2013 Scion FR-S (the other twin)

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I’ve already road-tested the new Subaru BR-Z (see here) so is there any point in reviewing its twin – the Scion FR-S?FRS lead

Well, here’s the thing. They are twins – but fraternal, not identical. Like the ’80s-and ’90s-era Chevy Camaro Z28 and the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am (RIP), the BR-Z and the FR-S share what’s called a “common platform” in industry-speak. They’ve got the same chassis, the same basic physical dimensions, the same suspension – and the same drivetrains, too.

But there are differences.

The question before us is: Are they enough to make a difference?

Like the Z28 and Trans-Am back in the day, the FR-S and BR-Z are targeted at different buyers. The FR-S (like the ’80s-’90s era Camaro) is the more basic, no frills – and so lower cost – twin. Its starting MSRP  – $24,500 – is about a grand less than the $25,495 base price of the BR-Z. But both cars – like the ’80s and ’90s-era Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans-Am, have the same running gear. And that includes peripherals such as a limited slip rear axle and high-performance “summer” tires (all seasons available at no charge in lieu of the “summer” tires with either of the twins). FRS interior

Same high-compression (12.5:1) 200 hp “boxer” flat four. Same stats, zero to 60. Same standard and optional transmissions. Same gas mileage. Same everything – as far as the functional stuff.  They even have identical dashboards and gauge clusters (unlike the old Camaro/Firebird).

So, what’s the catch? What don’t you get for the extra grand you’re not spending?

The Fluff.

Well, the not-functional stuff:  GPS, LCD touchscreen with voice-activation and some other bells and whistles are not included with the FR-S.

Also, you can order an even fluffier version of the BR-Z – the BR-Z Limited – which adds in keyless push-button start, seat heaters and suede-leather interior enhancements. All these things are nice to have, of course. But they don’t enhance the car’s performance.

They do, however, enhance the BR-Z’s price tag – which climbs to $28,595.FRS engine

With the Scion, there’s only one trim – and the main option is the automatic transmission, which bumps the sticker price to $25,600.

Some of the extras that are factory equipment (or a factory option) in the BR-Z can be purchased and added to the FR-S a la carte-style as dealer-installed accessories. The fog lights and rear decklid spoiler that are included with the BR-Z Limited, for instance. Also – in keeping with Scion tradition – you can  buy over-the-counter performance equipment for the FR-S  such as a TRD (Toyota Racing Development; see here) stainless steel dual exhaust system ($1,100) and low-restriction air filter assembly ($75). Trim bits and other customization stuff – 150 items – are also available through Scion’s Optomize accessory arm (see here for details).

TRD ExhaustSo, the skinny is basically this: The FR-S is today’s Z28; the BR-Z, today’s Trans-Am. Both perform identically, but one (the BR-Z) is a more luxurious performer.

The other’s a more economical performer.

You lose nothing – performance-wise – by choosing the FR-S over the BR-Z. And you save a grand – which just happens to be the cost of the over-the-counter TRD performance exhaust upgrade. TRD/Scion doesn’t give any numbers – as far as hp – but probably the TRD exhaust plus some tweaking of the computer is good for another 10 hp.

Maybe more.

epscionOf course, the TRD exhaust upgrade fits the BR-Z just as well. But if you buy the BR-Z, you’ll have spent the additional grand on the car – not the exhaust upgrade.

On the other hand, maybe you really like push-button start and keyless ignition. Nothing wrong with that.

Which would I buy?

If you’ve been reading my stuff you already know the answer.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. Just in my mailbox:

    Check this out>

    I will be in Shreveport sometime in March and will try to run this outfit down. Like the look and layout, And would buy one to day if available and performed as stated, but I’m pretty skeptical about claims.

      • Wow! As I reach years back into the archives of my barely cognitive brain, I catch glimpses of ideas from that interesting, and arguably, timely work, read when still a child at my Dad’s insistence. Dad always had a reading list for me, and was pissed at me when his little prodigy couldn’t clearly explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity at the ripe age of six. Dad was a Biophysicist.

        If I catch up to the perpetrators of the Elio at the old GM plant in Shreveport, I will drop your reversed order of characters and see if they catch the inference.

        Thanks! Eric.

    • Tre,

      That is one cool looking vehicle.

      For a daily vehicle to move 1-2 people and some packages, this seems to be a good choice.

      It is not for everyone, but I think it will be great for some people.

      Hopefully it is not like the Aptera or Loremo and never reach production.

      • Two questions that cannot be answered at the moment:

        How difficult would it be to change the rear wheel?

        Does it come with a spare tire?

        I hope the car succeeds.

      • ‘Mithrandir’

        I found the Elio/’Eloi’ while researching electric golf carts and parts. I have an old Harley Davidson golf cart that I wanted to convert to a city mobile, by reversing the intended order of its original configuration, paired wheels in front single in back, and building a streamlined enclosed body for it. It would be used for urban runs of less then 20 miles.

        As for its future, I don’t see how they can build it for $6,800. If they can and it gets something close to the claimed performance, they will need the 1,500 Plus, productive Americans to keep up with production demands.

        • Tre,

          Even if the final price is about $9-10 thousand, I think this would be a good seller.

          This car would really appeal to those in metro areas or people that need a car primarily for commuting.

          Time will tell if the car will be the real deal or another type of vaporware.

          I hope that they can deliver the goods. (If not, Eloi Motors could be a good alternative. Nice catch Eric. 🙂 )

          • There are a lot of notable industry names behind it, so we will see.

            If they have any success, I hope they build an Electric model.

            $10,000 would probably be the no go point.

            If they could deliver today at $7,500 I would take one immediately.

            My only concern reviewing the design, is that of high speed ‘pedal to the metal’ braking, what with a large percentage of the weight over or around the front axle. The dynamic leverage could be a negative factor if there is no load in the back seat/cargo area

  2. Years back, I was local C Stock Autocross champ, beating many a kid in their hot rods with my ’99 Mazda Miata Sport. And all the while, I ran the events on street tires. Miatas rule!

  3. When Chrysler added stainless steel exhaust systems as standard equipment it was because it only added $15 to the cost of the car. Now they cost $1100. Must be that fine jap SS and odd pricing policies of jap carmakers.

      • True. The Hippocratic Oath of the NAP.

        I SWEAR that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation – to reckon they who taught me the NAP as equally dear to me as my parents.

        To teach those who shall wish to learn the NAP, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the NAP to my own kin and phyle, and those of my teachers, and to fellow disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to their voluntary consent, but to none others.

        I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my kin and phyle, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous.

        Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the confused, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption.

        Whatever, in connection with my practice and principles, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret.

        While I continue to keep this Oath inviolate, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the NAP, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!

  4. Bullit,

    Just watched that show again last night.

    Yes, the 68′ 440 Charger was the bad guys car and the 390 GT Mustang McQueens ride. The Charger burnout in the show was typical of what a 440″ Charger would do for blocks. The 440″ cars were capable of 155 MPH with the stock rear gear. The 440″ Six-Pack was capable of nearly 170 MPH. While the Six-Pack wasn’t optional on the 68′ Charger, it was available over the counter in 68′ and became a regular order option in 69′. Some historians, claim that it was also available on late order 68’s, but it wasn’t on my late Spring(early June) order. I bought it and the Six-Pack cam, over the counter at the dealership. With the addition of headers, the power and car was legendary in my circle of Gear Heads.

    My Charger was about the same color Green as the Bullit Mustang, with a Black vinyl roof, and with Crager GT’s and a slight lowering(2″ in front/1-1/2″ Back) for high speed runs, it had a mean look. The exhaust had a wicked sound with the addition its new turbo type mufflers. Not a raucous loud, but a low grumble that just got deeper with more throttle. The car was the classic chick magnet.

    An interesting bit of trivia about the Bullit cars, is that the Chargers were essentially unmodified, and took the abuse better then the Mustangs. I would have never guessed that considering the weight difference.
    I also remember going to the drive-in to see the movie and my Gal friend started laughing because I was braking and turning the wheel while we watched..I didn’t even realize it…col!

    It was pretty kool to watch a movie that had a car in it, that was the same as the car you were sitting in, especially in those rigorous driving scenes.

    • “The Charger burnout in the show was typical of what a 440″ Charger would do for blocks…”

      I can vouch for this also.

      Good friend owned a ’71 GTX 440. Imagine what would happen when you put all the hp and torque to the pavement via 14×6 Hurst mags!

      That thing was scary. Easily one of the scariest cars I have ever driven. (The scariest being a 427 Cobra).

      It was completely unbalanced – probably 60 percent of the weight on the nose. Shittier brakes than my Kaw triple (and that is saying something – those who know will know what I mean). Ridiculously over-boosted steering. And that engine! Jesus Christ! It took very little effort for it to completely overpower the tires – and the rear suspension. It fishtailed like a gut-hooked sea bass.

      But that mother was fast – and incredibly fun. A totally different experience vs. a modern performance car, too. Because it took both balls and guts to drive the thing fast. Anyone – your wife, your girlfriend, your fearful mother-in-law – can drive a new CTS-V, Mustang Boss or Camaro SS. A 440 Mopar would scare them so much they’d refuse to get in as a passenger. Forget about actually driving the thing. They literally couldn’t, most of them. The clutch was too much. And so was the 440.

      These were intimidating cars. And that was a huge part of their charm.

      Very few modern cars are like this. One of the few I can think of is the Viper. Also a Mopar, curiously enough!

      • Yes, Eric, the Big block Chargers were wild, but pretty composed at speed and in corners compared too other cars of the time. Wide oval radial tires further enhanced handling and metallic brakes helped haul them down from yahoo runs.

        I have many a story, usually, still told by my friends/family, of the Chargers exploits.

        Once, while visiting my parents in rural Oregon, South of Portland, I took a run into the local village a few miles away, on the way back I nailed the throttle on the Charger, hitting scary speeds on the narrow country road, Crossing over a little bridge I got airborne and had to reel it all in. Just past the bridge was a picturesque little country church with a a pioneer grave yard on the side. I turned around and went back to the church, parked the Charger among the tombstones and took a picture of the menacing, smoking beast. That picture says so much, as I was sure I was going to kill myself with that car.

  5. @ Mike “Well, if you insist upon being pedantic,” I do …col!

    Since the average price of a ‘new’ Zed-4, out the door is twice the price of a BRZ, I think I can be forgiven thinking that Eric was thinking used.


  6. Oh, goody-goody-goody-goody-GUMDROPS I’ve been waiting to see this car tested by someone who’ll review it honestly for ages!

    I saw one briefly the other day, and they’re beautiful in the flesh; svelte, sleek, almost understated; honestly, Ferrari-like in its proportions and the finely honed nose, the curves…what a car!

    I’m almost tempted to break my no-new-cars pledge for one. I’ll have to gauge the WAF.

    I can’t wait to hear what you think of the engine, Eric. I’ve always loved free-revving aspro engines; as much fun as turbos can be, there’s just that something special about a sewing-machine engine stretching its legs on the way to a lofty redline.

    Eagerly awaiting your full report, kind sir.

    • Turbo versus Naturally Aspirated. You lose driving finesse through a lack defined control with a turbo. Even some of the finest, best managed turbo cars(Gen-3 RX-7/335i’s were/are still wanting to a degree in that regard.

      And as regards ‘Cross-Shopping’ most informed performance buyers cross shop with a large degree of latitude. Even New to Used. What will $25,000 buy me? What can I live with and with out? New versus used, Warranty, Sunroof, Manual tranny, Remote door locks, Electronics pkg. etc. …?

      Do I buy a new FRS or MX-5, or do I buy a ‘one of 1,000′, 2002’ SL32_AMG with 40,000 miles on it for $15,000, and save $10,000.

      Do I buy a new MX-5 Roadster Coupe, FRS, Nissan Frontier, used 370Z, G-37, BMW 128i/135i, or wait for the new 2015 Mustang Turbo? Or should just build a new kitchen or shop addition instead.

      Cross shopping just isn’t that rigid unless your rigidly comparing like vehicles like a BMW 3-series/Audi-4-/G-37/C-class/CTS.

      FRS/BRZ and MX-5, can be crossed shop on how important excellent handling is too you, then you have to add in other important factors to weigh your decision. Convertible versus coupe, practicality, cost, etc.


      • Another factor – FR-S/BR-Z vis-a-vis Miata – is the presence (or absence) of back seats. They’re useless, of course, for living things. But they’re very handy for carting stuff. The Miata’s less practical in this respect.

        Also, front seat ergonomics.

        Some bigger/taller drivers will find the cabin of the Scion/Subaru feels a bit more spacious. I can comfortably drive both (the “twins” and the Miata) but at 6ft 3 and 200-ish, it’s tighter for me in the Miata. Since every body is different, this is something that everyone will have to try out for themselves.

  7. In reality, these cars are not “targeted at different buyers.” Not unless you consider those who like vanilla instead of strawberry ice cream to be an entirely different market segments. (Technically, they may be “different.” But they both want ice cream.)

    I’d pick the same one as you, for a different reason. It would be worth an “extra” grand to me, just to have the one with a Toyota ( OK “Scion,”) name badge. Even if they are built at the same manufacturing facility, I’ll predict better resale value for the “Toyota.”

    In reality, you can have this ice cream dish, in whichever flavor you wish. Make mine a very different treat….. a Mustang 5.0 GT.

    • Hi Mike,

      The pricing structure (and equipment offered) is indeed targeted at different buyers. A BR-Z Limited is an almost $30k car with lots of luxury or near-luxury amenities such that a buyer looking at something like a BMW Z4 might pick the BR-Z instead.

      The Scion, on the other hand, is targeted at younger and more single-minded (performance minded) buyers. Just one trim – pretty much take it or leave it. If it had been my call, I’d have gone even farther and made AC optional or at least a delete option. And how about an “insulation” delete package to further lighten the thing up?

      Either way, though, these are superb sports cars with very few compromises, yet very everyday drivable.

      I’m looking forward to the STi (and TRD) versions… coming out a few months from now!

      • Let’s set aside the question of whether you could actually buy a BMW Z4 for $30K…..

        Even if the two cars have fairly similar performance parameters, you will find very few, If Any, BMW buyers who are cross shopping Subarus. 😉

        And even in their current, non turbo form, these Sciobarus have way too much testosterone for any Miata buyers. 😉 😉

        At this time, I think the FR-S/BR-Z have a market niche all to themselves. The closest thing I can think of was the original Datsun 240Z.

        Pop a turbo on those puppies, and they may begin to edge into the original Turbo Supra class.

        Those are two totally excellent market segments!

      • Do you think AC adds that much weight given the lightweight compressors and AC components these days? I’m thinking the weight addition would be less than 30 pounds overall.

        • As I recall, Tom, the total weight of all AC components removed from an ‘NA’ Miata when converting to a ‘Spec’ Miata, was around 52 pounds. Parts are bit lighter on newer vehicle models depending on service needs.

          Interesting video. use full screen and look close…>

        • No, not all that much weight. But wouldn’t it be nice if it dropped $800 from the MSRP?

          Plus, it would drop some weight. In a track-minded car, even 50 pounds is an advantage. Plus, the engine would have less parasitic drag – and access to it would be easier.

          • All good, Eric.

            52 pounds off of a Miata is a big deal. MX-5’s are sensitive to weight. One really becomes attuned to tire pressures and static and dynamic loads with a Miata. The connections is so visceral, you almost become one with the car after time well spent in the little roadster, but then I have over 300,000 well spent miles in them. Many of those miles crashing gears and clipping apexes with gusto. Often getting the rolled Black flag pointed at me and shaken ‘pedantically’ in an effort to curb my purposeful driving… col! Ah! Youth.

      • Dear Eric,

        I’d have gone even farther and made AC optional or at least a delete option. And how about an “insulation” delete package to further lighten the thing up?

        Now we’re talking!

        Back to 1968 and the Plymouth Roadrunner, with vinyl bench seats and rubber floor mats.

        Back to performance uber alles. To hell with anything else.

        Although Plymouth already had a performance car in the GTX, designers decided to go back to the drawing board and reincarnate the original muscle car concept.

        Plymouth wanted a car able to run 14-second times in the quarter mile (402 m) and sell for less than US$3000. Both goals were met, and the low-cost muscle car hit the street.

        The success of the Road Runner would far outpace the upscale and lower volume GTX, with which it was often confused.

        • Bevin, back in the Fall of 67′, I worked part time for the local Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth dealer while going to school. One day I took my latest project to work to show the guys, a 57′ Ford Custom 300 with a new Ford 360Hp ‘Special’ engine, I had extracted from a junkyard donor. Was pretty proud of this very low mileage, squeaky clean car with its new power, 4-speed, Police interceptor brakes and sway bars, and lowered road race demeanor. But nobody was in the shop? Soon found out that they were all on the back access road, testing the new Road Runner that had just come off the truck. So much for my proud presentation, the Bird stole it.

          I liked the Road Runner, but in late Spring of 68′, I opted for a new Charger RT 440. The Road Runner’s interior, was just to cheap looking, even the upgraded interior failed to please.


          • Dear Tre,

            I liked the Road Runner, but in late Spring of 68′, I opted for a new Charger RT 440.

            The 68 second generation Charger RT was nice. Much nicer lines than either the earlier or later incarnations. To my eyes anyway.

            Wasn’t that the one driven by the two hitmen in “Bullit?”

          • Bevin,

            I think a Ford Mustang GT was driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt.

            The hitmen in the car chase drove a Charger.

            The chase scene was fun to watch.

            • It still holds up!

              I think a lot has to do with the fact that it’s a real chase – not CGI’d. They made real mistakes – and these are in the film. Also, McQueen did much of the driving himself.

          • Much as I love my Pontiacs, I hope – some fine day – to be in a a position to own an early ’70s Mopar. They are, simply put, the most outrageous of an outrageous class of cars whose like we shall never see again.

            A Panther Pink 340 Six Pack E Body would do nicely.

            Or perhaps a Sublime big block.

            Hot damn!

            I’ve got a particular liking for the very last of them – the ’72 Charger with “fuselage” body and the final (of the real performance) 440s. I’ve got an Ertl model of one, in orange, with the Air Grabber scoop (shark tooth decals, etc.).

            I keep hoping it’ll get bigger….

          • Dear mith, Eric,

            I’m going to watch the movie again.

            I’ve watched it several times over the years, whenever it came on cable.

            It does hold up. Still one of the best chase scenes ever filmed.

            The motorcycle chase in “The Great Escape” was great too. Also McQueen doing his own riding.

  8. I’m interested in getting out there to drive either the BRZ or FRS after your reviews. Sounds like a fantastic car to have especially for the summer months. I’m still confused as to why they would even offer a car like this with an automatic.

      • Found this, but a regional rep recently told me that more events could take place this Spring….> ‘Currently, Scion FR-S First Drive Team does not have any upcoming events

        Here is what a ‘First Drive’ event looks like, though, the driver here is not that fastest Cat on the track.

        After market parts are now in abundance, with more coming.

        • ..and I get to do that for a week… unsupervised!

          PS: Soon I will be able to share my fun. I’ve ordered a camera rig and as soon as I get up and running, there will be videos of my shenanigans here!

          • Looking forward to that addition, Eric, should be fun. Don’t disappoint when running the twisties.

            For a dramatic effect, place camera on the lower right or left front fender or bumper. Placed so full front view is available. Actually, you need about 3 cameras, maybe 4. But one will do.

        • In re aftermarket:

          This is going to go gangbusters – but it doesn’t take an insider to see that.

          I really like the Miata. Big fan, have been for years.

          But I like these better. The driving dynamics are better. And there’s much more potential in that 2.0 engine. The cherry on top?

          They look great.

          • Well, I agree that they look great, but ‘better dynamics’? Both, as delivered have some built in understeer with the suspension settings/shocks, and as delivered tires. This is because of the wide range of abilities in the demographic range of buyers/drivers. And, because of the short wheelbase(89″-90″) of the MX-5, the limits are set quite low. It doesn’t take much suspension adjustment and the addition of a larger contact patch to make the MX-5 formidable on the track or street.

            The FRS ‘First Drive’ cars had set-up suspension(lowered 1″ inch all around), Enkei ‘UL’ style race weight wheels, and much bigger meats, plus 5-point harness and belt to keep you in the seat. On the ‘First Drive’ course, the FRS turn-in is very quick, even violent, and will torture the body if not contained, and compromise control.

            Despite that, a stock ‘NB’ MX-5, ran the very tight course about 3 seconds faster. Shorter wheelbase and 500 less pounds ruled that Autocross type course. On the track, I expect them to be a lot closer in performance, Eric, but the Miata will rule the Gymkhana/Autocross events.

          • Dynamics? FRS/BRZ/MX-5 comparison handling from Randy Probst…. Randy Probst
            Multiple winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona and World Challenge and SCCA championships, Probst is one of America’s quickest road racers.

            2012 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA

            See this smile on my face? I just got out of the MX-5. Better than I remember.

            A really connected driver’s car. This car is still the king. The Scion-baru is good, but the Miata is still a level above it in terms of the driver-car connection and feel. The MX-5 is a car that loves to be driven flat-out. I didn’t want to stop driving the car. It’s that satisfying, and makes me want to drive it better.

            80 MX-5 Miatas are on the pre-grid at Road America [for] the same reason this is the only car in which I did an extra lap simply ’cause I didn’t wanna stop.

            It really takes the driver commands. If you tell it something that isn’t ideal, the car does that and you end up hurting your speed or having a less than smooth corner. Yet it’s still predictable in the way it scrubs speed off.

            Its gearing was almost ideal for this track. I didn’t even use second gear — I left it in third gear. I was coming out of most of the turns around 5000 rpm, which is right around where the torque curve is starting to climb. It’s pretty healthy.

            The steering feel is similar to a Porsche Cayman and 911 in terms of the feedback. Also similar to the Lotus Evora S from Best Driver’s Car, but the Lotus was more of a loose car.

            I drive it and I think, “Why don’t they make all their cars feel like this?” On the right tires, I think the MX-5 might be the fastest car. There’s no question the MX-5 is the best driver’s car here. In driving comparisons, it always does well but suffers a little bit because it doesn’t have the power. But when you compare it to cars with similar power levels, it’s the best car to drive. A 300-horsepower MX-5 would be a fabulous car.


            • I defer to Randy, of course!

              Both cars will put a smile on the face of any enthusiast driver. That I can assure you of!

              Also, let me qualify a couple of things.

              The FR-S and BR-Z come with more aggressive tires as standard equipment. “Summer” tires are available with the Miata.

              The “summer” tires give the FR-S and BR-Z very sharp turn-in feel as well as a firmer ride feel – which makes the car feel sharper, even if it may not actually get through an autocross more quickly.

              Also, the seats.

              FR-S and BR-Z come with almost-race buckets that do a very good job of cinching you in place. These also make the car(s) feel a little racier than the Miata.

              Both engines are jewels – but very different in character. The Soobie four feels stronger in the lower end of the RPM band while the Miata’s seems to really come alive at higher RPMs. This is just my subjective impression, having driven all of them.

    • Hi Tom,

      I doubt you’ll be disappointed with either one!

      On the automatic: Same reason(s) Mazda offers one… wives, girlfriends… and some men, too. And to Sciobaru’s credit, the automatic in the BR-Z/FR-S does not ruin the car (as it does the Miata). That’s not said lightly, but I swear on a stack of RA III cylinder heads it’s the truth and nothing but. Try one and see!

    • If the US model is like ours it can be used either in full auto, semi auto or paddle shift drive. I refuse to buy new, especially at our price of circa $45000/£30000, compared to your $26000/£18000 or so, but, in a couple of years I might well be tempted and the auto would be my choice.


      • “…it can be used either in full auto, semi auto or paddle shift drive.”

        Cool! A select-fire car!

        Do you need to pay the NFA tax to take delivery or must you have an FFL?



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