Scion FR-S vs. Subaru BRZ

Classical driving fun, decidedly terror-free, for now
By Zoe Ackah
Zoe Ackah
Zoe Ackah
August 9, 2013 Updated: August 15, 2013

I just spent a week driving the Scion FR-S, and another week driving the Subaru BRZ. They are less like sisters than they are like identical twins, mostly the same, except when they’re different.

I nicknamed these sisters the baby gorgons.

Gorgon Medusa and her sisters Stheno and Euryale terrified the men of ancient Greece. Think of the BRZ/FR-S as Medusa’s little sisters, all growly and sort of pre-historically fierce, but cute. 

Why pre-historic? Because the BRZ/FR-S is an old-school sports car in a world where drivers are infantilized by technology. This car is wholly focused on the primal driver’s experience.

Front-engined, rear-wheel driven with a short wheelbase, super stiff, ultra-light chassis, very low centre of gravity, and 53:47 weight distribution—everything a great sport car needs. 

The FR-S is only available in 6-speed manual, and if the reason why is Greek to you then, well, thanks for making it this far into the article.

Why just the baby sisters? Because their naturally aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder Subaru boxer engine only produces 200 bhp at 7,000 rpm. Their hair may be snakes, but the bites don’t hurt.

Speaking of absent terror, the FR-S starts at $26,300, the BRZ at $27,295, both getting 8.3 L/100 km city 5.9 L/100 km highway. 

Light and balanced, these twins are untouched by the venomous middle-age-spread that comes with too much encumbering technology, unnecessary luxury, or name-plate price bloat.

Okay, so these gals are classical fun, but really, Gorgon? 

According to Ovid, Medusa was a rare beauty in her youth. And so, compared to Scion family members the iQ and the xB, or pretty much all her Subaru relatives, the BRZ and the FR-S are loveliest by far. 

These cars (or for all intents and purposes this car) are extremely light, with rear wheel drive and a Torsen limited slip differential. You don’t need to turn off the traction control to kick the back out around a corner. She loves to drift, but remember she’s a baby, so you never feel like she’s going to actually kill you.

She loves to rev and you get a fantastic, but not overpowering, noise from the engine. If you feel the lack of power remember this may keep your driver’s license from turning to stone. 

In daily life this car’s sweet spots put you right at the legal limit of fun. It excels in all the places you spend the most time.

Getting from first to third as fast as possible between stoplights just never gets boring. Really, I tried for two weeks to lose interest. Nope. The low-end torque has Toyota’s 4S injection system to thank.

Doing anything on the highway with this car in 5th will have you feeling like Perseus (unless someone with more horsepower shows up). The throttle is wonderfully responsive. You will bob and weave between cars like an ass, I guarantee it.

Bottom line, you feel like you’re driving something monstrously special.

BRZ vs FR-S

Overall I was surprised to find I liked the FR-S best for two reasons. First, the suspension was tuned more for performance, which made every highway on ramp a 15 second adventure. The BRZ was a little more cushioned with less feedback overall.

Second, the FR-S didn’t have a near useless Pioneer Sat-Nav with Bluetooth (non) connectivity and a quirky touch screen that came in the BRZ I test drove. 

The FR-S’s basic Pioneer stereo unit functioned perfectly, synced to my iPhone 5 without a hitch, and had good old analogue nobs for most things. 

You, however, may not like your lousy driving/throttle technique being rewarded by formula car style bucking. For a bit of a smoother ride, pick the BRZ.

So what about the third sister? You know, the scary one, Medusa. There are rumours this car will soon be offered with turbo. ‘Nuff said.

Zoe Ackah
Zoe Ackah