SAN DIEGO – Toyota Motor Corp.’s Scion tC sporty coupe, redesigned for ’11, will go another six years between generations, the brand’s top official says.

While he acknowledges tC sales slid during its first six years on the market, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis tells Ward’s the drop was less precipitous than that of competing models.

Launched in 2004, Scion tC deliveries tumbled from a high of 79,125 units in 2006 to just 17,998 in 2009. In comparison, sales of the Mitsubishi Eclipse hit a high of 72,040 in 2002 and a low of 6,672 last year.

Six years is a longer-than-usual lifecycle for passenger cars, most of which go through a redesign every four or five years.

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., told Ward’s last year the wait for the second-generation tC, going on sale in the U.S. Oct. 1, was longer than expected because the auto maker went back to the drawing board on the car.

“We want to ensure we have the right styling and the right driving dynamics,” Lentz said last November. “As a result, it caused a delay in the overall timing of the product.”

The second-generation tC’s chief engineer, Masayuki Nagai, says the delay was due to an exterior styling switch, from a more-elaborate Toyota-esque appearance to the more-masculine but clean look seen on the ’11 tC.

Scion is counting on the new tC to attract more male buyers, thanks in part to its aggressive styling, with a helmet-visor style front end, blacked out A pillars, sharper edges and an overall lower and wider stance.

The current tC, while once skewing more male than female, now is sold more often to women, and Scion officials hope to get the mix back to 60/40 with the ’11 model.

They also acknowledge the car’s styling is “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary.”

“If you want to go revolutionary, you may end up in a place that’s really limiting yourself,” Hollis says during a tC media event here.

After surveying first-generation owners about their wants, Nagai says he focused on creating a new tC that was more performance-oriented, with better ride quality.

With that in mind, the car’s engine grows from a 161-hp, 2.4L 4-cyl. in the ’10 model to a 180 hp, 2.5L 4-cyl. Torque also is up, from 162 lb.-ft. (220 Nm) to 173 lb.-ft. (234 Nm).

The new engine has dual variable valve timing with intelligence, a variable-induction intake manifold system, and friction-reducing variable-output oil pump and multi-point oil jets.

A 6-speed manual replaces a 5-speed unit, and the car’s automatic now is a 6-speed compared with a 4-speed in the current tC. Scion expects sales to skew 70-30 automatic/manual, about the same as in car’s early years.

Scion changed the tC’s steering from hydraulic to speed-sensing electric power steering, which improves fuel economy and is relatively maintenance-free.

The ’11 tC is expected to average 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) vs. 23 mpg (10.2 L/100 km) in the current manual model, and 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km) in the ’10 tC with a 4-speed automatic.

The tC’s suspension still is MacPherson strut in the front and double-wishbone in the rear, but it has been retuned via shocks, springs and sway bars.

While performance is important to tC buyers, executives say music may be just as critical.

The tC now boasts three different audio systems. The base 300W Pioneer unit outdoes the previous unit by 140W and an additional speaker, now eight from seven. A USB port with iPod connectivity now is standard.

The new tC has a mesh wind deflector, due to problems with the current car’s panoramic sunroof, which was prone to shattering if debris struck its glass wind deflector.

As with most Scions, the tC comes with numerous accessories, more than 45 at launch, including carbon-fiber B-pillar trim, 19-in. wheels and a large brake kit.

Advertising for the tC will continue to be through alternative means. For example, after the car’s debut at April’s New York auto show, the tC went on a 14-city U.S. tour where Scion owners and three of their friends were able to view it up close.

This fall, an “xChange” tour takes the tC to “young urbanites,” Hollis says, and will raise money for non-profit charities in the cities it hits. Additionally, a movie-preview-style micro website, “Enter the Machine,” debuts in a few weeks to promote the tC.

At vehicle launch, the campaign’s name changes to “Take on the Machine,” with branded 3D glasses handed out at movie theaters to view a commercial for the car.

Hollis believes tC sales eventually will climb back to 70,000-plus units annually, but most likely not until the industry recovers to a 16 million or 17 million seasonally adjusted annual sales rate.

The second-generation tC’s price will start at $18,275 for a manual model, an increase of $1,175 from ’10. The 6-speed automatic version will be $19,275, up $575. Destination and handling will be $720. The average transaction price for the car at the end of last year was $18,700.

The Scion tC will continue to be built at Toyota’s Tsutsumi, Japan, plant, also home to the Toyota Prius.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com