Scion started out as Toyota's young-person brand. Could it be changing into Toyota's sports-car brand instead?
Last year, Toyota decided to place its new global sports car under Scion's umbrella here in America, calling it the Scion FR-S instead of giving it a Toyota badge. Interesting, perhaps.
Even more interesting is what Scion has done to revamp its best-selling car, the tC, for 2014.
Betting that enthusiasts will like the low-volume, rear-wheel-drive FR-S is one thing, but dramatically changing your most popular vehicle — the tC accounts for 40 percent of Scion's total sales — is quite another.
The new tC no longer relies wholly on funky styling, multicolored interior lights and mega-loud, graphics intense stereo systems to woo younger buyers.
It still has a bit of that strangeness and spunk, for sure, but it's overpowered by a much stronger sense of sportiness now, feeling like the more affordable offspring of the lovely FR-S.
Priced a hair under $20,000 — roughly $5,000 less than the quicker, less practical FR-S — the redesigned tC has a flair for driving enjoyment like few Scions before it.
The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine is powerful enough, making 179 horsepower, but a long list of other refinements make it a better driving car than it's ever been.
Its suspension has been firmed up with new shocks, adjusting the stabilizer bar and making the body structure more rigid with additional welds. And its electronic steering has been tweaked for a quicker, more direct response.
One of the best improvements is to the tC's transmission. A new six-speed automatic can change gears nearly twice as fast as the last model, and it will automatically blip the throttle on downshifts, making it sound and feel more like a track-day car.