The 2011 Scion tC drives like it looks, and it’s a bulldog of a car, all blocky and squared off, blunt to a fault, with short front and rear overhangs and a track that pushes wide sport tires outwards under chunky flares. The shoulders are high, or perhaps the roof is low; either way the tC looks like it came from the factory with a Cal custom chopped top.
On a winding road, the 2011 Scion tC puts its head down and barrels around corners, elbows out and feet wide for balance, with well measured charges and, at least on our test tC, a lusty bellow that says let’s do this some more.
The 2011 Scion tC comes with attitude as standard equipment.
The 2011 tC is all new, replacing the original front-drive three-door sport coupe with more of the same, except better and faster.
All-new engine The engine in the 2011 tC is all-new, a 2.5-liter four set transversely under the hood. The intake and exhaust camshafts have variable valve timing, roller rocker arms for decreased friction and variable-length intake manifold for added torque without losing power on the top end. A new lightweight and sport-tuned exhaust is also part of the upgrade. Overall, the new engine is rated at 180 horsepower, and increase of 19 horses over last year’s tC. Torque is up by 11 lb-ft.
Two six-speed transmissions are available in the 2011 Scion tC, a manual as in our test tC, or a six-speed automatic with sequential shifting.
The 2011 Scion tC rides on an “enhanced” platform with MacPherson strut front suspension and, rather than the twist-beam suspension one might expect in the tC’s price class, a double-wishbone rear suspension for a better ride and control. The Scion tC also gets bigger disc brakes than last year’s at all four corners, and electric power steering.
Scion gave the 2011 tC a driver-centric interior with the controls angled around the driver, the center stack sharply wedged towards the driver. A large speedometer and tachometer are equally sized–wouldn’t a larger, centered tachometer be cool?– and separated by a standard tripmeter with the usual stuff. We’d prefer, however, that Scion would find a separate place for the outside air temperature rather than having to scroll through the tripmeter to find how cold or hot it is outside. (We know this car was designed in California but the rest of the country has temperatures that actually change).
Flat on the bottom The driver gets a flat-bottomed steering wheel, allegedly for increased legroom, but it’s not that flat bottomed and it’s not that close to anyone’s thighs. But it sure does look racer-like.
Equally racer-looking are the grippy fabric-covered sport seats and these are fully functional. The big side bolsters, combined with a cinched-down seatbelt are supportive and retentive for bona fide track day use. The average 2011 Scion tC owner may not get to drive the tC on a race track but the seats are autocross ready and more than absolutely needed for road use…which means they’re just right.
The back seat, however, is the opposite of adult rated. It’s snug for grownups but doable in a pinch. A full-sized young persons who don’t mind Chinese contortionist seating won’t mind. To Scion’s credit, however, the driver seat has a memory function to make access to the rear seat–and repositioning or the driver’s seat easier. The front passenger must reset the front seat after letting someone into the back seat.
Our test 2011 Scion tC had the optional Alpine Premium HD radio (“iPod radio DC deck”), and with high definition radio not available in our test area we couldn’t verify the sound quality of that feature. Like other Scions we have driven, the radio is difficult to operate for simple functions. Bring back the two basic knobs, please.
The other sounds If we liked the sounds coming from the audio system, however, the exhaust system had nifty reverberations of its own. Scion claims the standard exhaust system “delivers a noticeably bold and aggressive sound.” Perhaps, but our test 2011 Scion tC had an accessory TRD sport muffler, and TRD is short for Toyota Racing and Development. The accessory muffler yields a basso rumble at idle and a raucus tone when driven hard easy or anywhere in between.We think this is the way every Scion tC should sound, even if it doesn’t give any more horsepower, and Scion doesn’t claim it does.
As it is, the 2011 Scion tC has enough grunt to break the tire traction on the first-to-second shift if the wheels are pointed exactly straight ahead, though Scion has tamed torque steer. The tC’s 180 horses is healthy though still short of other engine of equal size. Still, it’s enough for fun in a 3,060 lb sport coupe. That ton and a half seems heavy but the tC is larger than most lighter cars. Nevertheless, we wish Scion had more of the engineering paring knife taken to the tC.
Handing with no kid gloves Nothing is missing from the 2011 Scion tC’s hammer and tongs handling, however. The ride is stiff, though not out of character for a sport coupe and still supple enough for traction on rough and rippley roads.
Our only complaint about the 2011 Scion tC’s winding roads handling is the layout of the pedals. The brake and throttle pedal are too far apart for heel-and-toe shifting for anyone not equipped with duck feet.
In day-to-day use the intrusive exhaust note will bother only those who don’t like it. That’s a tautology, perhaps, but those not enthralled by a modestly muffled four-cylinder engine aren’t likely to buy a Scion tC, or particularly equip it with a TRD sorta-muffler.
A drone is a male bee, right? Speaking of which, the TRD muffler on the 2011 Scion tC fills the interior with a drone a highway speeds, overpowering the nuances that fine audio system can provide. Top gear on the tC, however, yields a moderately relaxed 2700 rpm at about 70 mph.
The tall sixth gear ratio also aids in producing a 31 mpg EPA highway fuel mileage estimate, that up against a 23 mpg city rating. Our fuel economy on two consecutive tanks was 20.1 and 23.9 mpg. We suspect the enthusiast driver will get numbers in that vicinity.
Reaching inside And the 2011 Scion tC does bring out the inner juvenile in even an experienced driver–a subtle way of saying “older”. The 2011 Scion tC is priced for the younger budget as well, with a well-equipped base price of $18,275 and a bottom line, boosted primarily for audio options, of $20,942.
We almost wish it were priced higher, just to make the 2011 Scion tC more acceptable for older drivers to park in their driveways. Scion probably wouldn’t like that, however, as the first generation Scion tC was the best selling model in its youth-targeted lineup. Perhaps that’s best, too, because younger, less financially-established drivers need entertaining wheels as well, and an automobile that looks like it drives.
2011 Scion tc, prices and key specifications, as tested
Base price: $16,950
- Apline Premium HD Radio iPod Ready CD Deck: $449
- Bluetooth handfree: $299
- Carpeted floormat and cargo mat: $170
- Rear bumper applique: $55
- XM satellite radio kit: $440
- TRD sport muffler: $525
- Destination: $670
Body style/layout: 3-door hatchback coupe, front engine/front-wheel drive
- Type: 2.5-liter 16-valve DOHC I-4
- Displacement, cc: 2494
- Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
- Horsepower: 180 hp @ 6000 rpm
- Torque: 173 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
- Recommended fuel: unleaded regular
- Fuel economy, EPA est.: 23/31 mpg city/highway
- Fuel economy, observed: 20.1 and 23.9 mpg
Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Suspension, front/rear: McPherson strut / double wishbone
- Wheels: 18×7.5-inch alloy
- Tires: 225/45R18
- Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 11.65-inch dia. front/10.98-inch dia. rear
- Steering: electric rack-and-pinion
- Turning circle: 37.4 ft.
- Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
- Length: 174.0 in.
- Height: 55.7 in.
- Width: 70.7 in.
- Curb weight: 3,060 lbs
- Trunk volume, max: 34.5 cu. ft.
- Fuel tank: 14.5 gal.
Warranty: 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain; 3-year/36,000 bumper-to-bumper
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