2013 Scion FR-S Long-Term Road Test


2013 Scion FR-S: En Route To Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

July 16, 2013

2013 Scion FR-S

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

Comments

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    What a great description of the car's driving demeanor! Now these are the details and writing that I look forward to, rather than the short, matter of fact, posts about cup holders or some other thing.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    I can now see why carefully executed suspension changes work wonders and dumb moves cause so many problems. I cringe when I see some of the whacky wheel/tire combos on the road. I'm so glad you found a good combo for your car.

  • Nice entry, Jay!

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    Low CoG really pays dividends when it comes to roll moment and roll stiffness.

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    Nice analysis. This car seems seems to have plenty of headroom for upmarket, factory performance versions to be offered!

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I've driven a car with more tire than suspension before and it isn't fun. Really drives home the point that handling and grip are NOT the same thing. Good write-up.

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2013 Scion FR-S in VA is:

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