Test Drive: Scion FR-S

IMG 1411

I figured we’d test drive a Scion FR-S since Annie’s in the market for a new car. In general, this car runs about 25k and there are a ton of reviews out there. This car favors handling over power, and the main highlight is the styling IMHO.

I think it’s one of the better looking cars that have come out recently, and boy, it looks great in red. It’s a a 2.0L 4 cylinder boxer engine, and is focused on bringing the feeling of a high performance handling car into a small affordable and beautifully styled package. Unfortunately, the car lacks power. Put bluntly—it doesn’t have the bite to match the bark.

2013 Scion FR S coupe 029

Well, damn. This is where the FR-S is missing the mark. This car handles great (more on this later), but hardly has enough power to wow you. The shifting and transmission are great, but the engine is seriously underpowered. With only 200hp, you’ve really got to rev it up to get anything. Despite how well this car handles, the problem is that you’re going to be left behind in the corners as well as the straight aways. The FR-S goes 0-60 in 7.7 seconds. Ouch.

Scion FRS 2013 006

This is where the FR-S excels. The handling is tight and feels almost related to a S2000. Turning, braking and the overall balance of the car is superb. It handles the way you’d expect. It’s predictable, communicative, and sharp.

FR S Interior

The seats were actually really comfortable. They’re what you’d expect for a car with this kind of styling. The driving position is sporty, nice thick bolsters, and slung low. I will note that the ride is a little harsher than I’d personally like. You really can feel every nook and cranny on the road. This may be undesirable for some folks.

2013 Scion FRS side TrueCar Pricing1

Okay, the FR-S looks awesome in person. It’s sexy and looks great from every angle. It’s well thought out. The only problem is that I think there’s a little false advertising—the body says “I go fast”, but the reality is that it’s going to probably get spanked by most sedans. This is contradiction I struggle with the most.

IMG 1410

The FR-S is an excellent car and has received a lot of praise from all the car reviewers. It looks great, handles fairly well, but the power is really disappointing. My honest opinion is that you can probably do better for the price. I’d rather spend $20k for a S2000. If you need more power, I’d try to pick up a 2005 Boxster S instead for about $27k.

Not to jump on the bandwagon, but this car really needs a turbo. To me, a car with this styling should hit 0-60 in under 6 seconds. Just to give you some context, a Mini Cooper S does 0-60 in 6.8s.

If you don’t care about speed, this is a great car. Just be prepared to get spanked by pretty much everything.

Test Drive: 2013 VW GTI


Since Annie’s finally graduated and got a job, she’s interested in getting a new car. My hope is to get her to test drive a bunch of cars first. Last night we test drove the 2013 VW GTI. A couple of my coworkers have the GTI, and swear by it. One of them even has a chip that gives it an extra 50hps.

The GTI is a 2.0L 4 cylinder turbo, and is considered to be 4 door hatchback (although it comes in 2 door as well). After testing driving it with Annie, my conclusion is that it’s a small car that is packed with tons of practicality. Everything about it is awesome except the styling.

So is the myth true, are GTIs powerful? They have some pull, but nothing to write home about. You’re going to need to get a chip to really up the power to something that feels more responsive and muscly. The car claims to have 200hps and 207lb of torque. Where the power lacks, it makes up in engine responsiveness. If you get the automatic, it comes as a dual clutch transmission, which is really responsive. It shifts fast, and that’s how you stay in the power band.

2013 Volkswagen GTI Drivers Edition front side view

Handling is tight, like a Mini Cooper, except it has more comfort. It handles like a nimble small car, but is comfortable like a mid size sedan. The car feels light and the steering wheel is probably one of the best parts of the car. The paddle shifters in the automatic are a little weird though. I wouldn’t really call them “paddle shifters”—they’re more like giant fish gills. Despite the look, they work really well, and this adds to the handling of the car. You can control the balance of the car with shifting, thanks to the dual clutch tranny.

Volkswagen GTI interior

This is where the GTI exceeds. While the interior looks sparse, it’s pretty awesome. The plaid fabric chair patterns are a little cheesy, but I guess work for this car. Seats are good and the 4 door version has plenty of room in the back. There’s also a ton of head room—much more spacious than a Mini Cooper. I will note again that the steering wheel and shifter are awesome. For a 25k car, it probably has one of the best steering wheels in the business (except for the paddle shifters). The steering wheel is better than stock steering wheels from the other german manufactures like BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, and even their sibling, Audi. The ride of the car is stiff but comfortable. I really can’t say enough good things about it in this regard.

2013 Volkswagen GTI Coupe Hatchback 2 Door 2dr Hatchback Exterior 1

So here comes the sad part of the review. The GTI’s exterior is not the sexiest. Even the 2 door version looks pretty dated, even though it’s 2013 model. Yes, the 18″ rims help the look for the car, but the GTI looks like a tiny mini van. It’s not very exciting to look at—the body lines are pretty plain. The car doesn’t feel really special in terms of style, especially compared to Mini Cooper. The interior is pretty cool and stylish, but the exterior is understated. The concept version of the car is starting to look more interesting. Sadly, the 2013 GTI isn’t arousing.

Volkswagen GTI Design Vision front side view 2

So the GTI is a sweet car, anyone driving it is cool in my book. It’s got some performance that can really be enhanced with a $500 chip. With 4 doors and tons of space, it’s probably a car that I’d consider as a daily driver. Also, the price is awesome. The only thing that sucks is the exterior styling. However, if you can overlook the boring looks, it’s a fantastic car for the price. I could easily see myself owning one of these if I only had to have one car that does everything.

I will note that Annie said that if you’re guy who owns this car, you probably won’t get laid. Ouch. She’s probably right though. It has the same amount of sex appeal as my Honda Element.

Test Drive: 2013 Audi A4

So, bad news, I got a ton of yellow paint on my car. I had to take it into the dealer… but the good news is they’ve given me an 2013 Audi A4 as a loaner. I figure I’d give it a little review since I’ve never driven a new Audi.

photo 1-1.JPG

The 2013 A4 is a 2.0 Liter 4 Cylinder Turbo, and it’s considered to be an upscale midsize sedan focused on luxury/performance. After driving it for a day, it feels like a large performance sedan trying to feel like a small practical one.

So is the myth true, are A4’s powerful? Only when the turbo’s kick in. While the car’s spec claim a 258lb torque at 1,500 rpm, it doesn’t feel like it. The acceleration is actually kind of pathetic, and I’m shocked that a car with that kind of spec drives in such an awkward way. The way to hp/torque set up is probably most appropriate for passing cars between 40-70mph. The power’s there, but it feels like an old school turbo spooling up. Once the boost kicks in, it feels alive.

photo 2-1.JPG

Handling is a little strange. When I say strange, I mean that it’s a big car that has a ton of assisted power steering. I can literally drive the car with my pinky. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not—I personally prefer a slightly heavier feel in my steering. Same goes with the brakes… for whatever reason, they’re very sensitive. Almost artificially too sensitive. I literally touch the brakes, and the car’s weight shifts forward immediately. I’m not sure if this is good for performance driving—you want to avoid throwing the weight of the car around, especially around the turns. On a positive note, the car feels planted at higher speeds and seems to handle better once you get momentum.

So, for a sporty sedan, the seats are pretty loose. I’m sliding all around in the turns. The seats are comfortable, but are not performance oriented. Even the steering wheel position is off—it’s too far away from the driver by default. I will say that there are a couple of cool features… for example, the way the car starts is interesting—you have to push the key in, with your foot on the brakes to start it. To turn it off, you have to push the key inward. When I say key, it’s a fat piece of plastic that sticks into a giant numb to the right of the steering column. At first I disliked it, but it was actually really convenient, and clever.

photo 3-1.JPG

So the A4 is a sharp looking sedan. It’s modern, but conservative. It has a sleekness that most cars try to achieve. It’s a good looking sedan, and I believe it’s ahead of the curve in terms of styling.

So is the myth true? Is the A4 a powerful beast that rivals a BMW 3 series in terms of performance? The answer is no. It doesn’t feel like a drivers car in terms of the seat, driving position and overall handling characteristics. However, some people really like the styling enough to overlook performance. I’d describe the A4 as being practical and stylish. But I could see myself getting bored with it after a while.

Test Drive: 2013 Ford Fusion

So one of my coworkers got the new Ford Fusion recently. We went for a little test drive around the block and I’d have to say it’s a nice sedan. It’s spacious, tech friendly, and does really well on gas. It also looks pretty good.


The first thing I noticed was how quiet the car was. It was unclear when the engine is on or off… but that I guess that’s true for any hybrid. I’m not sure if I could ever get used to that… it’s a strange feeling.


It’s a sharp looking car though. The only thing I’d do is change the logo. I think Ford needs to update their graphic identity to match the futuristic styling and tech of their new cars. The old logo makes the car feel like an ancient Taurus.


It’s a traditional company with a new product. It’s about time for a new visual identity.


Would I recommend it? It’s cooler than a Prius, for sure. So yes.

Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz C250

I got a flat tire recently so I took my car to the dealership. They gave me a Mercedes Benz C250 as a loaner car for the weekend, which was pretty cool. I figured I’d give it a little review since I’ve always wanted to drive one.

photo 1.JPG

In a nutshell, the 2012 C250 is a turbocharged 4 cylinder engine with a 7 speed automatic transmission. It puts out 201 hps at 5,500 rpm, and has a rear-wheel drivetrain. To me, it’s a big sedan with a tiny engine. If you want something that has power, you’ll have to step up to the C350 or go for the AMG.

So the car has a really sporty look. It conveys that it’s muscular and aggressive. For a 4 cylinder engine, it’s pretty impressive… but it doesn’t live up to what the car visually advertises on the exterior. It’s kind of like a big dog with a tiny bark. Most of the time, the car feels like it’s going to stall because it’s pulling at 1500rpm all the time. The power is there, but you have to be going above 40mph at 5000rpm—that’s when the turbo’s kick in. Once you get the engine going, the car feels like it has more than 201hps. The trick is to get the turbos to spool. In order to do this, you’ll have to have a pretty heavy foot. The automatic transmission is a little sluggish, so you just have to keep your foot planted on the gas.

photo 2.JPG

So this is the best part about the C250. It probably handles better than most sedans. I was astonished by how well it could take on ramps and corners. And the ride is just so compliant. It’s super soft, but stays planted around the turns. For a sedan that feels like it’s the size of a boat, it handles really well. In addition, the braking setup is stellar—it really inspires confidence. The way the brakes were tuned made the car feel like it could take on much more power.

What can I say, it’s a really comfortable car. If you get a fully loaded C class, it’ll have all the bells and whistles. The seats are good, but not as good as BMW’s 3 series. I feel myself sliding around in the seat when taking a more “spirited” corner. on a side note, the steering wheel is really good. Felt really beefy and sportscar-like.

photo 3.JPG

For the price, I think it’s probably one of the best looking sedans. In fact, I like the exterior more than the new 3 series. However, the interior is a little bland. It feels luxurious, but doesn’t make me feel special. For example, I feel like the exterior design makes the car look like a $60k car. on the other hand, the interior looks and feels plain, like a $20k car. Buttons are plastic, the dashboard is boring, etc.

I think that the C250 has a lot of false advertising. The exterior is really sexy and conveys that the car will aggressive and blow your socks off. However, when you start driving it, you realize that it’s an entry level Mercedes Benz.

It’s probably one of the best looking sedans out there though… so if you’re into impressing people with the badge, it’s the car to get. If you want something more driver friendly, the other german cars (like BMW and Audi) will give you a much more rewarding drive.

Test Drive: S2000


I had the chance to test drive Patrick’s Honda S2000 a while ago and I wanted to write a quick review and compare it to some of the other cars I’ve driven recently. It’s a sweet compact package for a reasonable price. Sadly, the S2000 line is discontinued. Bummer.

The S2000 model I drove had a beautiful exterior. If anything, the lines are still relevant. The simplicity makes it timeless. The interior, however, is starting to look a little dated.

In general, with the top down, the car has great visibility. It’s a little on the small side, so you really have to squeeze in there. My roommate is 6′ tall, and I’m not sure exactly how he fits in there, but somehow he claims that he’s totally comfortable.

The S2000 is all about handling and the driving experience. The ride is tight… very tight. It never feels harsh, but I would say that it’s telling you that it’s a sports car—all the time. Steering is very responsive and the weight is balanced. The even weight distribution is probably attributed to where the front engine is located (behind the front axel). The car is very grippy and gives constant feedback on road condition. The engineers at Honda clearly focused on balance, weight reduction and handling.

Okay, so let’s be honest here. The S2000 has power, but you really have to work the engine to get some pull. Pretty much the engine is docile until you rev above 5 or 6K, then the VTEC kicks in. The reality is that it’s very hard to get up there. By the time you’re there, the engine is roaring. The sound is phenomenal and makes you feel like you’re in a race car, if you can maintain the revs.

I’m not sure exactly how Honda was able to get 245hp in the S2000, but I bet it’s a blast to drive when you work the engine at its peak. Unfortunately, I was unable to train myself to rev the engine like that. The S2000 is clearly a brilliant sports car, but it needs to be driven by someone who really understands the dynamics of the engine.

So I really like the S2000. It’s got all the ingredients of an awesome sports car. The only thing it lacks is a little more torque in the low end. If anything, the S2000 shares a lot of characteristics you’d find in a Porsche Cayman or NSX. They all subscribe to the same engineering theory: lighter, tight steering, and even weight distribution. Yes, the Cayman and NSX are in a different category from the S2000, but they really share a similar perspective of how a sports car should communicate to a driver. Again, the low end grunt is where the S2000 suffers.

But the torque can be easily forgiven when you consider the price, the handling, the sound, and most importantly, the reliability. The S2000 has a ton of potential, and it’s greatest fault is that it’s no longer produced.

So would I recommend a S2000? It’s not for everyone. If you want a sports car that’s a very reliable, handles spectacularly, and has a good price, than it’s an excellent choice. For me, I’d still lean towards something like a 2006 Boxster S.


That being said, Patrick just bought a motorcycle. I guess he had to satisfy the need for a little extra speed.