7. September 2012
So a few of us around here—guys—were talking about attractive actresses.* Those of us on the far side of 40 pretty much steeled on Angelina Jolie. A young colleague looked at us with a puzzled expression, as though we had cited someone’s grandmother. “Minka Kelly,” he said. (Which led us to Google.)
So at the risk of calling down all manner of wrath, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is Jolie to the Scion FR-S’s Kelly.
Both are wonderful in their own ways.
The Scion is, well, fresher.
While it might not be fair to bring in the open-air two-seater to compare with the hard-topped four-seater (yes, the FR-S has a
bad joke back seat), it simply seems that just as the Miata was developed to be a car for people to have fun with without having to worry about whether the car payments would be such that things like food and gasoline would be luxuries (it starts at $23,470), the FR-S was developed because nowadays cars that have a starting MSRP of $24,955 don’t usually have a 2.0-liter, 200-hp boxer engine and a six-speed transmission that doesn’t feel as though it is a stick vaguely inserted in a bowl of Jell-O.
Although Toyota, which owns Scion, may be the Master of the Pragmatic when it comes to vehicles, the Scion is something of a guilty pleasure. This is not to say that it is any less mechanically bullet-proof than, say, a Corolla (at least that’s an assumption that we’re making, as the company is nothing if not more focused on getting things right nowadays following the whole erroneous idea that it was letting things slip). But it is more fun to drive.
But this brings us back to the issue with which this began, which is relative age. Some have said that the FR-S should have been a Toyota rather than a Scion, that the primary brand needs something that adds zip to the lineup more than an SE version of a Sienna or Camry. But Scion is the youth brand, and while there are those who think young, and while 60 is the new 30 or some such nonsense, by and large, those who are actually under 30 (assuming they haven’t spent countless hours with a PlayStation and an endless supply of Cheetos) tend to be more lithe and flexible than those above that age.
The ground clearance of the FR-S is 4.9 in. The height of the car is 50.6 in. This means that you have to go low to get in the car. (By contrast—and this is a bad contrast, admittedly, but staying within the larger family—the ground clearance of a Corolla is 5.8 in. and the height is 57.7 in.) Give your average Boomer a weekend working in the backyard and come Monday s/he’s likely to have trouble getting out of bed to say nothing of getting into an FR-S.
And the suspension, as should be the case for a car like this, is not particularly compliant. While I had the opportunity to drive it on a race track and found that the car was able to comport itself better than I could direct it to, most of the time people aren’t going to be driving an FR-S on a track, and while this could readily be a daily-driver, it is going to be a daily-driver for someone who understands that when you have a car with little in the way of compromise for comfort (it should be noted that the seats are seriously bolstered and yet are wonderfully comfort, so it is not as though we are talking about some sort of vehicular punishment; and yes, there are a variety of amenities, and the car is well decorated with things like carbon fauxber insets), it is engineered to be driven, not to idle at the McDonald’s drive-thru.
So the bottom line to all this is that if you’re young, this is a car to consider. If you’re older but think young and love to drive, this might be an ideal second (or third or fourth) car that won’t make you feel a little awkward when the car payments come in at the same time the bill from the orthodontist arrives. Otherwise, there is that Camry SE. . . .
*This argument might also go along the George Clooney/Ryan Gosling lines.
Engine: 2.0-liter, DOCH, four cylinder boxer
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 200 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 6,400 to 6,600 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Length: 166.7 .
Width: 69.9 in.
Height: 50.6 in.
Curb weight: 2,758 lb.
EPA: 22/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined