The engine doesn't provide much oomph to match the 2009 Scion tC's sporting looks, but Toyota Racing Development (TRD) go-fast parts are available—at a price.
Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 161 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. "The Civic Si and the Mazda3 have as much horsepower, but they can't match the tC's twist," says Car and Driver, who, like many, contends that the tC's generous torque down low makes it an agreeable, enjoyable motivator. Edmunds also appreciates the "meatier low-end torque than smaller-engined competitors like the Honda Civic." However, they remark, "Acceleration is adequate, with the 0-60-mph dash done in around 8.5 seconds...Should you spring for the dealer-installed supercharger, 0-60 [takes] just 7.2 seconds." With the supercharger, output is boosted to 200 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque, and "it's covered under warranty," assures ForbesAutos.
Edmunds recommends buyers "go with the manual transmission, as it has crisp shifting action and a smooth clutch. Automatic-equipped tCs are less enjoyable." Getting the power to the ground is the previous-generation Camry's five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Showing their age with a paucity of ratios (some of its competitors have five or six), the transmissions nonetheless work well in the tC due in large part to its torque-rich four. Kelley Blue Book finds that "the five-speed manual delivers crisp, short shifts," but Cars.com mentions "the clutch can be jumpy." ConsumerGuide complains that the autobox "wouldn't make a kickdown shift without flooring the gas pedal" at cruising speeds, while Edmunds complains "the four-speed can be hesitant and indecisive during enthusiastic runs on back roads."
The general consensus among reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is that the 2009 Scion tC's handling and braking are above average. But there are rumblings of disappointment. Labeling its chassis "an underachiever," Car and Driver explains "the culprit for the tC's otherwise estimable performance is weight." Less than competitive skidpad numbers and a front-heavy, understeering demeanor can be cured by optional suspension bits that Road and Track assures "will help you get the suspension sorted." With four-wheel independent suspension and front and rear stabilizers standard, the 2009 tC provides a solid foundation for tuning and customization. ConsumerGuide testifies to the platform's basic goodness, claiming that "handling is entertaining and confident" and "steering has good feel and weight." Reports ForbesAutos, "The standard antilock brakes include electronic brake-force distribution [but] unfortunately, stability control is not offered on the Scion tC." The brakes do have "firm and progressive pedal feel," adds ConsumerGuide.
The weight penalty also affects the 2009 Scion tC's fuel economy. According to fueleconomy.gov, with the automatic the tC achieves only 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway; those numbers aren't much better than those of some bigger cars with V-6 engines.