2011 Scion tCPosted on August 28th, 2010
Second-generation sports coupe takes the road less traveled
By Nina Russin
The original Scion tC that rolled out in 2004 balanced two utilitarian models- the xA and xB- with a performance coupe. Engineers set the BMW 3-Series as their target, delivering a high level of handling and response for below $20,000.
In addition, the tC was versatile: much more than one might expect for a five-door coupe. I was surprised when I was able to fit a road bike inside without removing the front wheel.
In October, Scion rolls out the second-generation model, with a more specific audience than the first. The brand originally intended to capture the youth market for Toyota has done that and more, becoming an icon for alternative lifestyles.
Designers from Toyota’s Calty studio in Newport Beach developed the FUSE concept with this in mind. The aggressively-styled tC production car is edgier than the outgoing model, with a more powerful engine and driver focused cockpit.
Scion maintains its monospec pricing strategy: both the base manual and automatic transmission models start under $20,000. Buyers can customize their cars with two audio upgrades, Toyota TRD racing accessories, aero kits and ground effects.
Test drive in Las Vegas
Scion gave members of the media a day behind the wheel of some pre-production models this week in Las Vegas.
Our drive route included city and suburban streets, as well as a loop through the Red Rock Canyon national conservation area. My own test drive was on the six-speed automatic model, equipped with the standard 18-inch wheel and tire package.
A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 19 more horsepower and 11 more foot-pounds of torque than the former block. The difference in performance is noticeable. The tC accelerates strongly off the line and into highway traffic. Zero-to-sixty for the automatic transmission is 8.3 seconds; 7.6 seconds for the manual gearbox.
Not only do both versions accelerate half a second faster than the equivalent outgoing models; the new engine also uses less gas. Fuel efficiency is up by 2.8 percent. A reverse lockout ring on the manual transmission is new for 2011, giving the gearbox more durability.
The six-speed automatic transmission is buttery smooth. Artificial intelligence learns the driver’s style and adjusts shift points accordingly. There was no perceptible shift shock going up and down the pitchy hills in Red Rock Canyon.
The electric power steering system feels much like a conventional hydraulic setup, the advantage being lighter weight and fewer mechanical parts to wear out over time. The tC’s short wheelbase gives it an excellent turning radius, easily capable of U-turns on narrow city streets. At the same time, on-center response at speed is quite positive.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a MacPherson setup in the front and double wishbones in the rear. The suspension is basically carry-over from the outgoing model, retuned for the new car.
The double wishbone rear suspension saves space to maximize room in the cargo area. The ride is appropriate for the car: firm but not uncomfortable.
Visibility is the tC’s weakest attribute. A high cowl limits forward visibility, while a narrow rear glass with large C pillars creates blind spots in back. I had no problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes, but felt uneasy changing lanes in thick traffic. Buyers should consider purchasing one of the audio upgrades: both include rear backup cameras.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the tC in a firm, linear fashion.
While the tC has the ability to hold up to five passengers, it is best suited for two. Both the driver and front passenger get heavily bolstered sport seats with ample lower lumbar support.
A wider track on the new model translates to more interior space. The seats are an inch wider than those in the former model. Manual seat adjustments are intuitive to operate.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel has redundant audio controls to minimize driver distraction. A new flat-bottom design is reminiscent of Audi sports cars.
Gauges are canted toward the driver, making them easier to read in a variety of lighting conditions. An information display adds ambient temperature, average fuel economy and two trip meters.
The 300-watt sound system is based on the system in the Lexus LX 570, but tuned for the tC. Eight speakers deliver excellent sound quality. The system is iPod and MP3 compatible, with auxiliary and USB ports at the base of the center stack.
A 12-volt power point in the center stack recharges portable electronic devices on the go. Temperature controls in the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position. The glovebox is small: adequate for the owner’s manual and other car documents.
A larger bin in the center console can stash compact discs and portable electronic devices. All four passengers have access to bottle holders: in the doors and the rear armrests. Cupholders in the center console are big enough for twenty-ounce water bottles.
The front seats slide far forward to ease access to the rear. I was surprised by how good access is, considering the tC’s large wheel wells. Egress is more difficult.
There is a surprising amount of legroom in back for such a small car. The tC’s standard dual-pane panoramic moon roof brings lots of ambient light inside.
Because the rear seats are located under the back glass, headroom is minimal. I’m not especially tall, and my head was uncomfortably close to the window. The middle seating position is higher than the outboard seats, limiting headroom even further.
A low lift-over makes it easy to load cargo into the back of the car. The five-door configuration is ideal for cyclists who want passenger car styling, but need to fit a bike in back.
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern using levers on the seatbacks, creating a long, flat load floor. Tie-down loops to the side secure large cargo.
Engineers significantly enhanced standard safety features over the former model by adding brake assist, traction and stability control as part of Toyota’s star safety system. The new tC sports eight airbags, as well as active front headrests.
All models come with a three year/36,000 mile comprehensive warranty. The warranty includes complimentary scheduled maintenance procedures at the first 5000 and 10,000 miles.
Likes: An affordable, fuel-efficient sports coupe with excellent performance and stand-out styling
Dislikes: Poor forward and rear visibility; lack of headroom in the second-row seats.
Base price: $19,275
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 180 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 173 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.3 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 23/31 mpg city/highway
One response to “2011 Scion tC”
I like the new look a lot and the extra horsepower is a nice upgrade also.
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