Scion FR-S Debuts in Las Vegas

The new Scion FR-S put the bright lights of Vegas to shame.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

We’ve finally had a chance to drive the brand new Scion FR-S. There probably hasn’t been a more eagerly awaited car in the Toyota family in a long time, and getting behind the wheel of this new affordable sports car brought with it a touch of anticipation.

Since Toyota focused its line on family cars and utility vehicles – while Lexus specializes in more expensive luxury and performance rides – the tradition of the fast, little Japanese sports coupe that most people can afford fell to Scion. Now, the two-door FR-S is in line to inherit the proud lineage of the 2000 GT, the Sports 800 and the 80-86 Hachiroku.

After making an appearance as a concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Scion first teased the arrival of the FR-S during sneak preview party at Milk Studios on the outskirts of Hollywood last winter. To establish the clear lineage, the ramp the FR-S slowly cruised down was lined on either side with those very same sports cars of the past (such as the Toyota Supra, the MR2, etc.).

That night, before introducing the FR-S, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis honored Toyota museum pieces – promising that this new sporty ride from Scion would both inspire memories of those cars while surpassing them in performance. After getting a chance to drive the car under multiple conditions, I can report the new kid fits in well with the family.

This fifth car in the Scion family (with the new iQ, the xD, the xB and the sporty little tC) the FR-S will arrive in showrooms with rear-wheel-drive, a four-cylinder, 2.0 liter boxer engine from Subaru and a D4-S direct fuel injection system from parent company Toyota.

As I reported when I originally saw the FR-S at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the exterior is clearly influenced by the old Supra and the current tC with modest, curved lines and a frame that rides very low to the ground. Unlike the MR2 and its ilk, there are no gaudy flares like clumsy rear spoilers or air vents. And I still see a bit of a Lexus influence to the grill.

Car writers met up at the Red Rock Resort northwest of the Las Vegas Strip and drove a small fleet of FR-S models (pretty much the entire completed collection at this time, according to Hollis). The cars headed about 60 miles outside of Vegas to the lonely desert town of Pahrump – home to the Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club.

Spring Mountain resembles a private golf resort, but you can take away the 18 green holes and replace them with a set of race tracks to test different cars. Owners and visitors can park their track day car in a private garage and enjoy their condo suites in between laps on the hot pavement.

That day, the auto writers had a chance to drive the FR-S on a wet drifting course, a dry rally setup and a full-size track for timed laps. On each course, the FR-S proved itself to be a quick, stable and urgent little car with excellent balance and adequate punch.

I’m glad to report it’s the kind of car that lets you feel the road – allowing you to drive by instinct and touch without excessive technological interference. It’s a driver’s car.

If I get to make such a prediction, I think the FR-S will be a major success for Scion and the kind of ride that sticks in the memory of car enthusiasts. It may not be the most powerful or the most luxuriously appointed sporty machine on the market. But, you’d be hard pressed to have more fun and enjoy a better drive out of a car set to sell for around $25,000.