The No-Frills Thrill Machine

Mj 618_348_the no frills thrill machine

Future Scion FR-S owners: Get used to telling the boys in Camaros challenging you to an impromptu drag race to save their spit – and their Goodyears. Their ride will smoke yours off the stoplight. And that’s just fine.

Though it can hustle to 60 mph in a respectable 6.2 seconds, Scion’s first sports car was never intended to compete with the Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers of the world – the kings of cheap, straight-line speed. Instead, this affordable 2+2 front-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe was built to deliver maximum enjoyment through better balance, handling, and communication than those brutes.

The FR-S is the result of a joint project with Subaru, whose BRZ is essentially a carbon copy of the Scion, with slight tuning differences. The FR-S’s engine is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four. It’s Subaru’s classic boxer, but uses fancy direct and indirect fuel injection technology developed for Scion sibling company Lexus for its LFA supercar. The powerplant is mounted low, and, with dropped-down front seat placement, helps position the car’s center of gravity just 18 inches off the ground. We put a couple hundred miles on a six-speed manual (the FR-S is also available as a six-speed automatic) during a week-long test drive in and around New York, and didn’t want to give it up afterwards. We flogged it in the city and the suburbs, and even took it to a decommissioned airstrip to switch off the traction control and let ‘er rear end get wild. Bottom line: the FR-S can make a boring daily drive feel engaging, and its sophisticated traction control system allows you to cut loose on closed roads with confidence. It’s a sportscar designed for real-world, everyday fun.

Its styling does leave something to be desired, though: A long hood, lightly sculpted rear haunches, and hexagonal honeycomb grille lend the coupe an aggressive look, but overall, the FR-S’s design fails to match its unique engineering. It didn’t turn many heads, and in the few times over a week that somebody asked us about the car, we had to explain that this car is something different – really.

Perhaps, though, understatement suits this Scion just fine. After just a few minutes in the heavily bolstered sport seat, right hand on the short-throw shifter, left foot on the well-placed clutch pedal, you realize that this car is more about manufacturing thrills for the driver than it is about stealing outside attention. We’ll take that any day. [From $24,955;]

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!