Whether you call it the Subelica or the Celibaru, Toyota’s version of the new rear-drive 2+2 sports coupe being co-developed with Subaru and codenamed the FT-86 will land in the U.S. as a Scion.
Blazing red, with a gaping maw and atomic-insect headlights, the two-door Scion FR-S (which means Front-engine, Rear-wheel-drive, Sport—woo, clever!) may represent a sort of defibrillator to the chest of Toyota’s youth division, where sales remain lackluster since the 2007 redesign of the xB and 2008 introduction of the xD. The tC was re-skinned this year, but looks starkly similar to the outgoing car. Also coming to Scion showrooms in July is a three-door mini-car called the iQ.
Just a clay model with no interior right now, the FR-S is currently slated to arrive in Scion showrooms in mid-2011, although the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan have thrown Toyota's product timing into chaos. As Scion is strictly a North American brand, a Toyota-badged version will launch simultaneously in Europe and Asia. Expect that car and the production Subaru version to show up at this fall's Tokyo show.
With a length of 168.2 inches and a wheelbase of 101.2 inches, the FR-S is one to two inches shorter in both measurements than the last-generation Celica. Its 2.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-four engine—sourced from Subaru—uses Toyota’s D4-S fuel-injection system, which features both port- and direct injection and switches between them to optimize efficiency.
Horsepower figures were not quoted, but with direct injection in the mix to help boost specific output, the engine should be good for at least 200 hp. Toyota says the mounting of the flat-four low and behind the front axle will keep the center of gravity down and centered for better handling. It also helps front-to-rear weight distribution.
Buyers will have a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. A limited-slip differential will be standard. It’s hard to say how much of the FR-S is real (the roof, doors, hood, and trunk are probably production-spec) and how much is auto-show glam. The staggered-width wheels by Five Axis—20 x 8.5-inchers in front and 20 x 10.5 in rear—are certainly show-stand parts that won’t make it to production. The exaggerated rear undertray with dual exhaust “exits”—read: one exhaust, two tailpipes—also may be extra makeup for the show.
The arrival of the FT-86 as a Scion surprised some (especially if they had been under a rock for the last week), but division vice president and general manager Jack Hollis says the car was slated to be a Scion early in its development. It definitely represents a commitment by Toyota to the floundering brand.
The production FR-S will have narrow fenders, but likely will be similar in overall styling to this concept. According to Hollis, the car has undergone a styling makeover since Toyota president Akio Toyoda declared last year that the company's styling is too staid, and that it should be more passionate. An FT-86 concept shown at the 2009 Tokyo auto show had more slab-like sides and a less-aggressive face. Also, the FR-S's rear end draws strongly from the Lexus LF-A supercar, a characteristic not on the original FT-86 show car.