Scion’s redesigned tC offers better looks, improved handling | SummitDaily.com

Scion’s redesigned tC offers better looks, improved handling

Andy Stonehouse
summit daily auto writer

2011 Scion tC

Las Vegas – While Paris Hilton was getting hauled off to the big house for holding “someone else’s” narcotics on the Strip, the regular sweltering swirl of a late August in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel proved to be an auspicious location for a quick preview of Scion’s newest offering.

The Hard Rock, as I noted, is sort of like a youth hostel for rich Southern Californians, and it’s those aspirational hipsters Scion has courted over the course of its existence as Toyota’s hard-to-peg, low-cost offshoot.

Admittedly, you don’t see a hell of a lot of Scions in Colorado (especially up in the High Country), but as the company continues its efforts to appeal to hyper-individualistic motorists, its new makeover of the tC is a step in the right direction.

The least outwardly bizarre of the three Scion models, the sort-of Celica-inspired tC sports coupe was introduced in 2004 and its 2011 edition is quite a comely and affordable machine.

Affordable, indeed; Out of the box, ready for the inevitable customization standard to the Scion experience, the new tC with a manual transmission will retail for about $18,275.

One can then begin to add on the bells and whistles, of which the various high-end audio systems, navigation or even a whole litany of TRD racing-inspired tweaks (wheels, brakes, lowering springs, sway bars, performance exhaust and cold air intakes).

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At its most basic, the new tC is still pretty swell. The interior has received the most makeover attention, with an angular, layered dash and seats that immediately reminded me of the new Camaro, for some reason.

Power is still subtle, even at Vegas’s low elevation, and the 180 horsepower 2.5-liter inline four will not be blowing the doors off any Evos or WRXes, but … that’s not really the point. Though, admittedly, with the TRD exhaust kit, it sounds a whole lot more tough.

I headed out on an entirely urban drive route in Vegas with both a standard tC and a couple of models upgraded with various TRD bits and found it a pleasant experience. You can chirp the tires a bit in the six-speed manual version and enjoy a bit of sporty lean in the corners, especially with the ride upgrades, but it’s not a drag-racing machine. Out on the open road, I expect there’d be a bit more fun lurking underneath.

For the most part, you get a cruiser geared for looks – those looks being vastly improved, and apparently inspired by the looks of a racing helmet – with significant room, especially in the rather commodious back seat.

You also get, unlike 90 percent of the other sport coupes out there (say, the Nissan Altima I drove a few weeks ago, for instance), rear windows that are actually large enough to see out of, even as the driver, allowing safe shoulder checking and passing.

There’s also a decidedly old-school painted on louver sunscreen on the back window and double sunroofs, including a patch of sky for your back seat passengers.

Consistent with Scion’s image is the emphasis on technology that’s not necessarily under the hood: Even the basic factory stereo produces 300 watts, with an eight-speaker system including a Pioneer head unit and a separate 140-watt amp driving two door-mounted woofers.

You can upgrade to a premium Alpine system with a 4.3-inch color screen and HD radio, plus an optional plug-in navigation system. Or opt for a fully dedicated Scion navigation system, taking the best bits of the touchscreen system found on Toyotas and basic Lexus models. Or … as many drivers do, outfit the car with a sound system that costs as much as the sticker price. It’s all up to you.