Back in 2007 Akio Toyoda called a small group of Toyota engineers onto the carpet. The Toyota president told his engineers he wanted them to design a sports car that would be “built by passion” and nothing else. But he also insisted the car had to fall in the price range of most buyers. Enter the 2013 Scion FR-S – “everyman’s sports car.”

Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada and his group teamed up with engineers at Subaru to come up with the front engine, rear-wheel-drive FR-S. Subaru’s very similar version is called the BRZ. Scion’s FR-S stands for Front engine, Rear drive, Sport.

Tada and his merry band paired Toyota’s D-4S fuel injection system with Subaru’s horizontally-opposed boxer engine to come up with a 2.0-liter powerplant that delivers 200 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. From those numbers, you can assume the FR-S won’t outrun a Jaguar; Motor Trend says it takes the FR-S 6.2 seconds to get to 60 mph from a standstill.

But don’t forget the second half of Toyoda’s edict about being affordable: The FR-S starts at $24,200 with a manual transmission and bumps to $25,300 with the automatic. You could buy three FR-S coupes for the price of a Jaguar XF.

The strength of the FR-S is its performance and handling. It’s not overpowering, but it’s lively and quick. Dive into turns and the FR-S stays flat and sprints out. Steering is linear and responsive, and the brakes are excellent. Toss the FR-S around a track, and it’s right at home. Part of the reason for its performance is its 2,758 pounds of weight arebalanced nearly perfectly (53-47) from front-to-rear, and it has a low center of gravity. In fact, the FR-S has a ground clearance of just 4.9 inches.

While driving the FR-S is fun, the bonus is the fuel mileage. The little coupe delivers EPA estimates of 30 miles per gallon on the highway and 22 mpg in the city with the 6-speed manual transmission. With the 6-speed automatic and paddle shifters, the numbers improve to 34 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in the city. Disappointingly, the FR-S requires premium unleaded gas.

Scion President Jack Hollis told automotive journalists at the Las Vegas launch of the FR-S that the company expects to sell 10,000 coupes during the rest of 2012, and another 20,000 in 2013. The car is set to go on sale in June, and more than 1,200 have been pre-ordered, Hollis said.

Buyers will have options under Scion’s “monospec” sales technique. Buyers will have a choice of color and transmission from the factory, then can select from an a la carte menu of extras. Scion uses monospec sales to allow customers to avoid having to buy option packages that include items they don’t want. Many customers opt to customize their Scions as accessories are introduced.

The FR-S is the first Scion to have the BeSpoke connectivity system. BeSpoke, powered by Pioneer’s Zypr, offers connectivity with iPhones to include Facebook, Twitter, Internet radio and others.

Despite its wheelbase of just more than 101 inches and low slung profile, there is surprising room inside the FR-S cabin. It’s a four-seat coupe, but you’re better off of course in the front seats.

The FR-S has not been rated for safety by either the government or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but includes six standard airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System.

During a half-day test drive, the FR-S attracted lots of quizzical stares. The eyes seemed to say, “That looks really cool, but what the heck is it?”

It’s the 2013 Scion FR-S – unlike anything else from Scion – and it could become “everyman’s sports car.”


Engine: 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed boxer four-cylinder

Horsepower: 200

Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Test model base price: $25,300 (with automatic transmission)

EPA mileage rating: 25 mpg city / 34 mpg highway