Two doses of medicine for what ails the sporty you
"A collaboration of Toyota and Subaru, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ are, collectively, probably the most anticipated car in recent memory."
Joe: Driving this Subaru BRZ, I’m suddenly struck with the thought this is probably the return of the affordably sports car for the 21st Century … the Nissan 240Z of this generation if you will – it looks similar to the 240 (fantastic in my eyes), handles marvellously and has decent power.
Harry: That’s a good comparison. In one of my forays in the Scion FR-S I keep comparing it to the Mazda MX-5 and thinking that if it came in a ragtop, the Mazda would be in trouble. As it is, the FR-S handling is a tad crisper, the Boxer engine is quicker, there’s more interior space and the ride is better. And it’s quieter.
Joe: I understand the Subaru and Scion cars are virtually identical, right down to the look, if you stack them in profile. I don’t really get a Mazda comparison, maybe because the roadster’s cockpit is so tight and cozy and even though you can’t really use the rear seats in this car for much more than a parcel shelf, it still can accommodate a person (albeit a tiny one) for an emergency ride.
Harry: Well, if you like to have fun at a race track, there’s enough room in the back – with the rear perches folded – to carry a set of race tires. A driver and a one-person “crew” could go have some fun. But you’re right, neither of these cars works as a family ride, although a child seat will mount in the rear, so mom and dad could take one or two kids with them until the kids exceeded toddler size. I find the seats supportive, with bolstering designed to hold the driver in place during, shall we say spirited cornering? My test FR-S has a six-speed manual gear box and rarely has rowing my own gears been as much fun.
Joe: I honestly believe that with the sophistication of today’s automatics (including clutchless manuals), the traditional manual transmission may be headed the way of the dinosaurs. I had the six-speed automatic in my test BRZ and it would be my choice - I have a long commute that includes some stop and go sections, over which I’ve had manuals that drive me crazy. It also includes some country road sections over which I can paddle through the same number of gears and get that same “joy of driving” as I would with the manual. And letting the gears shift themselves makes it easier to get the most out of those 151 lb.-ft. of torque, which peak almost at the same level as the 200 hp. The high-revving 2.0-litre boxer-four engine creates a noisy ambience, but that’s part of the fun.
Harry: I won’t deny today’s automatic is way quicker than I am, but I just find a fun factor in rowing my own. I think that whichever car you have – BRZ or FR-S – that fun factor is huge. The only quibble I have is with the Scion audio controls (same on the Subaru –Joe). While not quite as wonky as other models, it’s still a chore to find your way around. That said, the marriage of Subaru mechanicals with Toyota design is a happy one. It’s a head-turner wherever I go and every time I fill up – which isn’t often – the Scion draws admirers who have all kinds of questions.
It’s not often you see two simultaneous home runs, but I think we’re witnessing that rarity here.
2013 Scion FR-S Make/model 2013 Subaru BRZ
Price as tested:
Premium Pioneer audio:
Options Auto transmission:
Scion: Premium Pioneer audio ($515)
Subaru: Auto transmission ($ 1,200)
Scion: Front engine/RWD
Subaru: Front engine/RWD
Scion:2.0L H4 (200 hp/151 lb.-ft)
Subaru:2.0L H4 (200 hp/151 lb.-ft)
Scion:9.6 city/6.6 hwy
Subaru:8.3 city/5.9 hwy
Observed economy (L/100km):
Scion:8.6 over 579 km
Subaru:7.6 over 718 km
Strengths: great looks; handling; economy; great shifters; comfortable front seats
Weaknesses: rear seat room; tiny radio controls