2013 Scion FR-S: En Route To Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
July 16, 2013
With new suspension bits installed (here and here), a fresh alignment and a Friday morning yawning before us, I pointed our long-term 2013 Scion FR-S northwards. Bitter Dan (you might recall his orange Lotus Exige) and I would once again take fun roads on our way to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for another track weekend. Unlike last time, today the skies were clear and the day young.
Before we worked up to a proper pace, I'd needed to perform a bedding procedure on the track-slanted pads I'd installed the day earlier. This always poses a challenge. One of the downsides of living in urban sprawl is that the city never sleeps, so it's virtually impossible to find a long-enough stretch of road that's also empty enough of traffic to complete without interruption of the stop-go-stop-go ritual needed to bed new brake pads. But with Bitter Dan on hand to drop back and run interference with approaching traffic (that is, to ensure they go the speed limit!), we were able to carve out enough of Frazier Mountain Park Road to just pull it off.
Then, it was on to the good roads. Immediately I'm reminded of the effect of swapping in wider, stickier rubber so many months ago. Real rubber bestowed on the FR-S more grip, of course, but also a significantly more planted demeanor at turn-in and midcorner. There was a greater keenness and gravity to the responses of its chassis. It felt no less agile than with the stock tires; in fact it was sharper than ever.
Here, now, on Cerro Noroeste, it's clear that adding the ability to adjust camber, and then doing so, has raised our FR-S's sense of capability and purpose yet another click. There's now an even greater linearity to its front end, both as the cornering loads build and, as we'll find later at the track, at the limit of adhesion. More substance in the steering now, too. The whole thing just feels brilliantly poised, as if Toyota and Subaru always intended the chassis to feel this way and we've simply rolled the tumblers in the correct sequence to unlock its true character.
For sure, there is more road noise transmitted through the monoball camber plates than with the stock upper strut mounts. These aggressive Yokohama Advan AD08 tires have always sounded like tractor tires, and they now speak more clearly than ever.
Highway 58 is one of the great southern California drives. Sightlines are clearer than on Cerro Noroeste, and there's a greater variety of corners including some second gear stuff. Bitter Dan has little trouble becoming scarce here, sprinting off between bends and, to the surprise of neither of us, he's out of sight within a dozen corners. Yeah, fifty'd be nice.
I'm really impressed by the stock suspension on this car. You can add sticky tires to any car and gain grip, but oftentimes the stock roll stiffness and travel simply can't cope with it, leaving you with a frustrating mess of a car. Not so the FR-S. I've doubt R-comps would be suitable, but these underpinnings certainly don't feel overwhelmed yet. Paradoxically enough, the Scion FR-S feels as though the body rolls somewhat less than it did before it had camber plates and adjustable LCAs. This is not a result I'd anticipated. Pondering it now, the only reasoning I can provide to explain this is down to bushing deflection, or more appropriately, a lack thereof.
Tomorrow, the track.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor