Tonight we round out the new Toyota 86 with the launch of its third brand, the US-spec Scion FR-S, in Hollywood, California. Why have we been dedicating all week to a brand new car? Because the reborn Toyota hachiroku is one of the most important cars to be released in the last ten years. It’s definitely important for Toyota, possibly even more so than the Lexus LFA supercar, as it returns Japan’s automotive giant to its sporting roots.
But it’s also a return to the Japanese sports coupe ethos — dynamic, lightweight, RWD cars. We’re not only talking about the Celica 1600GT, TE27 Corolla Levin or AE86, but even machines like the SA22 Mazda RX-7, Sunny Coupe and Silvia.
Toyota honored its heritage by bringing out a rogue’s gallery of its greatest sports cars, mounted on platforms held up by forklifts (which were also Toyotas, naturally).
Scion VP Jack Hollis introduced the FR-S, acknowledging each of the great cars from Toyota’s long history.
The Toyota 2000GT provided some of the FR-S’s design inspiration, including the roof and C-pillar treatment. The Sports 800 was Toyota’s first sports car and shares its RWD and boxer configuration with the new 86.
That boxer is a joint design between Subaru and Toyota (who provided the direct-injection system), offering a 12.5:1 compression ratio. Like the Lexus LFA, the FR-S’s motor is mounted aft of the front axles for a front-midship layout. Interestingly, Hollis quoted a 200 horsepower number, three more than the 197 that’s been talked about for JDM 86 and European GT 86.
The FR-S then made its Rocky-Balboa-like introduction to thumping music and spotlights. We are happy to report that photos have not done the car justice. It looks great in in person and has great presence.
Of course, the FR-S’s closest cousin in the family tree is the AE86. Toyota has made much hoopla over the fact that has one of the lowest centers of gravity in the automotive kingdom, even beneath that of a Ferrari 458 Italia. This car is not about horsepower numbers, luxury or exclusivity. Like the AE86, it’s about going up to the mountains and carving up the twisties like a Thanksgiving turkey.
This core aspect of the car is still unknown. But it took dedication, defiance of corporate accountants and marketers and perhaps a president with vision who can fling an LFA around the Nürburgring like Akio Toyoda.
We’ll review a Scion FR-S soon, but in the meantime here are some superficial differences between it and the JDM 86. First, despite the fact that “86” is not part of the model name at all, US-spec versions will still wear the 86 boxer fender badge like Japanese and European versions. It is all silver though, without any red showing through.
Inside, the cockpit has been designed for the driver. Bucking the trend of cars as electronic interfaces rather than modern day steeds, the steering wheel lacks any controls for the stereo. The climate controls differ, using the more standard dial variety, and the stereo is a Scion unit. Also you start the car via a more traditional ignition keyhole on the steering column, rather than an “Engine Start” button on the console.
With the third model come a third headlight treatment. It’s different from both the JDM 86 (no LEDs) and the BRZ unit (which has a completely different shape).
RC car maker HPI also debuted their new Scion FR-S shell.
And of course it wouldn’t be a Scion event without cool swag. Everyone got one of these rubber USB drives shaped like the 86 piston fender badge.
Scion also showed how a modified FR-S might look. It looks phenomenal in black, lowered on Rays wheels. And being a Scion, it will surely have a multitude of special edition Release Series versions.
Since the demise of the S15 Siliva, the only car to embody the Japanese sports coupe ideology isn’t even Japanese. However, compared to the FR-S the Hyundai Genesis Coupe is brutish, less svelte and lacks the 86’s focus on precision agility. This is more than sheetmetal. It’s about re-capturing the spirit of blending man with machine that’s been over the last decade. It goes on sale in spring 2012.
Photos by Dan Hsu.