Earlier this month, I had the privilege of being invited to the National Preview of the 2016 Scion iM and Scion iA in gorgeous Santa Monica, California.
Positioning itself as an alternative to mainstream car brands, Scion aims to create distinctive products, as well as revolutionize the standard purchase processes within the automotive industry. Though it might not be the biggest brand, Scion uses its smaller size to its advantage. In fact, it considers itself a "platform for experimentation," an ethos seen not only in its products, but also in the culture and lifestyle it promotes -- and which I was lucky enough to experience first-hand.
Upon arrival at the beautiful, eco-friendly Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, myself and the other guests were shuttled to Venice Beach for a 90-minute surf lesson under the instruction of expert surfers from go surf LA. Having never surfed before, I was a little apprehensive, fearing injury, or worse, humiliation; however, I was determined to embrace not only the Californian lifestyle, but also the adventurous spirit of the Scion brand.
After covering the basics, such as form, surfing etiquette and ocean safety on land, we entered the water in anticipation of catching our very first wave. What followed was absolute exhilaration! The thrill of jumping up and balancing on the water was incredible, even if it only lasted a few seconds at a time. Needless to say, the 90 minutes flew by, leaving us exhausted (surfing is quite the workout!) and breathless with excitement. For me, this moment was especially triumphant, because it meant I had not only physically challenged myself, but conquered a deeply-rooted fear. I truly felt on top of the world.
Following our surf lesson, we returned to the hotel to freshen up for the highly anticipated product presentation and dinner reception at Cross Campus LA, a state-of-the-art co-working space designed to promote creativity and innovation. The space is important to note because it aligns with another one of Scion's key principals: community. As a highly social brand, Scion understands that there's not only strength in numbers, there's also opportunity. The company's partnership with Cross Campus felt natural, as it is a hub that connects creative professionals and entrepreneurs, ultimately offering them the potential to learn, grow and network with each other.
Myself and the guests were treated to presentations by Doug Murtha, group Vice President for the Scion division, David C. Lee, Senior Product Education Administrator for Product Communications, Kunihiko Endo, Deputy Chief Engineer and Andy Lam, Product and In-Cabin Technology Expert. The presentations went well beyond product specs, painting a well-rounded picture of how the Scion iM and iA came to be, as well as diving into who the Scion consumer is, and the psychology of the brand as a whole. It was a very illuminating end to an amazing first day!
The second day of my whirlwind 48-hour trip started bright and early with breakfast, a walk on the pier and a driving brief on the Scion iA and Scion iM. Each of the guests were going to get a chance to take both cars for a spin -- and not just anywhere, but through the panoramic, breathtaking Malibu Canyons.
I teamed up with auto blogger Lance the Driver, hopped in the sleek, sporty Scion iM and we headed on our merry way. I was well aware of the vehicle's generous list of standard and premium features from the previous night’s product presentation -- versatile 5-door design, a roomy cabin, eight standard airbags -- but I was not prepared for how fun it was to drive! With a 137 horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, the car felt nimble and responsive to my every command. We opted to drive in the Scion iM’s Sport Mode, which offered a livelier experience through the electric power steering and accelerator reactiveness.
After completing the gorgeous route, it was time to switch vehicles and take the Scion iA for a ride. The unique design of the sedan immediately stood out to me, featuring a hexagon lower grille, sharp-eyed headlights and a sophisticated piano bumper. The distinctive look of the car definitely made it all the more exciting to drive! The lightweight feel of the 6-speed automatic transmission was instantly transformed with a flick of the Sport Mode switch, offering a greater torque feel that felt perfect for the twisting roads of the Santa Monica mountains.
Our test drive came to an end, but our day certainly did not! We stopped by the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe, a farm-to-table concept located at the end of the Malibu Pier, for an organic lunch and fresh-pressed juice. Feeling refreshed, we were able to soldier on for a horseback ride with Malibu Riders through the Agoura Hills. It was scorching hot on the other side of the mountains, but it was worth every second! As a former horseback rider, I welcomed the chance to get back in the saddle, especially in such a beautiful setting.
We returned to the hotel for our final dinner, which was delicious, yet bittersweet, as I readied myself to say goodbye to all my wonderful new friends, the Scion team and Santa Monica, a city I had quickly fallen in love with. However, I left feeling incredibly lucky: not only was I one of the first people to drive the Scion iA and Scion iM, I was also able to meet the passionate, talented people who make the Scion brand what it is. Best of all, I was able to experience Scion’s adventurous, cutting-edge culture in one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to.