2012 Scion TC - The Riddle of the Un-Pony Pony Car

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Riddle 1): Why can’t traditional compact sporty coupes like Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, known as “Pony Cars,” have practical back seats?

Answer 1): Because they aren’t Front Wheel Drive, with east-west engine positioning, in the way to 2012 Scion TC sporty coupe is. Thanks in part to platform sharing with the global mid-size (non-U.S. spec) Toyota Avensis platform, the rear seat and hatch luggage compartment are so commodious that the owner of any old Celica would be rightly envious. With rear leg room in the Scion TC measuring at 34.6″, surely most any Mustang , Camaro , Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and future Scion FR-S owners would feel shorted (by a good 5″). The front seats have decent body and hip bolstering and the cloth covering is of a grippy sort. Those same seats move forward so generously that a larger NFL lineman should have no problem getting in and out. Adding to the airy feeling in the back seat is a second moon roof with rolling shade.  And the middle hump on the floor is virtually negligible. If the new 2012 Scion TC sounds “all container-like”, at least it has lost some of the “boxiness” of the previous model, thanks to headlights swept further back, more pronounced front fascia, bigger C-pillars and pumped-up haunches.

Riddle 2): Which compact sporty coupe drivers could benefit from the extra interior and cargo space of the  2012 Scion TC?

Answer 2): Basically Gen. Y, Z’s and Millennials. Even the singles. Especially the couples. Call them mobile pack-rats, if you will, but they rarely travel light. Have you tried getting a child in and out of a child safety seat in the back of a Ford Mustang (which wasn’t a convertible)? Moreover, the 2012 Scion TC has a huge liftgate that opens tall and wide to swallow all that hockey gear and more than a few cases of beverages. Even the non-alcoholic kind.

Riddle 3): Can an “Un-Pony Pony Car” entertain without a small-block V8 (or V6)? 

Answer 3): It depends (on your definition of driving entertainment). New for 2012 in the Scion TC is a 2.5L DOHC direct injected VVT inline -4 developing 180 hp at 6000 rpm, up 25% from the previous generation Scion TC.  173 lb-ft of  twist at a lofty 4300 rpm. Mated to a hurried-to-upshift 6-speed auto gearbox,  the 3100 lb Scion TC launches from nil to 60 mph in the mid 8 second range. Which puts the 2012 Scion TC on par with acceleration times for a Chevy Camaro. That is, a 1993 Camaro V6.

Unlike that 1993 Camaro, or even a 2012 Camaro RS, the Scion TC is parsimonious with fuel to the tune of 26 miles per gallon in combined city/ highway driving. To be sure the 2012 Scion TC doesn’t have the stuff for brake torque launches which will lay rubber for 50 feet. If yours is a quest for a burbling baritone exhaust rumble at idle, the best bet in the Scion TC is jacking up the bass heavy Pioneer sound system.

That flat-bottomed thick rimmed steering wheel is certainly nice to hold onto. If only it weren’t connected to yet another electrically power assisted rack which only occasionally feels connected to the reasonably grippy and super-quiet 225 45 series Toyo Proxes 4 all season tires riding on 18″ wheels. Thanks to those Toyo tires, and not too lengthy pedal travel, braking is consistent if not consistently urgent. An otherwise taught front strut/ rear double A-arm suspension in the 2012 Scion TC is well damped against mortar cratered blacktop, but can be easily upset by freeway expansion gaps. However there is no masking the nose heavy effect of excessive dive/ squat when braking into corners, a malady that might be remedied with dealer installed TRD (Toyota Racing Development) lowering springs.

Another “Un-Pony” characteristic of the Scion TC is its refinement in terms of NVH and cabin isolation from exterior sound. You get a remarkably quiet ride at 80 miles per hour.

Less refined were a poorly placed door grab handle which is too far forward to effectively prevent the large doors from dinging those of neighboring rides. Certainly not meeting typically high Toyota fit and finish standards is a huge gap between the glove-box door and the dash. If it was a matter of cost-cutting, the bean counters at  the scion of Toyota should have axed the senseless passive Eco mode reminder lamp that lights every time the tach swings above 1999 rpm.

With the only factory option being an automatic transmission, the 2012 Scion TC can be had for $19,000. Not ones to deny “customization freaks,” Scion dealers can install a whole litany of TRD body, suspension, exhaust and braking and entertainment/ navigation upgrades. After all who says that “an Un-Pony, Pony Car” has to be purely practical?

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