The Toyota Century SUV sure looks like it’s happening

Toyota has released a teaser showing a white-gloved chauffeur hand resting on the door handle of a tall and upright black vehicle. What else could this be but the rumored Century SUV? It was rumored to arrive before the end of 2023 and camouflaged test mules have already been spotted all over Japan. It’s as good as official, people.

Since 1967 the Toyota Century has been Japan’s elite flagship. Stately and luxurious in a uniquely Japanese way, it has transported royalty, government officials, and captains of industry in serene dignity. It is so traditional, it has only had three generations in its 56 years of existence.

Now all that tradition is being cast to the wind. Rumor has it that the Century SUV will be built on the same platform as the Toyota Grand Highlander, a titanic three-row crossover that has, unthinkably, front-wheel-drive orientation. AWD versions are available, of course, but essentially it’s a nose-heavy, 4,500-pound plow. It’s not yet certain that the name will be Century, but whatever it ends up being called it’ll likely drop down to two rows and have some kind of hybrid-electric powertrain.

The Grand Highlander’s most powerful option is a four-cylinder hybrid that makes 362 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Because it may share mechanicals with the Grand Highlander, it would be possible to sell a version of it outside of Japan, technically speaking. Whether Toyota would actually let that happen is another story, as the Century sedan has forever been a Japan-only offering.

If there is any reprieve, it’s that the SUV will apparently be sold alongside the Century sedan. And it is rumored that Toyota will price it beneath the sedan, so at least the true Century will continue to exist as the rightful flagship. That is, until this generation is over.

In any case, all will be revealed on September 6 (Japan Time, which makes it September 5 in the US). You’ll be able to catch the live unveiling at the stream below.

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7 Responses to The Toyota Century SUV sure looks like it’s happening

  1. Jim Klein says:

    I’m pretty sure that the Grand Highlander is actually shorter (in length, not height) and weighs less than the current Toyota Century. It’s not “titanic”, just a little larger than the normal Highlander to better accommodate a third row that was/is tight in the normal one. The Sequoia for one is far larger.

    With hybrid/electrification, drivetrain orientation is far less important, I’d expect it to be nominally FWD with electric motors for the rear. Nobody was hooning the current Century at Motegi on open track days anyway so they probably figured that wouldn’t matter too much. 🙂

    Yes, losing the V12 in this is unfortunate, at least the regular one isn’t going anywhere. Who’d have thought that they’d be able to EXPAND the lineup to two vehicles? Maybe it’ll be called the NextCentury…

    • Ben Hsu says:

      I meant titanic in the sense that a it’s huge for a front-drive car. The regular Century is already a hybrid V8 so I’m not mourning the loss of the V12 (I already did that!) but more the fact that it’s got a transverse engine. Maybe most owners won’t care, but there’s something just not right about a premium luxury car, possibly the most premium SUV in the lineup, being front-biased.

  2. Jim Klein says:

    I shan’t argue the lack of perceived premium-ness of a FWD platform, but I will offer that there are plenty of kitted out Alphards and the like running around Japan as “executive” transport conveyances that are certainly far more premium than anything ever seen in a US market van. I guess the Lexus stuff is the closest analogue with the Alphard now being offered as one (elsewhere) and the RX of course is FWD based too being on the Highlander platform. I’d surmise that the CenturySUV is always going to be AWD anyway and let’s face it, transporting around Tokyo is pretty much a low speed affair much of the time.

    I believe the Grand Highlander though is 2″ longer than the last generation (FWD) Mazda CX-9, 2″ shorter than the current Sienna and 4″ shorter than the current (US) Odyssey, all FWD. I don’t think it’s out of the norm size-wise, unless of course those are also considered huge. Which I’ll happily concede that they are compared to more fun-size Japanese offerings but not in the marketplace as a whole.

    Anyway, very interesting article and I didn’t mean to step on your toes, this is the first place I saw/heard of it. Maybe it’ll be at the Japan/Tokyo Mobility Show in October, hopefully I can see it there although Toyota had pretty much zero cars on display the last time I went, focusing instead on other tech. Will you be there?

    • Ben Hsu says:

      After reading all the good reviews about the CX-9 I finally got a stint behind the wheel and was dismayed to discover that it was a Boaty McBoatface. It made my wife’s CX-5 feel like a Miata. The new RWD CX-90, on the other hand, is absolutely brilliant on the road.

      I think there’s an upper limit on how much weight a FWD layout can reasonably handle, and I think the Civic Type R might be it.

      I won’t be going to the Tokyo Motor Show or whatever they’re calling it this year. The last one pre-pandemic seemed pretty boring as well. I hope it’s just a rebranding but until proven otherwise it doesn’t seem worth spending 12 hours on a plane to attend something that might be packed with golf carts. I hope I’m wrong and that you have a great time though!

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