Scion's marketing strategy to date has centered on building word-of-mouth buzz among urban Gen Y trend leaders. The division promoted its first two cars, the xA and the xB, at break-dance tours and graffiti-artist exhibitions. That the "You don't understand me, Dad!" xB has been the bigger seller indicates that Scion buyers do indeed skew to the Dennis Rodman side of the individuality scale.
But getting behind the wheel of the tC, the first from-scratch Scion, probably won't make you want to pierce your uvula, change your name to Ill Dubmaster p, and drive to a rave in the middle of the desert to drink Red Bull and chat online about the Ukrainian DJ scene. Although Scion's marketers, no doubt, would be pleased if it did.
The tC benefits in many ways from being part of the Toyota fold, but chief among them is the parent company's devotion to cost-efficiency. Scion's coupe comes standard with an oversize power moonroof, reclining rear seats, and even a driver's-side knee air bag. The hardware isn't shabby, either, with the Camry's 160-horsepower, 2.4-liter four bolted onto a chassis equipped with four-wheel disc brakes (with ABS), an independent rear suspension, and seventeen-inch wheels shod with Z-rated Bridgestone Potenzas. That double-control-arm, independent rear suspension contributes to entertaining handling that allows some lift-throttle oversteer at the limit. A strut brace stiffens up the front end and aids steering accuracy, while the most sound-deadening material this side of a Lexus makes for a quiet ride.
With a base price of $16,465 and its only options being a four-speed automatic and side and side-curtain air bags, the tC begs the question of whether Toyota is dumping the car to gain market share or stamping the floorboards out of Play-Doh. Toyota says it's making an "industry standard" profit on every tC, noting that Scion buyers also spend an average of $1000 on dealer accessories. But those who can forgo such essentials as lighted cup holders and a carbon-fiber engine cover ($250 and $229, respectively) get a hell of a deal.
About those accessories. Most are your standard cosmetic gear, but doubtless many extra pizzas will be delivered and lawns mowed to put the Toyota Racing Development supercharger under the hood. The normally aspirated car's 163 pound-feet of torque make it pretty snappy in the first place, with quick 1-2 upshifts putting down rubber. The supercharger jacks things up to around 200 horsepower, which will come in handy when that punk in the Saturn Ion Red Line is dissin' your custom fluorescent-green "horse with flaming wheels instead of legs" vinyls. The supercharged tC costs about $20,000, which is bad news for other sporty coupes playing in that price range, most notably one named Celica.
Isn't the Celica supposed to be Toyota's hot entry-level coupe? The fact that nobody even asked that question at the tC press introduction indicates that everyone was thinking it but nobody wanted that profound revelation stolen by the guy from Sporty Carz and Babez. But a reasonably intelligent person can see there's a problem when the 140-horsepower Celica GT costs $20,000 with a moonroof and fifteen-inch rims. This Scion is poised to usurp its progenitor as surely as Phraates IV did when he killed his father, Orodes II, to assume the Parthian throne in 37 B.C.
Scion has built a car that will appeal to two distinct buyers. People who think a cat-back exhaust has something to do with feline flatulence will buy it because it's inexpensive and the black-cherry-pearl color matches their highlights. But it also should be a hit with the serious tuners, who will purchase their performance upgrades-TRD's supercharger, lowering springs, larger wheels, and the like-from Toyota to preserve the factory warranty.
One remaining question is whether Scion's core, xB-buying urban audience will like the tC quite as much once it's in the hands of people who own Kelly Clarkson CDs, watch The Price Is Right unironically, and think a suction-cup Garfield is a neat aftermarket accessory. Keep your eye on the blogs to find out.