Posts from ‘Scion’
See Consumer Guide’s review of the 2013 Scion tC.
Toyota’s youth-oriented division unveiled a significantly freshened version of its best-selling car at the 2013 New York Auto Show. The 2014 Scion tC was also joined by a collection of new limited-edition models designed to celebrate the brand’s 10th anniversary.
The 2014 tC gets freshened exterior styling, revised interior materials, a stronger body structure, and new infotainment features. The engine is unchanged. It remains a 179-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. The automatic gets a couple new tricks, including software designed to cut shift time by up to 50 percent. The new automatic transmission includes a rev-matching feature that blips the throttle on downshifts to match engine speed with the vehicle’s speed. This feature has been adapted from the company’s FR-S sporty/performance car. In addition, tC’s handling has been tweaked with enhanced stabilizer-bar hardware, optimized shock absorbers, a stiffer body via additional spot welds, and a retuned power-steering setup.
If you drive enough cars, you’ll encounter your fair share of weird stuff. Overwrought control systems designed by a masochist, inconvenient storage areas suited to a contortionist, costly options that would impress an extortionist, bedeviling colors in dire need of an exorcist; sooner or later, you’ll experience all of them—and more.
Following is a short list of, um, “curiosities” that I’ve encountered in cars in recent months. A word of explanation first: This is not a dumb-options-on-which-you-should-never-waste-a-dime piece. Indeed, the features mentioned (two out of three of them at least) are quite useful in the right vehicles. Here, though, they raise an eyebrow.
Synthetic-suede package shelf in the BWM 650i Gran Coupe
A number of high-end vehicles offer cushy, rich-looking headliners, seating surfaces, steering wheel rims, etc., in this material. But the bucks-up M Sport and Individual Composition option packages for the Gran Coupe extend the plush stuff beyond the ceiling, where at least it can be easily seen and appreciated, to the ledge under the backlight, where it can’t. Is that the height of luxury—or the height of excess?
I never quite got past the Mercury Villager Nautica. Someone funnier than me once called it “a vehicle that’s not quite a van wearing a label that’s not quite designer.” Not quite as troubling, but clearly overreaching, was the Chevrolet Venture Warner Brothers Edition. I recall that this bit of silly cobranding got Chevy into trouble when it wanted to sponsor events at Disney.
Sure, some licensing deals worked better than others. The Eddie Bauer Fords seemed reasonably appropriate, as did the L.L.Bean Subarus. But for every licensing arrangement that makes sense, there are two that perplex. Need I remind everyone of the Mercury Milan Voga? Actually, I probably do.
So, to preempt automakers from actually considering new branding arrangements, I offer the following examples. Should one of these ideas actually come to fruition, I want a cut—say, five dollars a car and all the bread sticks I can carry.
Mitsubishi Lancer Mercedes-Benz Edition
Mitsubishi knows that folks with high aspirations can’t always swing the payments on the car they really want. The Mercedes-Benz edition Lancer addresses the gap between desire and affordability with a car that looks (a little) and feels (a little) like a German luxury car, but costs little more than a base Lancer. Special features include a Mercedes-Benz “Tri-Star” grille insert, unique Mercedes-Benz rear-deck badging, and a real Mercedes-Benz key fob*.
It may look as cute as a trick-or-treater, but this car will give you the willies when you actually have to drive it. ForTwo needs 14.6 seconds to go from 0-60, which gives you just enough time to make out your will while merging onto the turnpike. (JK!) Actually, this car is solidly built (it has performed well in crash tests), but at 1,800-pounds it has the potential to be knocked around the highway like a pinball if whacked by an SUV. ForTwo is hard to keep composed at high speeds, and city drivers are cursed with a transmission that, according to Consumer Guide’s John Biel, “bogs down at every upshift as if it were a manual being driven by a beginner.”
Dodge Viper (pre-2013)
For the redesigned 2013 Viper, Chrysler’s SRT division added traction control and an antiskid system for the first time. Thank heavens, because the previous iterations were incorrigible monsters—meant for expert drivers who knew how to tame them. Our Viper test drivers prayed for dry weather; otherwise, it would have been a nightmare trying to keep this barely street-legal, 600-horsepower brute on the road. Even on dry, straight surfaces, Viper was no joy to drive. One CG editor said that the car “pitches and buckboards over every possible road surface imperfection,” while another warned that “the Viper coupe afflicts the comfortable with its tight, hot cabin; stiff clutch; and omnipresent din.”
Auto journalists and message-board fan boys are a whiny lot. Seriously. Spoiled, too. Poke around online and read a couple of reviews of the all-new 2013 Scion FR-S. Go ahead, I’ll wait. When you get back, tell me how many reviews made note of the FR-S’s lack of torque and “mere” 200 horsepower. A few did, right?
Seems folks have forgotten how to have fun in a car—auto writers especially. Because we have access to the strongest and fastest, we become easily jaded. Forget that the FR-S is very likely the best-handling Toyota ever; just focus on the common looking figure in the horsepower box.
Time for a little perspective . . . .
Chevrolet skipped a year when it launched the fourth generation of its venerable Corvette. The new model arrived a little late to be a 1983, so that year was skipped and the “C4” hit dealer lots as an ’84 model.
Under the hood of this much-anticipated update was a 205-horsepower “Crossfire” injected 5.7-liter V8. All that muscle—combined with a new, lighter chassis—had to mean good things. And by all measures this was the baddest-ass American car then on sale. So, how fast was it? According to a couple of buff books, America’s sports car ripped to 60 mph in just seven seconds . . . about eight-tenths of a second slower than a 2013 Scion FR-S.
Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 Scion iQ, a subcompact car that starts at $15,265.
Test car came equipped with: TRD rear sway bar and performance springs; rear spoiler; Pioneer premium HD audio; satellite radio; foglights; illuminated door-sill kit and interior light; automatic-transmission shift knob; carpeted front and rear floormats. Total MSRP with $730 destination = $19,135.
Powertrain: 90-horsepower 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive
Acceleration: Car and Driver clocked 0-60 mph in 9.6 seconds, but my tester didn’t feel that quick. Low-10s, maybe. My colleagues say the “iQ takes off with authority,” but I can’t agree. It does get away from stoplights reasonably well, but only if you nail the accelerator. I do agree that this teeny Toyota—sorry . . . Scion—“is no speed demon” otherwise, but it copes well enough with routine city/suburban traffic here in Phoenix. The transmission’s Sport mode makes for a slightly livelier feel, but I may be imagining that. Though being in such a small car around big trucks on freeways made me a little anxious, the iQ cruises easily (though not quietly) at 70 mph—on the flat. I have no doubt that maintaining speed up even moderately steep hills will be a challenge. And even on a level road, the relative lack of power means you’ll have to plan well ahead for passing maneuvers. Then again, this is primarily a low-speed “city car.”
Toyota, like most of my relatives, has a way of making me very happy and seriously ticking me off.
On the happy side, I just spent a week in the hyper-appealing Toyota Prius v. This new, bigger Prius is the kind of vehicle I wish everyone looking for a family car would test drive. It offers room for 5, tons of cargo space, an airy cabin, decent power, and 40+ mpg real-world fuel economy. Better still, with power everything and a navigation system, you’re still under $28,000. If the v had an interior that looked a little less like a Jiffy Lube waiting room, and were it available with all-wheel drive, I would be very close to calling the car perfect.
I think you’ll agree that most individuals and small businesses would be very happy to have 100,000 Facebook fans and 13,000 Twitter followers. (As a side note, we certainly would be and we’d encourage you to tell your friends to like us on Facebook and follow us @cgautomotive.) However, when you’re a car company trying to target the most connected generation in history, suddenly those numbers are, to put it charitably, less than stellar.
As you could probably tell by the title, I’m referring to Toyota’s Scion brand. To put those social media contacts in perspective, Buick has more than 400,000 Facebook fans and 15,000 Twitter followers. Volvo Cars US lists about 200,000 fans and 63,000 followers. The Ford Mustang garners nearly 43,000 followers and more than 4,000,000 fans. That is not a typo. A single vehicle from one company has more Facebook fans than the entire population of Oklahoma.
The first Scion vehicles went on sale in California in 2003. From its outset, Scion’s parent company targeted its vehicles and marketing toward younger buyers who might not ordinarily consider a Toyota. The initial effort was largely successful as the cars were fuel efficient, hip looking, and very easy to customize with both dealer-approved and aftermarket parts.
Ken Gushi is a well-known driver in the Formula Drift series. He started his racing career at age 15, before he had his driver’s license. He first made a name for himself in 2005 as the youngest driver in the D1 Grand Prix of Japan and Formula Drift in the U.S. Since then, he has worked up the ranks of the professional drift circuit. Ken has been with Scion for the last five years. For most of that time, he piloted a converted rear-wheel-drive Scion tC drift car. He now drives a race-prepped version of the Scion FR-S, the company’s new RWD sporty/performance car slated to go on sale in June 2012.
At the press launch event for the new Scion FR-S, we had a chance to sit down with Ken and discuss his rise to fame, his involvement with Scion, and his personal car.
Consumer Guide: So, Ken, how did you get into drifting?