I believe I have found the most tortured traction control system in America. As docile as grandma’s grocery getter one minute, the Drift-Office FR-S transforms, Jekyll and Hyde style, into a straight-up street thug when the hammer drops. With 401 wheel horsepower under the loud pedal that poor traction control icon blinks like the light bar on a state patrol interceptor.
I’d swear the dash surrounding the icon had the early signs of a meltdown… but the light wasn’t lying as my white-knuckle ride in Steilacoom, Washington revealed. With the traction control off, the Scion exhibited that pronounced rear squat of a driveline being asked a big question and its answer slammed me deep into the seat.
Drift-Office’s partner and lead technician Bill Lee was at the wheel and was quick to snicker, “It pulls like it means business, huh.” He then went into tech mode, “I love the linear curve this thing has, and no lag, it’s a live wire from 3,500, 3,700 rpm on up. It’s the small-frame turbo that makes all the difference.” It was a visceral 30 mph to 110 blast, providing that strange sensation where the outside surroundings pass by much faster than brain thinks they should.
The Turbo Kit
An AVO Turboworld Stage 1 kit ushered the Scion’s transition into the boost realm. This set-up includes an AVO 18/49 turbocharger with a 5-7 psi wastegate actuator, unequal-length stainless steel exhaust manifold, polished downpipe, and more.
AVO Turboworld’s Stage 2 package, which includes or swaps out the following; larger injectors, upgraded MAP sensor, 8 psi wastegate actuator, AVO clutch, AVO lightweight flywheel, AVO 2.5-inch overpipe, AVO 2.5-inch front pipe, and an AVO 2.5-inch exhaust. This combo twisted the Drift-Office Dynojet to the tune of 301.6 whp and 255.5 lb/ft of torque at 10.7 psi.
An AVO Turboworld Stage 1 kit ushered the Scion’s transition into the boost realm. This set-up includes an AVO 18/49 turbocharger with a 5-7 psi wastegate actuator, unequal-length stainless steel exhaust manifold, polished downpipe, a bar & plate style front mount intercooler with no-cut installation, black piping, mechanical oil scavenging pump, oil reservoir tank, and all necessary water and oil hoses and fittings.
You keep your air conditioning too. Expected output with the base-tuned EcuTek Pro ECU is 230 to 250 whp at a conservative 7 psi. But Bob W., owner and proprietor of Auburn, Washington-based Drift-Office, went for extra credit. Namely AVO Turboworld’s Stage 2 package, which includes or swaps out the following; larger injectors, upgraded MAP sensor, 8 psi wastegate actuator, AVO clutch, AVO lightweight flywheel, AVO 2.5-inch overpipe, AVO 2.5-inch front pipe, and an AVO 2.5-inch exhaust. This combo twisted the Drift-Office Dynojet to the tune of 301.6 whp and 255.5 lb/ft of torque at 10.7 psi.
It was the spring of 2013 and at this point in the FR-S power-generation curve, tuning the part high-pressure direct injection and part conventional fuel injection Toyobaru was a fresh and fickle venture.
“There was only one credible tuning solution for the FR-S’s hybrid EFI/DFI system available on the market; UK based EcuTek,” says Bob. “It had been one of the first on the GT86 / FR-S / BRZ scene and has since reaped much benefit from being the early bird. But it hasn’t been without issues, early builds had buggy code and much of it for many, many months was inconsistent at best. There was a constant stream of updates, and like beta software it provided much frustration when porting data from ROM to ROM whenever we had to move to an updated version. The often two-hour process was facilitated by going from check box to check box, page by page within the software menu. It was like the Stone Age. Often, during the early days, even with the same flash, no two runs were identical, and some factors like commanded AFR-S were never the same, even though those ranges were never altered. Made it very much a guessing game!”
“I say Stone Age, but when it comes down to it, boosting the FR-S FA20 is really as envelope stretching as you can get,” quips Bob. “General tuning convention would dictate that we be put in straight jackets a checked into an asylum for trying to lay the boost on a 2.0-liter engine with a stratospheric 12.5:1 compression ratio running piss poor 92-octane pump gas.”
The Miracles of Tuning
Drift-Office worked with EcuTek and spearheaded many software improvements. Their quest for power led Bob and his crack team of technician to experiment with various fuels and spend tons of time perfecting their calibration for the now e-famous AVO turbo kit. Component upgrades at this stage of the game included an unequal length header and a AVO380 turbo coupled with AVO’s trick three-inch exhaust. The AVO380, an upgrade for AVO Turboworld’s Subaru application, is based on a Garrett twin ball-bearing center cartridge. AVO Turboworld adds its .60 AR compressor housing and 46.96 mm turbine wheel housed in a trick stainless steel housing.
First, a race gas mix was tried just to see what would happen. The FR-S’s fuel capacity is about 12 gallons, and two gallons of unleaded 100 was mixed into the remaining nine gallons of 92 to achieve an estimated 93.5-octane. At 10 psi, 320 whp was easily attained. But that number was already achieved at 12 psi using 92-octane, lesson learned. Drift-Office jumped it up to 110-octane and the FA20 belted out 350 whp and 275 lbs-ft of torque at the same 12 psi boost level, all this with stock injectors, factory pump, and no internal engine mods.
The next step… ethanol. Tree hugger elitists consider E85 an alternative fuel, but many tuners see it as a liquified miracle of sorts. A key consideration for the FR-S is how E85’s less efficient burn rate means it takes almost 40 percent more fuel compared to gasoline. So larger injectors and a high-volume pump that can handle E85 are required upgrades. To this end, a set of 1,000cc Grams injectors and an uprated Denso pump were plumbed into the equation. The Denso pump isn’t E85 rated but it is the only one that was a true drop in.
What makes E85 so near divinity? Number one on the hit parade is octane! A key element when dealing with a high static compression engine, E85 is rated at about 105-octane (R+M/2). While that doesn’t seem as high as the previously mentioned 110, E85 is also a cleaner burning fuel that generates a cooling effect that makes it act more like 115-octane.
Drift-Office relates that intake charge temps were about 230 degrees lower than when running with 92-octane. This intercooling effect makes E85 great for serious forced induction applications because of greater knock resistance which means tuners can be more aggressive on the timing front.
After scaling the injectors, which took considerable time, Drift-Office laid down 24 runs before the team stopped at the now celebrated 401 whp at 15 psi. How close to holy all this makes E85 depends on whom you ask. Some of the E85 drawbacks that affect the FR-S are its short 200-mile fuel range and lack of gas stations pumping E85.
Satisfaction… For Now
The Drift-Office FR-S knows the dyno well. It had a scant two miles on the clock when it laid down its 167 whp stock baseline. The Scion also knows boost well as 26,000 of its 37,000 miles have been pressurized. As it stands now the FA20 is pumping almost 150 percent more power than stock, a mind-blowing number, and the Drift-Office crew has two to three pounds of boost to play with. So it sounds like the FR-S will be spinning the rollers and torturing that traction control some more… yep, a dash light meltdown may well be on the horizon.