Scion tC: Why Bother? Edition



Time to take an objective look at an automotive platypus; that is, an ungainly mishmash of a car that exists for no other reason than it does. The bastard product of an interesting marketing exercise aimed at the low-income, low-intelligence demographic that (at the time it was released) could afford sign a loan on a $20k “sporty” coupe based on an ad campaign without asking too many questions. Those who did were easily subdued by the flashy bolt-on catalog offered at the dealership.

Initially, it was a recipe for at least moderate success: Take the void left by the blandification of Toyota’s modern line (no Supra, no Celica, bloated Corolla and Matrices being left on the lot), create a niche brand to re-engage the orphaned market segment, offer “lesser” cars in the form of the xA and xB in order to allow what basically amounted to a 2-door Camry to be considered a flagship, market aggressively with blatant and ubiquitous references to RIMS and CUSTOMIZE and STYLE, maybe some CGI drifting sequences to give it some street cred. The youths would be scrambling to fork over their hard-earned McDonald’s/Wal Mart paycheck. And they were, for a while.



The tC won over the 18-25 beta males who were content to pimp their rides with sykk grafikz, 18″ rimz, underglowz and audio. They never needed any more than that from a car. Although a great many of them probably wound up pushing their cars past the admittedly low limits, they never questioned the drivetrain or layout, wheel and tire combo, weight distribution or anything more serious than “y my car skid straight off da road in turns wen it does drifts on TV?” They didn’t even question the questionable design, flawed in every way from basic proportions to the minutiae of “styling” details.


Sales probably received a shot in the arm when Toyota put it’s financial support behind the platform in pro-level drifting series. “Wait, what is a FWD-only car doing spinning its rear tires? Have the laws of physics been subverted in some sick farce of reality?” You might have asked yourself. Well no, the answer (and the loophole that allowed these shenanigans to take place) is actually quite simple… if you happen to be a ruling body of a series and willing to accept large amounts of thinly-veiled bribery from Toyota that is. See, the Japanese car that the tC is based off of is available in an AWD format that retains the transverse engine mounting and driveshafts etc… so if there can be RWD EVOs the same process must apply here! Ehhhhhh. Once again, it depends on your ability to suspend disbelief in return for monetary gain. Did the tCs “competing” actually use the transverse 4 cylinder as fitted from the factory? Nope. In one case the driveline was customized to a longitudinal mount, and in another the shell of the car was placed over a Nascar-spec Toyota V8, both in chassis that have been reworked to no small extent. If they can get away with all that, you’d probably be okay swapping the solid axle offered in a variant of your car in the US market sold 25+ years ago right? Well it didn’t go so well for those who tried.


image credit goes to Sean Klinelhoefer/Speedhunters.

Now you may be thinking, “Well that’s a complete crock, who would ever believe that this car was worth a damn? They had to lie and cheat to artificially create motorsports credibility for it. It’s a joke, a turd wrapped in a fancy/ugly package covered in glitter.” If you really want the answer to that question, simply check out any of the message boards devoted to Scion and its offerings (FR-S somewhat notwithstanding). I take no responsibility for the detrimental effects browsing them will have on your mental health.


If you have a low tolerance for the type of people who expend the extra effort to type lyk dis and ask questions like “how i maek my tc rearwheel drive n put in da supra motor?” I can sum it up for you wit this Venn diagram:



* Note that the circle on the left reflects foreign-made cars only, as the segment illustrated by the right circle tends to include Dodge Neon and GM J-Body owners in large numbers as well.

Getting back to the point, the “heyday” of the tC has been precluded by the introduction of the better-in-every-way (but most notably in delivering on its promises) FR-S. Stupid name and unfortunate brand-relation aside, the ZN6 cars are the new Jesus in terms of auto fanboy-ism, equally successful across multiple market segments in terms of performance and style. So why then, does the tC still exist? Somewhere in the deepest, darkest depths of the shadow created by the Second Coming lurk the undesirables, the die-hards clinging to Scion’s lesser brother. They throw around terms like underdog and look to the bottom line on their window stickers to console themselves, but at some point even they will have to ask themselves the question on every potential buyer’s mind: Why would I pay $20k for the rolling disappointment that is the tC when I can finance just a few thousand more for something with triple the value?


A similar question must face pro drifter Fredric Aasbø on a daily basis – He still drives his “tC” in the circus that is Formula D while continuing to tweak his GT86. I asked about the switch online and never got an answer, although I’d assume any response would have been heavy on Toyota propaganda mixed in with semi-credible “known element vs. developing a new car.” I suspect the truth is probably somewhere between that and the fact that Toyota knows there are still some suckers out there that will take the bait and swim with it – for the time being. Their latest attempt at marketing the car has taken a turn for the desperate in the form of a poem set to images of the car driving. The content must have been carefully written to avoid Big Words and is full of aforementioned underdog schlock, but the basic premise is still there. Disguise the fact that there is no substance under the flash. We know it’s ugly, but it’s differentMisunderstood. Just like you, potential buyer.

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