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Scion FR-S • GMC Terrain X


Starting price: about $25,000

There’s always a certain amount of demand for small efficient sports cars. The trick is to find one that delivers the desired level of performance and feel at an affordable price. For manufacturers, building one that meets current safety and emissions standards and also makes business sense is also a challenge. Hats off to Scion for its newly introduced FR-S, a vehicle that meets all the demands.

According to Scion, the FR-S is a true purpose-built sports car. That means it needs to be small, light, nimble, rear- wheel-driven and have an efficient and powerful engine.

The FR-S is technically a four-seater but in reality, only small contortionists will be spending any time in the back seat. Those seat backs fold flat, however, and the rear cargo space is quite spacious.

The cockpit is minimalist yet contains all the necessary gear to enjoy all that the FR-S is. The sport seats have large shoulder and hip bolsters to hold you in place during hard cornering. The dashboard contains the necessary readouts and dials to keep the driver informed. The large black-on-white tachometer is awarded the position of honor right in the middle, dominating the driver’s view.

A fine 300 watt audio system comes standard and actually contains an efficient old school volume “dial,” which is a rare and welcome feature in a Scion. The USB connection is in plain sight just below the audio controls. Don’t expect extraneous fluff like power seats, navigation or a sun roof on this Scion.

This rear-wheel-drive coupe has a Torsen limited slip rear differential which automatically shifts engine power from side to side on the fly adding to the performance of the car. To balance both the stop and go aspects of the FR-S, ventilated four-wheel disc brakes come standard, delivering superior braking.

The heart of the FR-S is its engine. It uses a Subaru-derived 2.0 liter boxer flat 4 cylinder engine. It produces 200 horsepower, thus achieving the extremely rare status of 100 horsepower per liter of displacement without turbo or supercharging. It’s a great engine that produces both pleasing low rpm torque and a high-revving 7,500 rpm redline.

My test car was a hot lava “orange” machine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. I didn’t realize that the FR-S was even offered with an automatic, yet I was surprised just how fun the car was to drive. That genius move allows it to be a daily driver for the many city dwellers who hate manual transmission in city traffic. Besides, the automatic has the higher fuel economy rating of 25 city and 34 highway with a combined rating of 28. I drove more country miles than the average driver and in a week clocked a 32.1 mpg number, which is outstanding.

The new FR-S is fun, serious, efficient, stylish, reliable and affordable.


Starting price: about $26,000

There are a number of battles going on in the automotive world, and one of the fiercest is in the compact SUV or CUV space. General Motors is well represented by the Chevy Equinox at the entry level end, the Cadillac SRX at the top end, and the middle ground belongs to the GMC Terrain.

The Terrain, like its siblings, is a unibody constructed vehicle with either front- or all-wheel drive. The tremendous appeal of these vehicles stems from the driving experience, the utility, the efficiency and the price.

When considering an SUV, many shoppers want it to drive like their car —   comfortable, easy to get in and out of, and easy to maneuver. Historically, SUVs have come from truck designs meaning that they were large, bulky contraptions and not always driver-friendly in the city. The Terrain literally drives like a car. In fact, from a occupant’s standpoint, the interior is just like a car too.

The utility and versatility of the Terrain sell the vehicle. Because compact CUVs sit higher than cars the visibility is much better, which is highly desirable in traffic. The interior is very configurable; the rear cargo area is huge and easily accessible. The second row of seats actually slides eight inches fore-aft, leaving a huge passenger compartment. Those seat backs can be folded flat leaving a cargo area of over 60 cubic feet. With its increased ground clearance and available fully automatic all-wheel drive, the Terrain can go places that most cars just can’t go.

Buyers today also want their SUVs to have the fuel economy of a car. The Terrain comes equipped with either a 2.4 liter 4 cylinder or a 3.6 liter V6 engine. The 2.4 is particularly fuel efficient with an EPA rating of 22 city and 32 highway which is as good as many cars today. After a week of driving, I observed that this GM 4 cylinder engine can indeed deliver the stated fuel economy. Because the Terrain has a large 18-gallon fuel tank, its potential driving range is 570 miles on a tank of gas.

Many things go into the price of a vehicle. The starting price of the Terrain is about $26,000 but there are many equipment choices available. The Denali model is the top of the line trim level and a well-equipped one can exceed $40,000. For that price, however, you get a long list of equipment such as Pioneer upgraded audio system, 8-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, rear view camera, sun roof, remote start and a power lift gate. Also, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, rear park assist, halogen projector headlights, outside heated mirrors and 19-inch chrome wheels… and the list goes on.

The Terrain is specifically designed to meet the demands of customers looking for a well-built compact SUV utility.

Visit MyCarData.com for more information on these models.


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