On paper, the Scion FR-S is a great little performance car with its light curb weight, peppy engine and rear-wheel-drive layout, but as Road & Track recently found out about the car, none of that matters on the track if you have the wrong tires. The magazine's staffers found the Scion and Subaru cars were out-handled by competitors like the Mazda Miata and Hyundai Genesis Coupe, so they tried a simple tire swap on the FR-S to see if replacing the stock rubber with something with a bit more grip could help the matter.
In stock form, both the BRZ and FR-S come with Michelin Primacy summer touring tires, which are apparently tuned more for low rolling resistance than grip. Now, we're sure there will be plenty of FR-S and BRZ owners who will never take their cars to a track, so these stock tires help to optimize fuel economy and longevity, but for those who do want to have some autocross fun with their new Toyobaru coupe, then what?
R&T took an FR-S to Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch with three wheel and tire combinations, and put the car up against a MazdaSpeed3 and a Subaru WRX. First up were the stock tires, which put it almost two seconds behind the Mazda and a second behind the Subaru with a lap time of 1:29.3. Next, the car's 17-inch wheels were wrapped in Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Specs extreme performance summer tires, shaving a full two seconds off the FR-S' track time and making it the fastest of the bunch with a time of 1:27.0. Finally, they tested the FR-S with the same type of tires on lightweight 18-inch wheels, but while the time around the track dipped a little (1:27.6), this wheel and tire combination was the best on the skidpad with a 0.96g.
An interesting note, the Dunlops are obviously much stickier and they cost less than the Michelins, but since they are built for performance, there is no treadlife warranty (according to Tire Rack, where R&T got their tires and prices). Meanwhile, the stock Michelin tires aren't as capable at the track, but they come with a treadlife warranty of up to six years or 45,000 miles.
Check out how the different tires affect the FR-S in the video below.