The word Scion has a few literal meanings, but it’s obvious Toyota had one definition firmly in mind when it formed its satellite automaker almost 10 years ago…
Sci•on: A descendant of a notable family.
As Toyota sees it, the label fits because Scion was meant to be more than just another arm of the company that could drive profits in and out of Japan. The Scion badge is aimed aggressively at young car enthusiasts – the next generation of drivers looking not merely to get a set of wheels, but to fall in love with the experience of driving.
How well Scion pulls that off is left up to would-be buyers (and smart ass know-it-all car reviewers like me). But, by design, Toyota makes and sells grownup vehicles for the masses (such as the Camry and 4Runner). Lexus makes luxury and high performance rides (like the IS and the LFA). And it falls to Scion to develop edgy, fun, affordable cars with a little kick to them.
As those three branches of Toyota’s tree grew since Scion’s founding in 2002, another mantle fell to the babes on the block. The Toyota parent company has generally tapped out of the sports car game. You can still buy a jazzed up version of a Camry, but it’s still a Camry. Popular makes like the Supra, the MR2 and Corolla GT-S are no longer coming off assembly lines. Now, it’s on Scion to keep the Toyota-inspired sport car line alive.
Enter the 2013 FR-S. After making an appearance as a concept car at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Scion invited a mix of automotive press and Japanese sports car fans to Milk Studios on the outskirts of Hollywood recently for the car’s official debut. To establish the clear lineage, the ramp the FR-S slowly cruised down to a mix of club music and cheers was lined on either side with those very same sports cars of yesteryear (said Supra, the MR2, etc.).
Before introducing the FR-S, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis waxed poetic on those Toyota museum pieces – promising that this new sporty ride from Scion would both inspire memories of those cars while surpassing them in performance.
The fifth car in the Scion family (with the new iQ, the xD, the xB and the sporty little tC) the FR-S will arrive next year with rear-wheel-drive (Hello, drifting…), a four-cylinder, 2.0 liter boxer engine from Subaru and a D4-S direct fuel injection system from parent company Toyota.
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 gaudy flares like clumsy rear spoilers or gulping air vents. You might even catch a bit Lexus influence to the grill.
Scion is deliberately withholding some of the specs because they don’t want to give away all of the candy at once. But, all indications say the little engine will still put out 200 horsepower at and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. In keeping with its sports car pedigree, the FR-S will come with six-speed, short shift manual transmission or an automatic with optional sports mode and paddle shifters.
I’ll be particularly interested in the suspension details once they arrive with full disclosure. The small Japanese sports cars of yesteryear (and the Scions of today) have that race-inspired, unforgiving ride capable of changing a pothole into a spine jarring proposition. I expect more of the same as young drivers are unlikely to complain too much about ride quality.
Keep an eye out for the newest Scion next Spring.