• After 56 years, Toyota seems prepared so as 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 every part else nowadays, this new Century is prone to be a crossover, although not a direct rival to one thing like a Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
  • Watch the debut at 12:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, September 6.

Earlier than ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne as emperor of Japan in 2019, Crown Prince Naruhito settled into a spot with almost as a lot status: the again seat of a Toyota. Particularly, 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’s a machine steeped in custom. Now that custom appears destined to alter as Toyota readies a further mannequin within the flagship final luxurious automobile 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 positive factor. The newest 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 Energy

To grasp why an SUV/crossover bearing the Century’s phoenix badge is a giant concept, this is a snapshot of the breed. Initially launched in 1967 as a big V-8 sedan, the first-generation Century obtained solely probably the most minor updates for some 30 years. If you happen to have been the type of conservative Japanese government to exile the racing-obsessed Yutaka Katayama to the fledgling U.S. market to sink or swim, you then may effectively have been ferried round in a Century. Effectively, 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. Launched in 1997, early fashions of those at the moment are U.S. importable, and they’re great to drive. Think about the imperious wafting of a Rolls-Royce, with engineering from the folks behind the Mk IV Supra Turbo, and assembled by skilled takumi who hand-chamfer the physique panels by really feel alone.

Nonetheless 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 automobiles per thirty days, and Japan-only availability. For sure, the ready listing 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 unique type of luxurious. No flashy Maybach or Bentley, the Century embraces a subtlety not seen a lot within the luxurious market nowadays. 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

Particulars 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 Automotive-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.

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

Coming Right here? Wishful Pondering?

What’s maybe extra attention-grabbing is the opportunity 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–primarily based 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.

Regardless of the case, the growth of the Century vary after almost 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, remember to test these abroad auctions for any second-generation V-12 Centurys developing on the market—there’s one on Convey a Trailer proper now, though the public sale ends September 6. They’re simply the factor to make you are feeling like an emperor, even while you’re simply on the best way to get takeout sushi.


Contributing Editor

Brendan McAleer is a contract author and photographer primarily based 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 folks in 2008. His explicit 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 methods to shift a guide transmission and is grateful for the excuse they supply to be perpetually shopping for Scorching Wheels.



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