Thank the car gods that we were wrong. It turns out that the horrendously ugly Toyota Crown that we’re getting in the US is only one version of the Crown. There’s actually four versions of the car, including a rear-wheel-drive sedan that keeps the 67-year tradition of one of Toyota’s most venerated nameplates alive.
Ever since November 2020, when rumors surfaced that Toyota was going to kill off the Crown, we have been tearing our hair out hoping that it wasn’t true. Then came the rumors that no, it wasn’t dead, but that it would be a fate much worse — it would become a crossover. As if to taunt the Toyota faithful, a Chinese-market Crown SUV based on the Highlander emerged, followed by a Crown minivan. Was nothing sacred?
After having spent the last several years watching Toyota abuse hallowed nameplates like the Mark X, Land Cruiser, and Supra (even though there was good reason to), it was all too easy to believe that Toyota would squander the Crown name too. Add on top of that market forces pushing companies to flee from sedans like they were the plague, and it seemed a forgone conclusion.
In reality, elements of all those rumors proved to be true, as the Crown will now spawn four variants, not counting the China-market ones mentioned above. The four are (from left to right) the Crown Crossover (a bizarre sedan/crossover mix we are getting in the US), the Crown Sport (an actual five-door crossover), the Crown Sedan, and the Crown Estate (a longer five-door crossover).
The first one to hit the market will be the Crown Crossover, which in the US will fill in the gap left by the Avalon as it ends production in 2022. It marks the first time a Crown has sold in the US since 1972, though we don’t expect most Americans to be aware of the Crown name. It’s a hybrid, it’s AWD, and we’re sure it’ll be a perfectly competent and dependable automobile. It has specs.
Toyota hasn’t gone into specifics about the other Crown variants yet, but based on photos it looks like the others are based on the Crown Crossover. The sedan stands out as unique among the four, and not simply because the styling is the most conservative (in a good way).
We think it is a reskinned Toyota Mirai. If you compare them side by side, the proportions, the pillars, and the door cutlines look exactly the same. This is excellent news, because the Mirai is RWD. Powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, the motor sits in the back and drives the aft wheels.
Much of the speculation surrounding the Crown’s discontinuation was the fact that Toyota was killing off its traditional FR platforms. The Lexus GS, which shared a platform with the last-generation Crown, hit the end of the road in 2020, just before the rumors of the Crown sedan’s death. Where would Toyota get another FR chassis on which to build the Crown? The Mirai was the only logical choice.
Is the Crown sedan everything we wished it would be? Not exactly. The styling is still a significant leap away from the formal, three-box designs of its predecessors. It will likely never be sold here in meaningful numbers due to its alternative fuel drivetrain. But considering the fact that, for a moment, we thought the Crown Crossover was going to be the sole successor to the revered nameplate of nearly 70 years, we have never been so happy to be wrong.
Images courtesy of Toyota.