Our last taste of the Scion xB came more than two years ago, when we reviewed a 2005 model and came away favorably impressed with the package despite a lack of available tech options for the interior. One of the two models (with the xA) that led Scion's 2004 entry into the U.S. market, the first-gen xB was sized for the city but with a surprisingly large interior and a cheekiness that helped it outsell the other Scions handily.
For 2008, predictably if unfortunately, the xB has gotten bigger, thirstier, and pricier in its second iteration. The lovable ugly-duckling styling that made it noteworthy at its original launch has given way to rounded edges and a less blatant two-box shape. Whether these nods to convention attract a wider swath of buyers or alienate the model's devotees remains to be seen, but some of the different-drummer attitude has been sacrificed, and we miss it.
However, the news is far from bad. If the Scion has grown up a bit on the outside, a similar maturation has bestowed the interior with an extensive list of tech options and more usable cargo space than the airy cabin of the original xB. Bluetooth for hands-free calling is the only major absence on the available options list, but otherwise our complaints about the earlier xB's thin gadget offerings have been answered with a vengeance.
Test the tech: Epic Japanese-Italian three-way
How many cars offer occupants the ability to watch three separate DVDs simultaneously? We're hard-pressed to think of any, let alone with a sub-$23,000 sticker price like the Scion we tested. With this capability in mind, we tested the tech in the 2008 xB with a simultaneous in-car movie trilogy viewing. After briefly considering the obvious father-son overtones of the original Star Wars trilogy, we decided that the "scion" relationship was best portrayed in the Godfather saga. Plus we've seen Star Wars too many times.
Each of the rear-seat players includes a two-channel wireless headphone set with volume control, and a single two-mode remote controls the playback features of both. Yes, the kids can each watch their favorite DVD, but they will still engage in sibling bonding while fighting over the remote. The players tilt forward out of the seatbacks for top-loading of discs and snap back rigidly into place for viewing, so the seatback angles determine visibility to an extent, although we felt comfortable watching the 7" screens through a range of possible front seating positions.
In the cabin
The new xB offers a broad array of cabin electronics as options, in direct contrast to the entry-level-only original version, which offered an auxiliary audio input as its main nod to interior tech. The 2008 model adds a standard dedicated iPod port and cable, which charges the iPod and offers full control via special menus on the 7-inch touch screen when the navigation option is present.
The xB's standard 160-watt six-speaker setup includes two tweeters and works nicely with the touch screen, which offers controls for focusing the sound. An equalizer and various sound processing options are also handled through the nav screen. One option our tester didn't include was the upgraded Pioneer premium audio system, which has an extra sound processing setting for owners who add aftermarket amplifiers. The single-CD slot is behind the tilting nav screen, and the system played both MP3 and WMA discs without fuss, showing complete ID3 tagging information.