When I first got in this 2016 FRS, and saw that it was an automatic, I was like…
But but but…. the FRS/86 auto does have a few tricks up it’s sleeve. I literally never, not once even for a minute, drove the car in full ‘auto’ mode. Nor did I want to. I always went straight to the ‘manual’ version of the auto tranny. And driving the car in this way, it was pretty stinking fun. The car rev-matches & blips on downshifts – which is pretty damn cool & amusing. Up-shifts are insta-quick & crisp in the upper RPM ranges, and the console shifter is in a perfect engaging ‘quick draw’ spot for the driver. As a car guy, I would still get the FRS in a manual hands down. But this would no-doubt be fun to play with on a track day… and I thoroughly enjoyed it for the week that I had it. Not to be sexist, but just to illustrate the point, my wife LOVED driving this car. The manual put her in full-out Speed Racer mode, and the auto was great for stop-&-go. The point is: the auto may not be for you, but don’t hate, because it DOES have its place in the lineup… and I wouldn’t have said that before I drove it. Now – if Toyota only did a twin clutch setup like the GTIs…… 🙂
Anyway, here are a couple key pieces from the review from the manual we reviewed previously. Nothing’s changed – the FRS is still one of my favorite cars to drive:
The FRS is a driver’s car – pure & true. Not in the way that an M3 is a driver’s car… but in the way that a Type R is a driver’s car. Most cars these days aim to give you refuge from the commute. This car gives you a sword & throws you in the fight.
The 2-liter flat boxer carries a lower center of gravity than a traditional engine – contributing to it’s agility. I read somewhere that the FRS has a lower center of gravity than the Cayman, the GTR, and comes in juuuust a hair higher than the GT3. The engine bay is oversized, which will prove it’s worth & open more options as tuners look for turbos, superchargers, and/or motor swaps.
The car has variable valve timing, meaning it really gets in the power zone at about 4500rpm. Even with a stock airbox, and stock exhaust, you can hear it flip. The motor redlines at 7500rpm, but the power starts to fall off at around 6500rpm. That sounds like a bummer, but it’s not. Because the transmission is such – that when you shift at 6500rpm, you fall right back to 4500rpm in the next gear… right back in the sweet spot. Having explained that – I feel like a lot of the internet racers who criticize the FRS as ‘underpowered’… just in fact have 1) not driven it… or 2) have not figured out how to drive it right. This car isn’t blistering fast, but it’ll move when you keep it in the sweet RPM range – and that’s the appeal of the whole FRS experience.
The FRS is on the right side of automotive history. The electronic power-steering is remarkably responsive. I love my air-cooled 911, and I love my B16-swapped CRX… but going back to those cars from the FRS left me bummed in the steering department. Turn-in on the FRS is amazing. Maneuvering is effortless. Look where you want to go, and the car will get you there. At 2700lbs, the FRS is very light by today’s standards… but not really that light by yesterday’s standards. Having said that, I’m convinced that the 2700lbs is a coverup/conspiracy… because I can’t feel it anywhere.
At $26,000 – some younger buyers have a hard time justifying the price in their minds. It may seem more like a $22,000 car. And at $26,000, there are other cars in the price range (like the GTI & ST) that check off more boxes. But you have to understand what the FRS is. It was designed from inception to be a sports car, and nothing else. See – the GTI and the Focus ST are hopped-up versions of mass-produced, economical cars. Therefore, a lot of parts are shared across the board, and produced in much higher quantities – driving down the cost. Think of all the different Volkswagen/Audi models that use that 2.0T… or how many Focus headlights/fenders exist in the world. I’m not hating – that’s smart way to build a great car. But none of those cost-saving methods apply for the FRS, because there’s nothing else like it. And that’s the point… there’s ‘nothing else like it’. So yeah – it’s 26-grand.
If it helps – don’t think of this as a $26,000 car. Think of it as a $2000-$3000 dollar car (downpayment)… with manageable payments on an extremely well-engineered NEW car that you’re NOT going to regret buying.