The Toyota Crown has been one of the Japanese manufacturer’s flagship cars since it appeared on the market in 1955 as a mid-sized station wagon. The 14th generation, the S210 Crown, hit the showrooms in 2012 with a restyled interior and the installation of Toyota’s multi-operational touch panel that controls many of the car’s features.
The S210 is based around the earlier S200 series dating from 2008, which was available in five trims: Sedan, Comfort, Royal, Athlete, and Majesta, as well as the innovative Crown Hybrid versions. The body shape and lines were designed to be more luxurious and graceful than the Lexus range, although there are similarities between the models.
The S200 series is spacious and sumptuous in the Crown Comfort and the Crown Royal variants, the Crown Athlete lives up to its sporty shape, and the large expanse and elegance of the Crown Majesta’s trim give plenty of additional room.
The shape of the later models has taken on a more sweeping, fluid line than the slightly rounded designs of the 1999 S170 generation vehicles. This was a complete change in direction after the very angular models prevalent in the 1980s and ‘90s. While these didn’t offer the same luxury and majesty as the S200 series, they did exhibit considerable power and presence in their designs.
The entry-level Crown Sedan is powered by the 2.5-litre engine, as found in the Camry, with 3.0L and 3.5L V6 engines available. Customers can also choose from the 4.6 BiT turbo-diesel V8 4wd and the 5.0-litre 2UR FSE Hybrid fitted at the higher end of the market.
On performance tests the sporty Crown Athlete, armed with the 4.6 TRD, has 555 hp and accelerates from 0-100Km/h in 4.4 seconds, with the pick-up from the Hybrid’s combination engine fitted into the Crown Royal and Crown Athlete variants capable of reaching 100Km/h in 5.4 seconds.
Crown Series 200 and 210 come with either manual or automatic, 5- or 6-speed gearboxes. The older versions from the mid-‘90s to 2003 are fitted with 4- or 5-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. Even the earlier engines from the ‘70s and early ‘80s still hold their own today, with the novelty of the aspirated induction, double overhead cam, turbo-diesel engines, and cruise control systems that date as far back as 1979.
The available engine and gearbox specs and the responsive suspension give the modern editions excellent handling and a comfortable ride for all, two things for which the Crown range has been famous since its inception.
Previous Toyota models tended to be somewhat spartan inside, but the Crown range lives up to its moniker of a luxury brand. The standard model comes finished with gold-threaded and stitched leather dashboards, dark wood trim, and the plush finish demanded by the limo market.
The newer models are based on the same architecture as the S180, but with a slightly longer wheelbase, offering passengers additional legroom. Rear passengers also have the benefit of the controlled central console that gives them access to the seat adjustments, in addition to air conditioning, an entertainment centre, and rear sunshade, all as standard.
Safety systems abound with the pre-collision warning system and VSC vehicle stability control that prevents tail spin. It comes with directional headlamps that follow the steering as well as reclining rear seats for the utmost in backseat comfort. Invention is something you’d expect from Toyota, and the Crown series impresses with its 3D sat nav system and night view pedestrian detection camera, and the intelligent clearance sonar helps avoid unwanted scraping sounds as you park the car.
The Crown brand has been around for many years as Toyota’s luxury brand name, but with its re-styling it is now quietly competing in the extravagant big car market. Toyota is happy to pit the Crown against market leaders like the popular German BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-Class. This sector also has the Audi A6, the Honda Legend, and the Nissan Fuga featuring prominently, so the competition is stiff.
Modifications to the Crown's overall engineering, power, and design have produced a larger car with increased interior capacity and more thrust under the bonnet, making it more than capable of meeting the performance and style set by its competitors. Crown cars have always held their own, and even vehicles that are 15 years old or more receive good reviews on their performance, handling, and comfort.