AutoX'd a "TRD" FR-S at a Scion-sponsored free event today. The course wasn't terribly challenging (no surprise there), but the car was awesome. They had four cars spec'd as so:
*18" Enkei rpf1's w/ Yokohama S Drive tires
*TRD catback exhaust
First, getting in: piece 'o cake. It easily swallowed my stocky 6'1" frame, and I actually scooted the seat forward. That said, the back seat is completely useless. Even with my wife scooted up in the passenger seat, there was maybe two inches to the edge of the back seat. The stock FR-S seats are VERY comfortable and well-bolstered. Coming from my supportive bugeye seats, I felt right at home. All controls are in easy reach, and everything is exactly where your hand expects it to be. It's not all sunny and rosy, though. The interior has more hard plastics than Joan River's face (as I'd expect from a Scion, but still), and the stereo looked like some drug store Walkman Scion picked up on the way to the press conference. I'm being picky, though, none of those things are really deal-breakers, and a better stereo would be cake to source.
Ok, now we're inside and situated, we're at the starting line, and... HAMMERDOWN!!! Ok, acceleration isn't this car's strongest suit. First off, that catback sounds great. Definitely a nice "boxer rumble" despite the equal length headers. Second, I immediately felt this car could have benefited from an extra 50hp. Cliche, I know, but I felt a bit like car fell on its face a bit off the line. I had my foot to the floor, and you could tell the engine was "given' 'er all she's got, cap'n!", but I was hoping for a bit more grunt.
First corner coming: hard right hander, and... HOLY TURN IN, BATMAN! Yep, this is why you buy a FR-S/BRZ. This car was born to attack corners like a wolverine. It was built from the ground up with this mission, and it's really good at it. You wonder if Subaru consulted with Takumi Fujiwara during development, they're from the same prefecture after all.
I did notice a bit of understeer on a hammerhead turn opening to a long right hander. From what I've read, the FR-S is supposed to be the more tail-happy of the twins, and while I did step the back out a bit in several corners, there was more front end push than I had anticipated. That could be a function of the different springs and tires, or maybe my driving (yeah, probably my driving), I'm not sure. In any case, it resulted in the car enjoying a healthy snack of four or five cones on the outside of the corner.
Yikes, tight right hander coming up: step on the brakes. "Hmm, nice braking feel." Also, these cars had been abused all day long with almost no time to cool, yet the brakes felt solid. I didn't notice any brake fade on any of the three runs I did. They didn't mention any special "TRD" brake upgrades done to the cars in the presentation, but that's not to say they didn't swap on beefier pads or fluids, I have no idea.
Ok, power down again, there's the engine blip as the automatic downshifts, and there goes the tach blasting into orbit again. Actually, the automatic does a great job keeping up with AutoX duty. I briefly tried the paddles, but found the auto's brain made enough good decisions on its own that I could leave it to its own devices and not be disappointed. With your foot to the floor, it holds the shifts until the engine begs for mercy, and was quick enough with the downshifts to not leave me hanging on the exits. One neat trick: the shifter is very cleverly disguised to look and feel like a manual in your hand. It's actually easy to forget you're not using a row-your-own shifter. Thankfully, you can "shift" the automatic both on the stick and from the flappy paddles, neither of which I really needed to play with much with the relatively low speed of AutoX.
Ok, the finish line "stop box" coming up, and... slam the brakes *ABS skid...skid...skid...*
Again, good braking feel and surprising endurance given the hard day's use, but the ABS needs a few more lessons, I think. I didn't play with the nanny settings (they were astutely covered up by the staff), so maybe there's some more fun to be had in there somewhere.
In summary, it's a great little car, and if we weren't looking to have kids in the next couple years, I'd seriously consider one, despite my criticisms. It really reminded me of driving a Miata, but one with ample headroom, a better engine, and vastly superior seats. I would be interested to see what Subaru does with that powerplant in the future. Does it need a turbo? Not necessarily, but a "Stage II tune" (whatever that means) for this car would do wonders.
I'll post pics and video tomorrow, but it's been a long week and I'm wiped out. I just wanted to try my hand at auto journalism while all of this was fresh in my mind.