (metallic painted plastic) or slotting the shift lever towards you and toggling back and forth. But the car won't always give up a downshift upon demand; instead, a beep-beep warning is heard.

Still, the overarching sensation through the hands, butt, and inner ear is superb balance. To keep the center of gravity (CoG) low, BRZ engineers put lighter, higher-strength steel high up in the body. Moving from the oval to the winding track reveals the benefits of both low mass and CoG, as there is little brake or accel dive and almost zero roll when cornering.

That is not to say push is entirely absent. Apparently, for safety reasons, understeer is the default condition when you get sloppy. It's easy to induce through early turn-in, which causes the front outside tire to roll over and howl unhappily as the nose plows.

As a credit to the BRZ's balance, oversteer is a cinch to find as well. Flick the wheel while adding too much throttle, and the back end will break away in a progressive, predictable fashion. Yes, BRZ will dorifuto, but more on that later.

An early surprise is how aggressively the stability control intervenes in normal driving mode. The car has been criminally smooth until this point, but once the tail begins to get unsettled, things get a bit rough. In normal mode (all traction and stability controls left on), the primary response is the quick and noisy application of brake to the inside rear wheel. Dragging this tire helps kill the initial rotation and brings the car back in line, albeit in a noisy, staccato fashion. BRZ engineers say the secondary response is reduced throttle response, but that is harder to sense.

Traction and stability control algorithms are governed by three buttons mounted just behind the shifter in 6AT-equipped BRZs. (Manuals lose the center Sport/Snow button.) With one touch, the left button partial turns off stability control; when held down for 3 seconds, it turns off completely. As you'd expect, the latter is a must for wannabe drifters.

In automatic BRZs, pushing the sport/snow mode rocker switch forward turns on a yellow SPORT light in the instrument panel and sharpens the throttle map and shift algorithm, resulting in quicker shifts and lower gears held to higher RPMs. What sport mode doesn't affect is EPAS or throttle response. Toggling the rocker switch back to snow mode starts the transmission in second gear, reducing wheel slippage in low-grip conditions.

Punching the rightmost button engages Sport VSC mode. This activates a combination of stability/sport indicator lights on the gauge cluster and lets you hang the car's tail out a touch, via steering angle, yaw rate, and lateral G sensors that forecast the vehicle's position. If that future looks too sideways, brake and throttle cut precautions engage. In practice, it's the best mode for spirited road courses like the SKC handling track. This twisty second/third-gear course had several tight low-speed turns and a couple of nasty mid-corner bumps that conspired to unsettle the BRZ. Sport VSC caught it every time, with a more progressive engagement of stability control over the normal mode.

Image icon 2013-Subaru-BRZ-with-prototypes.jpg262.16 KB

Car&Driver first drive review of Subaru BRZ (same event)

2013 Subaru BRZ

Hype, validated: This rear-drive Subaru has the goods.

Some things just don’t make sense. Why is the food at Outback
Steakhouse mostly Cajun-style? Why can’t Jennifer Aniston find true
love? And why would Subaru and Toyota, two companies whose fortunes are
built on mainstream sedan sales, collaborate on a rear-drive sports car?

The latter question is a bit easier to answer from the Subaru BRZ
perspective. For one, Subaru has a currently breathing reputation for
building sporty cars: They may sell in limited volumes, but the WRX and
STI are nevertheless Subarus. And Subaru says that the engine in its
BRZ, a 2.0-liter flat-four making its first public appearance in this
car, will form the basis of its next turbo motor. For its part, Toyota says that its version of the car—to
be sold as the Toyota 86 in Japan, as the GT 86 in at least the U.K.,
and as the Scion FR-S here—makes sense as a first thrust in its plan to
again build sporty, fun-to-drive vehicles. Still, this isn’t a car that
most people saw coming from either manufacturer.

Cheese Fries, Please!

again, regardless of the boomerangs mounted on the walls and the “Chaze
Frois, Plaze!” coasters, Outback Steakhouse’s Alice Springs chicken is
delicious—and devastatingly unhealthy, but that’s beside the point. The
BRZ is likewise delectable; our only gripe about the way it drives is a
chassis that leads to understeer at the limit. That, however, is much
less likely to give you a heart attack than a jumbo
honey-mustard-marinated chicken bosom hidden under a pile of bacon and
smothered in melted cheese. Indeed, right up until the nose starts to
chatter off line, Subaru’s new coupe is gifted with exceptional balance
and clairvoyant reflexes.

The understeer isn’t a deal-breaker; with perfectly timed and
moderated inputs (or with huge, pimp-slap jerks on the wheel and heavy
stomps on the go pedal), it is possible to avoid it all together and
turn it into delicious oversteer. When the rear end goes, even in the
wet, the BRZ slides slowly and progressively. It’s so easy to catch that
you might find yourself fishing in your pocket for spare change with
one hand while the other meters yaw around an off-ramp. (Subaru says
that Toyota’s suspension tune will vary slightly, a tad softer in the
front and stiffer out back.) The brake pedal feels a little less wired
than the rest of the car, but the binders wind the speedo back toward 0
in a hurry.

Conducting the chassis is steering that is more
immediate than anything this side of the Lotus factory. Its heft is
perfect for resisting unintentional inputs at the limit. Feedback falls
short of perfection, but only slightly; blame the electric steering if
you must. The electric motor assisting the BRZ’s rack is mounted high up
on the firewall, contributing to a slightly higher center of gravity
but simultaneously shifting the front/rear weight balance a touch

Weight Watchers

In developing the BRZ,
Subaru took an almost maniacal approach to weight and its management,
keeping it low and evenly distributed between the car’s axles. The
company claims that 54 percent of this car’s mass rides on the front
wheels and 46 over the rear, and says that its center of gravity is
right around 18 inches high. That latter figure rivals or beats the
measurements for the Porsche Cayman and Mazda RX-8, among others.

Helping keep the mass snug against Mother Earth is the FA flat-four. Compared to the FB
four found in other Subies, the FA’s intake is 2.6 inches lower and the
oil pan clings closer to the crankcase, allowing it to be mounted with
its crankshaft centerline 2.4 inches lower. Amazingly, the engine is
mounted 9.4 inches farther back in the chassis than an Impreza’s four. A
Subaru spokesman says the two engines share “maybe a few screws,” but
are otherwise completely separate pieces. We’re told the weight
difference between the two is negligibly in favor of the A. Placing the
engine so far rearward of course helps balance the car, but it also
precludes Subaru from fitting an all-wheel-drive system. The company
says that it has no room for a turbocharger either, but after peering
under the hood, we disagree. Besides, Subaru desperately needs something
to tie this car to the rest of its lineup, and a turbocharged STI model
would be the perfect solution. Although the BRZ doesn’t need
more power, it certainly could handle more. We’re guessing that a turbo
will be part of whatever mid-cycle updates this car sees in two or three

Despite a displacement difference of just 3 cc, the naturally
aspirated FA and FB fours have dramatically different outputs. The B’s
148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque (as installed in the Impreza) lag 52 and 6
behind the A’s 200 and 151—Subaru’s stated output—while the A’s
7400-rpm redline is 800 higher. Thank Toyota’s fuel-injection setup,
which squirts both via intake ports and directly into the cylinder—the
system is Big T’s lone contribution to the engine—and allows a crushing
compression ratio of 12.5:1. “Crushing” is not a descriptor we’d employ
for the acceleration, although we estimate a 0-to-60-mph time of around
six seconds flat with the six-speed manual; add a couple of tenths with
the six-speed auto. Top speed is said to be 143 mph. A resonator pipes
sound into the cabin, and above 5000 rpm, there’s enough noise inside
the car that you’ll need to scream to talk. Not that you’ll be having
much conversation. That said, we wouldn’t call the quality of the sound
unmistakable; it could be taken for a number of undesirable things.
Having heard what aftermarket exhaust companies do for other Subaru
flat-fours, though, we’re confident that they can coax a better voice
out of this 7400-rpm screamer.

In spite of its higher output, the
FA should still manage 30 mpg on the highway, according to Subaru.
Underbody paneling helps keep a clean aerodynamic profile, although the
company still hasn’t decided if the treatment will be standard on all
U.S. cars or only on higher trim levels.

Even the Weenies are Treated Well

As mentioned, two
six-speeds are available, a manual and an automatic. Following our drive
of the BRZ in Japan, the manual had us seeking a temple at which we
might make an offering of thanks. The clutch pedal is a touch light—and a
touch light on feel—but snaps to attention right off the floor and
engages smoothly, and the stubby shifter snicks between gates
with ease. Heretics who buy their sports cars with automatics will at
least get a good unit. There are two modes in the Subaru: Drive and
Sport. Wheel-mounted paddles are standard; in D, the transmission allows
them to make gearchange suggestions but still upshifts at redline and
downshifts when the driver floors the accelerator. In Sport mode,
however, paddle commands are gospel—the way God’s lazy,
automatic-driving half-brother intended.

While most of the
engineering and chassis work is Subaru’s doing, the styling fell to
Toyota. It apparently drew a basic coupe shape and—well, it must have
seen it created something less than sultry but stuck with it anyway.
It’s good enough. The view from abaft is actually fairly exciting, with
the slope of the greenhouse hesitating just slightly to form a decklid
before tumbling into the rear fascia. Only the front fascia, badges, and
maybe wheels separate the BRZ from its Toyota—and Scion—sibling. The
suggestion of flares on the front fenders merely alludes to the muscular
(some might say exaggerated) styling of the various concept cars, but
the U-shaped view from the driver’s seat over the scooped-out hood is at
least unique. Visibility in all directions is much better than most
sports cars.

Interior space, on the other hand, is just about par. It’s fine up
front, and average/shortish adults might even be happy in the back for
shorter trips. Subie touts this as the shortest rear-drive 2+2 on the
market. So it is. It also says that the car can accommodate a
forward-facing child seat in the back. A rear-facing seat, on the other
hand, would probably only fit if the parent riding shotgun rides shotgun
in a car following behind. The trunk will hold just seven cubic feet of
stuff, although both halves of the rear seatback fold for larger loads.
According to Subaru, the space was designed from the beginning to hold a
set of racing tires and a toolbox in this configuration, although that
claim coincided with a PowerPoint slide entitled “Unexpected Utility”;
we suspect that’s probably the real story behind the tire-hauling
ability. Or maybe that’s why the tires are just 215 millimeters wide, as
fitting a set in the car requires a two-tire stack.

The BRZ goes
on sale in spring of 2012 as an early ’13 model, at a base price we’re
now told will be around $25,000. Asked to make sense of the BRZ, a
Subaru representative says, “It makes sense if you sell enough of them.”
In the U.S., Subaru thinks that 5000­ to 7000 per year would be enough.
Ultimately, though, a car this good doesn’t need to make sense: Its
brilliance is all the explanation we need.

TOP GEAR - First drive: Subaru’s new BRZ coupe

Yes, we’ve finally got behind the wheel. Ollie Marriage reports back from Subaru’s Japanese test track

by Ollie Marriage , 03 December 2011

First of all, let’s solve the mystery of the name. BRZ stands for Boxer, Rear-wheel drive, Zenith. That’s pretty clear isn’t it? Well, the first two parts are, and as for Zenith, that’s just Subaru’s way of saying this is the best it can do. Personally I think Subaru Zenith has more of a ring to it than Subaru BRZ which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly a dynamic name.

And this is a shame for a rather dynamic car. That’s right, we’ve finally, finally driven the BRZ. We had to go all the way to Subaru’s test track, two hours north of Tokyo to do so, but it was worth it.

So where to start? As suspected, both Subaru and Toyota have had specific tasks within this joint project. Toyota has been responsible for the design (certainly not the most dynamic aspect of the BRZ), and has lent its direct injection technology to the engine. Subaru has done pretty much everything else. Talking to the engineers you get the sense this is very much Subaru’s car – the first development prototype was a cut n’ shut Legacy, the next an Impreza. This is good news, as we know Subaru can build great cars. The BRZ clearly has potential.

It’s a brand new car from scratch – a rare thing these days. The engine is mounted so low, Subaru believes it has a lower centre of gravity than a Ferrari 458. And a low engine is not only good for handling, but also means the driver can be sat low, yet still see over the bonnet. It’s snug inside, the design largely functional, the colour scheme mostly grey. It’s no Audi TT, but the impression is good because you’ve dropped so low into a wrap-around seat and your hands are clasping a small, feelsome wheel.

The driver’s seat is definitely the place to be. Subaru boasts that this is the world’s smallest four seat rear-wheel drive coupe, so you can guess what that means for those travelling in the back. And the boot seems to be a complete afterthought.

But enough of that, it’s the driving that counts. The 2.0-litre flat four is naturally aspirated, revs to 7,400rpm and develops 200bhp and 151lb ft of torque. These, you don’t need me to point out, aren’t massively impressive figures these days. And the BRZ isn’t a massively fast car. Final homologation happens next month, the expectation being a 0-62mph time of around 6.8secs with the CO2 target being 160g/km. I’d guess at a top speed of around 145mph, and 42mpg on the combined cycle.

It’s light though (1,220kg), and Subaru has worked the torque hard, so although the peak is between 6,400-6,600rpm, you have almost all of that before 3,000rpm. Put your foot down at low revs and it picks up healthily, aided by super-quick throttle response. But it tails off a bit through the mid-range, meaning you have to head for the high numbers to get your kicks. And that’s where the BRZ is at its best. It zips through the final 2,000rpm, feels keen and energetic and then, well, and then there’s the noise. We have high hopes…

Of course, it sounds different. This Boxer doesn’t chunter and warble like an old Impreza, it’s a smoother note than that, still slightly off-beat and noisy enough without being intrusive. It’s not Honda Type-R addictive, but it’s a plus, a whack more interesting to listen to than any four cylinder turbo you care to mention (VW Scirocco? Renaultsport Megane? Mini Cooper S?). It makes this a fun engine to use, but it’s not the best thing about the car.

Because the best thing is the handling. The BRZ steers like it has no weight to deal with. It doesn’t appear to roll, pitch or dive. It’s neither nose nor tail heavy, just a sense of the front and rear working in perfect harmony. You steer, it goes and when the grip runs out (it was pouring with rain in Japan), the BRZ is almost totally neutral. And you get so much warning of when that’s about to happen. I was nervous when I found out it had electric power steering, but this has to be about the best system I’ve tried – the springy weighting is lovely and real sensations are fed back into your hands.

How best to describe it as an overall package? Keen. Eager. It’s not puppy-ish in its enthusiasm, it’s a bit more measured than that, but it’s a lot of fun. Easily better to drive than a VW Scirocco; more agile and rewarding than any Audi TT. It may not have the lungs on a Nissan 370Z, but it’s way more dextrous and I can’t think of any hot hatch except possibly the Renaultsport Clio that provides as much satisfaction.

You can still tell that it’s a Subaru at heart – not just in the engine, but the steering and manual gearbox – but it’s like they’ve let Lotus loose on the chassis. Well, almost. The light frame does get a bit thrown by big bumps, but it never feels unnerving, instead it inspires confidence.

The manual gearbox is really good – mechanical and precise – and the six-speed auto is better than expected. It’s not a double clutch, but it’s just fast enough and intelligent enough to justify its presence in a sports car.

Any other criticisms? Well, being honest, the BRZ seems slightly out of step with other rivals. Subaru has ditched the turbo just as others have adopted it, it’s available with an unfashionable auto rather than a double clutch, the biggest wheels are likely to be 17s, there’s no adaptive damping or any other chassis trickery. But does this matter? It will to some buyers, just as the styling is too plain to tempt others. But if you enjoy driving, if you relish the thought of a compact rear-drive coupe, this is the car for you. Roughly 1,000 per year will come to the UK, starting in June, with prices from around £26,000-28,000.

Remarks from Edward Loh (Motor Trend) about BRZ on Twitter (@EdLoh):

The BRZ will reportedly start at around $24,000 and rise to $27,000 for the Limited model.

BRZ will come in two levels of trim, the base-level — called, strangely, Premium — which includes navigation (yes, standard), eight-speaker audio, soft touch dash, limited-slip diff; leather-wrapped steering wheel (tilt-telescopic), shift knob and e-brake lever; six-speed manual; aluminum pedal covers and cruise control, among standard features.

The BRZ Limited model adds leather seats with Alcantara trim, fog lamps, rear deck spoiler, 17-inch rims and vented discs (16" front, 15" rear).

Subaru BRZ should go on sale in May 2012
Starting price around $24k for Premium and about $27k for Limited.
BRZ Premium model which includes standard navigation, eight-speaker audio, soft touch dash, limited slip differential, leather-wrapped steering wheel (tilt-telescopic), shift knob and e-brake lever, six-speed manual, aluminum pedal covers and cruise control, among other standard features.
BRZ Limited model adds leather seats with Alcantara trim, fog lamps, rear deck spoiler, 17-inch rims and vented discs (16" front, 15" rear)
Subaru expects sales of 3-4K units/yr
According to Subaru a key difference between BRZ and Toyota 86/Scion FR-S are firmer front and softer rear spring rates for the BRZ
BRZ weighs 2770 lbs (although Subaru BRZ press release says 2684 lbs)
Makes 200hp@7000rpm and 150lb-ft@64-6600rpm. Redline is 7450 (fuel cutoff)

2013 Scion FR-S Review by AUTOGUIDE!
The best Toyota in 20 years is actually a Scion
By Colum Wood, Dec. 09, 2011, Photography by Scion and & Chris Blanchette, Video by Chris Blanchette
Squeeze on the throttle at corner exit and the car begins to track out, with just a hint of oversteer. Get greedy and the tail will gently start to rotate. Ease off and the car tucks back in line. It does what you tell it to, no more, no less. The Scion FR-S is a return to the roots of what makes a sports car a sports car.


1. A direct-injection 2.0L 4-cylinder boxer engine makes 200 hp at 7000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 6600 rpm.

2. The unique engine makes for an impressive 53/47 weight distribution and a center of gravity that’s lower than even a Porsche Cayman.

3. Compared to the Mazda MX-5, the FR-S is eight inches longer and two inches wider, with 33 more hp and weighing roughly 200 lbs more.

4. The FR-S gets its inspiration from three historical Toyotas: taking design cues from the 2000 GT, using a flat engine like the Sports 800, while applying the many of the principles of the AE86.

It’s not the raw driving machine many may expect. Its not visceral like a Lotus Elise or as singular in purpose as a Honda S2000, and it won’t beat you up. In fact, it’s quite civilized. It is, however, very much a purist’s car and one that company CEO Akio Toyoda aptly remarked, “rewards proper driving technique.”

A better description of the FR-S, or Toyota 86 as its called in Japan, there isn’t. The antithesis of modern sports cars, Toyota set out to create it as such, purposefully avoiding AWD, turbos, excessive technology and even high grip tires.

Instead, the basic front-engine rear-drive layout, combined with a low center of gravity (due to its flat-4 boxer engine), a limited slip differential and an overall curb weight that comes in around 2,700 lbs are the tools at the disposal of the driver. This can be humbling, but it also makes the FR-S a car where you can’t show up and fake-it at a lapping day. Flaws in your technique will show through immediately and the FR-S challenges you to be a better driver.

Like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, a car the FR-S will be compared to ad nauseum, it’s a momentum car, meaning that with just 200-hp on tap, if you’re going to be fast around a race track, you’ll need to keep your speed up. That’s not as hard as it seems, especially when acceleration feels much more rapid than expected considering the engine output. Even torque feels surprisingly potent, despite just 151 lb-ft of the stuff at a lofty 6600 rpm – suggesting a solid torque curve.

Back to the handling, the FR-S has exceptional steering, although with such a short 101.3-inch wheelbase it responds quickly to inputs, meaning you have to be smooth. After just one corner there is no denying this is a rear-drive car.


2013 Scion FR-S Review Steering Wheel

Much in the same way that the car’s layout has been set up for optimum performance, from the driver’s seat, the tools required are also all there. The steering wheel is thick but also incredibly tiny making every input count. At just 365mm, Toyota claims it’s the smallest they’ve ever put in a production car – at least in recent history. The shifter is quite long, although the shifts are incredibly short, with the distance between first and second gear about three inches. It even feels good, weighted perhaps a bit lighter than a MX-5, but with a fluid every-day ease of use much like a Civic Si. Add to this the fact that the pedals are perfectly placed for proper heel-toe downshifts and you’ll find yourself repeating the words “this is a Toyota product?”

That is perhaps a bit generous, as even Toyota will admit that while the concept behind the car is theirs, execution was primarily handled by Subaru – an automaker that one doesn’t have to pull out a history book in order to recall their last awesome performance machine.

Other notable interior features are the seats, which are excellently bolstered, not just on the sides, but at the shoulders as well, and coated in a grippy material to keep you in place.

2013 Scion FR-S Review Interior

Located right in front of the shifter are two buttons, one for a sport mode, the other to turn traction and stability control right off. The sport setting is properly unintrusive, letting you even hang the end out a little. Off, by all accounts, is full-off, with no intervention when late in the day rain soaked the course and our test session transformed journalists into amateur drifters.


Sadly, while an enthusiast’s machine and equipped with a 6-speed manual from the factory, offering an automatic transmission is a necessity to make the FR-S a viable business case. As a sign of Toyota’s commitment to the car, when developing an automatic the engineers didn’t just phone it in. Instead they developed a six-speed unit based off the 8-speed automatic in the Lexus IS-F. With a proper steering wheel mounted paddle shifter setup it’s shockingly good. When pressed, the car’s chief engineer Tetsuya Tada wouldn’t give any data on shift times but did say they targeted VW’s DSG dual-clutch system. By all accounts, it’s close, and easily matches the best auto-boxes in the business.

2013 Scion FR-S Review


Much has been said about the car’s center of gravity, with reports even attributing Toyota engineers as claiming the car will have the lowest CoG of any production car. That, Tata san admits, is not the case, though for a good reason. In data provided by Toyota, they admitted that both the Porsche GT3 and Ferrari 360, not to mention the Lexus LFA, have a lower weight balance. Those super sports cars had a serious advantage, however, says Tata san with a ground clearance of roughly 110 mm. The FR-S, on the other hand, stands 130 mm off the ground (almost an inch higher), putting it as a serious disadvantage. Could it be lower? Certainly, but Toyota and Scion need it to be a mass production vehicle with all the daily-use needs that that entails.

2013 Scion FR-S Review

Those who want a lowered FR-S won’t have to wait long. In fact, they won’t even have to wait for the aftermarket to develop the products, as at launch Scion will offer a selection of parts, including lowering springs and sway bars.


Initial tests of two right-hand drive models proved pleasing but left us without the wow factor the car’s hype suggested. Those models did, however, give us a chance to get familiar with the track and once behind the wheel of the lone left-hand drive U.S.-spec Scion FR-S turn one hit us like an epiphany. Comfortable enough to actually push the machine, it rewarded; the steering, balance and low center of gravity transforming jaded auto journalist skepticism into the realization that the man in charge at Toyota really does get it.

2013 Scion FR-S Review Cornering

“Yes,” you’ll scream aloud to yourself inside your racing helmet. “This is it! This is what I’ve been looking for!”

As any proper rear-drive sports car should, the FR-S can be rotated with the throttle. Pinch a corner and induce understeer and a correction is as easy as a dab of gas to point you in the right direction again.

2013 Scion FR-S Review Rear View
2013 Scion FR-S Review Tires

Brake fade was nonexistent during out five lap sessions, though much longer would surely show some wear. The car’s light weight most certainly has something to do with the longevity of the pads.

For all the praise we’ve heaped on it, the FR-S could use more of one thing – grip. The factory tires aren’t high-performance pieces, something Toyota did on purpose, both to keep true to the spirit of the machine, and keep the price tag down. With a set of aftermarket wheels a necessity for many buyers, some UHP tires should be included. Scion will likely offer those at the dealer as well.

Adding to the car’s functionality is a rear hatchback and fold flat second row seats, which Scion claims leaves enough space to fit a spare set of tires when heading to the track.

If the FR-S is missing anything else, it’s some added aggression, with a subtle aero kit and spoiler high on our list of add-ons. Many will likely say the FR-S needs more power and while more wouldn’t hurt, those folks (the same ones who have probably never driven on a track) are missing the point.


The Scion FR-S is a special machine. It’s unique because it’s the world’s only direct-injection flat-four rear-drive sports car, but the reasons go well beyond the facts, to the level of driving enjoyment it delivers.

If there’s any way the FR-S isn’t what we expected it’s in its civility. And to be truthful, any such reputation it has as a rough-around-the-edges track warrior is one the automotive media, and not Toyota (Scion), has created. Rather, it’s comfortable, functional and refined in a way that perhaps only a Toyota can be. Add to this what is expected to be surprisingly good fuel economy and a price well below the $30,000 mark and the car’s appeal is vast.

2013 Scion FR-S Review Right Side

As Akio Toyoda mentioned, the FR-S rewards a good driver, and is perhaps the best tool we can think of to develop and improve your performance driving skills; or just have a lot of fun regardless of your talent or ambition. Add to that the fact that its light weight and small size mean tires and brakes won’t wear too hard and replacement items won’t cost a fortune and the FR-S is destined to become the track weapon of choice for leagues of driving enthusiasts.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when a car will become an icon. Sometimes it’s not.


enjoy the video:

ok, Dino Dalle Carbonare from Speedhunters got a really good review!


We have dedicated a lot of space to the Scion FR-S and its JDM cousin
the Toyota 86 over the last few weeks, not to mention the Subaru BRZ we
saw at the Tokyo Motor Show.
It's not often this happens; sure there are tons of anticipated cars
that everyone wants to get their hands on, but the FR-S is something
different. This is the car that will re-write the rulebook when it comes
to modern day, affordable sports cars as it's, well, unique. It's
precisely for this reason that I felt a little bit short changed after
getting the chance to sample the car at Fuji during the Gazoo Racing Festival. Of course I was very happy Toyota allowed the press to sample the 86, but getting only three laps was torture!

However, I knew that in a few short weeks I'd have the chance to get
some more time behind the wheel in a special Scion event that was being
organized at Sodegaura Forest Raceway. So I patiently waited; and oh my,
was the wait worth it. Imagine having a cool little technical circuit
like Sodegaura at your disposal and a selection of cars to abuse, ehm,
sorry...test for a whole day.

It was the perfect opportunity to not only discover what the FR-S is all about..but use it as an owner would use his car on track.

So the day started at the crack of dawn as I jumped on the train to Shimbashi where I met up with Luke Huxham of Maiham Media
who was coming along to make a film about the FR-S. From there it was a
short monorail ride to Daiba station where we met up with the Scion
guys and all the journalists and photographers that had been invited
from the US. 

One of them was our very own Larry Chen, who I hadn't had the
pleasure of meeting until that morning on the bus ride to the circuit. Jonathan Wong from Super Street was busy throughout the day taking notes and exploring the limits of the car out on track. D-Sport's Michael Ferrara was
doing a whole lot of filming, but sometimes he had to drop his heavy
video gear and grab a couple of shots with his iPhone!

Aesthetically the JDM 86 and FR-S are almost identical aside from very small variations like the orange front side markers and the boxer/86 badge on the fenders . .which has a black background rather than a red one like the
Japanese cars. The wheels are the same as on the 86 and BRZ, again only
the emblem varies for each model.  

Under the hood the direct and conventionally injected 4U-GSE 2-liter
flat-four develops the same 200 HP as on the Japanese cars. Here is
Column Wood from AutoGuide having a look under the hood of the 6-speed automatic version of the 86.

Scott Tsuneishi from Import Tuner was checking out the available space around the motor, and wondering where the best place to fit a turbocharger would be.

One thing we all noticed was the lack of a push-start button in the
FR-S, something that all the JDM 86 seemed to have. The key-less entry
system with push-button may well be an option offered when you order the
car, probably along with the climate control which was a manual type on
the FR-S and not the two-zone automatic one with digital controls like
in the 86. Minor details of course, that have nothing to do with the
driving experience.

As the first few test drives kicked off I headed out on the midfield
to check out how the cars looked when put through their paces. This
particular masked car is one of the development test mules that have
spent most of their lives being lapped hard around the Nordschleife. I
took this car out later in the day and it felt "well-used" compared to
the tight pre-production cars we were playing with.

Each session consited of 5-laps, the final of which was a slow one to allow the cars to cool down. As the four cars provided entertainment out on track...

...chief engineer for the 86/FR-S project, Tetsuya Tada, was
available in the hospitality area to answer any questions about the

My first stint behind the wheel was on board of the automatic.
Admittedly I wasn't eager to drive this self-shifting version, but
thought I'd have a quick go just so I could experience the 86 in all its
guises. Man was I blown away. As I sat inside I turned all of the
traction and stability controls off, as you go of course, shifted the
gear selector to the manual side of the "D" position and floored the
throttle. As I shot out onto the main straight and grabbed the right
paddle for the first to second gear upshift I was instantly surprised. I
was pretty sure that they had told us this was a torque converter but
the speed and urgency in which it was shifting was more dual-clutch-like
than a lazy, torque sapping slush box. Engine wise, I can't add much
more to what I have already said about the flat-four on my previous
drive. It's smooth and linear and a great match for the car, and sounded
especially good in the manual version for some reason.

I pushed the car harder and harder through the corners and began to
play around with the lively rear end that steps out whenever you want
it, and with as much angle as you desire. The relatively short wheelbase
makes the car very precise and agile through the corners but if you get
too sideways you will be swapping ends faster than you can say "uups!" I
spun the car a few times in this way but it helps you find out the
limits of the chassis, when and where to keep your foot down and when
it's better to chill so you can return the car in one piece! Aside from
the two second-gear hairpins that were fun to powerslide out of, it was
the two third-gear corners in the in-field that were the most fun. This
is where the precision and balance of the chassis and suspension shines
through. You can hold the car right on the limit of grip and as you
being to exit the long sweeper you can feather the throttle, placing the
car at a slight angle, each millimeter of the gas pedal pushing the
rear end out further as you wind in a few more degrees of opposite lock.
The precision is amazing, and extremely satisfying. I didn't dare go
crazy on this particular section as a mistake at that speed would have
ended in a potential mess. However Formula D champion Ken Gushi was
going full out, flicking the car into a drift in third with a whole turn
of opposite lock and holding it there until the transtion and downshift
into second, to set up for the final hairpin of the course. Crazy

...I returned back and asked Tada-san with a few questions. First up
the automatic. Why is it so damn good? Well it turns out it is based on
the Lexus ISF's 8-speed transmission, probably one of the best torque
converters in the world known for machine-gunning through gears and
serving up delicious rev-matched downshifts. For the FR-S two cogs are
removed obviously and the solenoids that shift the ratios aren't quite
as advanced but that is one hell of a lot of technology to be putting in
a little sports car like this. It turned out I didn't even put the
transmission in Sport mode, where the shifts get even quicker, something
I sampled in my next drive of the car. I think I did at least 20 laps
in the auto, it was really that good. I also asked Tada-san if he could
let us know the chassis code for the 86/FR-S, as I am sure a lot of you
might want to know this. Well it turns out he does have an idea what it
will be but it won't be confirmed until the homologation paperwork from
the government is finalized. So for all you otakus out there, sorry but you will have to wait a couple of months to find this out!

The poor little FR-S had so many cameras attached onto its body it looked like a porcupine!

Luke and Larry both liked the FR-S as much as everyone else there so thumbs up from them too!

With the final session was over into the back of the service van do to some tracking shots of Ken in the FR-S. 

We were told no drift shots but I think Ken got bored after half a lap, as you can see in the opening shot.

I am usually extremely critical of new cars, but there is hardly
anything I can fault the FR-S on. I'd have to really nitpick because as
it is, this is an astonishingly good ride. I literally haven't had this
much fun in a car at a track in a very long time. I can't wait to get my
hands on a production model and take it up to some touge to see if it shines as much on mountain passes as it does around a smooth track.


Behind the scenes of Japan trip:

Holiday auto 20 minute review of Toyota 86 (Japanese):

See video

DSPORT Magazine first drive review video of Scion FR-S at Sodegaura Raceway:

See video


On the road: Subaru’s new BRZ
Paul Horrell reports back from one of our most eagerly-awaited drives of the year…
Posted by: Paul Horrell , 28 March 2012


You might think you know every last detail about the BRZ. Between Subaru and Toyota, there’s been a blizzard of multimedia. Enough concept cars, prototype sneak previews and track tests to broach your download limits.

But you don’t know it all. Because this is a road car, and here we are for the first time on the actual road.

So does it live up to the hype? Of course not. Unless it had been styled by da Vinci and engineered by Brunel – and for good measure had Newton quietly bent the laws of mechanics in its favour – it’d never have been as good as they said it would be.

But oh my, it comes close.

A quick recap. It’s a low-built, short-overhang, long-wheelbase rear-drive coupe. But the centre of mass is even lower than everyone else’s cars of that type, because it has a flat-four engine. And actually the flat-four is even lower and far further back than with other Subarus, because (since it’s RWD-only) there are no front driveshafts or diff in the way. There’s a limited-slip diff. It uses comparatively narrow tyres, so its 200bhp is enough.

The whole thing is a recipe for agility, low roll, tossable handling and general chicanery.

And so it turns out. The first few mountain hairpins or wet roundabouts verify that pivoting into a corner is the most natural feeling in the world. The front wheels are always happy to carve the exact track you request. Then you can poke the back end out and feel the hero. And unlike some rear-drivers, the BRZ’s magical balance and progression means it’s a cinch to gather up again. The low roll makes it marvellously tidy through S-bends.

But a road car needs more from its suspension and steering than a track car does. The steering needs to be direct and progressive, so you can pour the car into an uneven or unknown bend. The springs need to absorb bumps and keep the tyres evenly weighted so you don’t hop about.

And the BRZ is brilliant there too. All the steering lacks is a bit more feel, to tell you how much grip the tyres have left. But in this car more than in most, you don’t miss that because the rest of the car’s reactions are so accurate and faithful. You get the information from other sources.

The 200bhp two-litre is enough engine. Just. In this age of turbos, it does seem very light on torque between 3000 and 4000rpm. You have to revise your whole style of driving. Change down. And again. Rev its little spuds off, make sure you keep getting flashed by shift-up light as you zero in on 7500. That way happiness lies. For a flat-four, it doesn’t sound as charismatic as it might, but it’s always smooth enough that there’s no pain in sticking with those epic revs.

Hardcore though all of that might seem, this is a road car and you’ve got to be able to live with it. And though it’s firm, the ride is OK because you sit so low and so far from the wheels, there’s very little pitch and rock. The seats are brilliant and the legs-forward driving position spot-on. Everything quietens down decently at a motorway cruise. It’s easy to see out of, and the boot’s a decent size. If the front passenger slides forward, there’s even space to jam a grown-up in behind. Though there’d be human rights issues if you kept them there for more than 10 minutes.

And it looks good. Very good actually – bigger, more grown-up and less delicate than in pictures. A serious car.

And a serious laugh.