The Toyota Cressida hit the Australian market in 1977 and remained in production through nearly two decades and four generations. It was assembled by Toyota in New Zealand for export to Australia and beyond.
The top-of-the-range model, the Grande, largely paved the way for the birth of Toyota’s higher-spec Lexus brand in the 1990s thanks to its smart looks and powerful equipment, and remains popular as a reliable, roomy and competitively priced car.
Initially marketed as a mid-sized sedan, the Cressida increased in size, particularly with its third- and fourth-generation incarnations, though it retained its compact styling. In recent years, the Cressida has come to be regarded fondly as something of a modern classic, becoming ever-more sought after as an attractive, reliable period vehicle. Buyers of the Grande, in particular, can purchase with a level of confidence that resale values will continue to hold their own.
The first-generation Cressida was introduced in 1976 under the X30 series. Models included the X30 and X32 sedans, along with the X35 and X36 station wagon variants and the X30 and X31 two-door hardtop coupes.
Engine options ranged from 1.8 litres to 2.6 litres with 4- or 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic, while second-generation enhancements included a larger engine and electronic fuel injection. The third-generation included a 2-litre I6, 4-speed automatic with mid-grade trim and a 2.8-litre DOHC, 24-valve I6 GLX high-spec model that included automatic air conditioning and leather upholstery for an upgraded ride. This was the last generation to be assembled in New Zealand due to changing import-export rules.
The station wagon variant was discontinued in 1987, while the sedan and coupe remained in production through 1993.
The fourth-generation models hailed the arrival of a more powerful 3.0-litre engine, with 140 kW at 6,000 rpm and 250 Nm at 4,400 rpm, and some changes to the body, including a new double-wishbone rear suspension. Fuel economy tends to be above average, offering 600km per 70-litre tank.
Standard features in the first-generation sedan included air conditioning, power steering, armrests for rear seats, AM/FM stereo system with cassette player and amplifier, reclining front seats, and a defroster for the rear window. Power windows were included as an optional extra. Soundproofing was second to none, earning the Cressida a reputation for being one of the quietest cars of its time on the road.
New styling was introduced to the sedan and station wagon designs in 1981, creating the MX63. This was the first of the models featuring the larger engine and electronic fuel injection, giving 87 kW of power. This was replaced in 1983 with a DOHC engine giving 107 kW, increasing to 116 kW the following year.
The MX72 and MX73 were introduced for 1984 and 1985 with few changes to the engine, but with a few tweaks including a knock sensor. Further options were introduced to the third-generation models including electronic shock absorber control and a number of interior features such as CD player, secondary radio controls located by the steering wheel for more intuitive usage, digital displays, and a super monitor. A wood-grain trim was also introduced as standard.
Toyota went on to improve and enhance the Cressida over the final years until it ceased production in 1993. The fourth-generation models included new standard equipment such as motorised automatic seat belts, power windows, central locking, cruise control, adjustable steering wheel, and four-speed automatic transmission. As always, a range of optional extras was offered, this time including power driver’s seat, antilock brakes, powered glass sunroof, CD player, and plush leather upholstery.
The Cressida was in production for almost two decades and marketed in Australia from 1977 to 1993. As a new compact car it had a number of key competitors in its time – and as a reliable used car it continues to be a popular choice. It was replaced by the Toyota Vienta upon its retirement, with the Toyota Avalon also competing with it in the larger full-size market.
The VN Commodore was one of the leading cars of its time, but those in the know swear by the superior ride quality and reliability of the Cressida. The Cressida, in fact, stands up well against some of the leading European mid-sized cars including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo when compared against those manufacturers’ major brands of the time.
The Cressida is a true workhorse with more than a touch of class. Devotees swear by them, and despite many kilometres on the clock there is no doubt that the Cressida still has a long life ahead of it.