Question: What do Fall Out Boy, Green Day, pro snowboarder/skateboarder Shawn White and the 2008 Scion xB have in common?
Answer: They all sold out and were massively successful because of it.
When the 2008 Scion xB debuted, replacing the first-generation xB that surprised us all with its boxy utility, those loyal to the Church of SCIONtology were aghast. The xB no longer looked like the box the Camry could be shipped in. Pieces of the exterior were rounded. The windshield wasn't an old department store window. The interior layout proved tolerable for those born outside of Japan. The engine not only had power, but also featured cruise control.
The loyalists were mad. The 2008 Scion xB had sold out to mainstream sensibilities; it had become a real car.
Why We Bought It
Part of becoming a real car means getting a real engine. And so the old 108-horsepower 1.5-liter was ditched in favor of a 158-hp 2.4-liter inline-4. The rest of the xB was also new. No longer did one need to sacrifice modernity for hipster acceptance. And that's where the problems began.
The casual critics never gave the 2008 Scion xB a fair shake. It wasn't as square or as awkward as the first xB and somehow that was a bad thing. Well, the truth was, the first xB's boxy look signified function, and it was this anti-fashion utility that gave the xB its hipness.
Did the second-gen xB understand this essential aspect of Scion character? Did it still have anti-establishment function even though it had a grown-up powertrain and packaging?
Issues with our xB were few and far between. It is, after all, a Toyota. The "I"s were dotted, the "T"s crossed. We had five routine services performed, most of them at Toyota of Santa Monica, and the price was always around $75. This is the kind of nontraditional thinking to which we can relate.
In fact, when Dan Edmunds, our director of vehicle testing, found himself surprised with a maintenance reminder light before a trek to Arizona with his family, he did not scuttle off to a dealership for the required routine oil change and vehicle inspection. Instead he went into his own garage, rolled up his sleeves and pulled out his floor jack. "I'm done in 50 minutes, with photo breaks included," he blogged. "If you count the time trudging to the nearest Toyota dealer to get the second oil filter, add 39 more. While at the dealership, I asked how much they charged for an oil change and tire rotation: $39.99 and $20.00, respectively." Mr. Edmunds, on the other hand, accomplished the same tasks for a grand total of $19.99 and the satisfaction of a job well done.
The plastic center caps, covering the lug nuts, started to peel around the six-month mark. Our dealer noticed this and replaced the items without our asking. It is a known issue for the xB and Toyota is, as usual, keeping that information on the DL.
Broken windshields seem to be getting more common here these days, and the upright expanse of the Scion's windshield was just as vulnerable as the upright windshield of the Toyota FJ Cruiser. One quick call to Glass Doctor and a few hours of wet glue and we were on our way. Of course, we were out $443.78, but on our way nonetheless.
Immediately before its exit, our xB received one final service with one --; literal --; twist. The 30,000-mile service --; which includes an oil change, coolant change, new air filter, the normal checks and a tire rotation --; is a big expense from Scion. The Edmunds Maintenance Calculator lists the service at $201. Scion of Santa Monica follows the same service routine set out there but charges an astounding $343.95.
While we were there we also mentioned the squealing front brakes. They were worn just past the reminder and pads would be required. New front pads cost $60 and machining the old rotors and other labor adds up to $236.96. Add it all up, plus three bucks for brake cleaner, and the grand total for that job was $299.95.
The final line-item on the list was a glitch in the navigation system. Scott Jacobs reported the incident: "The nav system decided to go Tea Cups on me. It spun around and around even though I was driving straight. It had me driving through buildings and on roads that didn't exist. I had to navigate the old-fashioned way: I stopped and asked for directions."
This was a one-time happening --; so far --; and the dealership could not replicate it. When dealerships can't replicate a problem they just ignore it completely so our xB remains unpredictably lost.
There was no charge for failing to fix our GPS, but that doesn't help the sting of the final total for this dealer visit: $657.25.
Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over  months): $1,080.22
Additional Maintenance Costs: $443.73
Warranty Repairs: 1
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 6
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel
With its Camry-specification 2.4-liter engine and simple four-speed automatic transmission, the 2008 Scion xB didn't exactly burn down the drag strip. At the conclusion of its time with us, the xB hit 60 mph in 8.2 seconds and reached the quarter-mile in 16.5 seconds at 83.1 mph. This is slightly better than the first test and had something to do with just the right amount of wear done to the P205/55R16 Bridgestone Potenza EL400s, which let them generate just enough wheelspin at the starting line to reach the timing marks relatively quickly.
The xB's braking performance also showed a marked improvement during its time with us. The Scion came to a halt from 60 mph in 124 feet when it first came to us, yet this number dropped to 117 feet once the tires had worn to an optimum tread depth.
The xB's performance in our handling tests improved as well. The xB's initial pass at the slalom produced a 64.8-mph run, and then its final test featured a 65.5-mph blast. As Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton noted in his comments, "A remarkable performance where I didn't expect one. Excellent feel and precision from the chassis offset the numb and lifeless steering. The rear of the car rotates just enough to make the xB feel sporty without getting spooky --; unlike your typical Toyota."
Also unlike a Toyota was the xB's fuel economy. The EPA rates the xB at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway. Our best tank of 32 mpg beat the EPA's highway estimate, but this proved to be an anomaly, as most of our runs matched the EPA's 28 mpg estimate for the highway. Our urban driving recorded mileage much worse than the EPA estimates, as the mid-teens were as good as we could get.
Best Fuel Economy: 32 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 15 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 23 mpg
Another case of poor timing for the departure of our 2008 Scion xB. The economy is in freefall right now, so there are fewer car shoppers than usual. Meanwhile there are bargain-priced new cars spread across dealer lots with wild abandon, plus gas is cheap. It's a hard time to be a used entry-level economy car with 30,000 miles. Edmunds TMV® appraises our Scion at $13,336, $7,880 less than what we paid.
True Market Value at service end: $13,336
Depreciation: $7,880 or 37 percent of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 32,471
Hip To Be (a) Square
Scenesters, hipsters and 'zine writers do not burn effigies of the sellout; instead they ignore them. We, on the other hand, embrace any move in engineering, performance or marketing that reaps something better, stronger, cooler. The 2008 Scion xB proved itself to be all of these things over the life of this test. Dead reliable. Solid, comfortable and spacious. Our xB was even praised for its mobster-esque styling, even if the choice of paint (thanks, Riswick) threw some of us off.
It's terrible to see the ultracool sell out. You can't help but feel abandoned when the car/band/author moves on, denying those times when your fan-boy interest nurtured its identity when no one else understood its alternative point of view. It's tough to see that artistic awkwardness exchanged for polished success.
Yet the 2008 Scion xB has proven to us that it's simply grown up. It doesn't look as different, yet it offers more function, more simplicity, not less. We like this box more, not less.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.