All good things must come to an end, and today we must bid farewell to yet another steadfast nameplate of Japan’s automotive landscape. On the very same day that Mitsubishi announced the end of the Pajero, Toyota announced, after 11 generations and 51 years of continuous production, the end of the Mark X line.
Of course technically, the Mark X isn’t 51 years old. When its great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfater debuted in 1968, it was called the Corona Mark II. It was an offshoot of the popular T40/T50, or Barikan, Corona, and its T60/T70 chasis code denoted a stretched nose with a bigger engine wedged under its elongated prow.
Even Toyota was caught off guard by its sales success. By the next generation, Toyota had designated the Corona Mark II with its own chassis code, X. By the third generation, a Chaser variant was born, and export versions adopted a new name, Cressida, to go along with its luxury sedan image.
In 1980, with the dawn of a new decade and Japan’s economic boom, the Corona Mark II spawned no less than three variants to feed the insatiable desire for luxury cars. The X60 Mark II, Chaser, and Cresta triplets became ubiquitous on Japanese streets, each slightly different in design and trims, but all representing Toyota’s dominance of Japan’s auto industry.
It wasn’t until the fifth generation, the X70, that Toyota officially dropped the Corona from the name. The sedans shared platforms and powertrain components with Toyota’s flagship sports car, and the interchangeability of parts gave rise to the nickname “four-door Supra.” Even as the JZA80 Supra was becoming a living legend, the JZ-powered, turbocharged X-chassis of the era became a darling of Japan’s drift scene.
Despite that cult following, though, the image of the Mark II driver had always been that of a conservative old ojisan. So in 2004, Toyota renamed the X120 generation “Mark X” to attract a younger audience. That didn’t exactly work, but the Mark X still soldiered on for two more generations.
Throughout it all, though, Toyota never wavered from the X-chassis’ original mission, which was to offer a perfectly sized and nicely appointed sedan that stubbornly remained rear-wheel-drive. Even in the face of an industry-wide shift to front-wheel-drive platforms, including within Toyota’s own lineup, the Mark II and Mark X dug its rear tires in and refused to change with the times.
Imagine if Toyota had continued to sell a Cressida version of this Camry-sized FR sedan in the US over the last three decades. This one model could have single-handedly transformed Toyota’s brand’s image from boring to brilliant in one fell swoop. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
And now it will no longer be in Japan, either. Toyota announced that it will begin producing the Mark X Final Edition, available in 2.5-liter cars in either RWD or AWD layouts. All Final Edition cars will feature sputter coated 18×8 alloys, tinted brightwork on the front fascia, a unique black and red Alcantara interior with red stitching throughout. It will be offered in three colors, White Pearl Crystal, Silver Metallic, and Black Pearl.
The Mark X will cease production in December 2019. Culprits appear to be the fact that sedan sales are slowing, ceding ground to vans and crossovers. Toyota has produced a short video thanking the Mark X for its decades of service.
It’s not easy being hit with a one-two punch of revered nameplates being cast into the dustbin of history. Rear-wheel-drive sedans have very much been representative of the Toyota brand. Now only the larger Crown and even larger Century, both of which share platforms with Lexuses, carry the torch.
More specifically, the Mark II and Mark X have been stalwarts of the Toyota lineup for more than half a century, dotting Japan’s roads and cities as taxis, family sedans, drift machines, and VIP sleds. In the last decade or so, even the Cressida has seen somewhat of a resurgence as an enthusiast’s car, and although the Cressida hasn’t been on US shores since 1992, devotees of the RWD Toyota sedan could rest easy knowing that it lived on in Japan. It’s been a good run.
Images courtesy of Toyota.