2016 Scion FR-S Manual Keeping the affordable sports car on enthusiasts’ radar.
Offering sports-car agility on a budget, the FR-S features excellent driving dynamics for a manageable price. Only one engine is offered—a 200-hp 2.0-liter flat-four—with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The manual shifts with a solid, no-nonsense feel, while the paddle-shift automatic is quick and responsive. The cabin is cramped and plasticky. Thanks to a low center of gravity, the FR-S is very agile, giving it big-fish appeal in a relatively small pond of affordable sports cars.
Design of 2016 Scion FR-S Manual
Driving enthusiasts have a lot of options these days, from the new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata all the way up to track-focused versions of our favorites, such as the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. The Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins still exist in the lower end of the spectrum price-wise. Both earned 10Best nods upon their debut for 2013, but the pair’s sales quickly fell off once the initial rush of enthusiasts got their keys. Here we take a look at the 2016 FR-S and the incremental improvements Toyota has made in an attempt to keep it relevant with sporting buyers.
Although Scion and Subaru have separately tweaked their models over the years, most of what we gleaned from our 40,000-mile test of a 2013 Subaru BRZ still holds true for both cars. They continue to share the same 200-hp 2.0-liter flat-four engine and lightweight, rear-wheel-drive chassis, as well as their sleek bodywork and driver-focused interiors. These are still very fun and affordable sports cars, albeit ones with minimal refinement and practicality.
The Scion’s changes for 2016 are modest and focus on dressing up the previously drab interior with silver accents on the steering wheel, console, dash, and doors.
Also new are a standard backup camera and Pioneer infotainment system with a seven-inch touch-screen display. The latter once again has an aftermarket look and feel, but its features and usability are significantly better than the previous unit’s infuriating setup. Similarly, the brighter trim is a welcome improvement on the early FR-S’s all-black décor, even though it does nothing to address the excessive road and engine noise that still invades the cabin. Fortunately—and most important—the FR-S’s primary controls remain ideally arranged and rich with feedback for spirited driving.
Slip and Slide
A stiffer front suspension and recalibrated rear shocks were added to the FR-S for 2015, with Toyota’s goal being to reduce body roll and improve driver feedback. The chassis does feel more stable midcorner, as well as more connected than we remember our long-term BRZ being. The 2016 model also seemed to ride better. But the recent switch to Bridgestone Turanza all-season tires from the Michelin Primacy HP summer rubber that was on every other FR-S and BRZ we’ve driven makes a direct comparison difficult.
The Scion and Subaru never had an abundance of grip at their contact patches, but the Bridgestones—still sized 215/45R-17—simply feel like they have less of it to offer. Combined with the Scion’s suspension changes, the latest FR-S is more tail-happy than ever. While that makes the car a hoot to play with at lower speeds, as well as a great learning tool for beginners, less traction means less outright performance.
Our six-speed-manual FR-S test car’s performance figures were below average versus the other FR-S/BRZ coupes we’ve reviewed, despite it weighing a comparable 2761 pounds. Lateral grip on the skidpad was a so-so 0.86 g versus a high of 0.96, and our car needed 177 feet to stop from 70 mph. Although manual versions like ours are quicker than those with the six-speed automatic (an $1100 option), the less-grippy rubber contributed to a lazier zero-to-60-mph time of 7.1 seconds, with the quarter-mile run taking 15.4 seconds at 93 mph. For comparison, the 2016 Miata can reach 60 mph in 5.9 ticks and covers the quarter in 14.6 at 95 mph. It also stops and sticks better.
Some Finishing Is Recommended
The 2016 FR-S continues to be slightly more affordable than the Subaru BRZ, and it’s a sweet little performance package for its base MSRP of $26,100. Six airbags are standard, as are the Pioneer head unit and a leather-wrapped tilting/telescoping steering wheel. A dealer-installed BeSpoke Audio with Navigation system ($900) is the most significant option. Additional refinement and sound insulation would surely improve the Scion’s drivability and possibly attract more buyers. But it would also make the FR-S heavier, slower, and more expensive, which runs counter to the whole affordable-performance ethos.
The level of aftermarket support remains the FR-S’s most exciting feature, with virtually limitless modifications available, including Scion’s own dealer-installed Toyota Racing Development engine and suspension upgrades. While the latest updates make the 2016 FR-S slightly more enjoyable without compromising it too much, simply fitting stickier rubber would make a greater impact on its character, whether that’s from the factory or something you opt to do for yourself.