Toyota's new Scion is truly something to behold

@PeterDrivesJune 21, 2012: 5:37 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The FR-S represents a huge departure for Toyota's Scion brand. For starters, it looks really good.

Second, it offers genuinely remarkable performance. At its best, the FR-S harkens back to old-school sports cars with ample -- but not absurd -- power output, glove-tight steering and a ride that's very firm but still not too punishing considering all the fun you're having.

That's if you're the driver, of course. Your passengers might not be having such a good time. Besides the firm ride, the FR-S's backseats are awfully snug. This is one of those cars in which the driver's absolutely got the best seat in the house. (Keep in mind, not all cars in this class even have backseats. At least they're there in a pinch.)

The weight balance is nearly perfect. The center of gravity feels as if it hovers somewhere just over the 6-speed gearshift lever. The small, lightweight car is a blast to throw around curves and corners.

The engine is a pleasure to push all the way to its redline and its 200 horsepower output felt like more than enough to play with. My only real complaint was a clutch that engaged too abruptly and too high. It made it hard to shift smoothly, especially in the higher gears, a fact that only added to passenger annoyance. The car I was given to test was a pre-production prototype, though, so this may be something that's been changed in the final production cars.

The FR-S is the fruit of a collaboration between Toyota (TM) and Fuji Heavy Industry (FUJHF)'s Subaru division. (Toyota owns 16.5% of Fuji.) A nearly identical car will be sold as the Subaru BRZ.

Toyota did some engineering work on the engine, which retains Subaru's famous "boxer" shape in which the cylinders go straight out to the sides. Toyota takes credit for most of the car's very un-Subaru-like exterior design. Subaru engineers did most of the work on the suspension.

In the United States, Subaru has long been known for selling only all-wheel drive cars, so this model represents somewhat of an adjustment for that brand, too. Subaru fans may find it an adjustment worth making. To top of page

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