The all-new 2011 Scion tC arrives after seven years with the original. This second-generation tC rides on a new platform, keeping the same length but offering a bit more room. A new engine brings 180 horsepower and 173 pounds-feet of torque, with a quickened pace: from 0 to 60 in 7.6 seconds with the manual transmission.
The 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine uses the latest lightweight technology, with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), roller rocker arms and a variable-induction intake manifold system that changes the length of the air-intake pipe to supply more torque on demand. Fuel mileage is improved by 3 mpg to an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in combined city and highway driving, and the emissions rating remains at ULEV II. Overall, there's been a weight gain of about 100 pounds.
Both transmissions are new for 2011, with a 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual replacing the antiquated 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual. We preferred the manual gearbox because the automatic doesn't offer a sport mode.
The styling has changed direction somewhat. In an apparent attempt to be edgy, the roofline is sharper at the A-pillar and C-pillar. And the nose of the new tC has more rounded shoulders with large wheel cutouts, a more current look.
Other improvements the 2011 tC has over the 2010 previous-generation model include bigger brakes and wheels, with 18-inch alloys standard, and electric power steering. There's a reclining and flat-folding 60/40 rear seat, steering wheel with audio controls, and a 300-watt eight-speaker sound system borrowed from big sister Lexus.
The interior features a flat-bottomed steering wheel, while the numbers on the tachometer and speedometer are lit-up in orange with a 3D effect. The fabric seats have good adjustment and movement to allow access into the rear, which technically seats three but doesn't offer much room, however no coupe of this size does. Leather is not available.
The Scion tC comes as only one model, with standard or automatic transmission, but there are 45 accessories available to create a distinct identity for the car. A big moonroof is standard equipment, with a mesh wind deflector at its leading edge. Surprisingly, Bluetooth is only available as a dealer-installed accessory.
The suspension is MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear, and it's firm enough for everyday driving, the ride comfortable without being soft. The new tC has a wider track and wider tires; also a wider turning circle, 37.4 feet from 36.1 feet. The speed-sensing electric power steering replaces the old hydraulic system, saving pumps, pulleys and fluid. Brakes have been grown a bit, 11.65-inch vented discs in front and 10.8-inch solids in rear, and they feel good.
We also got seat time in a 6-speed manual with TRD exhaust and sway bars, and it was a world of difference, including in the cornering. The sound was more distinctive without being loud. If you're going driving for fun, and not just stylish transportation, you should choose the gearbox and TRD suspension parts.