2011 Scion tCPosted on February 23rd, 2011
Three-door liftback combines form, function and fun
By Nina Russin
An all-new Scion tC rolls out for the 2011 model year, replacing the original coupe introduced in 2004. A peppy four-cylinder engine adds 19 horsepower and 11 foot-pounds of torque over the outgoing car. New six-speed manual and automatic transmissions boost performance and gas mileage.
Despite its small footprint and bullet profile, the tC sports a spacious interior which functions well for active lifestyles. The rear liftgate makes the cargo area easy to load up. Small drivers will appreciate the tC’s low lift-over height, when compared to sport-utility vehicles. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. Slipping a bicycle in back is not out of the question.
The new tC was designed primarily in California at Toyota’s Calty studio. Inspiration came from the FUSE concept.
Scion maintains its monospec pricing strategy to simplify the buying process. The automaker includes a nice array of comfort and convenience features in the base model, saving car shoppers from wading through a plethora of option packages. Cost of the test car is $19,995, including the $720 destination charge.
Light on its feet
Engineers maximized power from the 180-horsepower engine by keeping the tC chassis lean. Curb weight for the automatic transmission model is about 3100 pounds. The trade-off is less sound insulation. There is more noise intrusion into the passenger compartment than some other Toyota models.
Variable valve timing can alter cam phasing to maximize power off the line, or conserve fuel during steady-state cruising. Tall overdrive gears on both transmissions extend highway fuel economy even further: up to 31 miles-per-gallon on the test car with an automatic transmission.
As one who tends to avoid automatic transmissions on cars with small engines, I was pleasantly surprised by the tC’s peppy performance. Drivers will have no problems getting around slower vehicles in traffic. Merging into high-speed traffic is a non-issue.
Test drive in Phoenix
I spent a week behind the wheel of the 2011 tC, driving the coupe on a combination of surface streets and highways. Although I had test driven the new model at a media program last fall in Las Vegas, I was curious to see what it would be like to live in the car, encountering typical urban traffic and using the cargo area to tote my gear around.
Having finished the week, the tC remains my favorite among all of the Scion models. One reason is its styling. I like the fact that the tC has functional cargo bay, but veers clear of the boxy profile shared by many of the cars in our urban category.
The coupe’s aerodynamic shape, larger wheels and different engine tuning make it more of a driver’s car than other Scion models. The performance target for the original tC was the BMW 3-Series.
While that goal seems a bit lofty, the Scion tC offers exceptional ride and handling characteristics for a car costing less than $20,000. Standard four-wheel disc brakes and four-channel antilock braking are unusual for a car in this price range.
The four-cylinder engine has ample power. Peak torque of 173 foot-pounds is available at 4100 rpm: about half pedal. The six-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears, with no obvious shift shock during normal driving conditions.
I also like the styling. Designers were inspired by racing helmets, giving the new tC a broad greenhouse and wide grille. My only complaint is the thick rear pillars, which create large blind spots in the rear corners. Over-the-shoulder visibility is also somewhat compromised.
An electric power steering pump replaces a hydraulic setup on the former model. The smaller unit is easier to package under the hood, saves weight and reduces maintenance costs during the life of the vehicle.
Engineers did an excellent job of tuning the system to mimic the feel of a conventional hydraulic setup. On-center response is excellent. At the same time, there is plenty of assist on the low end for maneuvering through crowded parking lots.
The new tC rides on larger 18-inch wheels, producing a bigger footprint for better high-speed performance.
The four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones in the rear. The compact double wishbone design maximizes room in the second row and cargo area.
Stylish interiorThe tC interior seats up to five adults. Access and egress to the back seats is pretty good for a coupe. The outboard seats have enough legroom for the average adult. The middle position is adequate for short trips, although the center console protrudes into the passenger space.
One of the coolest standard features on the new model is its dual-pane panoramic sunroof. The large glass panels let an abundance of sunlight into the interior.
Buyers in the target market will also appreciate the eight speaker, 300-watt sound system. A standard USB port enables passengers to plug in a thumb drive or iPod.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack display are easy to read in bright sunlight. An “eco” light on the gauge cluster illuminates when the driver is operating the car for maximum fuel economy.
The seats in the 2011 model have harder, more aggressive bolsters than the outgoing car. They are a little too hard for my taste: I found my hamstrings barking at the end of a long drive. The standard cloth upholstery is attractive and easier to clean than leather.
Second row seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the tC’s cargo floor. A standard cargo light makes the back easier to load up after dark. A locking glove box provides secure storage for smaller items.
The 2011 Scion tC comes standard with front, side, side curtain and front knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Scion includes complimentary scheduled maintenance for the 5000 and 10,000 mile service intervals.
The all-new tC is on display at Scion dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A stylish three-door liftback with excellent ride and handling, a spacious interior and versatile cargo area. Monospec pricing simplifies the buying process.
Dislike: Thick rear pillars create blind spots in the back corners and limit over-the-shoulder visibility.
Base price: $ 19,275
As tested: $19,995
Horsepower: 180 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 173 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 23/31 mpg city/highway
2 responses to “2011 Scion tC”
I love the new Scion tC. I’m getting a 6spd tC in black very soon! =)
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