Fastback Friday: Differences: Subaru BRZ vs. Scion FR-S

Twenty years from now we may be looking for an unmolested one of these on Craigslist, if not for ourselves then perhaps for our sons or daughters (wow). In the mean time, let’s take a closer look at this car these two vehicles which were specifically designed with the practical and cheap enthusiast in mind.

You already know that they’re basically the same cars and the only differences are in styling and equipment. Both have the Subaru pancake 200hp engine matched to a proper 6-speed transmission. Automatic transmission is available for losers people unable to operate three pedals with two feet.

These two cars can be divided into three trim levels: The base, which is the Scion FR-S, and two versions of the Subaru BRZ, the Premium and the Limited. The Scion FR-S starts at $24,930 (with shipping). That price gets you standard safety and convenience features which include an iPod connection and Bluetooth. No other details are specified at this point – I couldn’t even tell if it comes with a limited slip diff.

Both of the Subaru BRZ versions come well equipped. Included are leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and e-brake handle. Both come with an after-market-ish looking navigational system, HD radio, USB and BT. Both also come with a limited-slip diff and HIDs. All that is $26,280 with shipping. Step up to the Limited and you get Leather and Alcantara® seats, remote entry, rear spoiler, and fog lights for $28,280.

Other differences come in styling, and this is where my friend Jeff Butler comes in. Jeff is an industrial designer by trade and his spare time runs a blog called Motoriginal. While at the New York International Auto Show, he shared some of his design expertise on the differences between these two cars:

Scion FR-S:

  • Front bumper has more awkward curves and edges
  • Larger frowning mouth on front fascia
  • More vertical fog light/air intake design
  • Hood has a few lines that flow into the badge and some extra edges.
  • Side gill has the “86” badge and a smaller air vent
  • Ah yes, almost forgot, the FR-S gauge cluster is much better!
  • Overall, the FR-S has more edge and takes more risks.

Subaru BRZ:

  • Simplified bumper with a little more black plastic than I’d like to see
  • Happier front fascia with more geometric shapes
  • More trapezoidal fog light/air intake design
  • Smoother hood with more subtle lines into the badge
  • Side gill is a solely a vent
  • Overall, the BRZ is more reserved and has more charm.

Based on this, which of these would you pick? I think I would go for the BRZ Premium in silver. I like the calmer look of the scubi and the added features. Each model is priced very closely to a similarly equipped Miata or Hyundai Genesis Coupe. We should also be grateful that it’s much cheaper here than in other part of the world.


Editorial… of an editorial:

I don’t usually comment on what other media say about cars, but a certain British “car” magazine recent devoted a highly opinionated and totally unsubstantiated article about how the FR-S/BRZ won’t easily drift and how it won’t make its driver a star. No shit, really?

Of course they won’t [easily] slide around corners, numbnuts. No one would make and sell a car that would do mad drifts (y0!) right out of the box. You must be stupid to think that, there would be deaths every day, probably even upon driving off the dealer lot.

With perhaps a few exotic exceptions, every new car currently on the market is designed to understeer. It is because it is simply safer to plow into something than to spin out. Take any new modern BMW for instance, even the mighty M3, disable the traction and stability controls and go do some donuts. You’ll find that it is possible but not exactly easy, especially for a n00b.

Suspension settings, sway bar thickness and mounting points, and even those awesome-looking staggered wheels are there to prevent exactly that – oversteer. It is like that to save the driver’s ass and I have no doubt in my mind that the BRZ/FR-S twins are set up that same way.

Is it possible to kick out the rear end of or even drift this 200hp car? It sure as heck is, it just takes practice and some skill. I have no doubt that there are currently whole suspension systems being developed to change that however. Hooniverse top tip – keep it stock and tighten the nut behind the wheel. Hey look, Jack Baruth agrees, in the only way he knows how. 

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