2008 Scion Preview : The Next Generation
SEE ALSO: Scion Buyers Guide
By Carey Russ
Scion is a young brand, and that's appropriate as Scion is Toyota's youth-oriented division. It's been remarkably successful since it debuted in California in June, 2003, and spread in a controlled fashion across the country by June of 2004.
That success was due, in no small part, to a simple lineup and ample opportunity for personalization. The two original Scion offerings, the xA subcompact hatchback and the xB, um, category-defying box, were joined on their first anniversary by the tC sport coupe. All were characterized by a simple specification, with color and, perhaps, transmission the only choices. This kept dealer inventory and customer ordering simple - and there was ample opportunity for personalization through a plethora of dealer-installed (and warranteed) add-ons covering the gamut from appearance through audio to performance.
The combination of simplicity and customization worked as expected, but Scion didn't foresee the xB being the popular model. Originally the xA, a fairly conventional four-door hatchback, was expected to account for the majority of sales, as the xB was unlike anything else on wheels, at least outside of Japan.
Surprise! The xB was a runaway success, and appealed to more than the young urban trendsetters targeted by Scion. It was different, and it was fun, and it was useful. Scion, like parent Toyota and cousin Lexus, listens to its customers, and it seems that the one area in which xB owners saw room for improvement was size. They liked the box, but they wanted a bigger box.
So, the 2008 model year starts now for Scion with a bigger box. A restyled bigger box, with more power and more upscale features. It's on a new platform, and the first-generation's 1.5-liter, 108-horsepower four-cylinder has given way to the 2.4-liter, 158-hp four previously found only in the tC coupe. Like all Toyota-family powerplants, it's a dual overhead cam design with VVT-i variable cam phasing for a wider power curve, improved efficiency, and lower exhaust emissions. It's matched to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, and the automatic has sequential manual shift mode, a first for Scion.
The second-generation xB is nearly a foot longer, and rides on a four-inch longer wheelbase. Width has increased by three inches. Wheels have grown from 15 to 16 inches, all the better to hold larger brakes - which are now discs all around, antilock with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front, with a torsion beam axle at the rear. Weight has increased by a bit over 600 pounds, but that's balanced by the extra 50 horsepower.
The new xB's exterior was designed at Toyota's CALTY studio in Southern California. While it's undeniably a Scion xB, the new version is beefier, with a higher beltline and more-developed lower body. Exterior and interior panel gaps are even tighter.
Scion describes the `08 xB's interior styling as "lounge-like." It's a larger lounge than before, except for a decrease in headroom. Given that there is still 40 inches of that in front, and 41.2 in back, all that means is that top hats may need to be removed. As before, the instruments are in the center of the dash, but the dash is now asymmetrical. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat and fully-reclining front seats ensure comfort and versatility. The standard 160-watt Pioneer audio system features a jack for MP3 player connectivity, and is compatible with Apple iPods, which can be controlled through the head unit.
The 2008 xB is available now. The 2008 xD is coming in August.
xD? What's that? It's the replacement for the xA, different enough that a new name was required. How different? Well, it still has four wheels and a Scion nameplate... everything else is new.
It's had a similar makeover to the xB, with exterior styling done in Japan and the interior in Europe. Although smaller than the xB, it's a bit larger than the xA, by three inches in wheelbase if less than an inch in length. Width and height are greater, and with the aggressive restyle give it more presence on the street. Also more room inside. The instruments have been moved from the center of the panel to the traditional location in front of the driver, and the same iPod-compatible audio system found in the xB is also standard fare in the xD.
The xD's engine is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with dual overhead cams and VVT-i variable cam phasing. It's 128 horsepower bests the xA's 108, and it's matched to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Suspension is by MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam axle in the rear, with antilock disc/drum brakes with EBD and Brake Assist standard.
As with the xB, plenty of add-on accessories will be available for the xD.
I had the opportunity to drive pre-production examples of both the xB and xD recently. Appropriately, given their "urban" market, the drive route was mostly on city streets, with a smattering of highway and backroads. The second-generation Scions have the same character as the old xB and xA, but noticeably more space, comfort, and refinement. Scion has already broken new ground with its original offerings; their replacements simply refine the brand.
But don't mistake "refinement" in this context to mean "moving upscale in price". At $15,650 with the stick or $16,600 with the automatic, plus a $580 destination charge, the xB is still solidly in the affordable bracket. Price for the xD has not been announced at the time of writing.