Last week we let loose the full fury of Detroit’s budget-minded tire-melter, the last of the F-Body Camaros, onto a hapless, unprepared internet. So we’re going to dial it back this week. You won’t have to worry about all of those cylinders, or that pesky rear wheel drive, or whether there was a Corvette motor under the hood or not. Today’s Rust-bait won’t bother you with any of those confusing options or trim packages … this baby only does things one way, and if you don’t like it, tough luck. Join us as we pick apart the Scion tC in this week’s Rust or Lust.
This Week’s Car: the 2004+ Scion tC
If you grew up in the occidental hemisphere, you probably have no idea what an “Avensis” is. That’s a good thing – the Avensis was kind of like Kate Moss – hardly there. Why anyone bought them, I dunno. But when Toyota was looking to add to the Scion stable a sporty coupe to round out their lineup of frumpy peoplemovers, they looked through the corporate parts bin … and decided that the Avensis platform would be a good place to start. We’ll assume they had their reasons.
The Avensis was tuned for European roads, and so compared to your average Barca-Lounger-esque Lincoln, it had a sporty ride. That meant less R & D money spent on the chassis tuning folks. Toyota then crafted a relatively classy coupe body, and stuffed it full of the Camry’s 2AZ-FE 2.4L inline four. For a car with an overall length of about 175″ and a curb weight of just under a ton and a half, it was actually a ton of motor – way more than the similarly-sized Celica that the tC ultimately replaced in the Toyota stable. The torquey motor made 161 HP and 163 ft-lbs of torque, which delivered a more usable, less peaky power curve.
What was it supposed to be, though? It had a Camry motor and a British-designed chassis, so let’s look to the name for a clue. tC … Scion literature suggests it means “touring coupe,” but to us it smacks of a focus group told to come up with a suitable replacement for xC (which would have complimented the xA and xB models) as it was already used on Volvo’s AWD line. We can forgive them that, however, as it is at least as bad as any of the other alphanumeric car models. So that doesn’t help us out. And it certainly wasn’t a “touring coupe” – an Aston Martin DBS is a touring coupe. The tC is more like a … dare we say … poseur coupe.
There are definitely Scion enthusiasts who’d swear their tC is a diehard sport coupe. They’d point to the optional TRD supercharger that can boost output by 40 HP. Surely there are some serious-performing tCs out there, but our point is, what do you normally see? It’s not a sport coupe with real cred. One TRD supercharger option does not a sportscar make. The real question is, how many sparkly “Roxy” stickers does a sportscar make? The answer is very few.
Sportscars don’t have to be predominantly masculine to be real performers. No one would describe the Miata as a paragon of traditional hetero-normative gender imagery, but it will run circles around a lot of other more “masculine” cars. It would also smoke the crap out of this tC on a windy road. So its problem isn’t that it isn’t as butch as, say, the new Camaro; its problem is that a Miata would smoke it in the fun-to-drive metric. And posterity shows us that cars that are all show and no go, like the myriad of ’70s “sport appearance” packages that added a vinyl stripe to your Pinto and nothing else, don’t do so hot down the road.
The tC might be the clearest “Rust” candidate we’ve seen in a while. It’s a hard sell right now, when they’re new (albeit slightly dated), so imagine what the future will hold for the poor Scion coupe. Let me tell you – several generations of high schoolers will certainly appreciate the low entry price on a used tC whenever the thin veneer of desirability wears off. It would be hard to imagine a tC ever worth a bare frame restoration. It’s not like the car is offensive – it’s in actuality so devoid of any lasting passion that it neither offends nor excites anyone in a deep way. So we’ll consign the tC to the eternal limbo where well meaning cars will languish in the afterlife, somewhat forgotten, never reincarnated or resuscitated, destined to dirt nap with the tin worm. Rust in peace, little guy.