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. If you haven’t seen the latest articles, be sure to check out the whole archive of them.
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The Scion FR-S really is an amazing car. It’s affordable, looks hot and can handle all my mundane tasks. I commute in it, get groceries, and even stuff friends in it for a night on the town. The fun-to-drive package makes all those chores more enjoyable, and yet day in and day out I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that I was missing out on the most important aspect of this car: taking it to the track.
With a car like the FR-S, it would be a crime to not to do so; and while I’m not intimidated by track-time, every other time I’ve taken a car to the track it was provided by an automaker. I’m usually given explicit instructions on what I can, or can’t do on the course. I’m even sternly warned by a public relations person that even the slightest mistake can end the fun for everyone.
However, when it comes to my own car, I drive it every day in a responsible, safe manner. At the track, if anything goes wrong, it’s me, my car, and my money at risk. Talk about pressure…
I couldn’t tackle the track in my car like it was any other press-vehicle. I needed to respect it and push it to its limits safely and progressively.
I grabbed someone who was familiar with my local course (AutoGuide’s Editor-in-Chief Colum Wood) and set out. I learned many of the track’s quirks quickly. It features some tricky ‘late-apex’ turns, which require a bit more focus (and patience) than traditional corners. There are also two great stretches of straight asphalt to test out the car’s acceleration.
After getting familiar with the course, I aimed to get more familiar with my car at its limits. The FR-S doesn’t have a lot of power, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Its low center of gravity and balanced weight distribution work with its light weight, which means that it encourages your to fling it into corners at high speeds.
Every lap, I approached the turns quicker than last time, and the FR-S was talking to me and helping me reach my limits. It would let me know when I was going into a turn too fast or slow and how to react in an appropriate way.
PERFECT TO LEARN WITH
What did I learn about the FR-S at the track? For sure, it’s a brilliant car to learn on. It’s so well balanced, and its limits aren’t too high. With the vehicle’s stability control in ‘Sport’ mode, the FR-S is manageable and fun. It lets you know when the car is about to lose control, then reels it in. Once I was familiar with it, I turned everything off and learned the next step of the car’s performance.
If there’s one thing that is holding the FR-S back, it is the tires. During my day at the track, at every turn they were squealing and, honestly, the grip just wasn’t there. Sure it was fun, but it was also frustrating. Next time I get out to the track, I’ll certainly swap out these tires for some high performance rubber.
Overall, the car was incredibly familiar, and fun on the track. I never had to think twice about what it can’t do. I never had to worry about how early acceleration would put me in the grass, or how too much gas would spin me out in a turn. The FR-S gets out of the way, and lets you enjoy your own personal limits.
That same car that allowed me to go to my limits also takes me to work, and home every day. I love it now more than ever, and that’s a feeling of complete satisfaction.
I wasn’t kidding about the tires. I’ve already got a set of new Cooper Zeon RS3-S performance tires that will surely grip better than the stock Michelin Primacy HP tires. Check back later for an article describing the differences and advantages of upgrading the FR-S’ tires.