2011 Scion tC review: a maverick among Toyota’s youth brand models

2011 Scion tC

Scion’s tC has more power for 2011

It’s been nearly a decade since Japan’s biggest automaker introduced Son of Toyota or, more familiarly, the Scion brand.

Scion targets the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, but it bypasses the mostly male hard-core enthusiasts who covet exciting power and performance.

Instead, its core products are reasonably priced, economical to operate and have a funky, kind of boxy look that makes them more individualistic than all the generic subcompacts on the road.

In addition, Scion makes available options and after-market products, including upscale audio equipment required by Gens X and Y, that allow owners to further tailor the vehicles to their specifics needs and wants.

If you can picture the xA (now gone from the line-up), xB and xD, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The just introduced, miniscule Scion IQ is an even more extreme example of the breed.

But there is another Scion, the tC, that doesn’t quite fit the mold,  It checks off all of the important Scion boxes, but it has a little more flair.

For one thing, it is a hatchback coupe. For another, it has an engine that adds zip to the driving experience and it is underpinned by a sportier front-strut, rear multi-link suspension. It’s also a bit more expensive than the rest.

Perhaps surprisingly to some. the first generation tC attracted not only the 20-somethings  but appealed to a number of older adults who saw it as a good deal for empty nesters. In this respect, you could even call the tC a generational crossover.

Anyway, the Scion tC has been the brand’s best seller, so it’s  obvious that corporate dad Toyota did not want to stray far from the original formula when it got to work on the second-generation tC.

Yes, the front and rear have been mildly revised, the rear roof line has been thickened, the track has been widened by an inch, a sunroof is standard, the wheels have been upsized to 18 inches, the dashboard has been redesigned and the beefier, leather-trimmed steering wheel has a flat bottom.

These changes apparently have been made to give the Scion a more macho appeal that, hopefully, will draw more male buyers into the fold. Last I heard, the buyer mix was 50/50.

Nevertheless, all it takes is one look to see that the 2011 Scion tC is a near clone to Generation One.

Perhaps what will be most significant to those hoped-for male customers is the powertrain. Gone is the 2.4-liter, four-cylinder powerplant. In its place is a new 2.5-liter model that generates 180 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. That’s an increase of 19 horses and 11 pound-feet.

The new engine, same one that powers Toyota Camrys, is mated to one of two new transmissions — a six-speed manual (up from five) and a six-speed automatic (up from four).

The manual transmission model gets an estimated 23 mpg city/31 highway, up from 20/27. The automatic also is rated at 23/31 mpg, up from 21/29.

For the record, driving a manual-transmission model on mostly level suburban and highway surfaces, I averaged about 27 mpg.

So, what’s it like in the pilot’s seat?