2008 Scion xB

James Tate
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2008 Scion xB

If you're an automaker and you're planning the successor to the iconic vehicle that all but singlehandedly created your new youth division, there are a couple of different routes you can take. For its second-generation Scion xB, Toyota could have ditched the box-on-wheels concept altogether in favor of something as fresh and as different as the xB was when it bowed in 2003. Instead, it concluded that the xB is the Scion brand, in much the same way that the 911 is Porsche. So Toyota reshaped and stretched the xB's sheetmetal while retaining the essence of the box, and it's underscoring the point with a hipster marketing scheme called "Want2BSquare." And did we mention that it increased power by half?

With a 55-hp boost courtesy of the tC coupe's 158-hp, 2.4-liter four, the new xB feels a lot torquier than the 2007 model but only a hair faster. No wonder: it gained a whopping 605 pounds, because it's a foot longer and three inches wider, and it rides on a wheelbase that's four inches longer. The standard manual transmission's vague gearshifter hardly makes the most of the available power, and even if you opt for the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) short-throw shifter, rowing through the five-speed gearbox is like churning butter.

The overly sensitive traction and stability control can now, thankfully, be extinguished. To a degree, that is: if extreme yaw angles are detected, the system will rain on your parade even after you've switched it off. This is overly cautious Toyota we're talking about, after all. Yet the xB is fun to pitch through corners despite its weight gain.The new base xB is very well equipped, but dealers will, as usual, be happy to dangle a tempting array of profitable options in front of you. Those buyers who cannot resist the massive, dealer-installed nineteen-inch wheels and TRD lowering springs will trade predictability for sharper turn-in but somewhat darty handling, and their xBs will find every road imperfection and bounce disconcertingly down poorly paved freeways. Of course, they'll look pretty cool as they do so.

Cabin ergonomics are top-notch. Naturally, the stereo is ready to blast the contents of your iPod, and the premium audio system's auxiliary inputs make it easier to add more equipment.

There will be those who can't stomach the xB's weight gain or its bigger, softer-looking exterior. But with a package this good starting at only sixteen grand, Scion needn't worry about finding enough people who want 2B square.

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