LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- It's nighttime on The Strip, that glitter-gulch venue of Las Vegas Boulevard lined with over-the-top resort hotels and casinos, and traffic is jamming with oh-too-cool cars pulsating from serious on-board sound packages.
Our vehicle -- the Scion tC for model-year 2013, a shapely two-door hatchback coupe in new limited-production Release Series 8.0 trim -- also throbs in deep beats from its own sounds stoked by tunes off our iPod and tracked by the 8-speaker Pioneer audio kit.
Scion, a brand of vehicles derived from Toyota of Japan, showcases custom-cool cool yet affordable vehicles pitched to that 20-something market known as Generation Y.
The original tC rolled out in 2004 as a two-door coupe exclusive to Scion with a long list of optional equipment to fashion a customized coupe.
A second generation of the tC emerged in 2011 riding on a new platform which maintained the same 106.3-inch wheelbase length of the original tC but forged a wider wheel track (60.6-inch front, 61.4-inch rear) and packed aboard a larger and more powerful four-cylinder engine plus bigger brakes and wheels and more electronic controls to enhance vehicular handling and increase rider safety.
Now for 2013 the tC Release Series 8.0 (tC RS 8.0) shows up in Scion showrooms with production limited to only 2,000 issues, each with a numbered badge marking the unique model.
Cruising on The Strip, our tC RS 8.0 commands attention despite eye-snagging competition from glaring Vegas tinsel and neon, as it wears Absolutely Red exterior paint with contrasting gloss black side view mirrors and matching black 18-inch split-spoke alloy wheels.
The aggressive exterior package reveals a unique 5-piece aerodynamic body kit which includes front and rear lower valences, a low skirt on each flank and a spoiler on the tail.
tC RS 8.0 also employs performance parts from TRD (Toyota Racing Development), such as lowering suspension springs and an exhaust kit integrated into the center of the rear lower valence.
It has a monochromatic face with the narrow grille filled with a black egg-crate mesh insert.
Flanks go flat but fenders emphasize the wheel arches with sculptured rims.
tC's windshield cants rearward at a steep angle to set up a 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 compact 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.
tC's platform features independent suspension elements with front struts and a rear double-wishbone.
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).
For motivation the 2013 tC RS 8.0 totes an 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 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.
Transmission choices are a 6-speed manual or 6-speed electronically controlled automatic. With the automatic, tC RS 8.0 adds paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
Standard exterior elements on tC include the panoramic moonroof with twin manual sunshades, folding side mirrors with built-in LED turn indicators, variable intermittent front wipers, and a keyless entry system with electronic rear hatch locking.
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.
On tC RS 8.0 the seats are covered in textured black fabric with red stitching.
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, 8 speakers, RCA output jacks plus auxiliary audio and USB input ports.
MSRP for a 2013 tC begins at $18,725 with a manual shifter, or $1000 more for the 6-speed automatic. The limited-production tC RS 8.0 lists for $21,815 (manual) and $22,865 (automatic).