Auto blogWed, 30 Jul 2014 14:58:00 EST
We have entered a drifting arms race. Last year, BMW smashed the Guinness World Record for the longest drift by hanging the tail out for 51.3 miles around a wet skid pad in an M5 at the BMW Performance Driving School in South Carolina. That beat the previous milestone of nearly seven miles. Now, Bimmer's record is up in smoke as well and is in the possession of a Toyota.
German driver Harald Müller pummeled the old record to drift for 89.55 miles around a 0.15-mile (235.5-meter) course in Samsun, Turkey, in a Toyota GT86 (or Scion FR-S as it's known in the US). According to the Guinness World Records website, it took him 612 laps and 2 hours, 25 minutes and 18 seconds to manage the achievement. Sit back to watch a few minutes of the German's two and a half hours behind the wheel with the tail out.
Scion seemed like such a good idea when it was first launched. Toyota's aim was to provide young people with stylish, affordable cars that would serve as a gateway to the automaker's family of products. It was also supposed to be something of an incubator for new ideas that were too radical for its more conservative Toyota and Lexus brands. Over a decade since its launch, the brand has languished, and today's showroom is populated by slow-selling and aging vehicles that have often been slow to receive upgrades. However, there may be a bright spot on the imminent horizon, as there are reportedly a slate of new models on the way over the next three years.
According to a model timeline published by Automotive News, the Scion lineup is about to get a major overhaul. First, the boxy xB may finally be going to the big refrigerator box in the sky, to be replaced by a version of the more conventionally styled Auris hatchback (pictured above) from overseas markets in early 2015. Later next year, the xD will also allegedly bow out in favor of a new hatchback based on the Mazda2 (thanks to a recently signed platform-sharing deal). For 2016, the sporty tC hatchback is also said to get a redesign, and interestingly enough, a Corolla-based compact crossover could join the ranks, too.
While those changes should boost sales volume, there's also news that's sure to make enthusiasts happy. Automotive News cites company executives who confirm a second-generation FR-S is on the way in early 2017. A Subaru exec also recently gave a similar confirmation that it was working on another BRZ.
We've seen (and frankly reported on) so many rumors of more powerful and performance-focused versions of the Subaru BRZ, Toyota GT86 and Scion FR-S at this point that haven't materialized that, at this point, we're almost tired of them. Almost. But what we have here was enough to pique our jaded interests as only a carbon-bodied sports car on the Nürburgring could do.
What we're looking at is, well, we don't quite know, to tell you the truth. What we can tell is that it's a Toyota GT86 (Scion FR-S for us) wearing new wheels and a carbon-fiber hood, roof, racing-spec rear wing and subtle lip spoiler. The vents in the hood indicate that the prototype in question could be packing an upgraded engine to go with the lighter body panels and upgraded aero, and the interior (at least as far as we can see) looks pretty well stripped out.
The right-hand drive configuration tells us this is either destined for former territories of the British Empire or for the racetrack. Considering the ride height, full glass and apparent lack of roll cage, our money's on this prototype is being developed for the Japanese Domestic Market, where Toyota badges the sports car simply as the 86. We can always hope, though, that some version makes it into Scion showrooms in North America... we just won't get our hopes up too high.
Cosworth stands on the list of the most famous engine tuners in the world with its DFV engine engine dominating Formula One for a time in the '70s. So when it teases plans to take on the FA20 engine from Subaru and Toyota found in the BRZ, Scion FR-S and Toyota GT86 abroad, our interest is indeed piqued. Cosworth is promising to take the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine from its current 200 horsepower all the way to 325 hp and even 380 hp in a future track version through a series of staged Power Packages. At the moment, only the first stage is available that takes the mill to a potent 230 hp.
Cosworth says that its new strategy is to offer its upgrades in kits rather than individually so that it can be sure that everything works and fits when owners receive it. The Stage 1 Power Package emphasizes helping the FA20 breathe better and includes a nearly complete replacement for the stock exhaust system. There is a sports exhaust with four-inch, diagonally cut, polished tips and Y-shaped muffler, an overpipe front pipe with a spherical resonator and a new manifold header that is 22 percent lighter the standard unit. In addition to that, the kit comes with a software reflash, low temperature thermostat, Cosworth badge and plaque.
The stage one kit is available now, and stages two and three go on sale later this summer, according to its website. Autoblog contacted Cosworth for pricing information for the kits. We will update this story, if we hear back. The company also released a video showing off the exhaust upgrades. Scroll down to watch it and read the full release, below.
Subaru may or may not produce an STI version of the BRZ. Things seem to go back and forth on the subject. But Subaru Tecnica International isn't the only company with a history of tuning Subies. So does Cosworth, and now the British racing firm appears to be turning its attention to the BRZ and its Toyota- and Scion-badged siblings.
For those unacquainted, Cosworth is more than your average tuning company. It's a racing firm first and foremost, having made F1 engines under its own name as well as Ford's (chief among them the all-conquering DFV 3.0-liter V8 of 1960s and 70s fame), not to mention engines for Indy, rally and even high-performance, road-going versions of the Ford Sierra, Chevy Vega and Mercedes 190E. The list goes on and on, but you get the point.
Now withdrawing from Formula One, Cosworth is focusing its attention on tuning road cars again with the launch of the Cosworth Power Package line, the first of which will focus on the Toyota GT86 (aka Scion FR-S) and Subaru BRZ. We don't know just yet what will be included in the packaged dubbed FA-20, but from the video teaser below, it seems there'll be upgrades to the exhaust, suspension, aero and - if we're lucky - maybe a super- or turbocharger for the 2.0-liter flat-four engine. We'll have to wait and see, but we get the feeling that with Cosworth on the job, it'll be worth the wait. Check out the minute-long video below in the meantime.
A couple of weeks ago, we told you about some suspension and appearance changes for the European-market Toyota GT86 - a car that's better known as the Scion FR-S (and Subaru BRZ) here in the United States. At the time, our US contacts at Scion told us we'd have final confirmation "soon" as to whether or not these upgrades would make their way to our FR-S, and now, we have those official details.
For 2015, the FR-S features a more rigid front suspension setup, and the rear shock absorbers have been retuned, all of which has been done to reduce body roll and improve feedback. Other upgrades include a new shark-fin antenna and larger exhaust pipes that are now flush with the rear bodywork. Inside, buyers will be treated to an updated interior panel with a carbon fiber look, the addition of automatic on/off headlights, and a new key design. All of this comes at very little additional cost, with the manual transmission-equipped 2015 FR-S starting at $24,900 (not including $755 for destination) - an increase of $400.
Elsewhere in the Scion range, the tC coupe has been updated slightly for 2015. The not-as-sporty coupe now features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on automatic transmission-equipped models, and a couple of new colors are offered: Cosmic Gray and Blizzard Pearl. The 2015 tC starts at $19,210 - the same as the 2014 model.
Once upon a time, the Scion brand sought to bring more youthful buyers into the Toyota stable. In the early 2000s, Scion launched with its plucky xA and xB hatchbacks, and a lot of people bought into its affordable, customizable, funky lineup - myself included. I was once the proud owner of a 2006 xB, and though the box-on-wheels wasn't really a proper enthusiast machine by any means, I loved its unique driving dynamics, clever packaging and fresh style.
Following those two hatches, Scion released its tC coupe - a modestly sporty little thing that stayed true to the brand's core values of being affordable, neat-looking and endlessly customizable. People really dug the first-generation tC, and with good reason - it offered a bit more personality than a comparable Honda Civic Coupe, effectively the only other two-door compact then on the market from Japan. And for folks who wanted a sporty, low-cost two-door, the tC was a pretty decent buy.
But then Scion changed. The xA was killed and the comparatively frumpy xD bowed as its replacement. The xB was totally renewed, but it got bigger, heavier and less attractive in the process. And then after a few years of standing idle (will we ever see xD/xB replacements?), Toyota birthed the Scion FR-S - a properly sporty, enthusiast-minded rear-drive coupe created with the help of Subaru. I really dig the FR-S - if I had to buy something from the Toyota/Lexus/Scion stable, it's easily the car I'd want. But by offering a properly good two-door package with its new coupe, where has that left the older, front-drive tC?
Okay Toyota, make up your mind. Figure it out. Quit playing games with our heart. Either build a bunch of variations of the excellent GT86 (also known as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ) or don't. At this point, we're just tired of the back and forth. After no shortage of denials, an Australian website is claiming that Toyota is reconsidering convertible, four-door, turbocharged and all-wheel-drive hybrid variants of the GT86. Kindly pass all the salt.
It's not that we don't want to believe the Aussies; we do. But when the story lists the same "sources in Japan" as a lot of the other denials and confirmations about GT86/BRZ/FR-S variants, well, there's a certain sense of the "Boy That Cried Wolf," here. Ignoring all that, then, what does Motoring.com.au claim to know?
Sources claim the GT86 Convertible will arrive in October 2014, while the turbocharged and hybrid sedans are slated for 2016.
While we were busy ogling the Scion FR-S Release Series 1.0 with its Yuzu yellow paint and a workover by Toyota Racing Development, and the Japanese Toyota 86 buyers were trying out their Playstation-compatible Sports Drive Logger telemetry system, the European 2015 Toyota GT86 got fitted with some new parts of its own. New on next year's model are stiffer mounts for the front suspension and rear shock absorbers, and new shocks in the back for better damping and less friction. Toyota says the result is sharper steering and less body roll.
Inside, the instrument panel and center console get decorated with a "carbon-fiber motif." There are new shades of pearl white and silver to dress up the outside, and the roof gets a shark-fin antenna for sharper looks and aero. It goes on sale this summer, and you can read everything we just told you in the press release below. We've reached out to Scion to see if we'll get the same upgrades on the FR-S this summer, too, company PR rep Nancy Hubbell telling us, "The European changes are among those being considered for the US model FR-S and we'll have final confirmation soon."
In the market for a Scion FR-S (or Subaru BRZ), but don't want the same one your neighbor's got? Scion has good news for you. At the New York Auto Show today, the Japanese automaker has announced the availability of this FR-S Release Series 1.0.
As the first Release Series FR-S (the aging xB is debuting its tenth alongside it), this special edition has been spruced up by Toyota Racing Development with a series of visual and aerodynamic enhancements to give the FR-S a bit of extra edge. Included in the Release Series 1.0 is an upgraded aero kit, an exhaust tip for every cylinder in the engine (that makes four, folks), and a lowered suspension with TRD springs and HID headlamps. Did we mention it's all capped by Yuzu yellow paint?
Inside, you'll find black seats with T-pattern upholstery, a TRD steering wheel, shifter and cargo mat, dual-zone climate control and push-button ignition with smart key. Scion isn't saying exactly what this model will cost, but it is saying it will come in under $30,000 (before the $755 delivery charge).