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Sports Car Heir Apparent

The 2013 Scion FR-S

When I returned home from this week’s test drive, I told my wife, Tracy, that I’d just driven the newest Scion. She drives an old-style Scion xB.

“Is it rectangular?” she asked.

“No,” I replied. “It’s whatever the opposite of rectangular is.”

“Swoopy?” she said.

I think she nailed it. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “swoopy” as: “having sweeping lines or movement.” You’ve gotta admit that the new Scion FR-S, photographed here at Tonawanda’s Isle View Park, looks like it’s moving even when parked.

Looking at the FR-S, and thinking about the whole idea behind it—smallish, close-coupled coupe with great handling at a decent price—reminded me a lot of the Datsun 240Z from the early 1970s. Although the Z had six cylinders under its long hood, I think the idea was the same.

That whole swoopiness thing extends to the FR-S’s driving experience, too. No, I don’t mean I felt like I was moving while sitting in the parking lot; I mean the FR-S really takes off well. The 2.0-liter DOHC direct port-injected four-cylinder engine moves its 2,806 pounds along at a good clip. The throttle is very responsive—step on the gas and the rear wheels dig right in. And when they do, the FR-S has a set of front seats designed to really hold you in place—comfortably and stylishly. My test car was equipped with the optional six-speed automatic (which also comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters), and changed gears not only smoothly but at just the right times. The brake pedal feel exudes confidence that you’ll stop as easily as you go, and the suspension is set up just right to keep you smiling as you tour those back roads. Forward visibility is helped somewhat by the raised front fenders, which at least give you a vantage point as to where the front of the car is. The view over your shoulder? Not so good. EPA gas mileage is estimated at 25/34 miles per gallon city/highway.

Odds are those tours will consist of you and a front seat passenger. Although technically a four-seater, the back seat isn’t likely to see any passengers old enough to be able to complain about the room back there—or lack thereof. Glancing over my shoulder at a red light, I noticed the driver’s seat was flush against the back seat: leg room was zero with me driving, at least on the left. The right wasn’t much better; just for giggles I sat back there after returning the car to sales consultant David Strack at Northtown Scion, and although I did have a spot to put my feet, the top of my head was against the rear window. The one-piece back seat does fold flat, however, which means you and your one passenger can carry more stuff. The FR-S isn’t a hatchback like the old 240Z; it has a conventional trunklid, but with a good-sized opening.

The FR-S was developed jointly with Subaru, which is also selling a version of the car called the BRZ. They look slightly different, but are running the same powertrain. The Subaru also has more model choices, whereas the FR-S offers just the one. But the one should be enough to satisfy most buyers. Pricing for the six-speed manual starts at $24,955 while the test car with the automatic lists for $25,300 plus destination charges. Standard equipment includes: power locks/windows/mirrors; tilt/telescoping wheel; remote keyless entry; cruise; 17-inch alloy wheels; projector beam headlights; and a 300-watt Pioneer audio system with USB and iPod connectivity.

All in all, I expect the FR-S to be a success for Scion. Even if old guys like me take a shine to it.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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