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2008 Scion xB
At the Scion brand s launch in 2003, Toyota officials used the term funky about 5000 times. Two Jameses Rick and Brown may have been credible arbiters of funk. But when you re talking about cars, what the heck does funk mean? A Lotus Elan with an Isuzu engine? The original Saab 900 Turbo? Chrysler s TC by Maserati? Hard to tell. All we know is that Scion s coupes and hatchbacks have demonstrated the barest fillip of funk about as edgy and hip as a Toyota Yaris. Scion s fortunes, perhaps as a result, have since sagged, with their intended 18-to-24 demographic rising fast and their Internet sales dwindling. Toyota s fear is that Scion may soon be viewed as a mainstream brand specializing in entry-level eco-wheezers.
Throughout, however, the boxy xB has at least evinced a filament of funk, developing a small but loyal following, especially in the Schwarzenegger state. Now in its second generation, the xB is altogether a better car, with 55 more horses, electric steering, 10 more cubic feet of people volume, and a bonus half-cubic-foot of cargo space.
After 16 months and 40,000 miles of sympathy-free roughhousing at C/D, our xB s before-and-after performance changed little. Skidpad grip (our car came with the $250 TRD rear anti-roll bar) remained the same at 0.81 g. Up to 80 mph, acceleration fell a 10th but afterward made a comeback, scoring an identical 28.7 seconds to 110 mph. Top speed held steady at an electronically limited 124 mph.
Nowadays, 158 horsepower doesn t sound like much, but the xB weighs only 3039 pounds, enabling it to match, say, a Mitsubishi Lancer GTS to 60 mph. What s more, it delivered an average of 26 mpg, with the majority of those miles logged during city errands.
What definitely improved with age was braking, dropping from 179 feet when new to an excellent 167 feet at our test s conclusion, thanks to tires that were nearing their wear bars and therefore grippier. We installed snow tires on the xB for six months of slate-gray Michigan misery, then reinstalled the original Goodyear Eagle RS-As. They showed 90-percent wear as we waved goodbye to our Blackberry Crush xB, meaning that a commute through a November blizzard turned our knuckles not white but translucent. What saved us was the xB s aggressive stability and traction control.