2016 Scion tC Review

Tuesday January 5th, 2016 at 1:11 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Scion tC

By David Colman

Hypes: Serious Drivers Car
Gripes: Poor Rear Quarter Sightlines

When it comes to torque, Scion’s vaunted FR-S sports car, with 151lb.-ft., takes a distant back seat to its less celebrated, but punchier brother, the tC coupe, with 172lb.-ft. That’s because the FR-S makes do with Subaru’s anemic 2.0 liter flat four, while the tC offers a much healthier 2.5 liter in-line four mounted sideways in the engine bay.

Our test tC coupled that willing engine to a beautifully calibrated 6-speed manual transmission, with gearing splits designed to extract maximum performance without sacrificing gas mileage. This shift it yourself combination returns 31MPG in highway driving.

2016 Scion tC

In an era when most manufacturers have chosen to cover their engine bays with boring black plastic modesty shields, Scion gets high marks for letting it all hang out for you to see. Here, the basic components are on clear view, with the intoxicating sparkle of aluminum flashing everywhere. The dashboard layout is also clear, concise and handsome. A pair of oversize aluminum rings draw your attention to adjacent 8000rpm tachometer and 140mph speedometer nacelles. Matching aluminum door pulls are new for 2016. In the center of the dash sits a new, larger 7 inch touch screen with an updated Gracenote database. Unfortunately, the former CD receptacle has disappeared to make room for the upsized display panel. Scion has also seen fit to eliminate XM satellite radio from the option list, so you’ll have to make do with standard HD radio choices, or supply your own tunes from a remote device or available Aha.

The tC’s rear seats are a bear to access. The all enveloping front chairs must be slid and folded, which is no easy exercise. You must then wiggle your way arrears, where you will discover that comfort is good, though the same can’t be said for visibility. An open sunroof panel helps ward off claustrophobia. Another saving grace is the fact that the rear seat backs can be tilted for adjustment. The same lack of vision that affects back seat passengers also impinges on front seat occupants. The chunky C pillar occludes rear quarter vision, so safe reversing maneuvers are difficult.

2016 Scion tC

The tC is really fun to drive. Scion has equipped it with no nonsense, performance oriented suspension that does little to mask road irregularities but pays big dividends in precision handling and high level road holding. In that effort, the 225/45R18 Yokohama Avid S34 radials prove their merit every time you twist the tC into a turn. Completing the delightful driving picture is the fat rimmed, flat bottom steering wheel that assists guidance with excellent feedback. Clutch release is light and accurate, and the stubby knob atop the shift lever assists every up-change and downshift.

2016 Scion tC

Scion has done a bang-up job with the tC’s grey flannel suit interior. The charcoal bolstered seats feature grey and black pinstriped inserts that look so buttoned down they will appeal to senior buyers as well as tasteful millenials. Compounding the harmonious look for 2016 is a striking hammered aluminum dash panel which matches the seat design and feels cool to the touch. Engineering genius is also evident in the use of three gigantic knobs for climate control located beneath the display screen. With irrefutable logic, the left knob controls ventilation position, the center one fan speed, and the right hand temperature and A/C. The design is a thing of beauty in an age when so many manufacturers divert your attention from driving, forcing you to figure out cockeyed digital displays.

2016 Scion tC

At just $20,000, the latest iteration of the tC is a real keeper. Not only is it affordable in terms of purchase price and fuel economy, but it is exceptionally entertaining to drive. This is a rare combination in today’s marketplace, and one that highly recommends this Scion to your attention.

2016 Scion tC

  • Engine: 2.5 liter inline 4
  • Horsepower: 179hp
  • Torque: 172lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 23MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $20,000 (estimated)
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2016 Scion iM

Thursday December 10th, 2015 at 11:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Scion iM

By David Colman

Hypes: Manual Transmission Available, Bargain Price
Gripes: Poor Gear Ratio Choice, Needy High Beams

Scion’s introductory advertising campaign for the brand new iM model stresses the fact that it’s “Weird.” Really, the only thing weird about the iM we drove for a week is that its price ($19,594) is inexplicably low. This is really a very serviceable sedan with features you would expect to find in the next price class up the food chain. From a mechanical standpoint, the iM platform is first rate, with ABS disc brakes with brake force distribution at all 4 corners, standard alloy wheels ditto, and premium grade Toyo Proxes rubber (225/45R17) providing decent grip. Our test iM featured a 6 speed manual gearbox which imparts a sporting feel to operation. The gates of the linkage are well defined, and the synchronizers allow quick, sure transitions from gear to gear. If you opt for an automatic, you will find your choice limited to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) borrowed from the Toyota Corolla ECO. Also taken from the ECO is the iM’s 137hp 4 cylinder engine which powers the front wheels.

2016 Scion iM

The iM has the makings of a promising little sports sedan. But in current form, those promises are partially unrealized. The manual gearbox is fun to shift and does get you involved in the art of driving. But mushy clutch engagement spoils the party. In particular, it’s difficult to judge just when the clutch bites to engage first gear. An even bigger problem is the choice of gear ratios for second and third. These two gears are so far apart that your engine speed drops nearly 2,000rpm when up-shifting from second to third. If the engine produced lots of torque this would not pose a problem. But because the iM’s 1,8 liter four makes only 126lb.-ft. of torque, you need to conserve every foot pound. The transmission’s “weird” gearing fails to meet this need.

2016 Scion iM

As with previous Scion progeny, customization of the car’s appearance and handling are left to dealer installed options. As it stands at delivery, the iM affords a comfortable, plush ride quality at the expense of handling precision. While the Toyo tires do their best to hang on through corners, the softly sprung platform hikes over under duress, negating the grip of the tires. But help is at hand. Your local Scion dealer will offer a full line of TRD performance parts such as stiffer anti-roll bars and tauter springs. The iM will respond well to such improvements because its basic platform features fully independent strut front suspension and independent double wishbone rear suspension. This is a sophisticated design primed for aftermarket fine tuning.

2016 Scion iM

Nothing in the iM’s cabin looks or feels cheap. The front seats are comfortably configured for excellent lower back support. The driver’s seat is manually adjustable for height. All seating surfaces feature a grippy cloth that looks good and promises long life. A curious white stripe demarcates the lower edge of the black dashboard, bringing to mind the tuxedo look touted by Scion in recent TV ads for the iM. Aside from this one jarring note, the interior scores high marks for its standard 7″ Touch-screen that is easy to read and control. Although you can easily hook up your music device through provided AUX or USB ports with iPod connectivity, Scion does not offer Satellite Radio on the iM, so you’ll have to make do with your own devices or the available HD radio instead. Almost all HD selections key to album covers shown on the sizeable Touch-screen display.

A night time run in the iM revealed soothing blue lights for the instrument pod, which boasts its own 4.2 inch color multi-information display. One item to note is the fuel range read-out. We watched it hold steady at 60 miles estimated range, but as soon as we hit a few curves, the fuel warning light started blinking, and the display shifted to “Range Low.” So be extra careful when you reach the quarter tank mark on the gas gauge, because the fuel range is likely to diminish from acceptable to concerning instantly. That night run through curves also revealed a sharp cut-off of the high beams, which left much territory unlit on the driver’s side.

2016 Scion iM

The new iM is a solid piece of design work. Its crisp good looks, serviceable interior, and fun gearbox make it an affordable choice for urban drivers or millennials who aren’t car-obsessed. And with just a little help from the TRD parts bin, the iM can develop a new performance personality. Either way, it’s definitely a lot of new Scion for the money.

2016 Scion iM

  • Engine: 1.8 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 valve
  • Horsepower: 137hp
  • Torque: 121lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27MPG City/36 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $19,594

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Review: 2016 Scion FR-S

Wednesday September 30th, 2015 at 10:99 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Scion FR-S

By David Colman

Hypes: More Fun per Buck Than Anything Else
Gripes: Needs Rear Wiper, Extra 50HP

Every year since its introduction as a 2013 model, the tack sharp 2-seat FR-S has improved incrementally without significant price rise. For 2015, Scion stiffened the front suspension and retuned the rear shocks for less body roll and more communicative handling. For 2016, upgrades include a 7 inch touch screen on the dash face, voice command, and a standard rearview camera. Yet the initial 2013 base price of $24,200 has risen just $1,105 over the intervening three years to $25,305. Without question, the FR-S remains one of the best bargains in the sports coupe market. The FR-S shares all major components with Subaru’s BRZ. Both cars are virtual twins, produced by a collaboration between Toyota (Scion) and Subaru. The BRZ, however, is slightly more expensive than the FR-S, with a base price of $26,500 for 2016.

If you seek the response of a sports car, the FR-S will fulfill your quest admirably. This petite, 2,758lb. three-door stands just 50.1 inches high, and 166.7 inches long. When you park it at the mall, a wall of SUVs will instantly block it from view as you walk away. Several times during my week with the FR-S, I had trouble locating it because it was hidden from view. The FR-S is so small that it shares stature with cars from the 1960s rather than the 2016s. But if you salivate at the prospect of a twisty road, the FR-S’ small stature, rock hard springing, and pugnacious 2 liter Boxer motor represent the perfect equation for brisk motoring in vintage sports car style.

2016 Scion FR-S

The 4 cylinder, 200hp flat four, supplied by Subaru, provides adequate motivation. But the chassis is so stiff, the steering so precise, the springing so resilient that the FR-S platform could easily cope with an extra 50hp. As it stands now, the 16 valve engine, with both direct and port fuel injection, and variable valve timing, will easily spin past 7,000rpm when given its head. But the driver must be vigilant to select the correct gear ratio for each expedition to the redline. Scion supplies 6 gears, well-spaced for performance work, along with a very precise linkage that encourages you to swap cogs with brevity and diligence. In fact, the FR-S driving experience is so dependent on the joy of shifting manually that I would dissuade potential owners from selecting the automatic gearbox, an $1,100 option, because it’s such a buzz-kill.

The Scion FR-S handles with acuity because its engine is up front but its driven wheels are out back. This configuration, increasingly rare in a world of front wheel drive (FWD) machines, is the ticket to handling prowess that no FWD combo can ever match. To gild the lily, Scion has made sure to include a proper Torsen limited slip differential (LSD) as standard equipment. This is an expensive supplement to the drive train that insure both rear wheels carry their share of the traction load regardless of pavement irregularities. Mazda’s MX-5, the only comparable sports car in price and performance to the FR-S, charges $558 extra for an LSD plus up-rated shocks. The only drawback to the FR-S spec sheet is Scion’s continued inclusion of Michelin Primacy tires (215/45R17) as standard fare. These middling all- season rollers belong on a family sedan, not a potent sports coupe with g-Force aspirations.

2016 Scion FR-S

Inside the cockpit, a notable oversight is lack of a fold/slide lever on the upper surface of the front seats. This means that every time you try to toss something in the abbreviated back seat, you must lift the low mounted back angle latch first, then slide the seat forward if needed via a second control located under the seat. VW’s GTI offers a single lift control near the headrest that both tilts and slides the front seats of its Golf, so Scion could do better here. However, they would be hard pressed to improve on the front seats themselves. These race style, form-fitting, high backed buckets will keep you happy for hours on the open road but still administer enough lateral support to facilitate track days or autocrosses. They offer the perfect compromise between support and practicality. But because the FR-S is so low slung, you will find it best to follow this prescription for climbing in: grab the steering wheel’s fat leather wrapped rim, shift your inboard leg and butt into the high sided bucket seat, then yank the rest of you in with a tight grip on the wheel. Not pretty but effective.

2016 Scion FR-S

The fetching F-RS is both pretty and effective. If you can find a better sports car for the money, I’ll be more than happy to evaluate it. Odds are, however, that you won’t discover anything close to this ingeniously designed bargain Scion.

2016 Scion FR-S

  • Engine: 2.0 liter 4 cyl Boxer 16 valves, dual variable valve timing, direct and port inj.
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: 151lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,075
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Scion FR-S

Tuesday November 25th, 2014 at 1:1111 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Scion FR-S

By David Colman

Hypes: Handles Better Than a Bug Eye Sprite
Gripes: Some Interior Ergonomic Improvements Needed

Over the course of a car model year, I typically test 50 new vehicles. Of those, fewer than 10 make the cut as cars I would buy and own. The Scion FR-S is one of those 10 for 2014. The FR-S’ fun-to-price ratio pegs it as a best buy in the sports coupe category. If you’re an enthusiast driver looking for slot car handling in a practical, economical package, this Scion fits the bill. Every time you slip behind its perforated black leather steering wheel, you know you’re in for a spell of undiluted driving entertainment. Only a car as nimble and light (2,758 lb.) as the FR-S can provide the immediate feedback that is this Scion’s defining trait. The interface between driver and machine is so polished and rewarding that you will never look at recreational driving the same way again. That you can experience automotive nirvana for a base price of just $24,700 defies logic.

2014 Scion FR-S

It certainly isn’t the FR-S’ Subaru power plant that evokes such jubilation. The 2.0 liter opposed 4 cylinder engine is hard pressed to make 200hp and just 151lb.-ft. of torque without also producing substantial noise and vibration. The silver faced tachometer, which features a programmable rev indicator, reads to 9,000rpm. Although the Boxer motor reaches redline at 7,600rpm, you’ll want to up shift sooner than that to avoid the racket at redline. Although the FR-S is not blindingly quick in a straight line, it’s so well balanced that you hardly notice the power shortfall. The superb steering feel, ultra precise shift linkage, and highly retentive sport seats foster the illusion that you’re driving a race car. Only the similarly priced Mazda MX-5 comes close to emulating the responsiveness of the FR-S. And the petit Mazda roadster offers none of the FR-S’ practicality: roomy interior, hatchback storage access, abbreviated rear seat, and permanently enclosed construction. You get the same kind of performance as the MX-5 without making the kind of concessions that render the Mazda comparatively impractical for daily use. This Scion can be your daily driver all week long, then play racer for you on the weekends.

2014 Scion FR-S

Of course, you will notice a few price point-bred drawbacks to FR-S ownership. When you open the cabin door, you will be hard pressed to stuff your bag or purse into the rear seat area without first tilting the front seatbacks forward. When you flop them backwards in order to climb in, the back rest returns, not to your pre-selected angle, but rather to the full upright position. After you’ve dealt with this 2 or 3 times in the course of a day’s errands, you’ll wonder why Scion didn’t endow these otherwise excellent seats with backrest position memory. The rather elemental beverage holder between the front seats also garners a cost cutting demerit. It contains 2 identically sized receptacles, neither of which feature prongs to adapt to smaller diameter cups. As a result, my co-pilot was forced to stabilize a Starbucks “tall” size cup by hand, rather than rely on the sloppy fit of the holder. These shortcomings are a surprise in a cabin that is otherwise thoughtfully designed, with unexpectedly lavish attention to detail.

For example, the clutch, brake and accelerator “sport” pedals are furnished with slip free surfaces fashioned from rubber and aluminum that match the threshold scuff plates. This intricate bright work looks like it belongs on a Ferrari, not a bargain Scion. Likewise, the dash face looks suitably business like and racy thanks to a faux carbon fiber strip that garnishes the understated interior with just the right touch of glamour. Red contrasting stitching on the steering wheel, seat bolsters and door kick plates are the only traces of flamboyance in the tightly focused driving environment Scion has perfected here.

2014 Scion FR-S

The 215/45R17 Bridgestone Turanza R400 tires provide a slight handling improvement over the Michelin all-season radials fitted to previous FR-Ss throughout the first year of production. But given this coupe’s inherent balance and grip, it cries out for the stickiest aftermarket tires you can afford. If this FR-S landed in my garage on a permanent basis, it would be wearing a set of BFG, or Hoosier soft compound autocross rubber that would transform it into the go-kart Scion meant to be at birth.

2014 Scion FR-S

  • Engine: 2.0 liter opposed 4 cylinder DOHC, 16 Valve
  • Horsepower: 200hp
  • Torque: 151lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $25,455
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Scion FR-S Automatic Review

Monday April 1st, 2013 at 8:44 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Incredible Handling Precision
Gripes: Where’s the Turbo?

It’s a lot more fun to be the driver of an FR-S than its passenger. The lucky driver enjoys the diminutive coupe’s exceptional road holding while the passenger gets a head lashing from excessive g-Forces. The driver picks precise lines through switchbacks while the passenger gets jounced like a bobblehead. If you’re not in the captain’s chair of the F-RS you might as well stay home, because this Toyota is all about the art of driving not riding.

You might think that saddling the FR-S with an automatic gearbox would detract from its ultimate appeal as a back road weapon. I know that I was crestfallen to discover — after lacing up my best driving shoes — that this FR-S had but two pedals on the floor. But I needn’t have worried, because the paddle=shifted 6-speed automatic is so responsive to driver input that you can make it sing the same high-pitched aria as its stick shift sister.

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2013 Scion FR-S Review

Wednesday December 26th, 2012 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Light, Swift, Agile, Racerized
Against: Needs Stickier Tires, 6-Speed Automatic Is Buzz Kill

The bold new Scion FR-S looks best when painted in Hot Lava, a shocking shade of pearlescent orange that perfectly summarizes the impertinent nature of this sizzling hot hatchback. With the FR-S, Scion engineers have managed to craft the perfect autocross car. Once properly classed by the Competition Board of the SCCA, the FR-S will win many national titles, not only in autocross, but road racing as well. In fact, the FR-S is destined to become the next Mazda Miata/MX-5 in terms of affordability, competitiveness, and cult interest. The FR-S will also launch a cottage industry of tuners dedicated to making it go faster and handle better.

Video from Ignition
YouTube Preview Image

This is a ground-breaking product, because its design was generated, not by considerations of practicality, comfort, nor gadgetry, but by performance metrics alone. This is not to say that the FR-S is impractical, uncomfortable, or bare bones, because it is not any of those things. But those ancillaries never factored into the basic equation here. Toyota, with input from Subaru (who sell their own version called BRZ), never wavered from their laser-like design vision: “Build a sports car – not by committee, but by passion – that is light, compact, agile, and intuitive, delivering true sports car performance at an affordable price.”

Just like the original Miata of 1990, the FR-S offers quintessential sports car performance. And it does so at a remarkably affordable base price of $24,200. In fact, the out-the-door bottom line on our test car was $24,997, including $67 for wheel locks, and $730 for delivery processing and handling fee. At the long-lead press presentation of the FR-S, Scion included hot laps on the Spring Mountain motorsports and country club track in Pahrump, NV. Just to prove the car’s bona fides, event planners also included a testy autocross course on an adjacent skidpad area.

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2012 Scion tC Review

Wednesday July 18th, 2012 at 11:77 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: High Grade Standard Seats, Sunroofs, Vast Hatchback Opening
Against: Expensive TRD Options, No Paddle Shifts

At a base price of just $19,575, the Scion tC puts you in the driver’s seat of a solid, enjoyable product of Toyota engineering. Redesigned with a turret-top and slit headlights for 2011, the striking tC remains unchanged for 2012. Its specification list surprises you with unexpected extras. Under the stubby hood lies a 2.5 liter, in-line 4, decked out with variable valve timing (VVT-i), twin overhead camshafts (DOHC) and 16 valves, all of which conspire to produce a hefty 180hp. Now that almost every engine compartment is hidden from view by plastic modesty shielding, it’s a pleasure to be able to examine the workings of this Scion’s lively four binger without having to remove an obstructive cover plate.

Unanticipated extras keep on coming once you slip inside the low-roofed cabin. The driver’s seat feels like it belongs in a much more expensive vehicle, with its nubby fabric gripping your torso, and its high side bolsters clamping you like a vice. Given the fact that our test tC was optionally equipped ($2,199) with 19 inch anthracite TRD alloy wheels and high g-force generating Toyo Proxes S4 tires (235/35ZR19), the cosseting seats were more than a match for the exceptional side loads posted by this Scion. Another unexpected benefit of the tC’s redesign is the standard double sunroof that brightens the interior. This solarium effect more than compensates for the short side windows that give the new tC its tank-like profile. Once you’re settled inside, you almost feel like you’re driving a convertible. The separate rear sunroof makes even the rear seat seem like a hospitable place, though access to it is inhibited by the car’s short wheelbase and bulky front seat backs.

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2011 Scion tC Review – Calling out to the Millenials, but speaking at low volume

Saturday August 13th, 2011 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: Derek

2011 Scion tC 18-inch alloy wheels
By someone posing as Derek

Likes:

  • Optional Alpine sound system
  • Smart iPod interface
  • Reclining rear seat

Dislikes:

  • New exterior design looks very close to the first generation
  • Too much use of hard plastics inside the cabin
  • Droning exhaust note
  • Uninspiring road handling dynamics

Toyota merrily points out that Scion has the youngest average customer in the industry and that 71 percent of all 800,000 or so Scions have been sold to buyers who are new to the Toyota brand. It seems Scion’s customers are America’s newest generation, the Millennials, who are in their middle of this coming-of-age phase of its life cycle. Its oldest members are approaching age 30; its youngest are approaching adolescence. Interestingly enough, with a median age of 29, it’s the tC coupe’s 310,000 total sales since 2002 (accounting for 41 percent of all Scion production) that manages to attract the youngest customers of all.

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2012 Scion iQ Review – Diminutive in size, big on practicality

Monday August 1st, 2011 at 10:88 AM
Posted by: Derek

2012 Scion iQ
By David Colman

Likes:

  • Urban champ
  • Nimble
  • Recasts microcar as premium product

Dislikes:

  • Still tight dimensions
  • CVT drone
  • Wear a helmet

Microcars have always demanded that you make concessions to absurdity. Most of them look like circus clown cars or they make you behave like a circus clown. Generally speaking they’re pitifully small and slow. And there’s always been something demeaning about them, whether climbing through a clamshell windshield for entry, or cowering next to an adjacent semi. While they might be perfect for collecting microbes or reading microfiche, microcars have historically been impractical. But what if you could design one to behave like a real car? Then you’d have a Scion iQ.

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2011 Scion xB Release Series 8.0 First Impressions Review – Lets Do That Voodoo That You Do So Well

Friday April 22nd, 2011 at 11:44 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2011_scion_xc_release80_1
By contributing editor David Colman

Hits:

  • 1 of 2,000
  • Utilitarian
  • Affordable

Misses:

  • Glacial acceleration
  • Alpine Premium iPod Ready stereo not ready for my iPod

Let’s say you’ve set yourself a price limit of $25,000 for a small, but fun-to-drive 5-place transportation module. You want something that’s minuscule enough to park anywhere, but large enough inside to forestall claustrophobia. In addition to those seemingly contradictory requirements, your ideal pick must also be sufficiently idiosyncratic to stand apart from anything else in the parking lot. Allow me to introduce you to the Scion xB Release Series 8.0.

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