You know, from the moment you grip the FR-S steering wheel, that the product team at Scion had their heads in all the right places. The wheel is a simple 3-spoke, perfectly proportional to both the car and dash. It has a horn, the obligatory airbag and nothing – I mean NOTHING – else. No volume control for audio, no speed control for cruise; I’ll say it again…nothing. And beyond the lack of distractions – both functional and visual – is the very direct connection it has with the front wheels of the Scion FR-S. That connection is pure, direct and linear. And in a political year when those descriptives are increasingly absent, it is beautiful.
With that as the intro, know today’s FR-S will, for the 2017 model year, receive a few tweaks, not the least of which is a new name reflecting the demise of Scion as a brand and the survival of this surprisingly compelling coupe. Going forward, it will be known at the Toyota 86. And further forward, it will be redesigned into something more contemporary and – we’re guessing here – reoriented for a broader audience. While not sure of the timetable, we have some suggestions for not only the next ‘86’, but some tweaks while the current model is still in production. We’ll start with what’s on the showroom…
From the git-go the FR-S has been ridiculously undertired. And no, I’m not pushing for Toyota to make it into a dune buggy. But I do think the coupe’s shape and footprint deserve something more aggressive than the eco-oriented17’s it comes with. Jump to the aftermarket – even Toyota’s own TRD – and you’ll find a wealth of options which create both a more dynamic stance and significantly enhanced grip.
Scion did a project car with 18-inch wheels surrounded by 255/35 ZR18 Toyos, and while the suspension drop made this combo slightly exaggerated, the visual and functional enhancement beats the h*ll out of what Scions are currently running. Fit these with a modest suspension drop and you’ve transformed the Scion from an errand runner to an errant runner. They might also give consideration to a set of meaty 16’s, with a taller sidewall and maybe – just maybe – a rally-oriented tread. With the increasing interest in adventure motorsports, marketing and performance execs could do worse than create a rallycross vibe for at least one ‘86’ variant.
After the wheel/tire need is met, take a look inside. The sport buckets offer a great balance between appropriate support and day-in/day-out practicality; we only wish they weren’t covered in something approximating mouse fur. (And why do the makers of sport coupes inevitably accent their black interiors in red?) For inspiration, turn to the folks putting together Singer-modified Porsches. And while we’ll admit few will want to spend $400K on a modified Scion, I’m looking to the Singer only for aesthetic inspiration – and not, notably, an exact duplication. But it would involve tossing the five-and-dime plastics currently residing in the FR-S for upscale derivatives, real metal accents, instrumentation suggesting a bit of an Old World feel and h*ll, even a bit of leather! Audi does a credible job with the A3, A4 and TT. And VW serves up some inspiration in the GTI; maybe plaid seat inserts for the FR-S? In short, something approximating upscale individuality can be done for under $30K.
Outside, beyond the stance I’d hope for a dose of Old Skool minimalism, typical of what we see on R Gruppe 911s. The long hood (pre-’74) Porsches have a visual balance that’s tough to duplicate, but I think today’s FR-S has the bones to make it possible. Going forward, let the design language in the Lexus LF-A serve as a model. The high-performance Lexus delivered a classic GT proportion within a so-this-century package.
With all of the above, there’s absolutely nothing wrong (OK, it could use an extra 50 horsepower – and some extra audio coming from that 50 horsepower) with what is currently sitting on Scion and Subaru showrooms. While waiting for Toyota and Subaru to build it, you could be driving – and modifying – the current FR-S yourself. Get going…