I’ve now had my FR-S for exactly one year, but has the purchase proved worth it, or was it all just hype with the usual first-year car headaches?
OH THE FUN
First of all, there have been very few new cars out there that provide the tactile and immersive feel of driving like the FR-S. Every time I take it out, even for boring grocery runs, or long un-eventful road trips, the FR-S has brought a smile to my face. It’s a pleasure to hear the boxer engine sing up to its 7400 rpm redline, and the transmission (once warmed up) is among the best available to a rear-wheel drive sports-car.
I’ve experienced things now that I’ve not been able to take part in before. Track days for example, just wouldn’t make much sense in my past vehicles, but now with my FR-S, I’m finding every excuse I can to get out to the local track and, learn from more from AutoGuide track vets like David Pratte and Colum Wood. Oh, and it’s a blast to waste some tires sliding about on a closed course.
Auto-cross is often my nicotine patch, joining many other enthusiasts and grass-roots racers. I learn tips from these guys, and there’s always a new course to learn. There are also quite a few folks who want to go for a spin in the FR-S, so I’m happy to accommodate them. Everyone who comes out for a spin with me has a similar response: the FR-S doesn’t need more power, and feels just like a Miata with a fixed roof. For those not savvy with auto-cross lingo, that’s a big compliment.
I even had my first performance modifications, although some might argue that a new set of tires don’t count, my ultra-high-performance Cooper Zeon RS3-S tires made a serious improvement on the track and on the road. And the new wheels from Axis Wheels look great, and have received as many compliments as the car. Overall, if you’re considering buying a FR-S, know that the OEM tires are not the only choice, and faster tires are available out there for a reasonable price.
SCION/TOYOTA/SUBARU’S YEAR ONE REPORT CARD
While the FR-S delivered on its promise of being a fun to drive sports car, there were some minor problems that need to be addressed for future updates to the FR-S. My car has suffered from some iffy build quality, and other concerns that are common to first-year vehicles. The high-pitched chirping noise from under the hood is an annoyance, and makes the car sound broken, or at worst, diesel powered.
Presentation is key, and a clattering, chirping engine just doesn’t sound sexy. My engine still suffers from a rough idle at times, unnaturally dropping down below 500 rpms when in neutral at a stop light. Some people have told me that this is a common quirk of boxer engines, one I’m just not used to yet. I hope that’s not the case and that a fix is on the way. Right Scion? Toyota? Anyone?
Recently two more quirks have appeared, the shifter assembly rattles about at higher rpms, and my driver side tail-light seems to be retaining condensation.
All of these issues have apparently been addressed with TSBs, although I haven’t been notified of them. Living in Canada means that we might experience some delays when it comes to receiving support from the manufacturer, or might get left out all-together. I’m constantly checking in with my local dealer and service department for updates in this area.
I don’t seem to be the only one unimpressed with Scion’s presentation with it’s latest product, as J.D. Power has ranked the brand dead-last in its latest initial quality survey due to the problems found in the FR-S.
Beyond these flaws, the car could benefit from some extra attention before leaving the factory. The interior fit and finish is about average, and there are a few panel fitment issues which I’m worried will result in rattling in the future. Fortunately, Scion seems to be giving the radio in the 2014 FR-S a visual upgrade, proving that they’re listening to critical feedback.
THE ROAD AHEAD:
Overall, there’s not much more I’d change about the $26,000 car. It easily feels as immersive as any other sports car I’ve driven in the past year, and was a steal at a below $30,000 price tag. While some might consider the budget priced car a disposable toy, I’m looking forward to many more years of FR-S ownership. As such, maintenance is top of mind for me, but I can’t help but think of some additional appearance and performance modifications.
The upcoming 2014 model year gets the fancy Series 10 special edition which features high-tech headlights, but other tacky additions like glowing badges, shift knobs and the special edition is only available in a silver paint-finish that just doesn’t look as sharp as the Blue hue I have.
But that doesn’t mean I am averse to changing my car. A set of coilovers or lowering springs would help the FR-S look fresh, especially with its new Axis wheels. There are also some tuners who have unlocked extra performance with just an ECU tune, although headers, intake and exhaust would turn the FR-S into a sublime performance machine. I’m in no hurry to make such bold changes to my car, but it is certainly something I’m looking into.
After twelve months of driving one of the best sports cars on the market, all these ideas make me wonder what my FR-S will look like in another year.
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