2023 Toyota Crown revealed — an old name in a new body

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This is your 2023 Toyota Crown, returning unrecognizable after a long hiatus from our shores. The Crown debuted in Japan in 1955, making it Toyota’s oldest passenger car name. Akin to a Japanese E-Class, over the Crown’s 15 continuous generations in its homeland it’s known for launching new technology to Toyota's range, as a chauffeured ride for potentates, and for being a taxi. Toyota sold it in the U.S. from 1958 to 1972. The closest we’ve been to it since then was the Lexus GS, which used Crown platforms and powertrains.

This 16th generation of the Crown continues the model’s penchant for novelties, first among them being three new bodystyles in Japan: A wagon, an SUV, and a high-riding sedan that join the latest version of the standard sedan. We will get one of them, the elevated sedan.

A few years ago, a wave of new vehicles came with the disclaimer, “It looks better in person.” The 2023 Crown tips its hat to that era. Standing next to it in the studio, it looks like a crossover. In fact, its form would hit the bullseye as an electric crossover, another of the shapely, lifted lozenges balancing the dictates of aerodynamics, packaging, and market tastes. The Crown even has a flat underfloor, the grubby bits from the front bumper to the rear suspension hidden behind aero panels.

But it’s not electric. And when we asked Toyota if it’s conceivable that there could be an electric Crown, we were told the automaker has no plans to combine electric drivetrains with the Crown’s TNGA-K platform in the U.S.

Beyond Avalon

Before we dive under the hood, let’s get some comparisons out of the way. First, since this is effectively the replacement for the Toyota Avalon, Toyota sized it like the Avalon. The Crown’s about two inches shorter than the soon-to-retire sedan, width and wheelbase less than an inch apart between the two cars. Roof height and the all-important hip point — for that commanding seating position that sells cars in the U.S. — are all four inches higher than the Avalon.

Second, some might wonder how this isn't a cross-town reboot of the Honda Accord Crosstour. This a full-sized sedan billed as premium, the Crosstour was a mass-market midsized sedan. The Crosstour started at about $29,000, the Crown will be appreciably more expensive. And although the Toyota looks like a liftback, it has a trunk, unlike the Honda. Substantive differences in experience, yes. Superficially, we wouldn’t fault anyone for summarizing, “So it’s a larger, nicer Crosstour with a trunk.”

There will be three trims, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. The XLE and Limited ride on 19-inch wheels, the Platinum comes on an exclusive set of 21-inchers. An Advanced Technology package for the Limited can get that middle trim on its own 21-inch rims. The Platinum is also the only trim that offers a bi-tone paint job, combining black down the middle and one of five colors on the sides.

Every Crown here will be an all-wheel-drive hybrid. The XLE and Limited will come with Toyota’s Hybrid System, the same we’re familiar with from several other Toyota models but with upgrades like a high-output nickel-metal-hydride battery. A naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder gets help from two electric motors, sending its power to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The E-Four AWD system is on-demand, using an electric motor to drive the rear axle. Torque split ranges from 100% in front to 20:80 front-to-rear.

Combined system output is 236 horsepower, 17 more than the RAV4 Hybrid. Combined fuel economy is 38 miles per gallon, two less than the RAV4 Hybrid. This one can drive on battery power alone, but only at low speeds and for short distances — think parking lots and pulling into the gated community after a night out. Otherwise, it’s Normal, Sport, and Eco.

The Platinum comes with an all-new Hybrid Max drivetrain tuned for performance. A 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a water-cooled rear motor increase combined output to 340. Instead of a CVT, a six-speed automatic with multi-plate wet clutch instead of a torque converter improves the dynamism, an e-motor in that transmission filling in power dips during shifting.

The E-Four Advanced system provides constant all-wheel drive, the front axle maxing out at 70% of drive torque. The torque split can go 20:80 the other way, as with the plain E-Four AWD, but given the increased output, there’s a lot more action being sent rearward. The drivetrain adds three more modes, Sport+, Comfort, and Custom. The performance brief drops fuel economy to 28 mpg combined.

MacPherson struts in front work with a new multilink suspension in the rear. On the Platinum, and adaptive variable suspension is dialed in to minimize pitch and roll.

Near-luxury, but not Lexus

Inside, the XLE comes with black fabric weave, the Limited with Softex in either black, chestnut, or macadamia, the Platinum with black leather. All trims get a 12.3-inch driver’s display and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen running Toyota’s latest software, meaning boons like OTA updates and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Since Toyota has Lexus to protect, the premium cabin we experienced in the Crown Platinum does the best it can with various black materials and a touch of contrasting trim. We suspect the greater part of premium perception will be the dynamic experience, the automaker saying it took pains to diminish noise, vibration, and harshness. We were told that instead of spotlighting a decibel level, engineers paired sound deadening and design details to create a “calm atmosphere conducive to enjoying easy conversation or hearing music in cleaner detail.” For instance, the steering gear has been mounted differently so as to provide better steering feel and less vibration, and every Crown gets acoustic glass.

All three trims come with dual-zone climate control and heated, eight-way power front seats. Limited and Platinum add ventilation to the front thrones and heating to the rears. The XLE makes do with a base, six-speaker audio system, the Limited and Platinum get 11-speaker JBL audio.

On the Limited, opting for the Advanced Technology package that bolts on those 21-inch wheels also throws in Toyota’s Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan. The all-seeing cameras are standard on Platinum, as is the Advanced Park System that can slot the Crown into an empty space.

Every trim also comes with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, including driver aids like blind spot monitor and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Improved sensors will mean better behavior from the lane assist.

Toyota isn’t ready to say anything about price, but it’s clear this one’s gonna be spendy. The 2022 Avalon XLE Hybrid starts at $38,920 after destination. We would not be surprised at a range of $43,000 to $50,000 across the lineup when the Crown begins arriving at dealers before the year is out.

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