Welcome to the third instalment of TGIF[R-S], our series where Features Editor Sami Haj-Assaad details his purchasing and ownership experience of the new Scion FR-S. If this is your first time seeing the series be sure to check out the first article, where Sami talks about his decision to buy the FR-S, and the second article where Sami discusses the delivery of his new car.
The first drive in my FR-S opened my eyes to a whole new world. Suddenly I was looking at my surroundings from a foot lower than I’m used to. Furthermore, I was no longer driving a non-descript German sedan, but a low-slung Asian sports car, and something that gets a lot more attention.
Proving my point, upon driving the car to work for the first time and parking it for the day, just a few hours later I noticed that photos of it had made their way onto a local FR-S forum. Talk about sneaky paparazzi!
In traffic, I get a lot of head-nods and other forms of recognition from fellow motorists. It’s a bit overwhelming, and now every time I drive the car, I feel like a celebrity.
To this day, mine is the only one I’ve seen in the wild, so I appreciate how excited people are to see one. Still, my head will appreciate a return to its normal size.
That’s not to say FR-S ownership doesn’t come with insecurity. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of this sports-car fraternity handshake thing. I never know when to do the head nod, thumbs up, rev the engine and what not. Everyone’s got a slightly different variation on acknowledging another sports car on the road, and its tough to remember it all.
FEELING OUT THE FR-S
In my first week of owning the car, I’ve found that the FR-S is really a liveable vehicle. Make no mistake, It makes a bunch of compromises to preserve its true nature, but otherwise it’s more than content with the regular responsibilities of day-to-day driving.
When driving around town I could intimately feel the road. In the FR-S, I’m introduced to manhole covers, bumps and cracks in an intimate way. I even started to avoid a certain street that’s under construction since I can’t stand the un-even road.
The suspension isn’t extremely firm, though it is communicative. A major concern of mine was if I’d be able to withstand the pain that a dialed in sports car would dish out. The FR-S doesn’t really beat me up, and while it can be uncomfortable on some of my city routes, on the highway, and back roads, it is perfectly smooth.
I’m also learning to adapt to a manual transmission. While I’ve driven stick-shift vehicles before, I’m no pro. Suddenly I’m muttering under my breath in stop-and-go traffic and noticing all the slight hills and speed-bumps. It all takes some getting used to, and I had a few tough days with the clutch, which bites slightly higher than I’d like.
BREAK-IN PERIOD OR FUEL-SAVING TRAINING?
Unfortunately, these are the only few statements I can make on the FR-S. Thanks to a tough break-in period, which is about twice as long as expected, I’m unable to give the full, juicy details on the rest of the car. Scion insists that for 1000 miles (1600 kms) the FR-S should stay under 4000 rpm, and not be driven at a constant engine or road speed for an extended period of time. As a result, I’m only able to tap a small fraction of the 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque.
It’s quite tough to keep the car below 4000 rpm, as it always wants to play. However, I found that in keeping the revs low the car manages to be quite good on gas, getting about 26 mpg (8.9L/100km) in mixed city/highway driving. I wonder how much this will change once I pass the break-in period.
REDEFINING DRIVING ROADS
Even with the FR-S’s tough break-in period, I tried to find some local driving roads. The closest one, called Rattlesnake point, has a few tight turns and a nice elevated hairpin. I immediately made my way over there to test the car out in its natural environment.
On the straights, even on the hills, the car is a blast. Never did it feel like it was going to struggle up a hill, which gave me quite a bit of reassurance since many reviews call the FR-S underpowered.
However, once you turn this car, sharply, it really shines. The car responds with an obedience I didn’t expect. It immediately slices through turns, and waits for your next input. It’s a fantastic feeling, and one I don’t think I’ll get tired of anytime soon.
I look forward to getting more comfortable with the cars limits (and getting past it’s break-in point) to explore its performance ceiling.
FR-S: FRIENDLY RELATABLE SERVICES?
Even more impressive than my, albeit limited, driving impressions, is how the folks at Scion continued to take care of me even after they took my money. A day after taking delivery of my new car, my dealer personally called me and asked if everything was going to my liking and reminded me to bring the car in soon after break-in for a free oil-change.
I’m now exposed to an ownership culture that I can actually relate to. With my old Mercedes, I couldn’t quite fit-in at their events, and felt looked down upon. Now, however, I’m part of a brand that caters specifically to my target demographic.
I was exposed to something called ScionSessions, which promotes local music and artistic creativity. It all shows how hard Scion is working to mesh with a younger crowd.
Most exciting, however, I was invited to a Scion sponsored track event for FR-S owners, designed to show off just how capable a machine it is.
Check back next week for my take on the various FR-S owners events, and finally what the car is like to drive to its 7400 rpm redline.