Scion FR-S Edel­brock Su­per­charger Re­view

BOOST AND ETHANOL E85 SAVES THIS AU­TO­MATIC SCION FR-S

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In a world where cars steer, brake, and even park them­selves, the Scion FR-S begs to be tossed at apexes with reck­less aban­don…and it won’t buzz at you if you drift out of your lane. The bal­ance and styling of the car are world­class, but be ready for a cho­rus of crick­ets when you jump on the gas.

Everett, Wash­ing­ton’s Ja­son Helmick doesn’t care for crick­ets and ad­mits his Hot Lava Red ’15 FR-S was more doomed than most, be­cause it sports a power-rob­bing, soul­steal­ing au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. “Ev­ery­body says these cars are a lit­tle un­der­pow­ered when stock, like 160 to 170 hp to the wheels,” Ja­son says. “I drove an au­to­matic and a man­ual, and I liked the au­to­matic bet­ter. I pre­ferred the pad­dle shift. I just felt the shift re­sponse was a lot bet­ter. But I have to say it’s pretty much a dog on the high­way. There is no torque, and un­less it’s wound up in Third gear, the car just doesn’t have enough balls to pass an­other car. I have to work up to it.”

Ja­son ad­mits he had zero plans to build the FR-S; it was just go­ing to be a daily driver. “But a friend of mine wrecked his BRZ,” he ex­plains. “It was su­per­charged…i saw an op­por­tu­nity and jumped at it. From there, it just grew or­gan­i­cally. Be­fore long, I was go­ing to shows. The car’s won the last four shows it’s been in.” The su­per­charger was Edel­brock’s E-force, which fea­tures an Ea­ton TVS 1320 roots-style blower. Ja­son col­lected ev­ery last piece of the kit and trekked south about 55 miles to the Drift-of­fice in Auburn. Drift-of­fice is the re­gion’s go-to tun­ing shop for all things FA20. The shop in­stalled the first pro­duc­tion Edel­brock unit and has bolted on no less than 25 oth­ers since 2016. The crew is quick to point out that Edel­brock has re­ally done its home­work from a tun­ing stand­point, pro­vid­ing a healthy base tune that passes CARB cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, but the shop prefers drop­ping its own tune on the kit’s Ecutek tun­ing soft­ware.

MASS AIR MAY­HEM

Drift-of­fice’s Bill Lee says one of the good things about the de­sign, and Edel­brock’s ap­proach in gen­eral, is know­ing the chal­lenges in­stall­ers/tuners face. “The mass air­flow (MAF) sen­sor hous­ing is a per­fect ex­am­ple of this,” Bill says. “Since the kit re­places the in­take com­pletely, they had to come up with a very smart de­sign to fit the hous­ing in a very com­pact space with­out sac­ri­fic­ing how it flows. Flow around the sen­sor is key be­cause any time you change those things, and if they’re not en­gi­neered prop­erly, you’ll get tur­bu­lence or poor flow, which causes big tun­ing headaches.”

“Edel­brock has done very nicely de­sign­ing the cross sec­tions in front of the sen­sor to straighten out the air­flow and min­i­mize any of those tur­bu­lence is­sues. Since the mass air­flow sen­sor is so dif­fer­ent from fac­tory, we had to scale it op­ti­mally and tune it to pro­duce the proper air/fuel ra­tios un­der boost.”

TUN­ING AN AU­TO­MATIC

Tra­di­tion­ally, au­to­mat­ics have been bears to tune, as they tend to kick down a gear on the dyno, whereas a man­ual can be run from low rpm to red­line. “Ja­son’s car, be­cause it’s an au­to­matic,” Bill says, “had to be tuned with a spe­cific fo­cus on lug­ging at low rpm and keep­ing the en­gine from strug­gling for too long. So, we fo­cused on the re­sponse and its tran­si­tion into us­able power. Be­yond the ob­vi­ous drive­abil­ity is­sues, we were con­cerned the ECU would learn and equate that lug­ging with knock and even­tu­ally kill the per­for­mance by de­fault­ing to limp mode. To avoid this sce­nario, we rec­om­mended E85, be­cause we’re able to run more tim­ing, which re­ally opened the door to in­cred­i­bly fast re­sponse and greatly helped with the over­all per­for­mance of the car.”

Ease of in­stal­la­tion is one of the Edel­brock kit’s strong suits.It is a sim­ple re­move-and-re­place op­er­a­tion, as the su­per­charger and man­i­fold are one piece. The man­i­fold is an in­verted de­sign, with long run­ners that al­low for max­i­mum flow at high rpm, while re­tain­ing great daily driv­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. The unit’s in­te­grated by­pass valve is also com­muter friendly, al­low­ing lit­tle to no de­crease in fuel econ­omy.

Drift-of­fice was quick to point to the pro­fi­cient de­sign of the Edel­brock mass air­flow sen­sor as a key to the kit’s tuner­friendly per­son­al­ity. Its sta­ble flow char­ac­ter­is­tics al­low for tun­ing be­yond the stock kit’s al­ready im­pres­sive flash-and-go stock tune of around 240 whp.

Moto-east’s well-sorted, lead­ing-edge flex fuel kit is the key to mak­ing E85 work in the real world. Ethanol E85 sta­tions are scarce, so be­ing able to switch to and from E85 on the fly is cru­cial. Drift-of­fice praises the flex kit’s use of AN fit­tings, braided ethanol-com­pat­i­ble hose, and a fully plug-and-play ECU har­ness, all of which are tai­lor-made for the FA20 plat­form. The ac­cu­racy of the kit’s Zeitronix ECA (Ethanol Con­tent An­a­lyzer) sen­sor is crit­i­cal, es­pe­cially with re­turn­less fuel sys­tems like in the FA20. “You have to make sure that when it sees ethanol, that’s ac­tu­ally what’s in the rails,” says Bill, “to min­i­mize the tran­si­tion pe­riod where your per­for­mance will be a lit­tle bit off un­til the E85 is fully in­tro­duced.”

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