VW Vortex - Volkswagen Forum banner

1 - 20 of 44 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,164 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
One year and 6,000 or so miles ago, I took delivery of a new, 2013 FR-S manual. In true TCL fashion, I felt a little write-up was in order:

Background

Though it resulted in much hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing on the part of TCL (and rejoice from TFL), this car effectively “replaced” a Cayman S in my garage. Since it wasn’t a daily driver (more of a weekend/autox/very occasional track day car), in large part the reason I ditched the Cayman was simply because I wasn’t getting as much use out of it as it was costing each month. Punk move? Possibly…

I was set on finding something older that I could tinker around with, but then this FR-S popped up on eBay about two months after I sold the Cayman at a price I simply could not ignore. I had a good bit of experience with the FR-S/BRZ and already knew I liked the cars a lot; it ticked the right boxes in terms of what I look for in a fun car. Was it fast? No. Was it fancy? No. Would it impress the ladies? Probably not, unless they’re into autocross (which would be a no). Just about the polar opposite of the Porsche then, right? But what it does do well is provide a good feel for the road through a light, small, tossable footprint. It also provides a great platform to tweak for autocross and light track day usage. In the ways that matter, it’s very similar to the Cayman it replaced.

My particular FR-S was a leftover new 2013 model, bought in May 2014 from a small Toyota dealer in rural PA. The car had been sitting in their showroom and had just a few miles on it; lucky, since I would have expected an “old stock” car on the lot to be used for demo duty at some point. I purchased the car entirely online, flew up to Pittsburgh, was met at the airport with the car washed and full of gas, and continued on my way back to Florida. The whole process couldn’t have been more painless.

What works?

•The big reason one would buy an FR-S/BRZ, and the reason I bought mine, is because it’s a great handler. And it is. Few new cars under $50k, short of a Miata, provide the kind of feedback and telepathic response that these cars do. If you want something that’s simply outright fast, you’ll be disappointed. If you want something refined, you’ll also be disappointed. If you want an undiluted driving experience, you’ll love it.

•It’s well-known that the stock wheel and tire package on these cars is a joke, and made to exaggerate their tail-happy balance - maybe for test drives, maybe for journalists. Either way, when you’re trying to burn down a back road, you’ll probably want a halfway decent set of tires. If you hope to be competitive at autocrossing, you’ll definitely need a better wheel and tire setup. To that end, I fitted 17x9” (same diameter as stock, but two inches wider, and with a lower offset to boot) Enkei RPF-1 wheels and 255/40-17 Hankook RS-3s. The RS-3s are one of the top autox tire choices for good reason, as they’re far stickier than their 200 treadwear rating (the SCCA minimum) would suggest. If I were driving these things daily, I would expect less than 10,000 miles out of them. Compared to the Pilot Super Sports I ran on the Cayman, these are far stickier, although the trade-off is the way they thrum at any speed above walking pace. Coupled with the FR-S’ lack of sound deadening, my fiancé is now reaching for the ear plugs any time we take my car. A good way around this is to lower the windows and listen to the wind.

•One of the things I most appreciate about the FR-S is how the chassis feels hardwired to your brain, by way of your hands and feet. You can feel exactly what the car’s about to do, and then quickly change its cornering attitude on a whim. That’s part of what makes it so competitive in a setting like autocross, where the game is all about speedy responses. I’ve taken it to probably a dozen autocrosses by now (just once on the new suspension setup, sadly, although a Sebring track day is coming up in late June) and I’ve been impressed by it every time.

•I think it’s a good-looking car. It’s squat, wide and close to the ground. In that way, it reminds me of the Cayman. Although, truth be told, I never thought my 987 Cayman was a beautiful car. It was purposeful, in a kind of “it looks like this because it has to” sort of way. But compared to the new 981 version, the 987’s rear three-quarters view just looks like kind of a mess. I have no such qualms about the FR-S. Especially now that it’s lowered and on a proper wheel/tire combo, I love the way it looks, and often catch myself looking back at it in parking lots.

•It gets the little stuff right. For example, the shifter and clutch feel combination feels very properly judged. The driving position is excellent, as are the seats. It’s easy to heel-toe. It’s not fast, but the gearing helps it at least feel entertaining.

•Could it handle more power? Absolutely. I think natural aspiration fits the car’s character really well, though, to the point where I’d trade 300 turbocharged ponies for 250 n/a ones. Since Toyota or Subaru don’t appear ready to install that much power on their own, it’s up to the aftermarket to fill the void. Adding 30-40 horsepower by way of a tune, header and full exhaust might be in the cards for mine next, although there’s certainly a trade-off to be made in terms of noise levels and, if the motor pops for some strange reason, your warranty not being honored thanks to the tune. I’m wrestling with inner demons over those two points right now. I have a feeling power will win out.

What doesn’t?

•Far more akin to an economy car than a fancy-pants sports car like the Cayman, the usual descriptors that could be levelled at a Yaris could also be levelled at the FR-S: buzzy, tinny, loud, cheap…on and on. Stones ping against the underbody and in the wheel wells, you feel every bump in the road, and the interior, while tightly assembled, is made of low-grade plastics and has few amenities. The sound system, for example, can barely overpower the wind and tire roar. But none of it really bothers me. As an entry-level, back-to-basics sports car, you can’t expect much more than the “twins” provide. Want more sound deadening and creature comforts? Okay, but it’ll cost you – not only literally, but also in the form of weight. What you might end up with is something like a 370Z or Genesis coupe, which are more refined and luxurious (some would say) but far heavier and less direct/communicative than the FR-S/BRZ.


•The ride-and-handling balance, even in stock form, leans a lot heavier toward “handling” than “ride”. While it’s a fairly stiff-legged car straight out of the box, I went and ruined everything by fitting much stiffer HKS coilovers and cranking down the ride height. While it now looks great and goes like stink around corners, street livability has definitely suffered. Since this isn’t my commuter, I’m okay with it – but if I suddenly had only this car to drive each day, I’d probably find a more street-friendly suspension setup. This isn’t really a ding against the car, more so its owner. Of course, lower and stiffer wasn’t quite enough, so a full corner balancing and aggressive camber and toe settings were also mandatory. Again, the benefits will be tangible through cones or around a track, but on the street, it hunts out ruts and grooved pavement like a bloodhound hunts fox p!ss.

What’s gone wrong?

Nothing, thankfully. In only 6,000 miles, there hasn’t been much time for anything to go wrong, but nevertheless, the car’s been very reliable. I’ve done one oil change myself and the aforementioned suspension upgrades, but other than that, I haven’t touched it. It has yet to visit the dealership for anything and I hope to keep it that way.

Overall?

I'd make the decision to buy it all over again if I had to; if my situation remains the same and I can own something less practical for while, I might flip this for an AP2 S2000 in the winter, although the jury's still out on that decision. I may decide to keep it. Or do a few power mods and see how much better I like the car then. It's an enjoyable sports car and anyone who paints it with the brush of "being underpowered" without ever driving one in anger is really doing themselves a disservice.


One year ago:

SAM_2454-3 by raregreen91, on Flickr

SAM_2455-4 by raregreen91, on Flickr

SAM_2457-6 by raregreen91, on Flickr

SAM_2458-7 by raregreen91, on Flickr

Fresh meat:

Wide-1 by raregreen91, on Flickr


Compared to stock:

Side by side-2 by raregreen91, on Flickr


Suspension upgrade:

image by raregreen91, on Flickr

On the setup pad:

image_3 by raregreen91, on Flickr


Add lightness:

image_2 by raregreen91, on Flickr


Rolling past 5k:

image_4 by raregreen91, on Flickr


Now:

SAM_3999 by raregreen91, on Flickr

SAM_3998 by raregreen91, on Flickr

SAM_3995 by raregreen91, on Flickr

SAM_3994 by raregreen91, on Flickr

SAM_3990 by raregreen91, on Flickr
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,048 Posts
they are nice I would buy one as a toy for exactly what you were doing. id also be eagerly waiting for the warranty to run out to put it under the knife and fix that no power issue.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,530 Posts
they are nice I would buy one as a toy for exactly what you were doing. id also be eagerly waiting for the warranty to run out to put it under the knife and fix that no power issue.
Soon my BRZ will pass its 3 year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Still not enough for the power train warranty, though. My buddy may be selling his full exhaust from his FR-S to sell the Scion for a new Mustang. I'm looking forward to it, but voiding the warranty on the engine has me a bit concerned as well.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
42,263 Posts
but voiding the warranty on the engine has me a bit concerned as well.
as ive been getting interested in these, i took a browse through the forum to see if i could learn anything (and see how used ones were holding their value), but nothing about engine failures jumped out at me. its entirely possible i missed it, but whats the issue?
ive heard of the idle stumble, or something like that, but is there anything going catastrophically wrong?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,048 Posts
but voiding the warranty on the engine has me a bit concerned as well.
it all depends on the dealership. they have to prove that whatever you did resulted in the part failure. even with a tune as long as you reflash it to factory they really wont notice unless they take the time and have an EXPERIENCED mechanic on the job. usually is a 20 year old kid that's been to a class or two.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,164 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
More info on that racekorrrrrrrrrr!

Great write up :thumbup:
ProFormula Mazda w/ "Ferrari" livery :) - here's a write-up on the shop's website; the guy that owns and runs the place is an old high school friend of mine.

http://www.speedsyn.com/#!In-The-Shop-ProFormula-Mazda-Fuel-Cell/c1n7x/54fdbb7f0cf24585978b58e0

lately these have really grown on me, especially the WRB subi ones...
looks fantastic with that wheel/tire setup as well :thumbup:
Thanks :thumbup:

Soon my BRZ will pass its 3 year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Still not enough for the power train warranty, though. My buddy may be selling his full exhaust from his FR-S to sell the Scion for a new Mustang. I'm looking forward to it, but voiding the warranty on the engine has me a bit concerned as well.
I definitely wouldn't worry about voiding anything from an exhaust (unless you're removing cats, that's a different story)...but either way, these engines seem pretty stout. It would have to be pretty bad luck or a really bad tune for anything catastrophic to happen from the basic I/H/E/Tune mods.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,341 Posts
Those wheels/tires look the business. I really hate the stock black/silver FRS wheels. Ick.

With ~200bhp, my 986 is pretty close to your car. I'm also looking at 225/255 17's, and am worried the RS3's will be *too* sticky. Your thoughts? I've got Sumi HTR ZIII's on the V70R and they are really darn good for the price, but might want something better for the 986...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,164 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Those wheels/tires look the business. I really hate the stock black/silver FRS wheels. Ick.

With ~200bhp, my 986 is pretty close to your car. I'm also looking at 225/255 17's, and am worried the RS3's will be *too* sticky. Your thoughts? I've got Sumi HTR ZIII's on the V70R and they are really darn good for the price, but might want something better for the 986...
I'd go for it. They're great tires, and with factory alignment settings you should still get plenty of rotation/slip angle as desired. When I was on the new wheels/tires with stock suspension, the rear end was still plenty easy to break loose even with the 255s on there, and in fact was more controllable/predictable than the less-grippy OEM tires. I've now got a bunch of negative camber, so it sticks far more than it slides.

Speed Syndicate?
Yep :thumbup:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,530 Posts
as ive been getting interested in these, i took a browse through the forum to see if i could learn anything (and see how used ones were holding their value), but nothing about engine failures jumped out at me. its entirely possible i missed it, but whats the issue?
ive heard of the idle stumble, or something like that, but is there anything going catastrophically wrong?
I definitely wouldn't worry about voiding anything from an exhaust (unless you're removing cats, that's a different story)...but either way, these engines seem pretty stout. It would have to be pretty bad luck or a really bad tune for anything catastrophic to happen from the basic I/H/E/Tune mods.

It's not the tune causing issues that I'd be worried about. But just some random problem that crops up. And I'd most likely remove the first cat as that's built into the stock header.

it all depends on the dealership. they have to prove that whatever you did resulted in the part failure. even with a tune as long as you reflash it to factory they really wont notice unless they take the time and have an EXPERIENCED mechanic on the job. usually is a 20 year old kid that's been to a class or two.
The BRZ expert at my dealership is a guy about my age that owns a WRB BRZ as well. But once a dealer mechanic sees an aftermarket header on the car, he's going to assume the car is tuned since it is very difficult to get an aftermarket header (without CELs) on the car without a tune.


But it's neither here nor there. I'm still more than likely going to get the full exhaust parts this Summer. The UEL header sound plus the removal of the torque dip is calling to me. Extra power/torque is aside benefit for me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,530 Posts
As a longtime owner of a BRZ, I pretty much agree with everything the OP has said about the car. :thumbup:


The only similar car I would get rid of my BRZ for would be for a CPO Boxster/Cayman or perhaps an M235i. And having the car paid for and redoing my kitchen makes me hesitant to sell my car.

Plus I love driving it every time I get in it, even three years later, so that's a lot to be said about the 'connected' feeling of the car.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
537 Posts


that shot looks killer. great color combo.

really starting to get interested in these things and i think i'm just still holding out to see how the reliability fares now that the early cars are starting to get some miles on them. it looks like boltons and a tune on E85 gets you to near or better than S2000 power levels...that's pretty compelling. personally i've never been enamored by big HP street cars so it seems like that would be a sweet spot for me.

have you done any longer trips in it, like 3+ hours before the sticky tires? my benchmark right now is my 2.5RS which is pretty loud and spartan by today's standards and it wears on me a bit, but its not bad and my exhaust is half the problem. i'd love to be able to make some longer day trips in a car like yours and not want to be too miserable when i get somewhere after that amount of time.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,127 Posts
Good to hear yours is going well! I just rolled past 13k miles on mine. Not a single issue as well.

I already through a catted header, over pipe, and catless front pipe at it. Along with frame bracing, master cylinder brace, LW drive shaft and a good 93 tune. Header was the best move ever. Eliminates that torque dip.

When on e85 i hit 210 whp / 175 tq on a mustang dyno with above parts and no ECU learning. Get on the fun!

Edit: also try to do the sound tube delete. That helps the interior noise immensely. Replace the airbox to TB with a silicone elbow with a delete built in.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,530 Posts
have you done any longer trips in it, like 3+ hours before the sticky tires? my benchmark right now is my 2.5RS which is pretty loud and spartan by today's standards and it wears on me a bit, but its not bad and my exhaust is half the problem. i'd love to be able to make some longer day trips in a car like yours and not want to be too miserable when i get somewhere after that amount of time.
I take four-hour trips in mine to my parents' all the time, and comfort is not an issue. I even drove it from Baltimore to the Outer Banks (and back) for vacation. I'm not even sure if we stopped on the way down because we made it down there on a single tank.

The seats are very supportive and comfortable. The only thing that gets annoying on the highway is noise from concrete.



(The mileage estimator is a bit optimistic, but I did get 35+ actual mpg on the trip down)
 
1 - 20 of 44 Posts
Top