The Best Laid Plans ... - 2008 Scion xB Long-Term Road Test

2008 Scion xB Long-Term Road Test

2008 Scion xB: The Best Laid Plans ...

March 31, 2008

For our last day of our spring break trip to Arizona in the 2008 Scion xB, I thought we'd cruise back in search the elusive 30 mpg mark. That would be an accomplishment, as the EPA rating for the 2008 xB with an automatic transmission is 22 city / 28 highway. We'd equalled the highway rating while cruising to Arizona at 75 mph along the interstate. Could we beat it by staying closer to 65 mph on the way back to SoCal?

Things were going very well for the first hundred miles or so, as the instant readout hovered between 36 and 40 mpg while cruising the two-lane Highway 60 from Wickenburg at 60 mph. And then we crossed into California and ran into a brick wall.

Well, not an actual brick wall, but the next best thing when you're going for mileage: a 30 to 40 mph headwind. It persisted for the next 150 miles--half the entire distance. At 65 to 70 mph on Interstate 10, it wasn't unusual to see the instant readout below 20 mpg.

The boxy xB got tossed around mercilessly, as did semis, motorhomes, Expeditions and the like. Don't get me wrong, I had no trouble controlling it, but a relaxed driving posture was not in the cards, and my wife was munching Fritos--her personal carsickness cure--despite the arrow-straight roads.

At the end of the day, the xB used an even 11.0 gallons over the 305.2 mile return trip--a 27.7 mpg performance. Despite the wind, that's still about equal to our xB's 28 mph highway rating.

The entire 5-day trip covered 961 miles and consumed 35.84 gallons of fuel. Our overall fuel economy, including lots of stops, some steep grades, highish speeds (at times) and high winds (at times) works out to 26.8 mpg.

Some of you have expressed concern over this alleged lackluster performance. I'm not sure I see it. Here are two reasons why:

1) The old 2006 xB automatic was originally rated at 31 city / 35 highway. But in 2008 a new EPA rating formula was put into place to make window stickers more accurate. The EPA has applied the new formula to the 2006 xB automatic, downrating it to 26 city / 31 highway. Our 2008 xB was originally tested using the new method, so it's 22 city / 28 highway rating, while lower than the old car, isn't off by a ton. And we were able to match the highway rating twice in less than economical conditions: once while going more or less 75 mph for a whole tank, and again while maintaining a roughly 65 mph average into a stout headwind. I'd say the new EPA rating system has it about right.

2) The 2008 Scion xB's 2.4-liter engine is much larger than the 1.5-liter engine found in the old box. Merging and passing are no longer something that requires strategic timing. It goes up grades with authority--even when loaded with 4 people and their luggage--and it doesn't dither between gears in the process. And it stayed resolutely in top gear when faced with a 30 mph headwind at 65 mph on the freeway. In short, it's quite suitable for interstate travel in the mountainous west.

But I can see why fans of the old xB might not like it: it is a different car. Only the name and basic vibe remain the same. But I think the Scion xB will win new fans who thought the old wasn't substantial enough. Besides, if maximum mpg were the goal, why buy something shaped like a refrigerator?

And I still say we would have broken 30 mpg if that monster headwind hadn't been smacking us in the face for two hours.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,462 miles

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