Scion tC sleek coupe comes with big panorama-style moonroof

2011, Scion, tC

DALLAS, Tex. -- Heading north in Dallas on Preston Road, a bee-line route lined with ritzy residential estates, we're steering a shapely two-door coupe of brief dimensions but sensuous body styling with a chiseled flat all-glass roof, smoothly rounded prow, muscular bulging shoulders and exaggerated round wheel cutouts.

It carries the nameplate of tC for model-year 2011 and conforms as a subcompact coupe developed exclusively for Scion in America. The brand of Scion, derived from Toyota, showcases rather cool but affordable small cars pitched to that 20-something market called Generation Y.

The original tC rolled out in 2004 as a two-door exclusive to Scion with a long list of optional equipment to fashion a custom-cool coupe. The tC of 2011 represents a second generation for Scion's coupe. It rides on a new platform with the same wheelbase length but a wider track and packs aboard a larger and more powerful four-cylinder engine plus bigger brakes and wheels and more electronic controls to improve vehicular handling and increase rider safety.

New tC also scores major marks for style and substance, and, as we observe during our drive time around the Big D, also draws spectator attention on the streets due to that shapely glass-top package. Price points look good too.

The tC's new shape projects an aggressive stance inspired by the Scion Fuse concept car out of Toyota's Calty Design Research of Newport Beach, Calif. In particular, designers borrowed the athletic shape of a racing helmet to fashion the coupe's flat roofline, sturdy curving C pillars and narrow band of wrap-around windows.

It has a monochromatic face with the fat lip of fascia set low and tinted to the body color.

The narrow grille is filled with a black egg-crate mesh insert, as unusual shapes for the multi-lens headlamp clusters wrap around front corners. Flanks go flat but fenders emphasize the wheel arches with sculptured rims.

tC's windshield cants rearward at a steep angle to set up the helmet's flat roof that tapers off to a stubby tail.

And that roof -- it's virtually all glass in the form of a panorama-style power moonroof.

Climb inside to discover that the cabin feels airy and spacious, despite overall dimensions which tie the tC to the eensy-weensy class. Driver and a companion sit on contoured buckets separated by a console swooping down from the center of the dashboard.

Rear seats, split 60/40 in segments, recline and adjust to different positions for comfort or fold down to increase storage space in the rear cargo bay.

The instruments panel adds two round binnacles housing orange 3D analog gauges.

A broad and long platform for the tC is rigged with independent suspension including front struts and a double-wishbone arrangement at the rear. The speed-sensing steering system gets electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of tC's engine.

Brakes carry a disc at every wheel with computer-controlled anti-lock brake system (ABS) as well as electronic brake force distribution (EBD) -- which measures differences in speed for front and rear wheels, then doles out proper braking force to all wheels -- and a vehicle stability control (VSC) device and traction control (TRAC), even a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

The 2011 tC also scores a new brake override system which automatically pares engine power when the brake pedal and accelerator are actuated simultaneously.

Scion maxes hardware for passive safety on the tC, with dual frontal air bags and front seat-mounted side air bags plus curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above front and rear outboard seats, as well as knee air bags to shield the front riders, front seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters, height-adjustable headrests and three-point seatbelts in all five seating positions.

For motivation the 2011 tC totes a highly efficient 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead cam (DOHC) design. Constructed from lightweight aluminum and plastic composites, the plant features direct ignition and an electronic throttle plus sophisticated combustion controls for a multi-valve system.

Toyota's dual intelligent variable valve timing (VVT-i) device works to balance the power output with thrifty fuel economy. The engine produces 180 hp at 6000 rpm and 174 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm. Through independent testing by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a tC equipped with the manual six-speed gearbox comes up with rather frugal fuel consumption numbers like 23 miles per gallon for city driving and as much as 31 mpg on the highway.

Standard exterior features on tC include the panoramic moonroof with twin manual sunshades, folding side mirrors with built-in LED turn indicators, variable intermittent front wipers, keyless entry system with electronic rear hatch locking, a chrome exhaust tip, and 18x7.5-inch split seven-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in 225/45R18 tires.

Standard cabin contents range from air conditioning and power controls for windows/locks/mirrors to front sport bucket seats with woven fabric upholstery, adjustable height for the driver's seat, a tilting/telescoping leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls, rear window defogger, and a tachometer plus trip meter.

Standard audio gear encompasses a 300-watt system with 160-watt Pioneer AM/FM/CD head unit (MP3/WMA CD and satellite-tuner capable) and 140-watt 2-channel amplifier, eight speakers, RCA output jacks, and auxiliary audio and USB input ports.

Accessories include a 7-color cabin light kit, illuminated door sills, remote engine starter, foglamps, a rear spoiler, and for enthusiasts various performance enhancements from TRD (Toyota Racing Development) such as TRD 19-inch alloy wheels, TRD big brake system, TRD lowering springs and TRD performance exhaust.

But then add $720 as a DPH (delivery, processing, handling) fee to get the ultimate base price of $18,995 with a six-speed manual shifter, or apply $1000 more to load aboard a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transaxle. Scion tC for 2011 conforms to a single trim with lots of standard equipment, yet the list of add-on accessories tallies to 45 items for distinct customization.

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2011, Scion tC