The Toyota Century is not just an executive sedan, it is a pillar of Japanese tradition. And like most Japanese traditions, it has carried on virtually unchanged for a long, long time. At the Tokyo Motor Show, however, nearly 50 years after its debut in 1967, the Toyota Century has undergone only its second full model change.
The last time the Century was redesigned was in 1997. It has stayed that way largely because of its place in Japanese society. Back in the day, you couldn’t just waltz into a Toyota dealer and buy a Century, no matter how much money you had. It was sold only to citizens of stature — government officials, executives, maybe celebrities. It was also a favorite of those who earned their living by, shall we say, non-traditional means.
As such, the 2018 Century retains much of the same design cues. A prominent, upright grille eschews any of the newfangled Toyota prow designs, The grille has a dual structure with a crown pattern applied behind the vertical grid and clearance lamps. Above all, it is instantly recognizable as a Century.
Perhaps the biggest gripe about the new Century is that the V12 sis gone. A new 5.0-liter V8 hybrid takes its place. Though the V8 is already used in top performance Toyotas like the Lexus RC F and LC 500, a hybrid system mated with it is a first.
Overall, the new Century sports a longer wheelbase and increases the length by 2.5 inches to 17.5 feet. It’s also an inch taller, providing more cabin space for the prefectural governor, CEO, or yakuza kingpin riding in the back. The interior is really the most important part of a Century, after all, and so the cabin is trimmed in luxurious wool in an exclusive pattern. Leather is optional, but wool is the preferred choice.
It is of course, even quieter than the outgoing Century, with a stiffer body, new suspension, new engine mounts, specially developed tires, an active noise reduction system. There’s also a new suite of safety sensors like blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts and collision avoidance electronic nannies. These amenities barely bring it up to spec with modern luxury cars, but that’s the price you pay for not having a redesign since 1997.
Toyota may not have unveiled a new Supra this time, but the Century is the real flagship. Rumor had it that Toyota was going to discontinue the Century after the second generation, but demand from Japan’s elite changed their minds. It’s been quietly carrying out esteemed members of Japanese society for decades, and now it will continue to do so for decades more.