2008 Scion tC Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

The 2008 tC has the look and feel of a $30,000 coupe at $10,000 less, fully loaded.

To bring you this comprehensive review of the 2008 Scion tC, the car experts at TheCarConnection.com researched some of the best reviews on the Web to put together this conclusive review. Then TheCarConnection’s editors included comments on their own experience with the tC.

The 2008 Scion tC is the only coupe model to be sold under the Scion brand, which is offered at select Toyota dealerships. The tC is based on the European-market Toyota Avensis. Now the oldest vehicle in the Scion lineup of small cars, the tC adopts a new front end—with projector headlamps and round taillamps—that more closely resembles that of its new teammates.

The tC is powered by a 161-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes the tC quite entertaining to drive with the standard five-speed manual transmission, or adequate for most needs with the available four-speed automatic. The 2008 Scion tC handles especially well, with good, communicative steering and a firm but comfortable ride.

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Inside, the 2008 Scion tC has a sporty, cockpit-like design, with snug, well-bolstered front seats and a good driving position, though tall drivers will find themselves short on headroom. The fashionable interior and instrument panel design look like they could belong to a much more expensive vehicle. The low seating position, high beltline, and chunky rear pillars can make rearward vision challenging. There’s enough space for up to three in the small backseat, with decent access, but the tC’s rather narrow body limits comfort (and elbow room). The engine can be heard as a subtle sporty tone inside the cabin, but coarse road surfaces can introduce an unwelcome boominess.

The 2008 Scion tC comes in two models, one of which is a well-equipped single-spec version that includes a very generous level of standard equipment such as air conditioning, keyless entry, a Panorama moonroof, sport seats, steering-wheel controls, cruise control, and a Pioneer sound system with subwoofer. A second model, the tC Spec, omits the moonroof, sport seats, subwoofer, and other items but starts at a price $1,700 lower, allowing a budget for those who want to add a lot of accessories. Among the many dealer-installed accessories on the tC are carbon-fiber trim, fog lamps, a rear spoiler, and plenty of trim pieces and appearance enhancements, along with more serious performance equipment from Toyota Racing Development (TRD), including a performance exhaust, front strut tower brace, and rear sway bar. A navigation system is optional, as is an upgraded Pioneer sound system that has the capability to play "skins" and four-second video clips; an iPod kit is also available.

Standard on the 2008 Scion tC are dual side and side curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, and anti-lock brakes; electronic stability control isn’t available, though. The tC has been crash-tested by the federal government and did well, with four- and five-star results for frontal impact and great five-star ratings for side impact.

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2008 Scion tC

Styling

The 2008 Scion tC has a fashionable shape and interior design that looks like a much more expensive vehicle.

Sleek and restrained, yet taut and sporty, the 2008 Scion tC might just be the lowest-priced way to get BMW good looks.

By and large, reviewers praise the tC’s restrained-yet-purposeful styling. “We like the tC’s sophisticated look and assertive stance,” compliments Car and Driver. Autoblog, talking about “the snub nose and tear-shaped headlights a la BMW,” feels the tC offers “quite a striking look and [is] unlike anything else in the price range.” Only MyRide.com goes negative, stating their wish for “a more compelling design.”

The tC shows off a few styling tweaks for 2008, “including a mesh grille, lattice lower grille and projector beam-type headlights,” says Kelley Blue Book. These are generally well received, with the exception of The New York Times, whose reviewers find the new grille, with a “fussy diagonal-oval mesh up top that fades to solid at the sides” mixed with “horizontal slats down below,” to be “a bit busy to our eyes.” They feel it spoils “the simplicity we admired in the previous design.”

Motor Trend regards the tC’s insides as a “better-conceived, more feature-rich, interior than inside the other Scions” and comments on the “three-pod instrument panel with attractive, brushed metal faces. The silver center stack reminds of the Infiniti G35,” they conclude. MyRide.com notes the dash and upper door panel textures “Inspired by Japanese stationery,” which they find “different, of good quality, and brings strong Scion brand character to the inside of the tC.”

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2008 Scion tC

Performance

While limited by front-wheel drive and a heavy nose, the 2008 Scion tC’s competent chassis shines with optional parts and pieces that complement its polished drivetrain well.

The addition of readily available TRD parts and pieces can turn a peppy, adequate 2008 Scion tC into a fast and furious hot hatch.

Equipped with a Camry-sourced 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder with variable valve timing, the torque-rich engine generates 161 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. “The Civic Si and the Mazda 3 s 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. They clock a five-speed model at 7.4 seconds to 60 miles per hour. Edmunds also appreciates the “meatier low-end torque than smaller-engined competitors like the Honda Civic.”

Buyers can opt for an engine upgrade in the form of a TRD supercharger that boosts the power to an even 200 hp and the torque to 184 pound-feet.

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, the transmissions nonetheless work well in the tC due in large part to 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.” Of the automatic, Edmunds deems it “hesitant and indecisive during enthusiastic runs on back roads.” ConsumerGuide complains that the autobox “wouldn't make a kickdown shift without flooring the gas pedal” at cruising speeds.

Labeling its chassis as “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 & Track assures “will help you get the suspension sorted.” And ConsumerGuide testifies to the platform’s basic goodness, claiming that “handling is entertaining and confident” and “steering has good feel and weight.”

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2008 Scion tC

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Scion tC sports remarkable interior quality but unremarkable passenger space.

Its only coupe compromise being a lack of headroom, the 2008 Scion tC impresses with its blend of fantastic materials, ergonomics, and comfort.

“Front-seat passengers enjoy ample head and legroom," says Kelley Blue Book, but Cars.com and most others report that “front headroom is marginal.” ConsumerGuide likes “the firm seats with snug side bolsters” and points out that “the driver seat adjusts for height and thigh support--a nice touch--but legroom is only adequate, and headroom is tight for taller adults.”

By coupe standards, many consider the rear respectable, though it's even more problematic in the headroom department. “The 60/40 split rear seats are roomy and comfy for two,” remarks Car and Driver, but “headroom is lacking due to the glass ceiling and long, sleek hatch.” Edmunds attests that “rear riders will also enjoy the split seat backs that can individually recline up to 45 degrees.”

Value, fit and finish, and ergonomics have long been Toyota hallmarks, and Toyota’s ownership of Scion shows throughout the tC. Car and Driver praises the “smart, upscale interior with rich fabrics, plastics, and metallic-look accents,” and is pleasantly surprised that “the large HVAC knob actually is aluminum.” “Fit and finish are flawless, right down to the seamless dash-mounted airbag,” gushes Kelley Blue Book. They and others appreciate the instrument cluster that is “neatly arranged into three separate circular housings” and the center stack that “is covered with a silver finish,” finding the treatment far more appealing than the strange center-pod speedo in Scion’s other models.

That all of this goodness is available starting south of $18,000 is remarkable. “Even with XM Satellite Radio, an automatic transmission, DVD navigation, premium audio and upgraded wheels, the tC remains well under $25,000,” points out Kelley Blue Book, who expect “the tC to retain one of the highest resale values in its class” over a four-year period.

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2008 Scion tC

Safety

Driving a pocket rocket needn’t mean sacrificing safety if you opt for a 2008 Scion tC.

Standard side impact and side curtain airbags, plus solid NHTSA crash rankings make the 2008 Scion tC easy to recommend.

Listing its crucial safety standards, Edmunds informs that “the 2008 Scion tC comes with antilock disc brakes, a first aid kit and a driver knee airbag as standard equipment,” and adds that “side airbags for front occupants and full-length head curtain airbags are optional.” Regarding its performance in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash-testing regimen, Edmunds points out that with its side airbags, the tC earns “a perfect five stars for driver protection.”

In other NHTSA ratings, the tC got four stars for passenger frontal impact, four stars for rollover resistance, and five stars for side impact protection for both driver and rear passenger.

Remarking that “safety isn't an afterthought in the tC,” Road & Track mentions standard ABS with four-wheel discs and electronic brake force distribution.

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2008 Scion tC

Features

With ample standard and optional features, Toyota and TRD can build a 2008 Scion tC to your tastes.

From functional to frou-frou, the 2008 Scion tC’s lengthy list of standard and optional features adds up to a highly configurable vehicle.

The tC’s standard features list is impressive, especially given its sub-$18,000 price of entry. Motor Trend mentions the tC’s power “windows, door locks, mirror, cruise control, exterior thermometer, and tilt steering wheel” as a starting point. And in addition to newly standard iPod connectivity and a Pioneer subwoofer standard across the line, Kelley Blue Book is impressed with “the massive panorama moonroof included as standard equipment on every car.”

An interesting option for the tuner crowd is the availability of the tC SPEC model, which eliminates the moonroof, sport seats, subwoofer, and other items, in the process shaving $1,700 off the already low base price. This not only decreases the car's curb weight, but it saves buyers money, resulting in a vehicle “just good enough to get you from the showroom floor to the tuner shop,” quips the New York Times.

New for ’08 is the tC Release Series 4.0 RS. Autoblog mentions that this package, which rings in at a pricy $2,700, “ups the style quotient of the base model with a DAMD body kit, new upper grille and rear spoiler, all coated in Galactic Gray Mica.” There are similar interior aesthetic upgrades, but it all adds up to what Jalopnik considers “an appearance package only a 17 year-old could love.”

Kelley Blue Book lists what it considers to be the tC’s most notable optional features: “four-speed automatic transmission, carbon fiber dash applique, ground effects kit, fog lights, Pioneer Premium audio, high-performance engine and suspension components, under-dash interior light kit, navigation system and a host of dealer-installed options.”

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