Scion's cool, but cooling off
If you're not into big cars, Scion showed two new models at Chicago. The '08 xB, on sale in August, is substantially bigger, inside and out. Its 108-horsepower 1.5-liter four is replaced with a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine, and its box-on-wheels-shape is replaced with a more organic, rounded edge box, designed in Toyota's California studio.
The xD (shown here) replaces the entry-level xA, and it's now on the Yaris platform, with a larger, 1.8-liter four making 128 horsepower. It's on sale in April. Both the xB and xD are offered with five-speed manuals or four-speed automatics, the latter a cost-cutting surprise from an automaker that manages to put five- or six-speed automatics in just about everything else.
Both new models, like the old ones, have loads of standard equipment, including standard a/c, power windows and a 160-watt stereo with iPod connectivity. The only options are transmission and color, and of course Toyota encourages personalization; big wheels, lowered suspension, wild paint jobs and the like. The xB and xD interiors are much cooler, bringing some of the same appeal as the Mini's interior.
But the new models make me wonder whether Scion can sustain its image. Maintaining youthful hipness is tougher than introducing it, especially when you work so hard to be blase about it. The xB has lost some of the wacky, Japanese Domestic Market-style appeal that has made it a darling of the so-called Millennial set.
Sorry but, fuel prices notwithstanding, the big, powerful Pontiac G8 is the future - the two Scions' prospects remain to be seen.
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