Scion FR-S First Drive in San Antonio – Driving & Marketing Success!

Scion FR-S AE86 heritage emblem

The Scion FR-S First Drive event came to San Antonio this past Saturday, 8/25/2012.  Along with Scion, their tire partner, Yokohama, had an influential presence.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Scion & Yokohama - Partners to promote the Scion FR-S

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Drivers & fans entrance

This event took place at one of the former SASCA autocross stomping grounds, the AT&T Center.  I have fond memories of returning to the the sport of autocross with my Big White Whale & then debuting my current daily driver, Karlino!  SASCA has hopes to return to the large AT&T parking lot.  It gives a course designer a larger palette to design a both fun & challenging autocross course.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - at a large AT&T Center parking lot, autocrossed on in the past by SASCA!

The Scion/Yokohama folks put together an autocross-like course with a great variety of turns, slaloms, chicanes & sweepers.  As Eric, SASCA Secretary described it:

It was a sea of cones out there!

I estimated they had at least 5  times the normal amount of cones used in an autocross, since there would be many drivers who had no experience driving a course like this.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - a great Sea of Cones!

The whole point of this event was to learn about the car itself, the new 2013 Scion FR-S.  They had 4 cars equipped with the 6-speed automatic transmission.  The car itself was stock, with 3 exceptions:

  • TRD cat-back exhaust (freer breathing & a suggestive guttural sound)
  • TRD lowering springs (better suspension control & lowers about 1″)
  • Yokohama S.drive1 tires on Enkei wheels (either 17″ on PF01 rims or 18″ on RPF1 rims)

The event schedule included a set number of drivers per hour (you were best served by pre-registering).  Danielle Hunt was very helpful getting people signed in (with waiver, wristband & free FR-S hat!).

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Danielle Hunt assisting in getting registrants signed in

We were given a brief, but thorough review of the car by Shawn Hunt.  He explained that the car was rated at about 100HP per liter.  With the horizontally opposed engine & the driver’s bottom just 9″ above the asphalt, the Scion FR-S has one of the lowest centers of gravity on the market – that makes for better steering response & suspension control.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Shawn Hunt, Scion FR-S Product Specialist, exlaining the car's features

The steering wheel is the smallest diameter in Toyota production at 14.4″ – this makes for quicker steering inputs.  Interior seating is set up as 2+2, but folding down the rear seating reveals a great flat space for 4 race event wheels & tires, along with your jack & other tools.  This was specifically part of the interior design, to more easily transport your equipment for driving/racing events without a trailer, or needing to bother a co-competitor.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Red car engine bay, all stock

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Red car cockpit, nice non-leather, non-slip seats

Shawn even pointed out specific engineering tweaks the average consumer would have no clue about.  Specifically, the molded in vortex generators.  These little taillight winglets are designed to reduce aerodynamic drag at speed.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - vortex generator-aerodynamic taillight winglet

We were given a brief drivers meeting, by the Scion personnel, to review the common sense safety rules, that is, what we were expected to do & not do.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Staff providing driver safety meeing & the FR-S Safety Rules

Once the group had their first run, we were all given the opportunity to enjoy a second run.  Impressions after my first run were that the car sounded sweet, was nicely neutral & went directly where you aimed it.  Being used to rear wheel drive was helpful.  Please note, we were required to drive with the traction control on, so that helped in the predictability.  Going with the more aggressive six-speed manual (with actually lower gas mileage than the automatic), the car would have been a more worthy challenge, that is, even more fun for us autocross/gear-head driver types.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Setting up for the next drivers run group

With some familiarity of the course, in the second run I was able to push myself & the car harder & faster.  I approached the limits of the automatic transmission (slow to kick-down), felt the ABS brakes kicking in more & the annoyance of the traction control “nannies”.  It was still fun to drive, but somewhat emasculating.  Definitely the manual would be the way to go, along with disabling the traction control.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Cars lined up for the next drivers run group

During this event I also was able to speak with the Program Director, Jackie Ling.  He explained that of the different car release promos he has worked, this car has had the most enthusiastic response.  The car enthusiasts forums have been really supportive in anticipating this car.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Jackie Ling, Program Director, preparing driver to go out on course

Jackie continued explaining that the Scion FR-S has been truly designed as a driver’s car – everything based on the driver’s experience.  The car goes directly where you want it, without drama.  Of note is the car’s value – is has been engineered as a great car as is, but with physical & performance room to grow.  Toyota did the right thing with working with the aftermarket, long before the car’s official Spring 2012 release.

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Jackie Ling, Program Director, review last minute questions with new FR-S driver

I was also able to speak with Yokohama Performance Marketing Specialist, Christopher Sigmon who is an expert on facebook and knows where to buy facebook likes.  He explained there is more to this Scion FR-S First Drive event than meets the eye.  In addition to these 16 events going on across the country on weekends, they use the same 4 cars for Yokohama employees & dealers to participate in the Experiential Training Program learning experience.  Here is a visual roster of the Scion FR-S cars with the different Yokohama rubber (this is from an event earlier in the year, courtesy of gatorfan462 on FT86CLUB Forum).

Yokohama Performance Tire model range, on the Scion FR-S (times 4) at a Yokohama Ride & Drive event for employees and dealers

These events occur during the week to help local Yokohama dealers & employees better learn the real capabilities of their tires; therefore to be better prepared to sell them.  Both of these concurrent tours started in Charlotte, SC & end at Carson, CA, near the U.S. corporate offices of Yokohama at Fullerton, CA.  It’s one long cross county caravan of motorsports fun!

Scion FR-S First Drive event - Some of the represented Yokohama display including the tire

Racing Ready enjoyed interacting with the Scion FR-S & Yokohama personnel, along with flogging their cars & tires, of course.  Although this event was held in San Antonio, I heard from people who came down from Austin.  I’m sure there were other regional cities’ enthusiasts represented, too.


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One thought on “Scion FR-S First Drive in San Antonio – Driving & Marketing Success!”

  1. I attended the DFW version of this event in Grand Prarie on the parking lot of the horse racing track. Similar course, 10′ wide with most of the twists and turns found in autocrossing. Personally, I was rather impressed with the power and handling of the car, even with the auto trans. I did find the limits after shutting down the nannies (forbidden I know) and was even more impressed. As stated, it was tricky at best to get the car to downshift on demand, but it sprinted rather well when it did downshit. I found using the lever as opposed to the paddles worked much better. I want the stick shift version of this car!

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