You might wonder why we decided to drive Scion's diminutive, crossover SUV. Normally, we would pass on this vehicle, because of our own admitted ambiguousness about where crossovers fit within the custom and SUV scene. Granted, there is no hard-and-fast rule that trucks and SUVs have to be body-on-frame. Up to this point, technology has simply demanded this is the best way to build a vehicle to haul and tow heavy loads. That may change, though, if the rumors of a unibody Ford Explorer ever become a reality. And we do like the way the mid-sized Ford Flex crossover looks.
So, while separating a body from a frame makes it easier to get into the chassis of a vehicle, and gives you more opportunities to customize a vehicle, the future may someday be a unibody. In some ways, you could say front-wheel-drive vehicles have already hit the truck-show scene, with the Scion XB as a good example. Heck, we have already covered a couple of custom XB's in Truckin', and we have seen at least a few at truck shows across the country. So, we decided to see what the factory XB is all about.
Scion's second-generation XB is a departure from the original box that is still a big hit with audiophiles and custom builders. The `08 XB is a slightly curvier version, which was based on the first-generation's faceted look. With the new sheetmetal comes a big bump in its size, with every dimension growing--except for height--the new XB moves toward a whole new class. Being more than 6 feet tall, I anticipated that my squeezing into the small crossover would make it burst at the seams. While we could have asked for more legroom up front, it was not uncomfortable to drive. Headroom was also good both front and rear. The downside to the extra space is the extra weight, around 700 pounds, which necessitated a bump in engine displacement from last year's 1.5L model. A 2.4L engine, shared with the base Camry, moves the `08 XB pretty well. It's no racecar, but it's no slug, either.
The overall design of the XB isn't quite as quirky as the original, and that's not necessarily a good thing. It's softer, less edgy, and doesn't stand out as much as the original. But, as often happens with new vehicles that don't register well at first, the styling grew on us. One design gripe we have is the perforated plastic grille. If there's one aspect of the vehicle that screams for an upgrade, it's the grille. It wouldn't take much, just some stainless mesh, or some black billet bars, but the grille has to go. We also weren't big fans of the protruding headlights, and prefer the more flush versions from the last generation. Looking at the XB, with an eye toward customization, we can easily see a new grille, and a rear-cargo area crammed with audio; but the optional Pioneer head unit can stay, it's piano-black finish was a highlight of the interior.
Price$20,587 (as tested)$16,600 (base)
Engine2.4L DOCH four-cylinder
TransmissionFour-speed sequential automatic
SuspensionIndependent with MacPherson (front), Torsion beam (rear)
BrakesFour-wheel ABS, Electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, and stability control
Curb Weight3,086 lbs
MPG22/28 (EPA)22 (as tested)
Options: (As tested)Scion DVD headrests ($1,599)Carpeted floor ($155)Pioneer iPod-capable AM/FM/CD ($389)16-inch alloy wheels ($785)Scion Security ($469)