2004 was kind of a disjointed year for everyone. The last Oldsmobile ever rolled off the assembly line, the final episode of Friends drew in millions of viewers, Ronald Reagan kicked the bucket at the age of 93, the Boston Red Sox pissed off everyone in New York by winning the world series for the first time since 1918, and the CIA admitted that they screwed up and that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But amidst all of this heartache, toil, joy, and confusion, a small division of Toyota was elbowing its way into the American market with a lineup of cars that were both polarizing and practical.
Rolling onto the scene with a three car trifecta, modest price points with a “no haggle” bottomline sticker value and tons of attitude, Scion hit America with its xA, tC, and xB models strategically rolling out across campuses nationwide in a campaign that set the stage for all others to follow. While the tC and now-defunct xA garnered some attention along the way, it was the heavily accessorized, toaster-looking xB that grabbed everyone’s eye. It came to us in four different trim levels, and whether you loved it or hated it, there was no ignoring the xB. A lot can be said for the role in which this unusual vehicle has played during the infancy of the compact crossover and small car revolution that we are experiencing today.
Sure, Scion has never been a powerhouse compared to other automakers, but that’s not what they are about. Individuality and an unwavering interest in offering an appealing car for younger drivers at an affordable price still remains their mantra. When I drove and reviewed the new Scion iA and the Matrix-replacing iM a few months back, there was no getting around the fact that this company really is sticking to its core values. While sales are always important, being edgy certainly makes them stand out — perhaps that was why people flocked to the xB like mad in the first place.
But after a decade of rolling-out oddball economy boxes only to see an uninspiring number of them leave the sales floor in recent years, Scion has opted to axe its brave little toaster. However, before its final oddball curtain call, Scion has done something in traditional company fashion that makes complete sense: Partnering with 686 Tech Apparel, a snowboard company, to create the xB 686 Parklan Edition. The only question we have is: What took you so long?
In total, 686 of these xB special edition models have been made available (bet you didn’t see that one coming), and are designed to offer buyers a car that is “a unique combination of fashion and function.” Priced at just $19,685 (excluding delivery, processing, and handling fees), the 686 Parklan Edition will send the xB out the same way it came in: with plenty of edginess, youthfulness, and one-off mods.
Sporting seats with a plush quilted feel and cubist camo graphics, and even the driver’s saddle has a hidden zipper pocket on it to go with the zippered seat back pockets, much like how 686 snowboard jackets are crafted. Meanwhile, 16-inch alloy wheels roll around in a sleek, gloss-black finish, with 686s stamped logo in the center caps, further complimenting the smoked badges, side mirrors, rear license plate garnish, and door handles.
The paint scheme is this pearl-rich, “Cocoa Bean Metallic” color, and it has been contrasted tastefully by a series of red lines in both the front and rear, as well as on the side mirrors which remain true 686 staples. Back on the inside, the Parklan Edition utilizes all-weather floor and cargo mats to collect slush and mud, along with a custom INNO Cargo Box in the back for storing gear and beer. A complete roof rack set-up is available for anyone wanting to go all-in, and while the powertrain will reportedly remain untouched, all of the TRD performance upgrades will still work on this version, so adding some additional handling, braking, and grunt to this 158-horsepower runt shouldn’t be an issue.
Supposedly, Scion and 686 have been working on this project since 2011. According to Brent Sandor, 686’s director of marketing, his team took an xB on a three-week road trip from California to Boston to document the entire journey on film prior to approving this version. Ultimately, the little econo-box triumphed, and Scion Vice President Andrew Gilleland says that as a company they “wanted to give it a meaningful send-off” because “whether it’s used on the streets or the slopes, this xB will become a classic.”
But will the xB be classified as a classic someday? Probably not. While continuously offering the xB with a manual gearbox, performance upgrades, and boatloads of practicality is commendable, the company’s redesign a few years back remains a monolithic lackluster. Sure, it doesn’t come with an over-sized, fart canister for a muffler, an 80-pound wing, and obnoxious vinyl graphics, but stylistically speaking, many people still pine for the original xB. This car was Scion’s hottest seller for the longest time, but by 2011 it was surpassed by the tC, and never was able to regain its footing according to Toyota’s year-end report. Plummeting from a peak of over 60,000 units sold in 2006 to just 17,017 in 2011, this bread box has run across hard times. All we can wonder is: Why didn’t they make an all-wheel drive version?