Toyota Motor Corp. is taking its youth-oriented Scion division — known for the boxy xB — in a new direction with a sexy, rear-wheel-drive sports car.
Scion showed the FR-S Wednesday during a media preview of the New York Auto Show. While the car is still a concept, which means it's not guaranteed to be built, Scion vice president Jack Hollis said there is no doubt that the brand will be bringing out a car very similar to the FR-S sometime next year.
The FR-S is almost the complete opposite of the tiny, square-ish Scion iQ, which also will be at the New York show. That car, which was originally due out on July 1, has had its launch pushed back indefinitely because of the March 11 earthquake in Japan. Hollis said the iQ will offer young urbanites a new level of luxury in a subcompact, including industry-first air bags in the back window.
Hollis said the FR-S might not immediately seem to fit with Scion's image as a maker of inexpensive, youthful cars. He also said the FR-S will prove that Scion is still a brand that's willing to experiment.
"We can't continue to say Scion is a lab for trying things if we don't try things," he said.
Hollis said the FR-S is based on the AE86 version of the Corolla, a rear-wheel-drive coupe that was sold from 1983 to 1987. It's part of the revamp of products envisioned by Toyota President Akio Toyoda, an avid race car driver.
"Akio has made it clear that he wants to bring the 'fun-to-drive' spirit back to Toyota," Hollis said.
UNDER THE HOOD: Toyota is using a Subaru 2.0-liter Boxer engine because its compact size and flat shape allow it to be mounted lower and further toward the rear. That gives the car a lower center of gravity and better driving performance. Hollis said he doesn't know whether Subaru plans to build a similar vehicle using the engine. No fuel economy numbers were released, but Hollis said the car would have "surprising" fuel economy for a sports car.
INSIDE: The inside of the concept car wasn't shown, but Hollis said any production model would continue Scion's tradition of offering plenty of perks, like keyless entry and panoramic moon roofs.
IN SHOWROOMS: The FR-S is still a concept, but Hollis said a car based on the concept will be coming out next year. The car would cost less than $30,000.
CHEERS: The FR-S is a great-looking car in that meets a low-priced sports car need filled by only a handful of other products, like the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
JEERS: While the new Scion tC sedan has been a fairly strong seller, Scion still seems to be floundering to establish its identity, and the addition of the FR-S to its lineup will not help consumers figure out just what Scion is. Toyota's racing history belongs to the Toyota brand, and so should the FR-S, some critics will say.