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2011 Scion: Easy Does It

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Today’s car business is becoming more risky than ever. While the dizzying number of new car startups almost suggests we are in the midst of a wild frontier, it has become increasingly clear how vulnerable even the powerhouse manufacturers have become. The growth of any brand over the long term requires diligence, hard work and sometimes, luck. So it’s with only some surprise that Scion, despite its edgy, cutting-edge image, has taken a rather safe route for the 2011 tC.
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The tC represents forty percent of Scions US sales, and is the sole reason for the brands youthful demographic. (According to Autopacific’s 2010 Research SuiteĀ® data, the tC has the youngest median age in the industry, at just 26 years of age.) Without a successful successor to the current tC, Scions sales and demographic success would be in serious jeopardy.
VehicleVoice Reviews the tC
Scion recently gave VehicleVoice the opportunity to evaluate prototypes of the second generation 2011 tC at a long lead press event in San Diego, California. Starting from a decidedly Scion hotel in San Diego’s hip gas lamp district, we reviewed the vehicle inside and out and drove several models over a few pre-selected courses in San Diego county.
Engineering Enhancements
Before hitting the road, we received briefings on the design and engineering of the 2011 tC which are many. It’s no doubt that Scion has made as many enhancements to the vehicle as the current economic environment would allow. The engine has increased in size from 2.4 to 2.5 liters. (Thanks to sharing with the Camry.) The new powertrain increases horsepower to 180 (+19) torque and torque by 11pound feet, while increasing highway fuel economy by two MPG for the automatic transmission and four MPG for the manual. The intake has been revised as has been the exhaust, in an attempt to give the vehicle a more aggressive note. Not surprisingly, new safety features abound this and every Toyota.
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Exterior Design
First shown at the New York Auto Show in March, the tC’s design was influenced by the Fuse concept, with it’s racing helmet design. Blacked out A pillars are intended to give the illusion of a floating roofline. While clear on the Fuse concept, were not so sure it has the same impact of the tC, especially in darker exterior colors. We had the opportunity to drive a tC in Scion’s new “cement” color, which has a very cool look. From the rear three-quarter view, the 2011 tC sports more stylized rear tail-lamps and has a more aggressive stance than it’s predecessor. In profile, however, the more aggressive stance the rear cannot overcome the conservative front end. From the A pillar forward, the vehicle is hard to distinguish from other coupes in today’s market. The front headlamps do not carry the aggressive style of the Fuse concept. With so much on the line, you get the feeling that protecting the sales volume targets of the tC played a key role in it’s design.
Interior Design
The interior layout clearly driver focused fashion with easy to read orange backlit gauges and large HVAC controls. While we were not in final production vehicles, the materials fit and finish seemed to have the quality we have come to expect from Scion. The front seats are wider and taller and were very comfortable in our 90 minute loop. Headroom is fairly good up front. Ingress to the rear seats, a typical coupe challenge, is enhanced by front seats that glide far back easily and return to their previously set positions. Rear seat headroom gets tight for those over 6 feet in height.
The Drive
On noticeably smooth San Diego roads, the tC is well mannered and relatively quiet for a vehicle in its price point. We did not appreciate the changes to the tC’s exhaust, but suspect others might. The improved manual transmission is smooth and easy, with a very light clutch. Six speeds and more horsepower improve 0-60 times by almost .6 seconds on the manual,and .8 seconds on the automatics. Standard eighteen and optional nineteen inch wheels and tires and offer good cornering without sacrificing ride quality.
With desintation charges the 2011 tC comes in at under $19,000 for the 6 speed manual and under $20,000 for the 5 speed automatic. Given its content and refinement, the tC remains a great value.
With the 2011 tC, Scion has clearly sided with enhancing the value proposition rather then pushing the design image of its sales leader. Can you blame them? In the current economic situation, even the coolest learn about conservatism.

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