Toyota’s Crown is well-executed, comfortable and surprisingly efficient
By Isaac Bouchard
Before there was Lexus, there was the Crown, Toyota’s flagship sedan, and in other countries, there are multiple models that wear that moniker.
America finally gets a version of the Crown, and it represents a bold choice on the company’s part. This sedan boasts some very intriguing styling choices; body forms flow into each other in intriguing ways, and match well with the fastback roofline to create a dynamic profile The Platinum test model’s high-fashion vibe was enhanced by the two-tone paint. The center of the hood, the brow above the lights, the roof and parts of the front and back bumper fascias are painted gloss black. This creates some very interesting visual cues and contrasts nicely with the dark gray “Heavy Metal” paintwork that adorns the other panels and the black trim that defines the fender lips and Porsche Macan-like side “blades” set into the doors.
Probably the most controversial aspect is the Crown’s raised ride height, which one might assume is intended to make it more like a crossover coupe. In the past raised cars like the Subaru Outback SUS from the late 90s and Honda Crosstour didn’t do well, but times have changed and most shoppers have migrated away from conventional sedans anyway; hopefully, Toyota’s timing is more fortuitous.
It doesn’t seem to degrade dynamics; this Toyota can tackle a back road with a measure of aplomb and rides exceedingly well over rough roads. That’s probably because actual ground clearance is only a tenth of an inch more than a Camry. All Crowns are hybrids; basic models run the 236-hp version with a CVT gearbox that is becoming ubiquitous across Toyota’s other models, while the Platinum has the 340-hp turbo Hybrid Max version that runs a much more pleasing 6-speed automatic and AWD. The normal hybrid takes 7.2 seconds to get to 60mph and can net over 40 mpg. The Hybrid Max knocks 2 seconds off the 0-60 dash but loses 10mpg. As may be; a 30mpg average is a great number for a big, fast luxury sedan.
The Crown’s interior defines the intersection point between Lexus and Toyota. Material quality is excellent and the design is modern, with large, bold screens prominently placed. The tester’s all-black cockpit was something of a letdown after the confidence of the exterior though, with only a smattering of bronze-colored accents to break up the expanse of dark materials; thankfully a panoramic roof brings in enough light to lift the gloom. The Crown is very roomy, and the heated and ventilated power-front chairs are very comfortable. The back seat room, despite the sloping roof, is likewise copious. All models come with a suite of safety systems such as autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise; Platinums have even more advanced (and sometimes invasive) driver aids as standard.
Toyota knows the styling is polarizing; it doesn’t expect to sell that many Crowns Stateside. Based on unsolicited curbside comments and responses to a couple of social media posts, many think it is simply gorgeous. As the Crown replaces the respected but anodyne Avalon, it is to be hoped that it can combine emotion and logic in a way that leads to a long run.
The Crown is one of the most captivating-looking new sedans I have seen in many years. It walks the fine line between being unique and being just too weird. The blacked-out face reminds me of Ronan the Accuser, the villain from Guardians of the Galaxy. The two-tone paint was a part of this, and while it looks fine in a single color, I cannot imagine wanting this Toyota without choosing one of the 2-color combos. Inside it’s made like Toyotas used to be and the controls are very logical. It is very smooth and quiet, fast enough, and being a hybrid, gets excellent fuel economy on my commute. I also like the seat height that comes with the raised suspension. Our garage spaces are very cramped, and it is much easier to slide into than the sports sedans and coupes we have had in the past. In traffic, it feels like you’re sitting in a compact crossover, based on your sight lines.
EPA Ratings: 29/32/30mpg
Price as tested: $55,217
Rating: 4 Stars
Here is what Toyota has to say.
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Isaac Bouchard, Automotive Editor, owns Denver-based Bespoke Autos and can be reached at [email protected]; 303-475-1462