It’s been a nightmare of a winter, and many of my friends have fled south to get away. I can’t wait for spring either. But instead of going south, I went east – to Toyota Canada in Scarborough, where I picked up a rambunctious little 2014 Scion FRS.
If anything could put some sizzle in my life, this would be it.
The Scion FRS is the lovechild of Toyota and Subaru – Toyota owns 17% of Fuji Industries, which owns Subaru. Some wags have dubbed this the Toyobaru, since Subaru produced an almost identical sibling, the BRZ. (Would carmakers stop it already with the letters?) The Subaru is available with more options like heated leather seats and push button ignition, and also costs a touch more. I could spend all day going on about the differences – and some people have – but it’s essentially the same car. My basic FRS was just under $30,000.00, all in, which is reasonable for a small sportscar with 200 hp, rear wheel drive, and killer good looks.
Just to see that low-slung rascal with a snub nose, flared fenders and curvaceous butt made me smile. Inside, I was startled to see three pedals against the firewall, and a leather pouch around the shifter. I’d been told I was getting an automatic. But wait – the third pedal was a cleverly disguised footrest, and the shifter only moved vertically. Oh, well. Thoughtfully, someone had applied bright red stitching and trim that matched my hair perfectly.
I stepped in, and tucked myself into a driver’s seat that seemed like it was made for me. Under the sunny blue sky, I turned the key and pulled away, with a luscious snarl from the exhaust. It was the warmest day of the year, and I lowered the windows, letting the air whisper sweet nothings in my ear. So the calendar didn’t say spring. In the cockpit of the FRS, it sure felt like spring. And that’s how I drove. We wove neatly around corners, flew up and down ramps, and snaked through side streets. Scarborough could be this much fun? Who knew?
That was Tuesday. Then, there was Wednesday. Although the weather reports were ominous, I wouldn’t let it snow on my parade. I had a lunch date with my cousin that both of us had been looking forward to. As I swung onto the street, my ride reminded me that it was, in fact, a rear wheel drive sportscar with summer tires and a twitchy back end. Fishtailing down the street, I spotted a “snow” setting below the gearshift. I took a deep breath, pressed the button, and finally got my butt under control.
Thick white flakes were coming down fast, and the wipers were busy. Keeping to main streets and avoiding hills, I finally rolled into my cousin’s driveway. We shared a cup of tea while I bragged about my prowess in the snow. “I’ve driven in stupider weather,” I crowed to her.
Outside, the white stuff had nearly covered the Scion, and I whipped out my snow brush. “See, it’s a small car, so it doesn’t take long to clean,” I said, dusting off the snow. My cousin patiently swept off the windows on her side, and we swung into the car. She noted the family Benz often got stuck in the snow, but I assured her we would not get stuck. I showed her the “snow” button, and she was suitably impressed. I’m sure the family Benz doesn’t have one. Steering along the unplowed road, slowly but surely, we inched our way to Bathurst, where I came to a stop. And tried to move forward. But couldn’t.
I backed up a few inches, went straight, and felt the car surfing along the snow. Was it the three inches of ground clearance that did it? I could move sideways, but not front ways. In fact, I seemed to be moving like a crab. My cousin said, “ Go straight, it always works for the Mercedes.” I tried to go straight, but the back wanted to go to the left. Then the right. And then nowhere.
We got out and groaned. Everything that made the FRS a great car to drive in normal weather made it a disaster in the snow. It stared at me accusingly, like a beached shark. Bravely, my cousin volunteered to push. After all, it was a light car. I got back in, and she gamely dug in. But it was no use. There we were, stuck in Forest Hill.
Fortunately, her son had taken the day off work, and my cousin floundered through the snow banks back to her house. A few minutes later, she returned, armed with a big shovel and her young son, who was just a little too amused. He leaned against the bumper, I straightened my wheels, said a prayer, and accelerated right into the middle of Bathurst Street!
And that was that. My cousin and I sailed off to our lunch, carefully maneuvering through the drifts. There was hardly any traffic, except for the occasional snowplow and taxi. A few foolhardy pedestrians darted out in front of us, thinking that because we were moving slowly, we could stop quickly. Oy! Thank goodness for ABS. Every so often, we lost traction at the back and would spin out slightly. A light on the dashboard would flash to let us know – as if we couldn’t tell. With the wipers working furiously, fluffy white flakes fell silently around us, and we crept closer and closer to Yorkville.
We giggled madly turning onto Bloor Street, high on the euphoria of slapping down winter. As the dirty downtown snow crunched under the skinny tires, we triumphantly parked and headed off to the Coffee Mill, where – surprise – we were the only guests.
As I commented to my cousin over open-face sandwiches, strudel and coffee, those poor fools in Florida.
They don’t know what they’re missing.