The Truth About Cars » tC The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +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 » tC Town And Country Update: Road Trip Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:13 +0000 bugs

I last wrote about my 2013 Town and Country S at the end of November when it was just three months old and had only 1500 miles on the clock. At that point the big van had yet to be used for anything more than ‘round the town mommy duties and a single jaunt up to Toronto in search of a Japanese supermarket, but I reported then that the van was performing flawlessly. Today, eight months later, and thanks in part to a whirlwind road trip that added slightly more than 2000 miles in just four full days of driving, the T&C’s odometer shows 6400 miles and I have greater insight into the vehicle’s true nature. Naturally, it’s time for an update.

I am a veteran road-tripper. I began as a child, riding in the back seat of one my father’s many Oldsmobiles and I can tell you from brutal experience what it is like to be locked in a car with your brothers and sisters for days on end. Fortunately, my Kodachrome-colored memories of the ‘70s have little in common with the way families travel today and the Town & Country S is a true product of a better, brighter era. Chrysler offers a great deal of technology on all their vans, sometimes standard and sometimes at an additional cost, and one of the particular advantages of the S model is that, among other things, it already comes equipped with a Blue Ray DVD player and two overhead flat screen monitors. To be honest, had the video system not been included as a part of the package that netted me a swankier interior and better looking wheels, it is not something I would have paid extra to purchase at the time, but now that I have it I can’t imagine living without it.


DVD players in cars rival sliced bread for the title of the greatest thing ever invented. Unlike my childhood road trips where, other than fighting with my siblings, the sole form of entertainment consisted entirely of a game where you tried to make the alphabet out of the letters on other cars’ license plates, my kids were treated to a non-stop, four day long Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks animation film festival. Because I don’t mind listening to movies while I drive, I usually play the DVD audio tracks over the stereo system, but for those times I would rather listen to something else Chrysler was thoughtful enough to include two pairs of nice, wireless headphones that work with the DVD system, something that makes it possible for the kids watch movies in the back while the adults enjoy the radio up front. That to me is a real have your cake and eat it too kind of feature and all I can say is “Hooray for technology!”

While my precious, human cargo rode in comfort and silence, I was able to focus on the overall driving experience and my impressions are mostly positive. On the open road the T&C was strong and smooth and although there were no mountain passes upon which to test the vehicle’s climbing prowess between Buffalo and Kansas City, which we visited last week in preparation for our impending move, I found there was always plenty of power on tap whenever I put my foot down. Fuel mileage too was more than satisfactory thanks to the “Eco” mode and, at the end of our trip, the computer showed I averaged an impressive 28 miles per gallon despite the fact that I paid zero attention to maximizing our mileage.

This is the first time I have used the eco button and although I had read nothing about how the system works, I noticed right away that it affected how the van shifted. This was most noticeable on hills when the vehicle’s speed was being maintained by the the cruise control. Without fail, as we began to ascend any grade longer than a few hundred feet, our speed would fall off by three or four miles per hour and the engine would bog until the RPMs went so low as to force a downshift. Then, when the transmission finally kicked down into a lower gear, the engine would roar to life and send the vehicle charging furiously back up to speed before up-shifting yet again and starting the whole process over. This led to an odd sort of leap frogging effect where I would pass cars on the flat only to end up slowing down in front of them whenever we reached any kind of a hill. Then, when the other cars pulled out to pass, the van would downshift and we would end up tearing away again before they could get around us. Frankly, I found this effect annoying and I could tell by the way that other cars crawled right up my backside every time it happened that the drivers around me did too. Eventually, I solved the problem by using the gas pedal to force the engine to kick down sooner and that worked well enough but, truth be told, I would rather have set the speed and then not had to worry about it at all. It would be nice if Chrysler could adjust this with some sort of software update.

With power, economy and the kids all taken care of, the only other thing I can really report on is how the big van felt from the driver’s seat. The last time I drove west of the Mississippi I was in my 300M and the Town & Country compares more than favorably to Chrysler’s other high end offerings. The seats were comfortable and offered more than enough adjustability to ease the aches and pains that cropped up from time to time and I enjoyed spending time in them. Still essentially brand new, there were no annoying squeaks or rattles I can report and I also found that wind noise was non-existent at any virtually speed. I will say that different pavements introduced different vibrations and different tire noises into the cabin but never at a level that caused any real distraction so, overall, from a comfort standpoint, the T&C is great.


Suspension wise the S model’s sport tuned suspension walks that fine line between firm and jarring in a way the sport tuned suspension on my 300M Special never could. The big van holds the road and inspires confidence without sacrificing comfort. Where the 300M had a tendency to follow tar snakes, ruts and other imperfections in the pavement, the T&C never leaves you fighting for control although, thanks to its higher profile, it is more affected by gusts.

At the end of our second day, with almost 8 full hours of driving behind us and a bare ten miles from our goal, the skies turned dangerously black and it began to rain absolute buckets. The roads turned into rivers and I quickly switched to local radio in order to hear any emergency weather bulletins. The news was not good and there, near the point of exhaustion, on strange roads and with limited visibility, I began to worry just a little for the safety of my family. But the big Chrysler simply shrugged off everything that nature could throw at it and, as the navigation unerringly guided us towards our destination, my fears quickly abated. The vehicle worked so well that there was nothing to take my attention away from the road and, I realized, there was simply nothing to worry about.

In the end, smooth, worry-free operation is what you want from a family vehicle and today, almost eight months after purchasing the Town and Country, I still find the van’s poise and confidence on the road to be utterly remarkable. It is joy to drive and this latest road trip has only strengthened my belief that I have chosen the right vehicle for my family. I simply could not want anything else at this point and, as I tend to keep my vehicles for many years, I am convinced that the T&C will carry us wherever we want, near or far, in style, comfort and safety for a long time to come.


Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

]]> 55
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
CPO To Go: 2011 Scion tC Thu, 03 Nov 2011 15:27:18 +0000
Two door cars used to be everywhere. From loaded up Cutlasses and Accords. To entry level Escorts, Neons and Civics. Nearly every popular car of 20 years ago offered a hatchback or coupe variant for those seeking a touch of sport in their daily driver.

Then something happened. America gradually got older… and bigger. Four door cars went from the plain-jane three square look of the 1980’s, to designs that evoked the priciest of exotics. Advances in steel fabrication and body stamping were just the beginning of what soon became a new era where four door cars completely dominated their two door sisters.

“Why deal with the inconvenience of a two door?” said a buying public knee-deep in aging baby boomers. Why indeed when you could have everything from a Camry to an SUV if you wanted the pretense of a sporty and powerful ride. Hatchbacks soon gave way to oversized coupes, which gave way to the reality that so-called ‘sporty’ designs were now available in every segment of the car market.

To survive for another generation, a two door compact like the Scion tC has to offer a lot more than just a ‘sporty’ driving experience.

Everyone on first glance assumes that the new Scion tC is a coupe. The side profile has the prototypical coupe look with a short trunk in the rear combined with an upright roof that seemingly sacrifices sport for space.
But the ‘coupe’ compromise doesn’t quite happen in the Scion tC. You open the hatch and the rear glass lifts up to reveal an opening that can swallow up… well… a bit more space than a coupe if the seats are folded down. It may not be an old Saab hatchback’s worth of space. But it will work for 90+% of buyers of this vehicle. Consider this an achievement in an age where consumers still complain if a car has only two cupholders.
The unusual styling is pretty much the only compromise I can note in this car. Otherwise the Scion tC serves in today’s market as the spiritual successor to the Toyota Celica. If you’re willing to pay about two grand more than a mid-level Corolla, you get a flashy, very well priced, reliable, good fuel economy car that is surprisingly easy to live with.
The interior is an embodiment of this ‘easy to live with’ theme. Open the door. Slide (or fall) into the driver’s seat… and it takes only a minute or two to figure out where everything is.Three simple knobs for the a/c, heat and defrost controls. A Lexus inspired steering wheel that is safely removed from the current fad of putting 17 different functions on it. Throw in a premium sound system with 8 speakers and 300 watts (along with Bluetooth, Ipod compatibility, and USB port); a sunroof, a well placed skyroof that helps minimize the claustrophobic feeling of most rear seat passengers, and you’re sitting pretty. Especially since the sticker comes in at only $19,275.

Everything you will usually touch in the Scion tC feels like it should. However it’s also simple to see where Toyota performed their ‘cost containment’. The door panel plastics. The underside of the dashboard. The carpet in the hatch. Everything you don’t touch is simply ‘functional’, which quickly translates into dour and stark if you’re not the type who is into black interiors with minimal ornamentation.Want a car that is bright and cheery? Go get a car driven by hamsters.

The tC is a stunningly no nonsense vehicle in an era where every other competitor has a gimmick.

On the road I felt everything… but it wasn’t a bad feeling. I would consider it a taut ride. On rough surfaces the tC will transmit the ‘thunks’ into your ears without any other bodily discomfort.

Scion owner... or marketeer? (Courtesy Eight08Customs)

Keep in mind that this new Scion tC now has the youngest average age of ownership out of any vehicle today (26 years old, really). So if you no longer like to feel or hear the road in your daily commute, there are countless softer alternatives out there.

On the road you also get the feeling that this vehicle is made out of one thick piece of steel. The fit and finish is exceptional. To the point where I would have not been surprised if Toyota had simply taken a Lexus and just simply cheapened the interior a bit. Make that quite a bit.

The tC is not a luxury coupe by any stretch. But the seats and road isolation are good enough on the highway that I still felt great after 7 hours of driving. Not a lot of sub-$20,000 cars with a ‘sporty’ ride can offer that real world comfort.

On the highway, I kept the speed right at 80 mph and managed to get 31 mpg. That was a surprising number along with the 28 mpg I got around town.Unless you put the pedal down, the 6-speed automatic will be squarely pegged at maximizing fuel economy. It can be fast if you want it to. But 95+% of the time you will be driving a frugal 2.5 Liter 180 horsepower engine that appreciates the low end of the power band.

Those who want to redline it all the time should definitely go with the manual. Like most modern automatics with manual overrides, the one in the Scion has a disconcerting delay that kills most of the real world fun. Shift. Wait. Click. It gets pretty old. But I can’t fault the tC for this since nearly every other model in the marketplace short of a VW shifts the same way.

What was more impressive was that the 2.5L 180 horsepower engine constantly turned at about 2400 rpm while going 80 through some fierce grades . Not once through the Smoky Mountains did the tC have to downshift from 6th gear. Not even in those rare times when I had to drive the double nickel while going uphill due to traffic. A lot of owners will appreciate the fact this car doesn’t drone on in high rpms when faced with these situations.

What’s not to like? A few things. In a world where even the cheapest vehicles have raised seating positions, the tC is low to the road. Those longing for the panoramic views offered in sporty coupes of a generation ago will be disappointed. The thick A-pillars give a bit of a distance to the road as you go. Road warriors usually like this distance. Many enthusiasts do not. You will have to judge this for yourself.

The tC is also not an overwhelming speedster on the road. A long list of publications clock the 0 to 60 at around 8.5 seconds with the 6-speed automatic. In real world measurements, the tC has all the power you need for the real world… but not for the race. The acceleration is always there. But it’s not the type that pushes you way back in the seat and gives you some serious g’s. Aspiring ricers and speed demons should look elsewhere.

Finally,  I have a big bone to pickwith the Southeast Distributor of Toyotas who assess ridiculous price premiums on the tC and other models. Back in 1994 I had to buy a new Toyota Camry in New Jersey instead of Atlanta. Why? Because if you wanted ABS and a sunroof the distributor added about $1500 in bogus options.

From ‘window etching’ of the VIN number (because window thieves were SO common back in the day). To their three cent spray version of Scotchguard. I even recall a phony wood package that had worse long-term wear issues than anything else ever put on Toyota.I ended up flying to New Jersey and spending $200 to save $1500. Fast forward 17 years later and the Toyota distributor adds a ‘Navigation’ upgrade that didn’t work at all on more than one occasion. Total cost added to the MSRP? $1499. You also get assessed $109 for floormats in a new car… but don’t worry! The Scion tC now comes with a tightwad exuding level of gas in the tank according to the window sticker. 6 whole gallons for no charge!

All kidding aside, if you happen to live in the southeast I would keep a watchful eye on the window sticker and negotiate out of the region if need be. For anyone else who happens to be considering a VW Beetle, Kia Forte, base Mini Cooper, or any number of four door competitors that offer a sporty oriented vibe, you should add the Scion tC to your list. Just make sure you follow the advice of Tony Bennett. The tC is only a good choice for those ‘among the very young at heart’.

I received seven free meals, three free hotel rooms, several tankfuls of  gas, and insurance  for this review. All except one tank of gas and insurance were provided exclusively by Ed Niedermeyer during our journey through Chattanooga and Nashville. No opossums were cooked in the engine bay during the course our long drive through Appalachia… but we did consider it.

]]> 77
Review: 2011 Scion tC Mon, 03 Jan 2011 23:56:21 +0000

Toyota has had a problem lately: aging clientele. While some marketing firms will try to reinvigorate an aging brand with flashy new commercials and risqué advertising campaigns, Toyota decided to create a whole new brand in 2002 targeting Generation X and Y: Scion. Since the generations at the end of the alphabet are short on cash but long on youth, value pricing is the biggest draw for the Scion brand. Therefore it should be no surprise that the average age of Scion shoppers isn’t as low as Toyota could have hoped: old people like a bargain too.

Bargain pricing as a cornerstone means that most Scion models (all except the tC actually) are rebranded Toyota models from foreign markets. Realizing that Scion needed something besides a trendy bread box and a bargain basement people carrier, Toyota released the first model unique to Scion: the tC. Yes, yes tC doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the Scion nomenclature like xA, xB and xD, but Volvo had dibs on the XC trade mark and so tC was born. Based loosely on the European Toyota Avensis sedan, the tC combines an economical European front-wheel drive chassis with a sporty coupe profile.

Speaking of profiles, when Scion announced that a new tC would be arriving as a 2011 model year car, I was concerned it would suffer from the same bloat that has afflicted the xB in its latest refresh. Fortunately the styling of the tC will not offend the Scion faithful. Easily identifiable as a tC, the front has received a tasteful refresh with a larger air dam and a bit more drama. The blacked out A and B pillars combine with the chunky angular C pillar to ape a bit of Camaro styling (just a bit however). Out back a short faux-trunk greets the hatchback-averse in the crowd along with some curvaceous tail lamps and a single exhaust. The Scion tC proves it’s actually possible to build an econobox that doesn’t look like a penalty box. But is the beauty only skin deep?

Step inside the tC you realize that “compromise” is inevitable in an car that starts at $18,995 base and tops out around $22,500. The interior looks nice but comes only in black, if monochromatic interiors are not your thing, you should cross the tC off your list now. The dash plastics have an appealing visual texture; however like the rest of the competition the plastics are best looked at, not touched. Still, the interior delivers exactly what I expect from 19-large. What’s unexpected however is the thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel. The flat-bottomed-tiller on our loaner car was covered in soft perforated leather, equipped with comfortable grips and perfect seams. As if this wasn’t enough, the airbag cover and plastic spokes are executed with feel and precision beyond what I’ve experienced in some recent Lexus debuts. Seriously, this Scion steering wheel has to be one of the best wheels I have ever gripped in my life (sorry BMW). The real wheel-surprise is that the wheel is actually standard on the tC, not an option.

Sadly however not all is rosy inside the tC’s cabin. The entry level market usually means leaving out most “luxury” features. I’m usually fine with a bargain basement ride not having power seats or automatic climate control, but base Kia and Hyundai models come standard with Bluetooth phone integration these day. While Bluetooth can be added by optioning up a $300 BLU Logic accessory or stepping up to the $1999 Scion Navigation system, this is a safety feature that should standard by now as many states require some sort of hands-free system. For a brand that focuses on the tech-savvy genberation, this omission could be a deal-killer for some.

Anyone that knows someone in their 20s knows that to young people a good audio system is almost as important as the car itself. To that end Scion provides shoppers with no-less than four head-unit options. From the base Pioneer system to the $1999 Scion navigation system with HD radio and Bluetooth, it’s most obvious that the car was designed with the aftermarket in mind. Radios can easily be replaced with aftermarket units if buyers prefer and a quick Google search yields plenty of options for integrating systems with the standard steering-wheel controls. While many buyers may choose this route, the rest should know that although iPod integration is standard on the base Pioneer system, actually controlling your iPod via the head unit is a tedious and cumbersome task. Buyers who want a factory warranted system but are interested in some options will appreciate the Scion SNS200 nav system which is probably the most flexible factory head unit ever conceived. The SNS200 offers a long list of integrator pleasing features such as 6-channel pre-amp output, aftermarket rear seat LCD support, DVD video player, aux input jacks, etc.

Under the hood, the tC now boasts the same 2.5L four-cylinder engine as the 2011 Toyota Camry. Rated at 180HP and 173 lb-ft of torque, the engine is finally a willing companion. Despite the modest gain in power (19 HP and 9 lb-ft) vs the old engine, the “feel” is greatly improved as is low end torque. The old 2.4L engine always seemed out of breath, a feeling I never encountered during my week with the tC. While I am glad that Toyota has provided a 6-speed manual option (as tested), the heavy clutch and manual-matching-economy of the automatic make Toyota’s 6-seed slushbox my transmission of choice. Speaking of economy, we averaged a combined 27MPG in our week long test of the tC, besting the EPA estimate of 31MPG highway/23 city/26 combined by one MPG. Sure the automatic takes a toll on acceleration (8.4 vs 7.6 seconds to 60), but for every day driving the auto’s gear ratios are a perfect match to the Scion’s dynamics and personality.

Out on the road the tC delivers a solid, stable ride. The chassis and stability control are tuned to allow the driver a bit of fun out on windy mountain roads, but prevent anything approaching risky behavior. The new electric power steering is pleasantly unobtrusive, albeit a tad over-boosted as most vehicles with this system tend to be. Toss the tC into sharp corners and the lower profile standard tires and 1”wider track (than the precious generation) are a welcome ally. Unfortunately some may find the ride delivered by the 18s a bit too harsh for every-day driving in America’s pot-hole riddled urban jungle.

Still, the larger wheels look cool, and that’s what the tC is really all about: impressions. A quick prowl online will reveal a number of reviews critical of the handling abilities and steering feel of the tC. While I tend to agree with the fairly subjective analysis, I have to say that anyone who desires the tC to be a fire-breathing sports coupe is missing the point. If you want to do donuts in the school parking lot; get a rear-wheel-drive base model Hyundai Genesis. The tC provides a much more adult pleasing reality than the youth-hyped marketing material would suggest.

At the end of the day, the tC ends up being something of a fashion statement, and I’m actually OK with that. There’s a reason Generation X and Y have massive spending power but limited automotive budgets: they buy fashion. No other generation spends as much on a pair of jeans and accessories as the metro Gen X/Y. So when it comes to selecting a ride, the Scion may just deliver that right balance of sporty looks and comfortable driving reality. The only part missing? 20-somethings buyers with 20-grand in their pockets.

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

IMG_1618 All photos courtesy: Alex Dykes IMG_1614 IMG_1616 IMG_1621 IMG_1620 IMG_1624 IMG_1626 IMG_1625 IMG_1623 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_1615 IMG_1619 ]]> 65
Review: 2011 Scion tC Fri, 17 Sep 2010 17:49:04 +0000

Eager to connect with twentysomethings, Scion has sponsored over 2,500 cultural events. Nevertheless, sales are far off their peak. Apparently free doom-metal concerts can only accomplish so much when the target customer can’t find a decent job. Or is the product the problem? Apparently Scion thinks so, as it’s forecasting praying that a redesign of the tC for the 2011 model year will double the model’s sales. (Which, if accomplished, would still leave them at half the 2006 peak.) So, might these prayers be answered?

Though technically a hatchback, the tC has again been successfully disguised as a coupe. Scion claims that the car’s revised sheetmetal is more aggressive and more masculine. And it is, to a limited degree. The blacked-out A-pillars and more dramatically kinked C-pillars are especially successful. Standard 18-inch alloys are another plus. The lack of frameless doors, as seen on the Kia Forte Koup…not so much. Though Scion must think some buyers will actually want to highlight the window frame, as it offers “carbon fiber” B-pillar appliques as an accessory (they’re on the darker car in these photos). As a whole the changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary, and the hatchback coupe, while arguably attractive, is neither striking nor beautiful. On the college campus where the drive event was staged, students walked by an entire row of parked cars with nary a glance.

The almost entirely off-black, drama-free interior is a welcome relief from recent trends in Japanese auto design. I’ve been here before—in the Celica All-trac turbo I owned 20 years ago. A pointlessly flat-bottomed steering wheel (okay, it looks nifty) and double-DIN nav screen (one of three available must-be-twentysomething-to-operate head units) bring me back to 2010. The Scion VP challenged us to replicate the typical owner experience by turning the volume of the 300-watt audio system way past 11. To my ears the system sounds loud, but not notably rich or clear. As promised, the door panels do not rattle.

The 2011 Scion tC’s driving position awakens much more recent memories. You sit relatively low behind a tall instrument panel and short, fairly upright windshield. Not as extreme as the Camaro, but pretty close to the Lexus IS-F. So it’s overtly sporty without fatally compromising visibility. The upside: unlike in the competing Kia Forte Koup, there’s no econobox flavor. Nor, unlike in the Honda Civic coupe, are you inspired to hunt down Klingon warbirds.

The front seats have been widened an inch, to enhance comfort, but lateral support remains decent. The interior’s big surprise: an adult-friendly back seat. There’s more room back there than in the Camaro and Mustang combined, and even decent thigh support. I’ve been less comfortable in some mid-sized sedans. This seat both reclines ten degrees and folds nearly flat. A hatchback provides ready access to the cargo area.

Continuing the evolutionary theme, the tC’s DOHC four-cylinder engine has been enlarged from 2.4 to 2.5 liters, and peak horsepower has been bumped from 161 to 180 at an accessible 6,000 rpm. Both the manual and the automatic now include six ratios (up from five and four, respectively). When that 1988 Celica offered 190 horsepower, it was something special. So part of me still expects 180 horsepower to entertain. Well, in this case it boosts the 3,060-pound tC to sixty in about eight seconds (a little under with the stick, a little over with the automatic) without irritating or delighting any senses. I pronounce this engine fit for duty in the Camry. TRD offered a supercharger for the 2.4, and “might” be working on one for the 2.5. Bring it on. The new engine provokes hardly any torque steer. The chassis can handle more.

The manual shifter slides from gear to gear with better feel than most in this price class. Shorter throws, a mod away, while desirable are not a must. The clutch, which engages with little transition at the very top, would benefit more from an abbreviated travel. The automatic, which can be manually shifted via the lever, was nearly as fun to drive. The additional cogs bump the EPA ratings to 23/31 in both cases. I observed 26 in fairly casual ex-urban driving with the manual, and 20 in considerably less casual driving with the automatic.

The tC’s moderately firm, nicely weighted steering, now electrically assisted, is good as such systems go. The kickback present in many Toyota systems is absent here. Feedback is limited and a quicker, more direct feel would enhance perceived agility, but the same can be said for nearly all hydraulically assisted systems. (A thinner, less heavily padded steering wheel rim would improve feedback.) I felt much the same about the steering in the Lexus IS-F, which is over twice as powerful and costs over three times as much. Scion and Lexus are both emphatically not Toyota, and yet the parent’s DNA cannot be avoided. Refinement comes first.

The rest of the chassis is better. Revised suspension tuning lends the coupe commendable balance and composure, if not agility. Only as the limits are approached does understeer prevail, and then gradually. There’s some fun to be had on the right road. The ride is firm but never harsh, and the body structure feels solid. Also contributing to the impression that the tC is more expensive than it actually is: noise levels are about as low as they get in this price range.

Given the target market, affordability is a must. The 2011 tC starts at $18,995. A panoramic sunroof remains an unexpected standard feature. The only factory-installed option, the automatic transmission, adds $1,000. Dealers offer a broad array of performance- and appearance-enhancing accessories, including a “big brake system.” The segment isn’t as large as it used to be, with only Honda and Kia continuing to offer competing coupes. The Honda Civic Si, with a smaller but more energetic powerplant, lists for $3,770 more. A Kia Forte SX, with very similar dimensions and content, lists for almost exactly the same price as the tC. How many people will pick a Kia over a Toyota Scion, if both are priced the same? Luckily for the Kia, Scion dealers aren’t allowed to negotiate, so even before factoring in the Forte’s more generous incentives the tC’s out-the-door price will be over $500 higher.

The changes to the Scion tC for 2011, though all for the better, are also all evolutionary. Scion encouraged us to turn the audio past 11; they should consider doing the same with the car. The new tC provides a very good starting point. A thoroughly entertaining car could well be just a few pounds of boost and a few tweaks to the steering away. As it is, the Scion tC, though aimed at immature buyers, feels quite mature. Some competitors feel livelier, but they also feel less composed, less substantial, and (especially in the Kia’s case) cheaper. With a hatchback and roomier back seat, the tC is also more practical. Unfortunately, such quiet strengths aren’t going to incite doom-metal-loving twentysomethings to spend cash they don’t have. Free concerts can only do so much. Want to earn lifelong loyalty and sell more cars? Forget the rock fest, sponsor a successful job fair.

Scion provided the vehicles, insurance and fuel (as well as breakfast, lunch and a branded backpack) for this review

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

100_9101 100_9125 100_9099 100_9107 100_9118 100_9112 100_9126 100_9115 100_9108 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 100_9117 100_9123 100_9110 ]]> 96
What’s Wrong With This Picture: Lost In Translation Edition Tue, 09 Feb 2010 14:16:33 +0000 Scion shows off the tC “Release Series Six” edition, which boasts a 70s muscle car-inspired graphics package, complete with a not-in-any-way-indicative-of-engine-displacement “6.0″ on the flank. Think of the look as Yee-haw meets Ichiban, but because it’s a Scion tC it’s neither cool nor particularly fast. Poor Scion…

Oy! tC_RS61 tC_RS62 ]]> 23
Scion: The Brand With No Purpose Fri, 15 Jan 2010 21:03:29 +0000 Americans are obligated by our constitution to love weight gain and poor visibility

“Scion is pretty much a North American brand, so that is why it is very natural to think more development, more design work, should be done in North America,” Yoshi Inaba, president of Toyota Motor North America tells Automotive News [sub]. In other words, fans of Scion’s first generation of JDM confections who railed against second-gen bloat are probably out of luck. Sure, model four in the Scion lineup will be the iQ minicar, which is small and weird enough to have been a member of the Scion invasion team, but after that? It’s all bloat and bigger blind spots from here on out. It’s what America wants.

Apparently the Scion tC, the only Scion product entirely designed and developed in the US, will be replaced this year. As if confirming the continued Americanization of Scion, the Camry-engined coupe is still outselling the only remaining Scion still reminiscent of the first generation, the xD. We’ve been told that the Fuse concept shown above is the basis for the new tC. Did we say something about bloat and blind spots earlier?

The decision to replace the tC this year has another implication: it means the FT-86 RWD coupe currently being developed by Toyota and Subaru almost certainly won’t be sold as a Scion (as it won’t arrive this year). And if a $25k RWD manual-transmission coupe doesn’t fit in you alleged youth brand, why the hell do you have a youth brand in the first place? Mr Inaba?

We will figure out what we need. We need to focus on more products based on the customer’s needs, what the customer wants… The important thing is to try and appeal to a younger segment. The role of Scion is to grow them into Toyota or Lexus so that has not changed…. We have to be tuned to the needs of younger customers. Connectivity is a very important issue [and] our products should take car of their interests and their needs.

That, or maybe pickups. Who knows what kids really want? Which is why I don’t think it’s too hyperbolic to say that this is highly reminiscent of the terminal brand cluelessness that defined GM for the last several decades. Toyota’s battle with “big company disease” obviously isn’t over, and it probably won’t be until it gives up on the Scion experiment.

]]> 34