2011 Scion tC: Young and zestful

Jack Hollis presents Scion tC to Midwest press

Jack Hollis presents Scion tC to Midwest press

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Scion tC:  For Mature Drivers Too!

Scion's 2011 tC rolled in Chicago last week.  Jack Hollis, Scion's vice president, gave the new front-drive lift-back coupe's rundown.  He says is "not a sports car; it's a sporty car."

The latest tC should generate more interest in the Toyota's youthful Scion brand: a division that has saw its fortunes wane, as its products aged.  Scion will further turn up the heat with an upcoming iQ four-seat micro-car.

What's New?

There's a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out 180 horsepower (173 lb. ft. torque).  Its partners:  a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with sport mode.

Chassis upgrades include a wishbone rear suspension, 18-inch tires, and an assortment of safety aids such as stability control and brake override.  You can further customize this ride at the Toyota store.  There you can select from the brand's TRD accessories:  19-inch tires, bigger binders, tuned exhaust pipe and beefier sway bars.  Addition trim upgrades include a spoiler and lighting kit.

The interior gets racing-shell style front seats and nicely finished if hard-plastic trim.  Outside, the car is an inch wider and weighs 3,000-3,100 pounds.  Twin-glass roof panels lighten the otherwise cave-dark insides.  Their shades, however, looked like thick-black Hefty bags on the pre-production models I sampled.  Backseat room is surprisingly good, a six-footer's head fits below the rear lid's window.

Does it Go?

With sporty seating with funky cloth inserts and a meaty tilt-telescope steering wheel, the new tC fits into the slot vacated by fun-to-drive hatchback coupes such as the Acura Integra and VW Scirocco.  The stick-shift version offered competitive ride and handling with some steering bite on the TRD version.  Hollis claims the tC fared well in its focus group comparisons, which pitted the Scion against other sport-oriented front drivers.  It didn't top the more expensive VW GTI, however.    That said, the Scion's automatic transmission tended to upshift early, an annoyance.  The fix: select "S"(sport) rather than "D."

Stick-shift drivers might find the hand-operated parking brake intrusive.  However, drifters will disagree.  Front headroom and legroom should accommodate most people.  When you place the tC alongside a vintage VW Scirocco, you'll notice that it's taller and wider than you'd think.  This means it's truly a two-plus-two setup.

You'll also notice that the tC's chunky "C" pillars impede aft-ward sightlines.  Large side-view mirrors offset this making it fairly easy to maneuver through traffic.

How Much?

1983 VW Scirocoo meets 2011 Scion tC

1983 VW Scirocoo meets 2011 Scion tC

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Scion's tC showroom arrival date: October 2010.  Hollis says a manual shift tC lists for $19,000; the automatic costs $20,000.  EPA numbers for either model:  23 mpg city and 31 highway.

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