Welcome to the latest installment of our weekly series: TGIF[R-S], where Features Editor Sami Haj-Assaad details the ownership experience of the Scion FR-S. So far he’s explained his reasoning behind buying the FR-S, the delivery experience, the day-to-day driving feelof the coupe, the car’s track potential and break-in procedure and discusses any teething issues that popped up during its first month.
Thanks to Scion, this past weekend I had a chance to attend an open drifting session at Shannonville Motorsports Park.
First of all, Shannonville is about two and a half hours away from me. At 154 miles (248 kms) this would be the longest trip I’ve taken in my new car and a perfect test of just how comfortable it is (or isn’t) over long drives. Will I be able to cope with the deep bucket seats for two and a half hours? Or will the stiff suspension rattle my spine out of alignment? Will I grow tired of the growl of the boxer engine? This would be the trip to answer all those questions.
I left early in the morning, mainly to get to the track early to take pictures. The journey was mind numbing. There’s nothing to look at, just flat land and straight roads.
In these mundane circumstances, the FR-S isn’t at the top of its game. As mentioned in previous articles, the FR-S isn’t a straight-line speed-demon, but a finely balanced, handling car. A situation requiring any of the car’s handling capabilities will not present itself on this trip, so the car will have to find another way to entertain me.
THE SOUNDS OF A LONG, LONELY ROAD TRIP
One thing that plenty of readers should know is that the stereo, even the base one, is very functional. Bluetooth support means I can listen to my podcasts, or library collection from my Android device. The system was easy to set up, and the big buttons and knobs are intuitive. Yes it looks like it’s from the ‘90s, but it’s easy to use.
However, the sound system could use a bit of beefing up. It sounds tinny, and even gets drowned out at higher revs by the engine noise. I don’t know what to blame here: a weak sound system, or the sound resonator that pipes engine noise into the cabin. Whatever it is, after two hours of my stereo battling the engine, I eventually turned off the radio completely. The engine noise isn’t bad. Its gruff and distinct and has its own unique beat. I’ve certainly come to appreciate it.
MEETING AN OLD FRIEND
Getting off the highway, and finding the track, I was greeted by a bevy of interesting cars. Lexus IS300s, Nissan Silvas and 240SXes plus other drift-friendly cars all made the showing.
Naturally then, I found a few AE86 Corolla’s around the paddock as well. For those not versed in Toyota lineage, the FR-S uses many of the same criteria that made the AE86 so popular. It was low-weight, and rear-wheel drive but it wasn’t very powerful. Because it ran on small tires, and was well-balanced, it became a favorite among drifters.
I had a quick chat with the owners of the AE86s. They were eager to see the FR-S on the track, but with minimal training I decided being a spectator was the best plan… for now. I did, however, take their names and numbers, so perhaps an AE86 will some day make an appearance in TGIF[R-S].
Drifting seems to overexcite the senses. The smell of burning rubber, the sound of tortured tires and the sights of a car about to lose all control. It’s all quite stimulating.
Scion had a small event at Shannonville’s skid-pad, where owners could get in an FR-S and learn to drift. Sadly, however, it sounded like a lot more fun than it actually was. First of all, the skidpad wasn’t very wet. You could initiate your drift with ease in the wet spots, get sideways, then grip in the dry. The change in traction on the two surfaces made sustaining anything sideways nearly impossible.
With the FR-S already balanced and tail-happy, it’s definitely easier to throw it into a corner and drift it, rather than do it on a low-speed mixed surface.
Still, it was a unique learning experience and an opportunity for the drifting crowd at the track to get their hands on the FR-S. Much more experienced drivers did stunning donuts and answered the big question: yes, it can drift.
It also shows just how well Scion understands its customers. The FR-S is, above all else, about having fun.
Just check out the filmed example of the Mosport track day below to see what I mean.
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