The Truth About Cars » Scion tC The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 12 Apr 2014 00:28:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Scion tC Review: 2014 Scion tC (With Video) Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:23:02 +0000 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Many assumed that with the new FR-S hitting the dealers, it would only be a matter of time before the front-wheel-drive tC was sent out to pasture. However with an average buyer age of 28, the tC is isn’t just the youngest Toyota, it’s the youngest car in America. With demographics like that, product planners would be fools to kill off the tC and so the “two coupé strategy” was born. The last time we looked at the tC, the FR-S had yet to be born, this time the tC has been refreshed in the FR-S’ image. Which two door is right for you? Click past the jump, the answer might surprise you.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Let’s start with the nitty-gritty. Starting at $19,695 and barely climbing to $20,965, the tC is 25% cheaper than an FR-S. This pricing delta is why (in my mind) the tC’s sales numbers haven’t fallen since the FR-S was released with 2012 slightly above 2011. If you think of the tC as the budget FR-S alternative, the two-coupé strategy starts to make more sense. From dealers I have spoken with it seems to be working. Prospective buyers that can’t quite afford an FR-S or are having troubles justifying the cost to themselves have been looking at the less expensive tC.

With strategy in mind, Scion decided to remake the front-driver in the FR-S’ image. Wise choice since the FR-S is one of the best looking modern Toyota designs. Because hard points remain the same on this refresh, tweaks are limited to new bumper covers, headlamps, tail lamps and wheels. I think the tC’s new nose suits the coupé surprisingly well since most nose jobs range from peculiar to downright Frankenstein. Similarly, the new rear bumper cover fixed the 2013′s tall and flat rear bumper cover by breaking it up with a black panel and a non-functional triangular red lens. What’s the lens for? That’s anyone’s guess.  To see how the two Scions stack up, check out my 5-second Photoshop mash-ups.

tC vs FR-S Front  tC vs FR-S Back

While some found the new clear tail lamps too “boy racer,” I think they work better on the tC and with the tC’s target demographic than the old units. As is obvious by the photos,the FR-S is quite low to the ground with a low slung cabin creating the low center of gravity it is known for. The tC on the other hand is mainstream economy coupé.

Since this is just a refresh, the tC’s major styling problem is still with us: the ginormous C-pillar and small rear window. Aside from my personal belief that the look is awkward, the shape has a serious impact on visibility creating large blindspots for the driver and not permitting rear passengers to see the scenery. The new tC’s new looks should be enough to get FR-S shoppers short on cash to give the tC a once-over before cross-shopping. Mission accomplished. Compared to the other FWD competition I rank the tC second, below the new Kia Forte Koup and above the somewhat bland Honda Civic.

2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Once inside the tC, FR-S shoppers are likely to be disappointed as there is very little FR-S inside Scion’s FWD coupé. Hard plastics in a mixture of black and charcoal hues continue to dominate the cabin, something I was OK with in 2011 because the competition was coated in hard polymer as well. Nearly three years later, the competition has upped the game with the 2013 Civic bringing soft injection molded dash parts to the segment followed by the 2014 Forte’s stylish new interior. It’s also worth noting that Scion continues to offer the tC in one interior color: black. Sticking with Scion’s model of streamlined inventory, all tCs have a standard dual-pane glass sunroof which is an interesting touch but I think I would trade it for upgraded materials.

Front seat comfort is strictly average in the tC.  Front seats offer limited adjustibility and little lumbar support (the seats do not have an adjustable lumbar support feature). tC drivers sit in a more upright fashion than in the FR-S thanks to the tC’s overall taller proportions but thanks to that large C-pillar, visibility is worse than the low-slung FR-S. The tC’s rear seats are a different matter. At 34.5 inches, the tC sports nearly two inches more rear legroom than the Forte Koup (2013 numbers), four more than the Civic and five more than the FR-S. Combined with a surprising amount of headroom, it is possible to put four 6-foot tall adults in the tC for a reasonable amount of time. Thanks to the hatch back design and a trunk that’s 50% larger than the Civic and more than 110% larger than the FR-S, you can jam luggage for four in the back of the tC as well.

2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

The only major change inside the tC is a new Pioneer head-unit. Instead of borrowing radios from Toyota, Scion has generally gone for consumer branded units that are designed for Scion but share nothing with the Toyota parts bin. The notable exception was the old Toyota derived navigation unit which was found in a few Scion models with an eye watering $2,250 price tag. For 2014 Scion is using a new Pioneer made system featuring 8-speakers, HD Radio, iDevice/USB integration and an integrated CD player. The software looks like a blend of Pioneer’s interface and something from Toyota’s new Entune systems. The over all look is less elegant and far more “aftermarket” than the well-integrated systems from Kia or even Honda’s funky dual-level system in the Civic. Sound quality however was excellent in the tC with well matched speakers and moderately high limits.

Should you feel particularly spendy, you can pay Scion $1,200 to add the “BeSpoke Premium Audio System” which is a fancy way of saying navigation software and smartphone app integration. Take my advice, spend your $1,200 on something else. The tC’s lack of infotainment bling is troubling since Scion positions themselves as a brand for the young. At 33 I’m still in the vicinity of the tCs target market (average age 28) and even to my elderly eyes, the entire Scion brand lags in this area. Yes, the idea is: buy an aftermarket radio and have it installed, but I can’t be the only one that wants a super-slick system with a large touchscreen, navigation and smartphone apps as the standard system. Anyone at Scion listening?

On the gadget front, the tC and the Civic are well matched but Kia’s new Forte is rumored to offer goodies like a backup camera, color LCD in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate controls, push-button start, keyless entry, HID headlamps, power seats, etc. That leaves the Scion in an odd position having no factory options at all and competing only with relatively base models of the competition.

2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

The tC uses the same four-cylinder engine found under the hood of the Camry and RAV4. The 2.5L mill has lost 1 horsepower and 1 lb-ft for 2014 (for no apparent reason) dropping to 179HP at 6,000 RPM and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. Sending power to the front wheels is a standard 6-speed close ratio manual transmission and an optional revised 6-speed automatic that now features throttle matched down-shifts. If those numbers sound healthy, they should. I have a preference toward engines “symmetrical” power numbers (HP and tq are nearly equal) as they usually provide a well-rounded driving experience. That is certainly true of the tC, especially when you compare it to the 2.0L engine in the FR-S.

Boo! Hiss! I know, it’s sacrilege to say anything less than positive about a direct-injection boxer engine, but let’s look at the fine print. The FR-S’ 200 ponies don’t start galloping until 7,000RPM, a grand higher than the Camry-sourced 2.5, but the real problem is the torque. The FR-S has only 151 lb-ft to play with and you have to wait until 6,600 RPM for them to arrive. That’s 2,600 RPM higher than the 2.5. This has a direct impact on the driveability and the character of the two coupés. The FR-S needs to be wound up to the stratosphere to make the most of the engine while the tC performs well at “normal” engine RPMs. Hill climbing and passing are the two areas where the difference in character is most obvious. The FR-S needs to drop a few gears in order to climb or pass while the tC can often stay in 6th. Sure, the FR-S sounds great when singing at 7-grand, but you’re not always on a majestic mountain highway, sometimes you’re just on the freeway in rush hour. Thanks to a lower curb weight and gearing differences, the FR-S ran to 60 in 6.7 seconds last time we tested it, 9/10ths faster than the tC.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Don’t mistake me, the FR-S has higher limits than the tC pulling more Gs in the corners and having a very neutral handling RWD nature while the tC plows like a John Deere in the corners. What might surprise you however is that despite the nose-heavy FWD nature of the tC, in stock form, at 8/10ths on a winding track, the FR-S is likely to pull away. Some of that has to do with the tC’s improved suspension and chassis for 2014, but plenty has to do with the stock rubber choice on the FR-S. Scion fits low-rolling-resistance tired to the RWD coupé in order to improve fuel economy AND to make the FR-S capable of tail-happy fun with only 151lb-ft of twist. When it comes to the hard numbers we don’t have a skidpad in the Northern California TTAC testing grounds so I’m going to have to refer to “Publication X’s” numbers: FR-S 0.87g, tC 0.84g. Say what? Yep. regardless of the publication the tC scores shockingly close to the FR-S in road holding. Surprised? I was. More on that later.

How about the competition? Let’s dive in. The Civic Si is a bit more hard-core. Available only with a manual transmission, a wide demographic has to be removed from the comparison. However those that like to row their own will find a FWD 6-speed manual transaxle that is, dare i say it, better than many RWD transmissions. The shift feel and clutch pedal are near perfection and the limited slip front differential helps the Civic on the track. In the real world there’s less daylight between the two however with essentially the same curb weight, equal torque numbers and only a 20HP lead by the Honda. The result is a Civic that ties in my mind with a better interior and better road manners but higher price tag ($22,515) and a loss of practicality when it comes to cargo and people hauling.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’m going to gloss over the Golf because, as I learned on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other. How about the Hyundai Elantra Coupe? It’s considerably down on power (148 HP / 131 lb-ft), has a cheaper interior and handles like a damp noodle. If you’re wondering why the Elantra GT had to get its bones stiffened, the Elantra Coupé is why. How about the GT? Like the Golf, it’s not quite the same animal. Altima? Dead. Eclipse? Ditto. The Genesis plays with the FR-S and the other bigger boys which brings us to the oddly spelled Kia Forte Koup.

The 2014 Koup has yet to be driven, but based on our experiences with the 2013 Koup and the 2014 Forte 4-door sedan, I expect great things. Kia has announced the Koup will land with an optional 1.6L turbo engine good for 201 ponies and 195 lb-ft of twist. I expect the chassis and manual transmission to still be a step behind the Honda Civic Si, but the interior and gadget count on the Koup look class leading. Unless Kia gets the Koup all wrong, I expect it to slot in around 20-23K. I also expect it to lead my list.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

That brings us full circle to the tCs fiercest competitor: its stable mate the FR-S. No matter how you slice it, the tC isn’t as good-looking. It may seat four with relative ease, but the interior isn’t as nice as the FR-S either. It delivers good fuel economy and is plenty of fun on the road, but the appeal of the tC is more pragmatic than emotional. Still, when the numbers are added up the tC delivers 75% of the FR-S’ looks, 85% of the handling and 90% of the performance for 78% of the price. Being the deal hound I am, that makes the tC the better Scion.


Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Well priced
  • Excellent handling (for a FWD car)

Quit it

  • Cheap plastics inside continue
  • The steering isn’t as precise as the Civic Si.
  • Lack of premium or tech options young buyers demand

Scion provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as Tested

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 89 MPH

Cabin Noise: 76db @ 50 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 29.6 MPG over 459 miles


2014 Scion tC Engine 2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-002 2014 Scion tC Exterior-003 2014 Scion tC Exterior-004 2014 Scion tC Exterior-005 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-007 2014 Scion tC Exterior-008 2014 Scion tC Exterior-009 2014 Scion tC Exterior-010 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior 2014 Scion tC Interior-001 2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-003 2014 Scion tC Interior-004 2014 Scion tC Interior-005 2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-009 2014 Scion tC Interior-010 2014 Scion tC Interior-011 ]]> 109
Ur-Turn: A Metalhead Responds To The Scion Piece Mon, 08 Oct 2012 15:43:35 +0000

TTAC Reader Richard responds to Derek’s Scion Metalhead Marketing piece from the perspective of a car lover and metal fan

” ‘Entrails ripped from a virgin’s c**t,’ ” I thought to myself.  Toyota wants to play patron to a musical genre that has spawned songs like ‘Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s C**t’ and ‘Christraping Black Metal.’ What are they thinking?”

My disbelief at Scion AV’s announcement echoed across heavy metal fandom. If there’s such a thing as collective cognitive dissonance, Scion AV caused it. Nobody could believe that Toyota was going to do this. What did heavy metal have to do with selling cars? And why would Toyota risk its stodgy and safe image on promoting itself via heavy metal, even if done through the ‘edgy’ and ‘youth-oriented’ Scion brand?

Toyota’s decision was and is questionable in four ways. First up: return on investment, if such a thing is calculable in this sort of endeavor. Not only was Toyota going to promote itself by sponsoring heavy metal concerts and EP length recordings, but it was going subterranean with its efforts. For mainstream listeners, metal consists of the four biggest bands, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Judas Priest, plus whatever’s big at the moment. In the 90s and early 2000s, that would’ve been bands like Pantera, Tool, and nu-metal dreck like KoRn and Limp Bizkit. Today it would be bands like Lamb of God and Mastodon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if TTAC’s readership hasn’t heard of them. Toyota/Scion AV charged right past all of those commercially viable bands and straight into the underground.

Not to the deepest portions of the underground, though. Not to the boutique labels that release 666 hand numbered copies of an album on vinyl, but deep enough to make someone like me question their wisdom. Deep enough to make me wonder how they could ever justify their return on investment.

As of 10/07/12, here are the listener counts for some big name metal bands:

Iron Maiden: 1,707,577 listeners and 117,145,590 listens
Metallica: 2,222,074 listeners and 200,177,496 listens
KoRn: 2,144,093 listeners and 95,712,085 listens
Black Sabbath: 1,887,855 listeners and 59,002,836 listens

Some bands that are currently on major labels:

Mastodon: 595,766 listeners and 27,849,836 listens
Opeth: 649,761 listeners and 54,861,149 listens
Lamb of God: 836,366 listeners and 35,661,176 listens

…and the listener counts for 7 of the bands that Scion has sponsored on tour and/or via free EP releases:

Enslaved: 134,715 listeners and 6,138,855 listens
Revocation: 23,991 listeners and 713,002 listens
Immolation: 65,737 listeners and 2,725,147 listens
Melvins: 263,004 listeners and 9,104,309 listens
Wolves in the Throne Room: 80,512 listeners and 2,422,323 listens
Nachtmystium: 41,598 listeners and 1,666,147 listens
Pallbearer: 7,362 listeners and 105,479 listens

There’s a good reason why the playcounts for the Scion AV bands are so relatively low, and it’s not the quality of the music. Toyota did not choose a musically accessible genre to sponsor. Death metal variously presents the listener with a 200+ bpm assault, specialized drumming techniques, sweep-picking, and dozens of parts per song, or alternatively, sludgy and murky riffs delivered at a zombie’s lurch. Black metal is based around heavily distorted guitars tremolo strummed as quickly as possible, creating a hypnotic sheet of white noise. Doom metal moves like a zombie without legs. Across subgenres, extreme metal’s vocals are mostly performed using the false cords in the throat, so the result is a variety of screams, shrieks, grunts, and roars. All of this stuff is impenetrable and repulsive to most mainstream listeners.

Tour attendance is commensurate with those counts. Toyota also chose not to sponsor big metal package tours like Summer Slaughter or Ozzfest. Scion AV is true niche marketing.

Second, there’s the potential for damage to Toyota’s reputation. Underground metal’s lyrics are as extreme as the music. Satanism, gore, depictions of violence, misogyny, misanthropy, anti-religious screeds, the occult, and pagan religions are common lyrical topics. The musicians can be as extreme as the music. Deicide’s frontman has branded his forehead with an upside down cross for years. Black metal has a history of racism, murder, church burnings, suicide, and possibly cannibalism. (Note: the ‘black’ refers to the music’s tone, not the skin color of the musicians.)

Toyota was and is attempting to sell average American cars with the musical equivalent of Formula 1 racers, Top Fuel Dragsters, and primered diesel Chevettes. Not only that, but they are running the risk that Joe Sixpack and Jane Housewife discover that Scion is promoting music that runs counter to everything they believe in. Joe and Jane might not know enough or care enough to do the research to find out that Toyota sponsors evil music through Scion AV, but that doesn’t matter. Give the Christian Right or PC Left two minutes on the Internet, and they’ll suss it out and spread the word. This has happened before. Does anybody remember Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Council? Or the time Judas Priest were sued for backmasking suicidal messages, or when Slayer was sued for causing their fans to commit ritual “Satanic” murders?

The third and fourth questionable aspects of the Scion AV endeavor are the customer base that Toyota is attempting to reach. While there are plenty of old-timer metalheads who were there in the 70s and 80s, there are many, many more metalheads who are in their mid 30s or 20s. I’m 29, and thus at the beginning of the Gen Y/Why generation. If you’ve paid attention to the news, we are being hit hard by unemployment and decreasing wages. We’re saddled with monster student loans and massive national debt. I won’t belabor you with further details.

Frankly, metalheads are nerds. Most of us Gen Y types barely have money for our chosen hobby. Cars? Who gives a shit! We’ve chosen an expensive hobby, one that’s comparable in nerd factor and financial drain to…being a car nerd.

One thing Toyota got right: metalheads, like most people, treat cars as appliances. I’m an exception; I know one other metalhead who cares about cars. My goofy pen-name is drawn from an obscure metal song about cars, I drive a Cobalt SS (turbo and LSD, natch), and I used to own a GTO Monaro (LS2 ftw). I’m doing better than many Gen Y’ers in that I have a stable job with career prospects and high demand from Fortune 500 companies. I can afford to sock money away and keep the Cobalt happy and fed and still drop a few hundred dollars a month on heavy metal crap. If push came to shove though, I’d sell the Cobalt and find something used, cheap, reliable, and with a stick so that I could keep buying metal stuff. I am not going to miss out on limited print run CDs from my favorite labels. In that, I’m one with the metalhead crowd.

Finally, assuming that metalheads had money for cars or particularly cared about them, there’s the risk that Scion’s sponsorship will (or has) backfired on Toyota. Underground metal is staunchly independent. The lack of money circulating through the genre’s marketplace means that bands and record labels are fiercely DIY. We picked up on 80s punk and hardcore’s anti-mainstream, anti-success attitude. We’re opposed to plays for commercial or mainstream acceptance. We’ll turn harder than Schumaker’s Ferrari when a band tries to sell out. We don’t need Scion’s money. Some of us don’t want it.

We value our freedom of speech as well, allowing Cannibal Corpse to lyrically torture women and Arghoslent to write racist horseshit like “Quelling the Simian Surge.”

Like any culture or group, we need enemies. We need an Other. We’ve had many: punk rock and hardcore, posers, hair metal, nu-metal, sell-outs, grunge/alternative rock, and carpetbagging hipster thieves. The music industry itself.

Add those factors, anti-commerce, pro-freedom of speech, and oppositional attitudes, and Scion’s courting disaster. The slightest misstep, and we’ll perceive them as exploiting us, censoring us, or working against us. Even if they get things right, we might just take their gifts and ignore their cars anyway.

You don’t need me to say this, but it bears repeating: corporations would sacrifice babies if made them cool to consumers. Precious few companies ever become cool. I don’t think any company has ever advertised its way into being cool.

So far, Scion hasn’t screwed themselves over, but they haven’t achieved any immediately obvious success either. To put it bluntly, whoever’s running the operation knows their shit and did their research. They’ve sponsored respectable first-tier underground bands. They haven’t overdone it, and they haven’t censored anybody. Their concerts have been professional and well run. They’ve treated the bands and fans better than they would usually be treated within the confines of the metal industry: the tickets are cheap or free, the bands get paid on time and per contract, and the EPs are completely and totally free for download. Because the bands that Scion chose aren’t all that objectionable* in relative terms, nobody’s been censored other than perhaps a written or unwritten understanding that they don’t publicly slag Scion or Toyota. The Scion branded merch is free and reportedly both quality and not overdone. The socks in particular are apparently quite popular.

Nevertheless, there’s the success and return on investment issue. Again, I’ve seen almost no evidence that Scion’s campaign is working. I’ve heard through the grapevine that a number of band members are quite grateful and have reciprocated by purchasing vehicles. That’s not Scion’s goal, because touring bands have no money and the bulk of the metal customer base are mere fans like me. This past summer, I attended Maryland Deathfest, which is the largest and best extreme metal fest in America. I estimate that over 3,000 people attended it. I made a point of walking the parking lot. There were plenty of older Toyotas and a few newer ones. There were no Scions.

However, this is Toyota we’re talking about. Toyota plays the long game; like the Soviet Union, they’ve got 5 year plans and they stick to them, except that the plans actually work. Toyota is marketing to a niche, but it’s cheap marketing. Those EPs can’t have cost more than $25k each to record and release each, and in the metal underworld, the publicity takes care of itself. A couple of thousand dollars per tour date in a band’s coffers is a rounding error in Toyota’s annual advertising budget. In exchange, Scion gets to plaster their logo on artwork, merch, and banners. People like me blog about it. I’d be shocked if Scion AV’s total cost to Toyota is more than a million dollars a year. It’s also worth mentioning that Scion AV is targeting genres other than metal as well.

If we judge Scion AV as a long-term marketing campaign, than I’ve already seen an example of it succeeding. One of my fellow metal bloggers recently purchased a Corolla S instead of a Civic or Focus. He bought the car because it met his needs and because Toyota gave him the best deal. However, he admitted that he remembered Scion AV’s sponsorship and how it treated us.

That’s what Toyota is banking on. They know that most of us aren’t filthy, drugged up, unemployable morons. They know that one day we’ll need cars. And when that time comes, we might remember that free Enslaved EP and that cheap Pallbearer tour date in New York City, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll reciprocate.

Choosing metal was astute in a more subtle way than just the cheapness of the sponsorships, because metalheads are loyal consumers. We’ll stick with a band even through crap album after crap album. We’ll welcome them back after a stylistic misstep. We’ll attend tours and put up with the weak songs just to hear the hits, and we’ll drive or fly cross country to do it. When was the last time you bought every CD that a record company released? We know individual record labels’ release schedules, and we buy every album based on label recognition alone.

Companies not named Apple would, again, sacrifice babies for this kind of loyalty. It’s feasible that if we buy a Toyota and it doesn’t suck, we’ll be back in 5 to 10 years to buy another, and another, and another. Of course, that’s true of other consumers as well.

I wrote this as a partial response to Derek’s recent piece regarding Scion AV, which comes at least two years after Scion AV started supporting metal. The overall message of Derek’s post was that Scion AV supporting metal is a waste and a mistake. I’m not convinced that it will be a waste or a mistake, especially if Scion AV keeps going and ramps up their efforts to full albums and additional tours. Derek linked to an AdWeek article, and paraphrasing it, Scion’s sales manager claims that Scion’s advertising sells cars and that metalheads buy cars in quantity enough to justify the marketing. I have no idea how Toyota will back up that determination with data, now or ever. At current funding and effort levels, I think Scion AV will turn out to be a wash for Toyota. Then again, I still think they’d do better to sponsor bigger acts and package tours. It’d cost more money, but it would reach a much, much larger audience.

You could also argue that targeting underground metal, a subculture that is brand apathetic as it pertains to cars, is genius. Being first does count for something.

As previously mentioned, Toyota and Scion took a risk associating themselves with underground metal. If certain elements from either side of political spectrum, especially on the Republican side, decide to pay attention, this could all backfire badly on Toyota. Chevy, Ford, Home Depot, and Target have all been boycotted for advertising to the LBGT community or for being LBGT friendly. I’m sure that in the Religious Right’s eyes, metalheads fall at or below the LBGT community in terms of undesirability.

Derek also focused on one of the Scion sales manager’s (Yoshizu) quotes as being particularly bullshitty:

“[A metal fan is] not necessarily trying to be a trendsetter, but more of a thought leader. They’re really into journalism. Their blogs are like 2,000 words [each].”

and also:

“The person I’m now targeting is more inclusive about their community.”

Derek was right about one thing: this is a PR hack’s flack. I know what the Scion dude is saying, though. He’s talking about me and a lot of metal fans that I know, the bloggers especially. We pride ourselves on our taste in music and sharing bands that we think are good. Every time I review a band’s album, I’m bring that band more fans. I’m supporting my bands with more than just my dollars. I don’t know about “trendsetting” or “thought leading,” from I am definitely free publicity and I am definitely inclusive about my community. Yoshizu was right about metalheads talking about Scion AV tours and releases.

Yoshizu’s on a roll:

“They actually appreciate the corporate contribution[.]”

As they say on these internets: +1. I don’t know for a fact whether Toyota’s investment in my preferred musical genre is paying off for the company. None of the fans do. It doesn’t matter. Most of us are happy to benefit from Toyota’s largesse. I certainly am. I won’t start objecting until I learn that Toyota is actually paying bands a middle class salary or dropping huge wads of cash in their pockets.

In the meantime, keep buying Toyota products, Scions in particular. I suspect that your dollars are throwing my bands’ concerts and recording my bands’ music. Thanks for reading, and thanks for paying. I’ll think of TTAC’s commenters and throw some horns on your behalf the next time I see a show.

N.B. One band, Nachtmystium, had their Scion AV sponsorship pulled due to allegations of racism and racist beliefs. The band claims that they are not racist.

Richard Street-Jammer has been a metalhead for over a decade. He makes dumb jokes, car metaphors, and rambles incoherently about bands older than he is at He wishes he hadn’t chosen such a dopey but appropriate pen name.

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Toyota Wakes Up From Its Product Hangover, Lets Loose In Vegas Thu, 13 Sep 2012 17:01:23 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Sergio & Co aren’t the only ones partying it up in Vegas. Toyota is hosting its own bachelor party in Sin City, complete with products like a new Avalon, RAV4, Scion tC and a next-generation Corolla described as

“…cool. It is hip, it is fun. It is everything that the consumer is not expecting in that segment.”

The Detroit News reports that the new products were unveiled at Toyota’s Las Vegas dealer meeting. The Avalon has already been revealed, while the RAV4 will apparently ditch its trademark tailgate mounted spare tire. While one dealer interviewed by the publication said “people are going to fall in love with this car — especially at that price point,” our own coverage and review of the Japanese market Corolla suggests otherwise.


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Why Scion Matters Wed, 08 Aug 2012 16:22:02 +0000


A couple of months ago, Aaron Robinson of Car & Driver wrote an expansive article about Scion.

This quote pretty much summarized his view on the brand.

“I have no doubt that Scion will eventually go the way of Plymouth.”

I’m sure he wasn’t implying that cheap Scions will someday morph their way into becoming Toyota equivalents that offer fake wood trim exterior panels and trombone case red interiors. As a long-time automotive writer and columnist, he was simply reading the proverbial writing on Scion’s firewall that has been ever deeper ingrained into their product line.

“Mediocrity… is killing the brand.” This inscription ought to be welded onto every frumpish inner panel of Scion’s soon to be defunct models, the Scion xB and Scion xD. Underpowered compact cars that look like SUV’s in 2012 sell about as well as two-seater cars that look like frogs. Or bland plain-jane sport coupes that try capriciously to do battle with the market leaders.

Heck, I recently saw a perfectly fine 2010 Scion Xb with only 28k miles sell for $10,000 at a well attended dealer auction. A near forty percent drop off the original MSRP over just a two year period. In my profit driven world, where nearly every Toyota model represents stiff price premiums and high demand finance fodder, nobody wants to buy these things.

The reason for this market failure is obvious.

If a product is inherently bad or terminally neglected, no name brand will save it. It’s that simple. Every brand out there has market failures. In the case of Scion, they are going from a 2 for 3 boom on their debut generation (xB and tC good, xA not so much) to a 1 for 5 second run (FR-S may likely be the sole survivor.)

Scion is on the ropes if you look at their current model line-up. But the same could have been said for Hyundai back in 1999, Subaru back in 1994, or even the 1st generation Infiniti models back in 1992. All of these brands suffered mortal market wounds of the debilitating type.

But that did not mean the brands could not fill a gaping void in the marketplace. All of them succeeded because they found several niches that no other brand could fully satisfy.

Which brings us to the dire need of the present day.

Right now Toyota and Honda are facing a market exodus in one broad segment that is largely a reflection of their own long-term successes. Where do you go after you have already owned the reliable family car? Or the commuter scooter that has taken you everywhere and back with low ownership costs?

In the old world the move was pretty simple. The automotive world was upwardly mobile and that Toyota or Honda buyer could be just as content in a Lexus or Acura. Unfortunately, something terrible happened to both of these prestige brands between the Clinton era and the modern day.

They became boring, generic, and a bit old fogey in their market reach. These days a middle-aged person generally does not aspire to own a Lexus or an Acura. If they have put in their dues of driving the family car, they are looking for that thrill. As is the younger guy who is not quite ready to settle down, but is finally making the big bucks.

These folks, if they are willing to spend their money, often want the anti-Toyota. The anti-Honda. The car that is more involving to drive… but… with this desire also comes a concern.

These buyers also want a car that is reliable and doesn’t represent a potential black hole in their annual budget. Like everyone else, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

Two potential options are out there. The first is testing out a sporty prestige brand. An Audi. A BMW. A sports oriented car that is heavily marketed as a lease vehicle and can provide them with that extra thrill that they certainly won’t get with another Camry or Accord.

My brother Paul is the poster child for this. Two new Toyotas and one new Honda for the family over the last 15 years. The oldest child is about to go to college. The money is in the bank. The sacrifice of ‘fun driving’ for ‘family driving’ has already been made.

Did he want another Toyota or Honda? No, Paul and his wife wanted something different. Something that was not already driven by their senior citizen parents. They bought a 2012 Audi A6 and a CPO Audi A4.

The second option is to get the fun affordable car. Not too long ago fun usually meant two doors and a possible slight engine and suspension upgrade over the plain four door model. This is one of the main reasons why the Toyota Camry remained so dominant during the late 1990′s and early 2000′s. Fun and four doors were few and far between.

These days an affordable four door model can be just as sporty without the past sacrifice at the altar of practicality. A car with an Accent, a Soul, a good Fit, or a Focus, can be every bit as enjoyable to drive as a Veloster, a Forte, a Civic, or dare I say it… a Mustang.

Whether prestigious or plain named, a slew of buyers want the option to buy a fun car that does not share the same emblem of the car that they have been driving ever since the kids were little. Or ever since they were struggling to get established.

It’s not because they are unhappy with that reliable car. Sometimes folks just want something that is ‘not’ what they have been driving. Even if it has been a good car.

I can see Scion becoming the fun side of Toyota. The sporty side of a company that can already register millions in annual sales by harvesting the fertile fields of those seeking the ‘family car’, the ‘retiree car’, the ‘keep my ownership costs low’ car.

Toyota is already losing that buyer who picks the Altima over the Camry. The Mazda 3 and Fiat 500, over a Matrix or a Corolla. The reality is that by attracting a more conservative and older audience, you sometimes have to make compromises in design and interior ergonomics that make a car less appealing to those seeking fun and sport. Or even just simply something different.

There is still a gaping void of ‘fun’ between $15,000 and $35,000 that Scion could define as their specific market. I have no doubt that a car with the Toyota halo of reliability, coupled with sharp looks and exceptional handling, could lead to a new era of success for Scion.

The question is whether Toyota will invest in a Scion worthy of that reputation. To me the FR-S is one of those models. Should there be others?


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Review: 2011 Scion tC with “TRD Big Brakes” Thu, 23 Sep 2010 20:35:34 +0000

Anarchy in the TTAC! It turns out that Michael Karesh and I both got invited to short-lead Scion tC press events. His review is found here and nicely covers things like the sound system, recent sales numbers, and the American economy. It’s so comprehensive that I didn’t feel the need to attend my press preview.

I did, however, feel the need to pay my bookie, so I am dutifully submitting this piece to offset a small amount of my personal debt. If you are not in the mood to read two reviews of this car, I have helpfully summarized my review in one sentence, posted “before the jump” for your convenience:

Given sufficient velocity and violence of application, it is possible to set the brakes on fire.

I autocrossed a previous-generation Scion tC in a few different regions, usually finishing in the top half of H Stock, ahead of the rest of the street-tire mongrel dabblers but well off the pace of the properly-set-up Mini Coopers. The original tC was a type of car which was once vanishingly rare but is now increasingly common: one with too much rolling stock. If the little-ish Toyota had a soul, and that soul wanted to fly, surely that soul was weighed down to earth by the enormous alloy wheels and steamroller tires attached to each corner. Rarely has a car of the tC’s modest size felt so weighty and deliberate on the road.

One the move, that first tC was so relentlessly interested in going straight regardless of input that I found myself using the handbrake to turn the car in tighter sections. It was simply reluctant to turn and the overall dynamic package was far more Somerset Regal than Calais 442, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. It struck me as a perfect conveyance for somebody who wants an affordable Japanese coupe but has no interest in going fast. I would have taken the last-generation Celica GT-S and a kick in the face over the Scion tC.

So now we have a new one, with a little more power and a little more weight. Commendably, it’s exactly the same size. Perhaps Toyota has learned from the xB debacle. A conversation I had with one of Toyota’s PR people went something like this:

Me: “Why is the new xB so freakin’ huge, dude?”

PR: “Well, Scion does better than anybody else at reaching out to our customers. We asked thousands of them what they wanted us to do with the xB. Virtually all of them said they wanted more room, more space, more power, more car.” Thoughtful pause. “They may have been lying.”

I was given a 14-mile loop on which to drive the new tC, and I was given a media co-driver. Thankfully, that media co-driver was Alex Nunez, well-known to most of you from his work with Autoblog and ConsumerSearch. Alex is one of those hard-ass New York types that I knew so well as a kid and I expected him to man up for his passenger stint. After a few words, we were off.

I’d chosen a six-speed manual tC with the “TRD Big Brake package”. My experience of aftermarket brake packages is that most of them suck. Typically, they don’t take master cylinder size into account, they don’t work correctly with the factory ABS or stability-control systems, and they often produce less clamping power than the standard cheapo factory setups despite looking better. A look at the Scion owner “brand ambassadors” who had brought their cars for the press preview didn’t ease my mind on the TRD kit’s likely virtues; they all looked like they had stepped off the set of “The Ali G Show”, being as ghetto fabulous as their parents’ money could make them. Clearly not performance drivers, and the Chinese tires wrapped around their “dubs” reinforced the point. If Scion was aiming at them with this kit, they weren’t aiming high.

Oh well. Time to drive. My first test — can the TRD brakes operate effectively in ABS? — was positive. In fact, on the loose road surface available to us, Alex and I were coming in on the ABS time and time again, chattering and skipping down from all the velocity the chunky 2.5-liter four could produce. That four, by the way… it’s not a performance engine. It doesn’t want to rev and it lets you know in a dozen unsubtle audible and tactile ways. Still, it will boot the car down the road. Alex said it sounded “sneezy” or something to that effect.

Next test. Stability control. Over a hump that put the nose of the car temporarily airborne, I cranked the wheel half a turn and kicked the brakes, starting a relatively strong oscillation. With a few blinks of the light, we were straightened out. Okay. That’s good. So far, these brakes appear to be as safe as the stockers. How good are they?

I spent the next six miles working on generating fade. Every turn was a late, full brake. I must have engaged ABS two dozen times from nontrivial speed. Down a steep hill we went, and I used the last trick in my book — the “rookie brake”. A rookie brake is dragging the pads against the brake for two hundred feet before stomping into ABS. It’s what racing rookies who are concerned about making a corner like to do, and it’s a brake killer. Nope. There was light fade at best (or worst).

We screeched to a final halt at the bottom of that long hill and I heard that familiar “hiss-WHOOSH-hiss”. Yes, there was smoke drifting around our cabin now. The pads, the pads, the pads were on fire! Mr. Nunez laughed. A woman in a Camry stared at us. We moved on.

This is a good car, in the sense that it is made well, reasonably priced, and likely to last a long time. Scion says they expect the buyers to be more than half male. If that’s the case, I think that business about estrogen in the water must be true. I can’t see a man buying this for himself, unless that “man” wears skinny pants and listens to Dashboard Confessional. It’s priced about two grand away from the street price of a base Mustang V-6 six-speed. I knew a guy who raced a Scion tC in NASA. We used to laugh at him, even though he was pretty quick, and since “we” were driving Neons, Miatas, Civics, and a Ecotec-powered Cavalier, I think that says something.

It may not be a “man’s car”, but it’s still decent, and the brakes are decent, too. If your mom says you have to get your graduation present at the Toyota dealer, this is your best choice.

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2011 Scion tC: Another Reason To Wait For The FT-86 Wed, 31 Mar 2010 21:04:35 +0000

Due to the poor planning of yours truly, TTAC won’t have its own New York Auto Show photography until a bit later in the week. But then, it’s also beginning to look like Toyota won’t have a real sports coupe worth mentioning until the FT-86 comes out sometime around 2012. Hey, nobody’s perfect. Meanwhile, let’s try to enjoy what we do have: press shots of a warmed-over, front-drive cute-coupe. Scion swears the tC’s 2.5 liter engine and platform (McPherson front/Double Wishbone rear) are “all new,” but it’s not enough to make you forget that a $25k, RWD, boxer-engined “true” sports coupe is coming from Toyota in a few short years. Which is good for patient enthusiasts, but not so great for the Scion brand.

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