One of the chief complaints about the first-generation Scion xB was that it was woefully underpowered. Although it's an economy car, the lack of any engine options frustrated some buyers who cried for more power. For the 2008 xB, Scion has addressed this problem with the welcome addition of a 158-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.
The Scion xB will never be marketed as a performance car, but at least the 2008 models allow for respectable acceleration during normal driving situations. ConsumerGuide writes that "acceleration is good from a stop, even with the automatic transmission." Car and Driver agrees, claiming that "none of the little boxes [they've] tested recently is such an animal at the strip except for the turbocharged PT Cruiser GT." Edmunds also chimes in on engine performance on the 2008 Scion xB, saying that "there is now plenty of low-end power -- something the previous xB didn't have."
Realistically, though, few drivers of the xB Scion will be taking their cars to the drag strip, no matter how many performance accessories they drop under the hood. Perhaps more relevant are the daily driving impressions. In that field, Kelley Blue Book feels that "the 2008 xB...seems to be most at home on urban roads," while "on rural roads the xB seems a little sluggish." Overall, they conclude that the 2008 Scion xB's new engine is "a definite improvement, producing 55 more horsepower than available in the previous xB and giving it some extra power on hills and freeways."
Transferring engine power to the wheels is either a "five-speed manual or a neat sequential-shift, four-speed automatic," according to Popular Mechanics. The available transmissions on the Scion xB receive generally negative reviews, with Automobile finding that "rowing through the five-speed gearbox is like churning butter" on the manual and ConsumerGuide adding that "the automatic is sometimes slow to downshift."
With all of the 2008 Scion xB's newfound power and increased (and admittedly ungainly) dimensions, how exactly does it handle? The verdict, based on reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, is that it drives much like you would expect a box to drive--that is, without much zest. ConsumerGuide finds that although "there is moderate body lean in fast turns...a tight turning radius and light steering feel aid low-speed maneuverability." Car and Driver probably describes it best, saying that they "never fell in love with the sitting-on-a-tipsy-bar-stool feeling that arises on twisty roads." Popular Mechanics agrees, stating that "the new xB rides smoothly and quietly" around town, but it "certainly doesn't have the taut suspension and sporty soul of, say, a Honda Fit."
The 2008 Scion xB also loses points when it comes to fuel economy, as the car's ratings have dipped from the low 30s on the previous generation into the low 20s for 2008. Edmunds says that EPA estimates show that "the new xB checks in at 22 mg city/28 mpg highway."