- Sam Moses
When it comes to performance, the FR-S will meet your expectations, as long as they are realistic. For a sub-$25,000 car powered by a four-cylinder engine, the 2012 Scion FR-S delivers tight handing, good feedback and plenty of fun.
Acceleration is smooth and linear, though, we sometimes found the FR-S didn’t have a ton of thrust off the line, or when trying to pass on the freeway at high speeds. Still, there was plenty of power for most driving situations.
On the track, the car was able and forgiving, and while the low end didn’t throw us back in our seats, we had ample power in the higher revs. With only 151 foot-pounds of torque, you have to keep it revving toward its 7400 rpm redline.
The firm suspension delivers great handling. Equipping it with Toyota Racing Development (TRD) lower springs and sway bars makes for a rough ride over speed bumps and into driveways. We felt every single bump in the road, which grew tedious after five hours on the freeway. But on winding roads and on the track, the FR-S was at its best, with a chassis that felt balanced and hunkered down, with very little body roll around corners. The TRD setup is great for performance, but some people might find it too firm for daily driving.
The electric power steering is precise and well-weighted, intuitive and quick, but you can’t feel much through the steering wheel.
The brakes are adequate and easy to modulate, and should easily be able to stand six laps at a time on track days.
The manual transmission feels tight, with very short throws, slipping into the gates with what seemed like a single click. Though it might be too abrupt for some, we prefer it to the somewhat sloppy feel of the manual gearboxes on other cars. On a long road trip from Los Angeles to Northern California, we liked being able to slip it into sixth gear and cruise.
Cars with automatic transmissions are equipped with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and have automatic rev matching, which means it will blip the throttle while downshifting to match engine speed for maximum performance. This is particularly helpful on the track. Shifts with the automatic are relatively quick but not lightning fast. The automatic lacks some refinement.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the Scion FR-S are 22/35/25 mpg for the manual and 25/34/28 for the automatic.