We’ve done this before. That was the thought when the Scion FRS arrived at LSB HQ. Unlike last time, however, this particular FRS was fitted with a 6-speed automatic. There were, admittedly, a few other noticeable differences. First off: the weather. Our first drive of the FRS came in early autumn. We received this car in December, and December in Upstate New York is winter. The second difference here is inside. This FRS is equipped with an upgraded music interface as part of the BeSpoke Premium Audio package.
Let’s start with the transmission. It’s a decent unit if you or someone share a car with is adverse to the do-it-yourself variety. It can rev-match downshifts and will hold a gear to redline without shifting for you. Those things aren’t something you find on every garden-variety automatic transmission. The automatic FRS is slower than its manual counterpart. It is also, arguably, less connected.
The previous FRS traveled the New England coast line in conjunction with a Porsche Cayman S. It was a perfect example of the progression from a driver’s car at 16, and a driver’s car at 50. That isn’t to say you can’t enjoy both at either age. But sophistication played a large part in the differing experiences between the cars, and with this automatic the FRS feels more sophisticated. That, however, is not a good thing. The FRS has always been about driver involvement; steering, gear changes, and suspension. Taking away the manual gearbox removes one of those three things that made the Scion feel special. That’s not to say the automatic FRS is a bad car, it isn’t. It still has a 2.0L boxer engine that revs over 7,000 RPMs, absolutely perfect steering feel, and its classic FR layout. It’s just not as good as the manual.
Next we move on to that Upstate New York weather in December, a description of which you’ll find in the dictionary next to the word “unpredictable”. Our week with the FRS was full of overnight snow and freezing temperatures. The FRS didn’t even flinch. The balance and control inherent in the FRS, regardless of transmission, allows it to work through any snowfall it encounters…within reason. The snow mode lets the traction control enable some slip, allowing the standard limited slip differential to get you moving on the straight and narrow as fast and as safe as possible. With the proper tires, a case can be made for the FRS to be a year-round car. As the wisest of winter drivers will tell you: it’s the tires, not the drivetrain layout, that determines winter success.
Lastly we move on to the BeSpoke Premium Audio system. We first sampled the new head unit in the Scion tC last winter. It’s easy to use, but seemingly still dated. The software works well and we used the navigation system several times during the week, but it all seemed a bit aftermarket. Even so, it brings an additional level of real-world usability to the FRS platform.
The FRS is still a great car, and one that we certainly would spend every week with. The unfortunate thing is that it is not selling well. They’re sitting on dealer lots and aging, and that’s not right. It’s the enthusiast’s entry point, and we want to see it preserved. Just don’t buy it with an automatic transmission.
|2015 Scion FRS (A/T)
|Rear bumper applique||$69|
|BeSpoke Premium Audio||$1,198|
|As Tested MSRP||$28,711|