Scion is no stranger to the automotive landscape, especially not for the college or post undergraduate. Most know for their long list of available options, dealer installed accessories, aftermarket additions and of course the Scion tC—the companies most popular model with an estimated 310,000 tC on the road. The tC, on sale since 2004, has been redesigned for the 2011 model year with more power, stronger body lines and what some would call an enticing price point. Knowing this, we hopped a plane to Las Vegas to take the 2011 Scion tC pre-production cars for a spin around Sin City.

2011 Scion tC with TRD options in Redrocks, Nevada (rear)

2011 Scion tC with TRD options in Redrocks, Nevada (rear)

For 2011 the new Scion tC has more horsepower, a wider track and what the company calls more masculine styling. Let’s start with the technical parts. The new model will have a 180 horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that is up 19 horsepower over the outgoing model. Another interesting fact is that both the 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmission get the same gas mileage at 23/31 city/hwy. Other features that are new for 2011 are the electronic steering, standard 300 watt stereo with tuned 8 speaker sound system, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, one-inch wider seats and rear seats that recline 10 degrees.

All the new options sound great, but how does the 2011 Scion tC drive? I have to say that I was impressed with both the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) optioned tC and stock tC that I drove. The base model has a good exhaust note, nice instrument layout and stable handling for spirited driving. When you start to add the TRD options the cars character becomes more aggressive, especially with the addition of front and rear way bars, TRD rims and TRD tuned exhaust system. Even if you don’t opt for the performance accessories the new tC will holds its own in the corners exhibiting some understeer if you come in to hot and the rear will step out if you get wild with your driving. The good news, for some, is that the traction control setup is pretty aggressive and makes the car very easy to recover.

In town the manual is easy to drive with a light clutch and crisp shift—yes, even in 106 degree traffic on the Vegas strip. One gripe I do have is that the reverse interlock is part of the shift boot, so you have to pull up on it to shift it in reverse; this setup gets in the way for people who have larger hands because you tend to catch the boot while trying to shift. That said, the noise levels aren’t too bad on the highway, but the car does seem louder than a Civic. Of course, with a 300-watt standard stereo you might never notice. Then there are the one-inch wider seats which accommodate both in-town, highway and exuberant driving through the curves…they will also give large passengers more comfort than the pervious model. 

Bottom line—the new 2011 Scion tC is an improvement over its predecessor and looks like it will slot itself in between the Kia Forte and Honda Civic Si, the Honda having the edge on the performance side for the moment. Of course, if you are looking to personalize your car, it will be hard to beat the lifestyle events around the U.S that Scion puts on (some 1500 a year) or the amount of manufacturer authorized accessories. Oh and did we mention the manual will start at a base MSRP of $18, 275? Not to shabby.


Stay tuned for more on the Scion tC and the grassroots campaigns they have in store for us.