By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.8
The 2015 Scion FR-S is this generation's Datsun 240Z or Mazda RX-7. Light, quick and affordable, this little 2+2 sports coupe emphasizes sporty driving, adding just enough refinement to make it an acceptable daily driver. Developed in collaboration with Subaru – which calls its version the Subaru BRZ – the Scion is more affordable, with a starting price that's right around the $25,000 mark, undercutting its Subaru sibling by about $1,000. This year, the Scion FR-S receives enhancements to its suspension designed to make it more stable in corners. Don't worry though, as the Scion FR-S is still a playful, rear-drive sports coupe with decent power and a wicked-looking exterior treatment unlike anything Scion has produced in the past.
The 2015 Scion FR-S is designed for the driving enthusiast. If you want a car you can drive to the track and back, or if you simply want something that's fun on your favorite mountain road, then there's maybe no better choice for the money.
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The biggest change to the 2015 Scion FR-S is to the suspension, which has been revised to improve handling stability, which in turn increases driver confidence. The few exterior changes are almost too subtle to notice. There's also a new Release Series 1.0, limited to just 1,500 vehicles.
The 2015 Scion FR-S gets subtle but noteworthy changes to the suspension, all aimed at making the coupe more stable in corners. It all works, too, and the result is...
... a sports car that feels faster on a track, and more stable out on the road. But have no doubt; this is still a fun and quick car. Keep the engine high in the rev range – you'll want the slick-shifting manual transmission for this – and you're rewarded with quick acceleration, while the more forgiving handling is just what the doctor ordered both for drivers still honing their craft, and those skilled enough to exploit it to its full potential. Around town, however, things are a little different. The suspension is stiff, and there's quite a bit of interior noise, making the FR-S tough to live with as a daily driver for anybody but the young and young-at-heart.
The touch-screen audio system in the Scion FR-S sounds great, and we're glad to see that it's standard equipment. We just wish it wasn't so confusing and that it came with steering-wheel audio controls.
TORSEN LIMITED-SLIP DIFFERENTIAL
A limited-slip differential is a must in any sports car worth its salt, and the Torsen limited-slip differential in the FR-S is an advanced example. The differential sends power to the rear wheel that needs it most in turns, ensuring safe passage out of sharp curves.
“Cozy” sums it up inside the 2015 Scion FR-S, but surprisingly, it's not cramped. Okay, it's not like driving a pickup, but it offers plenty of headroom and legroom, and the seat is extremely supportive around town and in corners. On the other hand, the rear seats are a joke, and it's easier to leave them folded down, pretending the FR-S is a 2-seater. The Scion FR-S offers the essential features – cruise control, air conditioning – and they're easy to use except for the touch-screen audio system. Interior materials are a step above the hard plastics normally found in Scion products.
The 2015 Scion FR-S is smaller than you might think, nearly 16 inches shorter than even the already-tidy Hyundai Genesis Coupe. But rather than implying the FR-S is undersized, it looks purposeful, with no wasted space. It also looks cool, with a hunkered-down stance, wide fenders and sleek headlights and taillights all looking sporty, but not overdone. This year, the short-mast radio antenna is replaced with a "shark fin" on the roof...and that's about it for visual changes. The limited-edition Release Series 1.0 model has unique yellow paint and visual cues that distinguish it from other FR-S models.
The Scion FR-S comes in one well-equipped trim level. It includes air conditioning, cruise control, 1-touch power windows, power mirrors and door locks, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth and an 8-speaker touch-screen audio system with auxiliary and USB inputs. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard. On the safety front, all FR-S's feature stability control, traction control, six airbags and Smart Stop, a feature that cuts engine power if the brake and throttle pedals are pressed at the same time.
There are two noteworthy factory options for the 2015 Scion FR-S. First is a 6-speed automatic transmission, which includes rev-matching for downshifts. The second is a BeSpoke audio system that includes navigation and Zypr, a feature that lets users access iPhone app functionality with voice commands. Aside from color, the rest of the options are dealer-installed extras such as 18-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, lowering springs, a rear spoiler and other items. The 1,500-unit Release Series 1.0 adds a big helping of TRD hardware, including a custom body kit, exclusive Yuzu yellow paint, LED headlight accents and push-button start.
The only engine available in the 2015 Scion FR-S is a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder, connected to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. That engine is part of the reason the Scion FR-S feels so zippy, not because of its relatively modest 200 horsepower, but because the lower center of gravity helps enhance handling by keeping the weight of the FR-S at a lower point. While enthusiasts will likely gravitate to the excellent 6-speed manual transmission, they should skip the TRD short-shift kit, which ruins the feel of gear changes. The 6-speed automatic matches revs as you click the paddles for a downshift, and is notably more fuel efficient than the manual, returning up to 34 mpg on the freeway.
200 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 6,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30 mpg (manual), 25/34 mpg (automatic)
The 2015 Scion FR-S carries a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $25,600, including the $755 destination charge. If you want the automatic transmission, you'll spend another $1,100, and if you want the BeSpoke audio system, you're adding $1,200. If you're looking to save fuel, the automatic is a good choice, but otherwise we think the manual transmission is more engaging to drive. The Release Series 1.0 will cost about $30,700 and include quite a bit of extra equipment for the price. That's about the same as sports-car competitors like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Mazda MX-5 Miata, but quite a bit more than a base-model Ford Mustang. To see what others are paying in your area, be sure to check out the Fair Purchase Price. Scion cars generally hold their value quite well, and we expect the 2015 Scion FR-S should maintain that tradition.