The 2013 Scion FR-S is designed to be a no frills, fun driving machine that won’t have you eating Ramen noodles for several years with its entry-level price well below $30,000. Being eBay Motors, we know there are many alternatives on the market when it comes to finding fun machines to drive, so we chose to match up a 10 year-old FWD Acura RSX Type-S up against the RWD FR-S.
How well did the stock FR-S match up to our modified 2002 RSX Type-S with 92,000 miles? We tested both cars on an SCCA autocross course, attacked the backroads in the Santa Cruz hills for its street runs, and logged lots miles in-between.
The 2002-2006 RSX Type-S is one of the few cars that can do it all — deliver 25 – 30 mpg getting you to and from work, offer a generous amount of cargo space, and deliver a satisfying sporty driving experience.
From the performance side of the equation, the RSX Type-S is a high performance coupe that is a flat-out ball to drive on the pavement.
Our Hondata-tuned ECU sets up the i-VTEC engine to build speed in a more linear fashion and improves low-end torque. Now the pronounced bump in power delivery when the valve timing switches from low lift/short duration to high lift/ long duration is less and those who play in the upper rev ranges will be rewarded; north of 3500 rpm is where you want to be.
Sitting on stiff Club RSX lowering springs, Koni adjustable shocks/struts and Bridgestone Potenza RE70 all-season tires, turn-in is not as snappy as with some sport machines, but the upside is that the Type-S doesn’t bite you with lift-off oversteer the way some aggressively setup front-wheel-drive cars can be. Instead, the RSX is tossable, predictable, and easy to balance through a corner. Keep pushing and the inherent FWD torque steer is felt at the limits.
Get on the gas as you charge for the exit, and the Type-S never gets squirrely, despite the absence of traction control or even a limited-slip differential. The most you’ll need to do is nudge the steering wheel a bit to get it to return to center. The aftermarket sport suspension is bliss during fast driving on smooth roads, but the car becomes unsettled when cornering on uneven pavement and suspension travel is limited.
From our perspective, the Scion FR-S is the antithesis of the modern sports coupes that have AWD and turbocharged engines. Underneath the hood, the FR-S has a normally aspirated Subaru boxer four which produces 200 horsepower and 151 foot-pounds of torque mated to a precise shifting six-speed manual. But peak torque of 151 foot-pounds doesn’t come on until 6,400 rpm, so the car doesn’t reach 60 miles an hour until some 6.2 seconds after launch, according to estimates.
The engine sits low, which Scion officials say gives the FR-S a dynamically low center of gravity like that of exotic, high-priced sports cars.
What we have is an affordable sport coupe, now better than ever, packing a powerful yet frugal and clean-burning engine, sport-tuned chassis, and modern and aggressive styling that can turn heads. The Scion FR-S is a return to the roots of what makes a sports car a sports car.
The key word for FR-S is balance. Its powertrain is well matched to the chassis and transitions well through turns. The FR-S’ steering just works, placing the car accurately and transmitting enough feel to let the driver know what’s happening under-tire. Throw the car into a tight 90-degree bend and after initial front-end push, the rear end will start coming around predictably and controllable. Countersteer and squeeze the throttle, and instantly you become a Formula Drift King steering in perfect rhythm from corner to corner.
Consumer Reports improves the FR-S coupe’s handling from excellent to outstanding with a tire/wheel upgrade: Tire Upgrade Gives the Scion FR-S Record Setting Performance
The car stays tremendously flat in both corners and under braking, and the brakes feel more than up to the task, offering a very firm pedal that’s easy to modulate, along with impressive fade resistance and stopping force.
Exterior styling, drivetrain and suspension are beyond expectations for a car in this price range; however, the interior materials are “low rent” compared to the Acura. Inside the RSX there was more attention to details such as feel of the control knobs underneath your fingertips and overall better fit and finish of the materials inside the cabin.
Being a driver focused car, the seats and the tilt/telescoping steering wheel of the FR-S are accommodating and the driver-centric analog/digital gauges are well designed and easy to read. Overall, the FR-S is equally suited for track days as well as your daily commute.
Read how each driver’s scored the Scion FR-S and Acura RSX Type-S following on the next page