Crucial Cars: Scion tC

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without. For this installment, we go in-depth on an unsung hero of the affordable tuner scene: the Scion tC.

Scion tC car

If you didn't know any better, you'd think the tC was the prudish one in Scion's sport-coupe family. That’s because the other Scion coupe is the flashy FR-S, a rear-wheel-drive, purpose-built performance car that gets all the press. But tuners have been flipping the script on these two ever since the FR-S came out a few years back.

Sure, the tC is front-wheel-drive, but so are all those legendary Hondas from the '80s and '90s that made the tuner scene what it is today. And yes, the tC is derived from the overseas Toyota Avensis sedan, whereas the FR-S is its own thing -- but the tC is also about $5,500 cheaper brand-new if you compare base prices, with used tCs available at steep discounts. That leaves a lot of room for cool mods. Then there's the matter of what's under the hood. The current tC's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, leaving it just 21 horses shy of the FR-S's 2.0-liter four -- and 21 torques ahead of the more expensive motor. The first-generation tC was no slouch, either, cranking out 161 hp and 162 lb-ft in stock form.

There's no doubt that when it comes to everyday drivability, the tC wins. So, now you know why the tC has stayed relevant to tuners in the FR-S era. If you're wondering about specifics, here are some examples of the tC-tuning possibilities. Scion tC coupe   TRD Accessories

TRD stands for "Toyota Racing Development," which basically means we're talking about serious hardware. Unfortunately, the TRD supercharger offered for the first-generation tC is no longer available, chiefly because of reliability concerns and questionable bang for the buck (for a few grand of your hard-earned dinero, you only got an extra 40 horsepower at the crank). But there are plenty of other enticing upgrades sold directly through Scion dealers, including 19-inch wheels, a high-performance brake kit, lowering springs, beefed-up front and rear sway bars, a performance exhaust and a short shifter. The best part is, it's all covered by warranty, and your factory warranty won't be affected in the least. You even get a loaner car while the Scion technicians are throwing on the new parts.

Aftermarket Add-Ons

To take the tC to the next level, you're gonna need the aftermarket, and rest assured, there's plenty of support. We see a lot of modded tCs on the street with all sorts of carbon-fiber body panels and interior trim inlays -- if you go on eBay, it looks like you can cover the entire car with CF trim. If you really want to slam your tC for that lowrider look, a variety of third-party suppliers offer lowering springs that are more aggressive than the TRDs. Does the tC's standard herd of horses strike you as a bit tame? Turbo kits are available for the current-generation tC, and there are many more options (both turbochargers and superchargers) for the original tC. Furthermore, you can rely on Advance Auto Parts for upgrades like ceramic brake pads and free-breathing air filters, or even a MagnaFlow exhaust that's more cost-effective than the TRD system.

Tell Us Your tC Story As time goes on, the tC looks more and more like one of the best values for tuners on a budget. What are some of your favorite tC mods that crank up the cool factor without breaking the bank? Let's hash it out in the comments. 

Last updated June 8, 2017

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