The Toyota Century SUV is here

At the time Toyota was developing the original Century, the most luxurious cars available in Japan were foreign made. Kiichiro Toyoda wanted to build a Japanese car that could go head-to-head with them, but Toyota’s experience in building passenger cars was in its infancy and the brand lacked the history-laden cachet of the marques it sought to challenge. “Heritage will come later. It would be forgery to pretend it exists, when it does not,” said Kenya Nakamura, the Century’s chief engineer. “We must create a completely new type of luxury car. The Achilles heel of luxury cars today is their inability to change.” This seems to be Toyota’s way of saying they need to change with the times.

The Century SUV is certainly a sign of the times. Automakers are slaughtering sedans like they’re spreading a disease. The SUV is now the dominant automotive form, like it or not. The good news is, the traditional Century sedan will still be sold alongside the Century SUV. The bad news is, it’s the future.

When naysayers doubted Toyota’s ability to build a world-class luxury car in 1967, Toyota decided to build a new type of flagship sedan, the likes of which had never existed before. It embraced Japanese traditions and sensibilities, embodying subtlety and tranquility rather than ostentatiousness. Toyota says that the Century SUV is, likewise, a new type of luxury car, and by quoting Nakamura during the unveiling it seems they’re hinting that they won’t be held back by the Achilles heel of 50-plus years of historical convention.

The Century SUV claims to be the quietest car Toyota has ever made. Toyota says the luggage compartment is a “separate structure” with a divider between it and the cabin for utmost outside noise isolation. The sub-structure also improves torsional rigidity for the monocoque.

From the outside, the Century SUV has several nods to the craftsmanship of the Century sedan. The body lines use a kichomen chamfering technique found on Heian-period room partition posts. The paint is mirror-polished by humans and a hand-carved phoenix emblem resides in the grille. The meeting of the A pillar with the character line is said to have been formed by a combination of press and laser processing, and was inspired by the shinogi-suji line that runs between the blade and the ridge of Mikazuki Munechika, one of the Five Great Swords of Japan.

Inside, the seats are stitched with a traditional Japanese embroidery technique called suganui used to give kimonos a sense of depth. Panels of wood on the dash and door panels use real sapele mahogany like the kind found in grand pianos, with straight grain. Rear passengers are treated to reclining seats and likely a whole host of other amenities Toyota has yet to disclose.

The details are fine and dandy, but when you take a step back and look at the car as a whole, it lacks the gravitas of the Century sedan. This is especially from the side view, where the car looks rather stubby.

That might be because the Century SUV is built atop an existing platform, one that is likely shared with the Toyota Highlander. It’s powered by a transversely-mounted 2GR-FXS 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a plug-in hybrid system, similar to the new Lexus TX. In that application it makes 406 horsepower, but Toyota didn’t say what the Century SUV’s output would be. It one-ups its platform mates by offering four-wheel-steering in addition to AWD.

Toyota expects to build just 30 Century SUVs a month. They’ll start at ¥25,000,000 ($170,000 USD), which is significantly more than a Century sedan despite initial predictions. The latter starts at ¥20,080,000 ($136,400), a relative steal.

The Century SUV comes in three colors — white, gray, and black, each of which is matched with a silver lower half. Four additional colors — solid gray, solid black, black-on-gray two-tone, and red over silver — are available at additional cost in the Kiwami Line. The interior can be had in black, ivory, or tan. Customers also get to choose from two types of rear door, a traditional one with a wide 75-degree opening, or a power sliding door like a minivan’s.

Toyota says that in the future customers will be able to customize the paint, interior materials, and seat configuration to fashion bespoke creations. Toyota showed a GRMN version to match Akio Toyoda’s Century sedan, and the presentation even included a rendering of a convertible variant.

Toyota has called the Century sedan the pride of not only Toyota, but the pride of Japan. The original was unlike other luxury cars because constraints prevented Toyota from building a luxury car in the mold of the Europeans. Today, Toyota is one of the biggest carmakers in the world and has the engineering, manufacturing, and financial prowess to build anything it wants. Ironically, the Century SUV doesn’t seem all that unique, but perhaps we’ll feel differently once we see these prowling the streets of Japan alongside its sedan forebears.

Additional Images:

Images courtesy of Toyota

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17 Responses to The Toyota Century SUV is here

  1. CycoPablo says:

    Looks better and will be more affordable than the Rolls Royce Cullinan.
    That’s the nicest thing I can say about it!

  2. RainMeister says:

    In an era where every car mfr including sports car brands like Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche are introducing SUVs, it’s hard to fault Toyota for doing the same. However, it’s the execution of the design that must be called out. For all of the money, time and effort they poured into this truck, they could have at least made it attractive. Then again, I don’t fall within their demographics for this type vehicle (conservative-minded CEO of a family-owned business in his late 70’s), so who am I to say that it’s fugly.

  3. BlitzPig says:

    It’s ugly.

    Another boring SUV.

  4. steve n says:

    My thoughts:

    The “sport” version is so inappropriate for this thing. Looks even more so.

    Did they widen and enlarge the streets in Japan? Parking spaces?

    If it comes to the US, I can understand – Sadly, I came to the realization this weekend, when travelling back home at the end of the holiday, I was the slow guy, going only 76mph. And I refused to tailgate. 80-85 was the norm, and that was for 1500 pickups hauling campers bigger than they should, with families, TAILGATING along the way.

    We came upon two big wrecks, one where a brand new Honda minivan was shortened in the front and the back end was almost non existent. I hope the kids inside were ok. And we were just behind that Honda about 5 minutes beforehand. It hit home to me that I may not want to drive my Miata anymore, with the full inattentiveness of people behind the wheel.

    This large truck looks stout and to me, it actually appears to fit the part if it were here in the US. It would sell for $200k no problem. And if even in peace of mind, it is huge and looks to dare someone to crash into me should I be driving it. Black out the windows and add some 44 inch wheels, drive at high speeds and weave through traffic….yea, I could see one of these doing that too….

    • Bryan Kitsune says:

      Yep, in my area of Indiana, if you aren’t going at least 20mph over the speed limit you are going to be tailgated hard. I mean they will almost just push you. There are constantly teens getting killed in car accidents.

      Many moons ago, when I was 16, I drove 80-90mph as a norm in my 1986 Celica. Nowadays I rarely do more than 10 over, so I’m constantly having people fly up on me. Mostly in huge trucks that make my 2002 Celica seem minuscule. But if I drove that fast, I’d be the one who gets pulled over for speeding. I got a warning last time. For doing like 45 in a speed trap 40. They don’t care about speeding SUVs & trucks.

      When I go back to my home area of rural Ohio and do 8mph over…I’m always catching up with people. Totally different set of norms. I still don’t tailgate though. That’s just dumb.

      Funny thing is, I only want to drive “fast” on those curvy roads in Ohio. The straight, flat roads around me in Indiana are boring as heck and pointless to drive fast.

      Stop signs are not even viewed as “yield” signs. They generally ignored. Stop lights aren’t for stopping until the light has been red at least 2 seconds. Do not move forward when the light turns green without looking both ways twice.

      I avoid highways like the plague.

      Sorry for the off-topic rant! But I’m guessing people can probably guess my feelings about a new huge SUV.

    • Ben Hsu says:

      I feel the same way driving my AE86. One thing I have begun trying to do is pick lanes where I can stay in front of a newer car. Most have automatic braking these days, so even if the driver is inattentive the car will (in theory) brake for them. It’s not foolproof, but it’s all about playing the odds.

  5. Fred Langille says:

    ….. ZZZZZZZZZ, how IMPRESSED am I?

  6. Taylor C. says:

    As others mentioned, it looks like a Cullinan(sp), but in a generic way. Toyota is already an extremely successful company, why would they need to make this variant. It might even backfire because now the Century saloon won’t sell as well, and Toyota might be forced to axe that model. Not really well thought out, Toyota, or was that your intention???

  7. Jim Klein says:

    I kind of like it. Or at least don’t reflexively hate it. The nice thing is that if you dislike it, well, don’t buy one. But I can’t think of anything better to pick up a few bags of hand-carved mulch with than this, with the separately structured luggage compartment the scent won’t be infused into the cabin. Dump runs will be possible too, harder in a minivan or the sedan Century and a Kei pickup is just too small while a Brodozer is too large and not available (or parkable) in Japan.

    When viewed as Toyota’s answer to the Cullinan and Bentayga it makes much more sense as does the ease of entry and exit for the intended market, and in reality while most “enthusiasts” seem to hate SUVs they aren’t usually much interested in sedans either. So this raised station wagon will suffice. It’ll certainly be far more exclusive than anything else out there in its segment, not that Toyota seems to care about that, such is the luxury of not having to care.

    I predict that at a mere 30 per month, the line to purchase one will be very deep and very long, and there will be much jostling to get one’s invite to purchase atop the pile.

  8. Jim Klein says:

    Another comment was eaten…

  9. Alan says:

    Transverse V6, Genesis head and taillights. Not good.

  10. harshith says:

    rolls royce body with lincon navigator front. the trims levels are better. styling is not good. toyota making suv is no go.

  11. Legacy-san says:

    Where is Nissan? The President, the Fuga, the Gloria, and the Cedric. The Skyline is now the most prestigious car they have, but it isn’t.

  12. Langheck says:

    I won’t deny the interior and all the motifs with the phoenix are exquisite and worthy of awe. But I have to roast by saying the exterior is giving off 21st Century ‘6000 SUX’ vibes.

  13. N97LT says:

    The Century SUV; The Pontiac Aztec of Japanese Luxury Cars.

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