Rear-drive coupes like the Mustang and the new Genesis Coupe will outshine it on the track, but the Scion tC is a pleasant daily driver with a hint or two of satisfying performance.
Even without the add-on performance promised by Toyota's performance division, the tC's four-cylinder engine acquits itself with good acceleration. The 2.5-liter four is the only powerplant offered on the tC, and it's worth 180 horsepower in this application, putting out a slight burble from its tuned exhaust from about 3200 rpm, as it winds up smoothly for its fairly large displacement. It doesn't feel particularly rev-happy, but it will push to a 6400-rpm redline, and Scion says it's good for 0-60 mph times of about 7.6 seconds with the manual shifter, 8.3 sec with the automatic.
Those transmissions will split the tC owner base, with tuner-intending owners opting for the nicely weighted manual despite its crazy-light clutch uptake. The automatic's a better daily driver, and there's not a lot of shame for choosing it in a car that straddles the economy and performance line. Scion's skipping any kind of paddles for now, which we hate, but at this price point it's not much of a surprise.
On the roads in and out of San Diego, the tC's ride quality came up at the top of its charming list. And in this case that's not fatal for a sport coupe. Even with 18-inch stock wheels (and 19-inchers an option), the tC rides calmly over perennial construction bumps and mild pavement waves. Toyota had tC hatches with TRD racing pieces installed, and the thick stabilizer bars turn the car into more of a sledgehammer on these kinds of streets, but an unmodified tC and its independent suspension is a fairly nerve-soothing choice among sporty cars. Electric power steering actually feels good here, too, as do the bigger all-disc brakes.