Occasionally, Toyota introduces a vehicle that’s mostly different from everything else and usually distorts the line between their mainstream lineup and Lexus luxury vehicles, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One vehicle that filled such a post was the latest Toyota Venza, and now, after the demise of the Toyota Avalon, the all-new Toyota Crown comes in to fill its place as a refined and somewhat high-statured near-luxury sedan.
The Toyota Crown is a name synonymous with a long-standing premium sedan in Japan from a brand that had a run on our side of the pond with the Crown as the first Japanese vehicle in the United States in 1958. Now, after a 50-year hiatus in the USA, the Crown name has made it back to our American shores, where it gives us something fresh out of the box, picking up where the Toyota Avalon left off last year.
There’s no doubt that the Toyota Crown is something different, which can be a good thing or something to shake things up. Most of the shaking revolves around the Crown’s styling, which is unique as a vehicle that looks to be a slightly lifted sedan, which pays respect to being easier to get in and out – possibly targeting a certain crowd. The extra height, just over 3-inches taller than Avalon that was discontinued last year, looks to emerge on the popular SUV crowd to give consumers something unique that doesn’t depart too much from the enjoyed feature of SUVs being a little higher off the ground. Apart from its odd height for a sedan, the Crown has a bubbly character and can be accentuated further in the top Platinum trim of my tow-toned-painted test vehicle with large 21-inch wheels. Such a look could be a new trendsetter or something that goes away quietly in the next couple of model years – only time will tell.
Powering the new Toyota Crown is a choice of two all-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrains, the standard setup of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and three electric motors for a total of 236 horsepower with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is found in the base XLE and Limited trims. The top Platinum trim gets a different hybrid setup borrowed from the new Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance, a 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor at the rear axle for a total system output of 340 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The Crown Platinum’s powertrain gets a 6-speed automatic transmission for its shifting duties that affect just the front wheels, while the rear is a direct drive from its electric motor instead of having any physical connection from the front engine.
The Crown Platinum performs quite well, even surprisingly, when you really put your foot down. The turbocharged engine is eager to rev up, and the supplemented power from the rear axle’s electric motor seems to give you a little kick as it has as much as 215 lb-ft of instant torque to play with by itself. In expected Toyota fashion, the pioneers of hybrid vehicles in America, the Toyota Crown is a seamless experience where you hardly feel transitions from the electric motor working alone to firing up the turbocharged engine. Everything works well, and it works quickly – the quickest I’ve experienced in a mainstream hybrid vehicle for power transitions making driving a seamless and virtually thoughtless experience. Even the brakes feel natural for use of the braking regen transitioning to the friction brakes.
Acceleration is strong, and power comes on exactly when you need it no matter what speed or power situation the hybrid system is currently in. When conditions are ideal and you are in the Sport+ drive mode, you’ll hit 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.
The power management of the Toyota Crown is also what you expect out of a Toyota hybrid, but the drive modes seem to only make subtle changes in the driving character as they do with the adaptive dampers. The suspension is more on the side of comfort, and it shows as the Crown soaks up road imperfections but does it with a bit of luxury float but nothing to the point of being overly bouncy. The three-mode dampers make minimal changes in each mode, where I found the Sport setting to be more agreeable to keep body motions to a minimum versus somewhat lofty comfort and normal modes. I won’t go as far as to say the Crown is more versed for an older crowd, but it does fill the void that the Avalon left – so take that for what you will.
While the theme of the Crown is obviously soft and premium, there’s an assurance of its powerful powertrain when you opt for the Platinum trim. Going with the standard hybrid powertrain in the XLE and Limited trims, you’ll be about two seconds slower to 60 mph, but you’ll greatly benefit in the area of fuel efficiency.
The benefit of the hybrid powertrain in the new Crown XLE or Limited trim, is you’ll be looking at 40+ MPG figures all day long. However, the Crown Platinum, with its more powerful hybrid setup, the EPA estimates of 29 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined isn’t going to exactly impress anyone. To quickly note, the Crown Platinum can still get remarkable fuel economy numbers, but you’ll have to be a conscious driver to make the best use of how the hybrid system operates. Otherwise, the hybrid setup in the Crown Platinum is more ‘geared’ towards adding power with the benefit of occasional electric drive moments.
In filling the shoes of the Toyota Avalon, the new Crown does well to offer up a spacious cabin and proportions that aren’t very far off from what we enjoyed in the Avalon. The premium feel of the interior is slightly enhanced with the Limited trim, in having leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, keyless entry/start, and an 11-speaker JBL audio system. The seating areas all around are very accommodating for virtually any size person, including the rear bench. There are several soft-touch surfaces exactly where they should be, and the hard plastics are pushed well below your eyesight so as to not take away from the premium feel of the Crown, which is almost to the level of what you expect in a Lexus.
The Crown uses the same recent 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system found in other new Toyota vehicles incorporating over-the-air updates, cloud-based navigation, and the integration of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system is as good as I’ve explained in previous reviews. What is slightly different in the Crown is the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, which has the typical hybrid information displays but is somewhat confusing for setting up the displays and bringing up a central navigation map, which seemed to be intermittent with loading. Overall, the interior is agreeable with easy-to-reach controls, a central volume knob, and physical automatic climate controls.
Cargo space is a bit smaller than I hoped for at 15.2 cubic feet, but you can fold down the 60/40-split rear seatbacks for additional space.
The Toyota Crown brings all the expected safety features, including a bevy of active safety features, including blind-spot monitors, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning/emergency braking, and safe exit assist. Having the Crown Platinum trim adds the 360-degree surround-view camera system, and an advanced park system that allows the vehicle to autonomously park itself in both parallel and perpendicular spaces.
Ultimately, the Toyota Crown attempts to bring a little SUV-ness to the table, and having that merit along with its premium interior, unique styling, and powerful hybrid powertrain, you will pay a slight premium to the tune of $54,420 (including a $1,095 delivery fee) for my top-trimmed test vehicle. The new Toyota Crown XLE with the base engine starts at $39,950 before any fees. As far as such a price attracting many, it remains to be seen. However, you do get a decent vehicle for the money that tends to bend the lines between a sedan and SUV with the added bonus of being near luxury wrapped up in a smooth operating touring hybrid with respected power.