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Turbonetics Scion tC: Can it be wrong to nearly double the output of a tC? Nah

Time:2018-02-14 21:15Turbochargers information Click:

Turbonetics scion Nearly wrong

Stock out of the box, the Scion tC makes only 160 hp, a specification that is piddly by sport compact tuner/import racer/general poseur standards, but one that is also just waiting for some kind of aftermarket improvement. Turbonetics has been fabricating, researching, designing and selling its own turbocharging systems for 28 years, with kits available for 49 vehicles. So it’s only natural that Turbo-netics should apply its expertise to the tC to make more horsepower.

The Turbonetics tC kit comes with everything you need to bring a Scion’s horsepower up from a reasonable and prudent 160 stock to an unreasonable and impudent 300 (at the crank on eight pounds of boost with 94 octane gas). The whole kit goes for $5,595 at 220 Turbonetics distributors worldwide.

This is a good thing.

The heart of the system is a Turbonetics T3/T4 hybrid turbocharger, bolted up high, front and center so you will win all those Best Engineered trophies at the import show ‘n’ shine. The hybrid consists of a T3 turbine and a T4 compressor. The lighter turbine of the T3 spools up quickly to lessen turbo lag while the bigger T4 compressor packs in more air. The ceramic bearings spool faster and last longer, too.

Down under the regular tC radiator is where they positioned the Spearco inter-cooler, something that is included in all Turbonetics kits.

It’s all controlled by a Unichip computer that piggybacks on the stock computer without screwing up all the normal things the standard ECU must do.

The Turbonetics kit also includes a cast ductile exhaust manifold, stainless-steel downpipe, aluminum intercooler pipes and everything else you need to boost your tC’s power, from the AEM filter and four drop-in Motron high-flow injectors to the wastegate, blow-off valve and even the TS-1 synthetic engine oil.

We drove a Scion tC with the Turbonetics turbo kit at the Streets of Willow racetrack in California. It certainly does boost power. Gobs of power, surges of power, waves of power, coming on low and staying in high. The problem was doing something with it.

All that power made us realize what a relatively small and light car the tC is. At first the power torque-steered the tC almost into the gravel. Getting into the boost pulled the car around like a chew toy in a terrier’s yap. With this much power the tC cried out for a limited-slip differential. Or at least equal-length half-shafts. Or maybe rear-wheel drive.

“It needs a limited-slip real bad,” said Turbonetics design engineer Jhame Peters. “We’re gonna do that.”

But that’s why front-wheel-drive drag racers are so much busier in the cockpit than the drivers of more manageable rear-drive cars.

Turbonetics prides itself on its one-year warranty, which is “including products used in racing or competition applications,” according to the capital letters in every item of Turbonetics literature we saw. Now that’s refreshing. While most carmakers happily cancel your warranty if you so much as paint a number on your rear side window, here is a company that stands by you.

“It’s been out here for six hours being beaten on by strangers,” said vice president Brad Lewis at The Streets. “It’s a bit unnerving, but it’s performed flawlessly.”

Indeed, ours was the last drive of the day, and the engine was still making crazy, tire-spinning power. This ain’t exactly how you’d describe the stock powertrain. For tC kits or the 49 others, go to

Mark Vaughn

Mark Vaughn - West Coast Editor Mark Vaughn covers all car things west of the Mississippi from his Autoweek lair high above the LA metropolis.
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