2011 Scion tC Review – A Trendy Sport Coupe for All Ages

Expert Reviews Scion

By contributing editor David Colman


  • Generous bump in horsepower and torque over the previous generation
  • Retuned suspension makes the new tC fun to drive
  • Flat-bottom, fat-rimmed steering wheel adds to the fun factor
  • Available TRD options for off-the-scale fun


  • Sequential transmission missing steering wheel mounted shifter paddles
  • Inside sunroof cover is flimsy
  • Small buttons and knobs make it difficult to use the Alpine stereo
  • 5 inch navigation screen too small and difficult to read with a quick glance

Despite the fact that Scion would like you to think that their new second generation tC is the perfect parcel designed exclusively for Gen Y, this smart new coupe outsmarts its own parent company by appealing to all age groups. No, you don’t have to love discordant music played at ear splitting levels to love the new tC. Nor do you need to cock your flat brim farmer’s cap sideways to appreciate this latest effort from Toyota’s youngest offspring company. In fact, it’s something of a mystery just why Scion limits their marketing to an age group that can barely afford to purchase a tC without parental assistance.

2011 Scion tC2011 Scion tC

Be that as it may, the latest tC is a great mode of transport for two adults of any age. Scion has improved a sound package in every way, from engine, to suspension, to appearance. Starting under the hood, which still uses a prop rod for support when open, you’ll discover a newly enlarged, in-line, four cylinder motor, now displacing 2.5 liters. Although that’s only 100cc bigger than its predecessor, both horsepower and torque are significantly stronger, with 180hp on tap at 6,000rpm (versus 161hp) and 173lb-ft of torque at 4,100rpm (versus 162lb-ft). You can feel the extra surge from a dead stop all the way past 60mph, as the acceleration figures attest: 0-60mph now takes 7.6 seconds for a tC equipped with the manual transmission, and 8.3 seconds for the automatic. The previous model did 0-60mph in 8.2 and 9.1 seconds, respectively. Part of the improvement is attributable to the fact that both the manual and automatic gearboxes now contain 6 speeds, instead of 5 for the stick and 4 for the automatic in the earlier version tC.

The underpinnings of the diminutive coupe have undergone a similar transformation. Although the basic architecture of the suspension remains the same, with a MacPherson Strut front setup, and double wishbone rear, Toyota has retuned spring, damper and anti-roll bar rates to provide more responsive handling. Abetting that effort is a sizable increase in track (1.3” front, 1.1” rear), and a wheel/tire upgrade from previously standard 17 x 7 inch alloy rims and 215/45R17 tires to 18 x 7.5 inch rims with 225/45R18 rubber. Both front and rear discs brakes increase in diameter by nearly three quarters of an inch. Add newly devised electronic (versus hydraulic) power steering that is now speed sensitive, and you’ve got a potent new handling package for the tC that moves it close to VW GTI performance levels.

2011 Scion tC TRD

2011 Scion tC show with option TRD package

On a couple of different 90 mile drive loops through the mountains East of San Diego, we sampled a pair of differently appointed new tCs. First trip, in a Black coupe equipped with automatic gearbox (Base Price $19,275) and uprated Alpine stereo, proved the new engine’s torque characteristics are well mated to the sequential shift transmission. The 6-speeds, which can be chosen by bumping the console mounted stick for and aft, keep the fire well lit in the engine room. The automatic tC is a lively combo, with decent handling, comfortable ride, low wind noise, and excellent cockpit ergonomics. The new flat-bottom, fat-rimmed steering wheel is a pleasure to use, the driver-angled center instrument stack is easy to read and operate, thanks to 3 large, knurled knobs for the HVAC system. On the debit side, the sequential shifter should have paddles for steering wheel operation. Additionally, the inside sunroof cover is flimsy, the Alpine head unit was difficult to operate due to its tiny buttons, and the 3” x 5” Navigation screen it contains is difficult to view in ambient light and way too small to read at a glance.

2011 Scion tC2011 Scion tC 6-speed manual transmission

If sporting inclinations are foremost, you’ll love the tC we drove next. This manual transmission model (Base Price $18,275), finished in a newly available shade called Magnetic Gray Metallic, had optional TRD sway bars front and rear, plus a TRD “performance” muffler. The beefy shift knob of the new 6-speed stick works like a surgical tool. Clutch tip-in is sweet and smooth. The free-flow exhaust gives instant engine feedback without ever becoming obtrusive. The larger sway bars refine handling precision with no penalty in discomfort. Perhaps the biggest improvement comes from a difference in tire fitment. Whereas the black tC was shod with very noisy Toyo Proxes A20 tires, the Granite coupe rode on vastly quieter Yokohama Avid S34 tires. The dash of this car also contained a superior “Scion Navigation System” with a 7” x 4” screen that was easy to read. However, our iPod refused to connect in both coupes, a failure attributed by tech staff on hand to Japan/US connectivity problems in these pre-production models.

While engine, suspension and packaging improvements tend to fly under the radar, what you will most notice about the new tC is its improved appearance. This formerly prosaic looking coupe, which bore no familial resemblance to its pugnacious brother, the xB panel wagon, has finally scored some styling salsa of its own, courtesy of Toyota’s in-house styling studio, CALTY. Thanks to the widened track, flared fenders became necessary. The flares combine with a nastier frontal aspect and a retooled greenhouse mimicking racing helmet design to produce an iconic look wholly different from its predecessor. There’s no reason why Release 2 of the tC won’t handily outsell Release 1. And there are 310,000 of the old models on the road right now.

2011 Scion tC TRD

By the Numbers
2011 SCION tC

  • ENGINE: 2.5 Liter DOHC In-Line 4 with Variable Valve Timing
  • HORSEPOWER: 180hp at 6,000rpm
  • TORQUE: 173lb-ft at 4,100rpm


David Colman has been writing vehicle tests for 24 years. His work has been featured in AutoWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Marin Independent Journal. In 1987, he helped start Excellence, The Magazine About Porsche, which he edited for many years. He has been an active participant in racing and Solo events since 1961. More reviews written by Colman can be found at www.autoeditor.com

2011 Scion tC Photo Gallery

Scion tC

2007 Scion tC Review

ScionOfficial website for Scion – www.scion.com

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  • Rey Arcilla says:

    Just bought a 2011 crimson with cold air box, rear spoiler and TRD muffler as a daily driver. Fun to drive. already have 6000 miles on it.

  • Stacey Reffel says:

    Just purchased the 2011 tc $20008.00 with floor mats,standard radio
    fog lights, mud flaps, and rear spoiler. I’ve only put 77 miles on car, I installed clearmask and tinted windows.
    Went to buy new wheels & snow tires,they changed the bolt pattern from 5 on 100m to 5 on 4 1/2. That made it more complicated for me.
    Then put rubber floor mats in car and dealer said they still didn’t
    allow them, due to gas peddle sticking?
    Have not seen new TRD catalog,should be a great car
    Driver; Stacey Reffel

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