2. 2016 Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ
Base price range: $26,100-$31,405 FR-S, $26,190-$29,290 BRZ
Think of these as coupe counterpoints to the convertible-only Mazda MX-5 Miata and you’ll understand their appeal. Affordable and tossable, they’re a low-mass, modest-power homage to sports-car simplicity. FR-S (for Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport) and BRZ (Boxer, Rear-drive, Zenith) are a joint project between Toyota’s youth division, which oversaw the styling, and Subaru, which handled much of the mechanical work. They share a shapely body differentiated mainly by brand-specific grillework and wheel design. It encloses a near mirror-image cabin with two tiny back seats.
The sole engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with Subaru’s center-of-gravity-friendly, boxer, or horizontally opposed, cylinder layout. Set well back in the nose, its 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque motivates these 2800-pound cars with sufficient urgency. Naturally, they’re best enjoyed with the six-speed manual transmission rather than the paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. FR-S and BRZ are agile, yet very deliberately fitted with rather narrow 17-inch tires. Their modest grip in hard, fast cornering can introduce classic tail-out behavior and lessons in car control you can’t get from a book. For 2016, both cars gain a standard rearview camera and new audio systems with touchscreen displays, a 7-incher in the Scion, a 6.2 in the Subaru. Each also gets a special edition – the FR-S Release Series 2.0 and the BRZ Series.HyperBlue– with individualized wheels and unique trim inside and out.