Scion FR-S vs Subaru BRZ: Built on the same powertrain and chassis, these performance cars are siblings with a few big differences.
At first you might be confused by the fact that the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ are almost the same car. Subaru and Toyota worked together to create the vehicle – they contest the story of how this happened but it seems Subaru did all the engineering and development of the chassis and powertrain, while Toyota did the design.
Both vehicles are flat fours using Subaru’s 2.0 liter engine with rear wheel drive and nearly identical mechanics, for example. So how do you choose the right model in this Scion FR-S vs Subaru BRZ comparison? To start, there are a few cosmetic differences between the two, a few performance tweaks, and a number of branding and marketing differences depending on who slaps their insignia on the body.
Scion FR-S vs Subaru BRZ tale of the tape
|Specs||Scion FR-S||Subaru BRZ|
Shocks and suspension
Starting with the most relevant difference for an entry-level, affordable sports car: the suspension and shocks are tuned differently. Specifically, the BRZ understeers, a result of a less aggressive tuning targeted at less experienced sport drivers who want to have fun. The suspension and limited-slip differential are second-to-none in its class, allowing the BRZ to gracefully and effortlessly whip through corners for some serious fun.
The FR-S doesn’t understeer, and its low center of gravity combined with its light weight add serious thrills to its smaller engine. While both are rear-wheel drive, with the engine pushed relatively forward and set very low to help with cornering, the FR-S is tighter and more responsive. The steering in lauded as pristinely precise and balanced, making it one of the most enjoyable rides in its class. The FR-S feels agile and quick, but is also less forgiving in turns if you let a wheel lift in the middle of a turn.
Performance and fuel economy
This comparison is a little unfair because, well, the Subaru BRZ and the Scion FR-S are built identically. Both have the the same exterior dimensions, the same curb weight and the exact same flat four Subaru engine, so both push out the same amount of horsepower with the same fuel economy ratings. The fuel economy ratings are pretty good for a performance car, getting 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, but that's probably not the reason you're looking to buy a BRZ or FR-S.
The real reason is that Subaru BOXER flat-four cylinder engine that can whip around these light-weight performance cars. The horizontal design of the BOXER engine allows the engine to be positioned in-line with the drivetrain to maximze transfer of power without the additional components needed for typical V-type engines. The pistons move in punch-counterpunch like the strikes of a boxer, which is where the engine gets its name.
Exterior and interior quality
The exterior and interior details are also different, but you have to get down to a very specific level of detail to notice them and decide if you car. Essentially, they have different grills, different style and tech options for the headlights, and different logos on the outside.
On the inside, the materials are nicer in the BRZ, as are the sound system, touch screen navigation – not available in the FR-S – and dash styling. However, both have a great deal of plastic inside, which many see as appropriate for entry-level sports cars.
This makes sense if you believe what each company says about their target markets, which they claim are clearly not the same based on their brands’ perception. Toyota says the Scion brand targets younger buyers with a “mono-spec blank canvas,” and a no-haggle, no-hassle purchase process. One trim level, simple color and transmission choices, and a list of accessories add up to a simpler buy for younger buyers.
On the other hand, Subaru sees its brand as more exclusive, and the pricing and options on the BRZ make it the more upscale option appealing “to someone who already has another car in the garage,” says Subaru National manager of Product Public Relations Dominick Infante. In that light, there is a certain logic to the significant tuning differences that make the BRZ a bit more drivable on a daily basis than the FR-S. Those upscale finishes add about $3,000 to the sticker.
It’s worth noting that the “big” difference, the tendency of the BRZ to understeer compared to the FR-S’s willingness to rotate – meaning spin out a bit in turns – isn’t going to be very noticeable to unskilled drivers who don’t push their car very hard.
You shouldn’t use knowledge of Scion’s revised rear spring and bushing choices as the main reason for your decision unless you already understand what that means and how the ride would feel. Instead, you should consider the price, the brand, and the features to decide between the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ. Use Buyerlink to find the lowest quotes for both models from reputable dealers in your area.