Born To Run: Athletic new Scion FR-S explodes from blocks with sleek body, 200-horsepower engine

  • Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2013 12:01 a.m.
This “Hot Lava”-colored 2013 Scion FR-S from Hendrick Toyota-Scion North Charleston was parked Tuesday in front of the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. (Leroy Burnell/postandcourier.com/1/8/2013). Buy this photo

By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

From its launch more than a decade ago, Scion has been revving to the beat of a different dynamometer.

The brand was Toyota’s answer to critics who thought the company’s offerings, while well-built and good sellers, were a bit boring.

Scion would counterbalance Lexus, the staid, top notch luxury brand that’s now close to 25 years old. And it would serve as a quirky cousin to familial Toyota whose models include the best-selling Camry sedan, Tundra truck, compact Corolla, Sienna minivan and leading hybrid, the Prius.

Moreover, the vehicle would reel in younger drivers looking for an edgy, personalized model while holding onto Toyota’s decades-long reputation for quality.

Even the name fit the mold: Scion is an heir, the next generation, a child descended from the rich and famous.

With 11 years under its belt, Scion has developed certain traits, such as no-haggle pricing, while continuing to experiment with its lineup. The xA, which has been discontinued, was compact and trendy; the xB wagon is as fuel-efficient as it is boxy; the tC is a more traditional yet streamlined coupe; and the subcompact iQ is a fuel-sipping ride for three. The models all have base prices in the $15,000 to $18,000 range.

Then early in the 2013 model year, Scion introduced its first sport coupe, the FR-S. It is the priciest Scion starting at $24,500. Still, the FR-S has been a hit thus far, at least judging from its interest in the metro Charleston market.

Hendrick Toyota-Scion North Charleston has sold most every model that’s arrived, typically in a matter of days, Cory Lallier, inventory manager, said this week. Along with its speed and quickness, the coupe gets solid fuel numbers of 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

FR-S two-doors sell at or near the sticker price without back-and-forth negotiating. A coupe with a special “Hot Lava” exterior color at the dealership this week cost $28,115. “That (no-haggle pricing) makes it easy for young buyers,” he said.

The color scheme is one of the perks of the FR-S: Another model in the showroom was “Firestorm” red. The dealership sometimes parks an FR-S near the entrance off Rivers Avenue to draw attention from the highway.

Packing a 200-horsepower engine, the car has been especially popular with local military personnel. “What I have seen is they’re going to guys from the base,” he said.

Considering the performance on a mid-length test drive Tuesday, those servicemen and servicewomen are smart shoppers.

The FR-S is one of those vehicles —compact, low to the ground and not weighing a lot — that feels like it’s hurtling along faster than what’s shown on the speedometer (which in this case is displayed both digitally and with the standard moving needle).

That’s not a bad thing. At the same time, the coupe with its four-cylinder 2.0-liter powertrain has no trouble getting up to speed on the interstate and the highway. The handling was tight and expressive at any mph, such as zipping in and out of a series of light fixtures on an area parking lot.

The test model was a six-speed manual transmission (the FR-S also is available with a six-speed automatic) that shifted easily, although sometimes a little vaguely from the third and fourth gear grouping to fifth and sixth speeds. A handy feature was the gear throw to reverse: tug up on the knob, and the shifter slides effortlessly to “R” on the upper left.

Cloth materials were supple and leg room ample in the driver and passenger seats. The convenient center console included a touch-screen to adjust audio channels as well as an intuitive setup for the radio and climate control. The car lacked redundant controls on the steering wheel, however.

For a sport coupe, the FR-S offered decent visibility. The trunk, while small, was quite deep and could be opened at the push of a button near the driver side door.

While the Scion is called a coupe, it’s more akin roomwise to a race car. This is a sport model, first and foremost. The back seats almost can’t be employed unless the front seats are pulled way up, which would be uncomfortable for most drivers.

Another nit: the two cupholders between the front seats are back a little too far for the driver to reach a drink without an awkward turn.

No question, though, Scion built the FR-S for reasons other than as a people mover. Call the model a mobile version of the ubiquitous “man-cave,” (or, for that matter, “woman-cave.”)

The sport coupe delivers a shot of adrenaline to the Scion line-up, arguably attracting interest from motorists on the sidelines before. If Ford has its Mustang and Madza its Miata, then Scion can rightfully claim its FR-S.

To find out more about the FR-S, visit your local Scion dealership.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.

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