If the above Scion FR-S looks slightly different, it’s because it is. The front fascia has been tweaked and slightly shaped for 2017, the headlamps have been reworked to house more LEDs, and it’s the same story around back. The Subaru-derived boxer engine now puts out 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque, bumps of five horsepower and five pound-feet respectively. But unless you live outside of North America, the biggest change isn’t the power or the shape: It’s the new badge adorning the bonnet and decklid.
Since 2013, the FR-S has flown under the Scion brand. But with Toyota’s youth-driven offshoot shutting its doors this year, its orphaned cars will have to find new homes. So Toyota is bringing the FR-S into its own stable, where it will be known as the Toyota 86 — the same name it flies under in the rest of the world.
“When we announced the transition of the Scion models to Toyota we hadn’t planned on changing the names of our cars, but by popular demand, for our sports car, we decided to adopt the global name of 86,” said Toyota Division Group Vice President, Bill Fay in a press statement. “Enthusiasts have a strong association with the front-engine, rear-drive heritage of the ‘hachi-roku’ and the dynamic performance it offers.”
The commitment to the 86 — née FR-S — is welcomed news to the motor enthusiast community, albeit relatively surprising. Born from a close relationship with Subaru (which sells the same vehicle under its badge, known as the BRZ), the cars have proven to be a tough sell. Despite instantly becoming a darling among automotive press, the public has been hesitant to seize on a two-door, rear-wheel drive sports car that doesn’t start with ‘M’ and end with ‘-iata’.
The MX-5-based Fiat 124 will be a good litmus test on the state of affordable sports cars, to determine if it’s the market or simply the FR-S/BRZ not meeting consumer expectations. Performance hot hatches like the Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen GTI/Golf R, and even the Hyundai Veloster Turbo have proven that compact pocket rockets can sell, as long as there’s a cargo capacity contingency involved.
The Toyota 86, however, comes to market with a sharper edge. In addition to the power gains, it gets revised shock tuning and a spring rate change. There’s also a larger center intake.
Toyota will also add the Scion iA and iM — two new compact cars that joined recently — under its wing, and will be renamed the Toyota Corolla iM and Toyota Yaris iA. The company will be showing off the new 86 at the New York Auto Show, which kicks off today.