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Unofficial FR-S Test Drive


  • Unofficial FR-S Test Drive

    FR-S unofficial test drive

    I had the opportunity to drive the brand spanking new FR-S for some prep work for our June 3 Test 'n Tune / FR-S Launch Event. Just wanted to share my impressions thus far. First though, let's put my opinions in context.

    This is my opinion of the car, not representing the club's views in any way.

    I come from driving 6+ cylinder cars and have a 4-door fetish (i do race Fabrice's miata and have no complaints ). The car had 38kms on it so I did not push it hard, yes it was THAT new). I had an automatic transmission car (ok, don't laugh or hide your disappointment too hard now).

    There's lots of praise out there for the car about it's track abilities etc, this is an average guy with a practical point of view, driving the car around town, writing an amateur review. Flamesuit on!

    I wrote all the soft stuff first (looks, interior, storage) and realized, no one is going to care, VCMC forum is only interested in one thing: HOW DOES IT DRIVE?!?!?!

    The Drive
    The feel of the car can be described by 3 words in my mind: Tight, poised and Agile

    The car feels tightly put together, no squeaks or rattles, then again, you do hear the engine and road noise as befitting of a purist sports car of this car's nature. The steering is direct and quick reacting. I can twitch the wheel back and forth roughly 1/2 inch and the car will move almost instantly. The steering is nicely weighted, and communicates the road to you very well, that being said, it had a minor distant feeling to it. Contrary statements I'll admit, but that's what I felt, direct but a little numb. It could have been the Prius tires that the car comes with.

    The ride is very well defined, not too harsh for a street car (but ride is so subjective). You feel the road, it doesn't try to hide much from you. Body roll is fairly well controlled, but again, I didn't throw it too hard through any corners. The car is very well balanced, neutral throughout my experience with it, never getting unsettled by mid-corner bumps.

    I once heard Yarko say that the Lotus Elise is the closest thing you can get to driving the Formula Ford on the street. I've only driven the FF and not the Lotus but the FRS does give me a hint of the FF, except for the lack of power =P It's that responsive to steering inputs.

    The car being so new, plus having traffic everywhere I went, I didn't stretch its legs. Off the line (and personally daily driving V6s) the engine lacks punch. The suspension makes most of the fun. I'm just used to a little more push below 2000rpm. If you want to save fuel, keep it below 2k (which IS doable) otherwise it's easy to spin it up lots to get going. Of course, there is no fun below 2k but around town, where are you going to get fast? The slushbox certainly could have attributed to the lack of punch. Not that fuel economy holds much weight but when I picked it up with 38kms on the odo, the trip computer showed 15.x L/100km. It was 14.x L/100km by the time I returned it. Because RACECAR!

    Did I say how well balanced and tight the car is? oh yeah, I did, ok moving on. On the track, we'll see if there's any understeer/oversteer that shows. The car does not feel featherweight but is far from portly.

    Automatic, no one here will order it, but I think it deserves some praise. The slushbox is quick. In regular mode, it's perfect for around town cruising. In sport mode, it will hold the gears aggressively and downshift aggressively when braking. Sport mode can get a bit jerky if you drive it like an auto (ie abruptly let off the throttle), i believe the sport mode locks the torque converter providing more direct response (is is a modified IS-F unit). Downshifts revmatch beautifully and super smoothly, not disrupting the chassis at all. Gear changes can be left to the computer or manually controlled in the M mode on the shifter (unfortunately reverse to the proper sport sequential shift pattern) or by paddles on the back of the steering wheel F1 style. The autobox should not be brushed off as a complete waste of time. I'll admit for a back to basics car though, you are better off with the manual.

    Sightlines. You don't notice that the car is as low as it actually is once sitting in it. The FR-S has excellent sightlines from the driver's seat. The two haunches on either side of the hood are visible to the driver a la Lotus Elise. The only time I noticed that it was a very low car was getting out of the car. Some might notice it dropping into the car. People over 6 feet might find it a snug fit. There may be debate over whether Toyota or Subaru designed the car, regardless, it was designed in Japan You don't feel claustrophobic as in some newer cars that have the really high door sills.

    I found it a hard time imagining the 4 race tires that Scion/Subaru claim can fit in the car. With the back seat folded down, the vertical clearance is pretty tight, not much more than about 10 inches possibly less. The car might fit the wheels, but it's gonna be a bit of work getting them there, likely having to wrestle and contort your body through the passenger door or sliding them all the way through from the trunk. I don't particularly care for hatchbacks, but that would've probably made more sense for practicality but this car isn't about practicality =P

    For those who acquired other weekend hobbies in the sun, the trunk is not huge. I forgot to try putting my golf bag in the back and doubt it would fit completely hidden, it MIGHT fit if shoving the bag through the folded down backseat, if the bag is not wider than about 10 inches or so, maybe 1 foot.

    Final note about practicality is the back seat is academic. It will make great storage space for your bags.

    Under the aluminum hood, no gaudy plastic covers 'prettying' up the engine bay. You'll find the oil filter up top for easy changing and some metal stampings/stickers making sure you know that Subaru had its part in the making. Interesting discovery was that the front half of the wheel well was not sheetmetal, it's plastic.

    I think the interior is fitting for the car, however there is some carbon fiber trim on the dash that I could do without. The standard radio is somewhat overkill. A touchscreen affair that does a basic job of playing the tunes.

    All in all, this is probably the most fun you can have for $25k and depending on your needs, would be hardpressed to find better without spending a lot more. I would say any turbo/supercharged variant coming out would probably make for the perfect weekend track car!

    Hope this, at minimum, gets you excited about the upcoming June 3 Test 'n Tune/FR-S Launch Event!


    • Nintu
      Nintu commented
      Editing a comment
      I love the trip computers on cars with 5-90 km on them. I'm always explaining to my clients when they pick up their cars that the AVG Fuel economy shown (sometimes as bad as 44.5 L/100km,) is based upon such a small sample size of idling, quick shut downs and a quick jolt to the gas station to fill it up.

      But it would be really fun to reset it today at the track before we flog it to see what AVG fuel economy racers will get. ;p
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