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  • After 56 years, Toyota seems prepared to add a second Century mannequin to its flagship vary. This one is for Japan solely, however with the Crown now on U.S. shores, maybe we may dream of a U.S.-market Century?
  • Like all the things else as of late, this new Century is probably going to be a crossover, although not a direct rival to one thing like a Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
  • (*6*) at 12:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, September 6.

Before ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne as emperor of Japan in 2019, Crown Prince Naruhito settled into a spot with practically as a lot status: the again seat of a Toyota. Specifically, that of a Toyota Century, lengthy the automotive equal of Japan’s Imperial family.

Handbuilt, luxurious but extremely reserved, simply three generations of Century limousine have existed since 1967. It is a machine steeped in custom. Now that custom appears destined to change as Toyota readies an extra mannequin within the flagship ultimate luxury vehicle class.

It was initially hinted at in a projected silhouette on the launch of the Toyota Alphard minivan by Toyota chief branding officer Simon Humphries, and now the arrival of a Century SUV appears a certain factor. The most up-to-date teaser picture options the white-gloved hand of a chauffeur about to open the door of a crossover that bears the polished, squared-off styling of the present Century sedan.

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A Legacy of Power

To perceive why an SUV/crossover bearing the Century’s phoenix badge is an enormous concept, here is a snapshot of the breed. Initially launched in 1967 as a big V-8 sedan, the first-generation Century acquired solely essentially the most minor updates for some 30 years. If you have been the form of conservative Japanese govt to exile the racing-obsessed Yutaka Katayama to the fledgling U.S. market to sink or swim, you then may properly have been ferried round in a Century. Well, no truly, you’d clearly have been in a Nissan product, however the level stands. The Century wasn’t flashy, however it projected energy nonetheless.

toyota century

The Century in 2018.


The second-generation Century resembled its ancestor intently however dropped the bubble-economy Toyota engineering mic by being Japan’s solely manufacturing V-12 automobile, ever. Introduced in 1997, early fashions of those are actually U.S. importable, and they’re great to drive. Imagine the imperious wafting of a Rolls-Royce, with engineering from the individuals behind the Mk IV Supra Turbo, and assembled by educated takumi who hand-chamfer the physique panels by really feel alone.

Still Handcrafted, Now Hybrid

The present technology of Century is now a 5.0-liter V-8 hybrid with a powertrain shared with the Lexus LS600h. As such, it feels rather less particular, however there’s nonetheless a handcrafted high quality to the automobile, one which limits manufacturing to simply 50 autos per 30 days, and Japan-only availability. Needless to say, the ready checklist stretches to years.

Sinking into the wealthy wool upholstery of a Century—it breathes higher than leather-based within the humid Tokyo summer time, and does not squeak both—is a distinct form of luxurious. No flashy Maybach or Bentley, the Century embraces a subtlety not seen a lot within the luxurious market as of late. Akio Toyoda did have a GR model made, with less-reserved sporty tweaks, however that was extra the exception that proves the rule.

What We Know So Far

Details on this new Century SUV haven’t leaked out forward of the September 6 reveal (due to the time zone, it is simply after midnight within the U.S.), however camouflaged prototypes have already been noticed by Japanese journal Car-Moby. The rumor amongst Japanese publications is that this new Century will journey on the identical platform because the Toyota Grand Highlander, a variant of which additionally underpins that Alphard minivan.

That means a transverse-mounted engine with front-wheel-drive structure, a tough promote within the luxurious phase. Given the Century’s use as a chaffeured livery automobile, hybridization is probably going, and it is attainable that Toyota will probably be in a position to disguise any commoner roots with lashings of handbuilt high quality.

Coming Here? Wishful Thinking?

What’s maybe extra attention-grabbing is the potential of a Century on this aspect of the Pacific. Toyota bringing the Crown sedan to North America was an attention-grabbing transfer, and the crossover market is a safer guess. Lexus does have the Grand Highlander–based mostly TX on the best way, however maybe there’s some room on the prime for a flagship Toyota crossover with out the L badge on the entrance.

Whatever the case, the growth of the Century vary after practically 60 years of staying the course is, like Emperor Naruhito himself, a sign that some traditions are going to be shaken up. And if these tremors stay Japan-market solely, do not forget to examine these abroad auctions for any second-generation V-12 Centurys developing on the market—there’s one on Bring a Trailer proper now, though the public sale ends September 6. They are simply the factor to make you are feeling like an emperor, even whenever you’re simply on the best way to get takeout sushi.


Contributing Editor

Brendan McAleer is a contract author and photographer based mostly in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He grew up splitting his knuckles on British vehicles, got here of age within the golden period of Japanese sport-compact efficiency, and commenced writing about vehicles and other people in 2008. His specific curiosity is the intersection between humanity and equipment, whether or not it’s the racing profession of Walter Cronkite or Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He has taught each of his younger daughters how to shift a guide transmission and is grateful for the excuse they supply to be perpetually shopping for Hot Wheels.

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