Cars are always targeted at a specific audience, although age may vary and certain new vehicles may be applicable to a series of markets. In the case of this black and orange coupé though, there’s no doubt that it’s been created, decked-out, and painted specifically to appeal to a younger and more youthful audience. When I was handed the keys to the 2015 Scion tC Release Series 9.0, I couldn’t help but immediately thinking “what the hell is this thing?”
I had spent the previous week booting around in a new 2015 Kia Forté Koup that, technically, is virtually identical when playing the numbers game. The entire week I had that, my colleagues kept insisting that the Scion tC is a far better car dynamically and from a value standpoint, no matter how you look at it. Worldwide production for this unique limited edition is 2000 cars, with only 100 units allocated for the Canadian market. The easiest way to identify the Release Series 9.0 model from the standard tC is the two tone black and magma paint scheme. The car is actually painted orange and black; there’s no vinyl wrapping here.
The 2.5L inline 4-cylinder that lives under the hood of the Scion tC is shared with it’s distant cousin, the Toyota Camry. This may not evoke much excitement, but the reality is, with the tuning of this motor unique to the tC, it’s surprisingly peppy. The 179 horsepower peaks at 6,000rpm, and there are 172 foot-pounds of torque available at 4,100rpm. My test car was coupled to the 6-speed manual (thankfully!) transmission, though the tC also offers a two-pedal alternative for those who don’t have the same enthusiast requirements. The throttle response is quite good, and the tC moves quickly enough. If anything, it actually feels a bit faster than the FR-S thanks to the additional torque available from this motor.
In operation, this 6-speed manual transmission is actually far better than I had expected. It blows the Forte Koup’s gearbox out of the water and is incredibly easy to master. Clutch travel is just perfect, and the shifter is a little bit on the rubbery side but precise in movement and has short throws. Coupled with the TRD exhaust note, the tC Release Series is hugely fun to drive on the country back roads on a nice weekend afternoon. I consider myself to be a pretty proficient manual transmission driver, and I mastered the tC’s characteristics within a block of leaving Toyota’s headquarters.
Though the rear-wheel-drive FR-S is continuously touted for being a fantastic driver’s car (which it really is), critics often say there’s no place in the market for the tC, which sits in the same price bracket. This Scion is front-wheel-drive and considerably roomier on the inside, and is a little bit more comfortable to live with on a daily basis. My editor (at 6’1) once had so much trouble getting in/out of a Subaru BRZ thanks to a knee injury that he and I had to switch testers for the remainder of his week. This wouldn’t be an issue with the tC; it’s easy to get in and out of and exhibits the same level of daily convenience that we have come to expect from the Toyota brand.
Front-wheel-drive setups may not be as precise in the cornering department as cars where the power goes to the rear wheels. Despite this, the tC feels quite precise to drive and doesn’t understeer nearly as much as I had predicted. When compared to other compact coupés such as the Honda Civic and Kia Forté Koup, the Scion is still competitive and holds its own both in a straight lines as well as when the corners begin to come in. From a styling standpoint, I found the Kia to still be more handsome, but the Scion is a close second. I understand the appeal of the limited edition package tested here, but the colour scheme just reminds me of a Hot Wheels creation I would have appreciated in my childhood, and I’ve long since grown out of that stage of my life.
Manufactured in collaboration with Cartel Customs’ Jeremy Lookofsky, the Release Series 9.0 adds black alloy wheels, orange seat belts, an intelligent key system with the “Cartel” logo on the start/stop button, blacked-out Scion badges, a numbered Release Series badge, custom floor mats, a unique Cartel Customs aero kit and rear decklid spoiler, and orange accents throughout the interior. The most interesting thing I found was the center-exit TRD exhaust that looks pretty neat from a bit of a distance. The problem with this though is that when inspecting it closely, there’s only one small tailpipe behind the aggressive “faux” exhaust. Despite this, the car does have a great exhaust note, much like the 2015 Scion FR-S Release Series 1.0 we tested back in the winter (and minus the infamous boxer rumble of the FR-S).
On the inside, the Scion tC has a fit and finish level on par with anything else from under the Toyota/Scion/Lexus umbrella. All panels feel nice to the touch and though there is some use of plastic in the interior, it’s done tastefully and there are no visible gaps. I do have a small gripe with the orange seatbelts unique to the Release Series 9.0 model though – only the front belts are of this colour while the rears remain grey as in the regular model. This isn’t a huge issue considering the majority of tC buyers won’t be making frequent use of the rear seats, but still, for the $4,270 extra and the exclusivity of a limited edition model, it’s something I would want.
The regular 2015 Scion tC starts at $21,710, and for this price includes all standard and optional equipment. There are no option packages and interior options are sold as either dealer-installed or manufacturer-installed accessories, such as heated leather seats for an additional $2,645. The uniqueness of the Scion brand is maintained here as costs are kept low, and the car remains as accessible and inexpensive as possible. As I mentioned previously, the Release Series 9.0 package costs $4,270 and brings the total for my test car to $25,980 before freight and taxes.
Despite the prevalence of more youthful cars in the Canadian market, such as the Ford Fiesta ST, the Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ and even the Hyundai Genesis Coupé, Scion’s entry remains competitive and aggressive. As this particular generation has been around for a couple years now, it’s beginning to show its age in certain areas of infotainment and technology, but this is relatively consistent throughout the entire segment it lives in. Despite not being a focused sports car like its FR-S/BRZ cousins, the 2015 Scion tC Release Series 9.0 is a distinctive and fun choice that will remain a conversation piece for years to come.
2015 Scion tC Release Series 9.0 Gallery