When it comes to regal resonance in Japan, no nameplate rules like the Toyota Century, the official car of the emperor, prime ministers and esteemed captains of industry.
Perhaps that’s why, after 20 years, the grand limousine’s long-awaited redesign doesn’t mess with much. Toyota will unveil a hybrid third-generation Century at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show, but the overhaul largely keeps the old-school elegance that harkens back to its roots in 1967.
The iconic long car, hardly seen outside of Japan, was last redesigned in 1997.
Two decades later, the new iteration undergoes mostly cosmetic changes, including LED headlamps, three-dimensional taillights and a more rear-slung posture.
The rear door opening is also enlarged, perhaps to ease access for the Century’s traditional demographic — those in the over-50 set.
The interior still oozes zen-like refinement in its elegant simplicity, replete with the retro-style lace curtains reminiscent of the doilies on your grandmother’s coffee table.
It even grows longer and wider for more comfort inside.
But modern upgrades creep in throughout, including LCD panels in the armrests that enable passengers to control seat positioning, air conditioning and the audio system.
A power leg rest rounds out the new creature comforts that were long overdue.
Under the hood, the car also enters the 21st century.
Toyota is dropping a silky-smooth, 5.0-liter V-12 engine on the outgoing model in favor of the brand’s trademark hybrid system. The next Century pairs a direct injection 5.0-liter V-8 engine with a two-stage electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery for power and fuel economy.
Toyota also plans a safer Century, outfitting the new luxury flagship with the company’s suite of safety technologies that includes precrash auto-braking and blind spot monitoring.
The second-generation Century stickered for 12.53 million yen ($111,300) when production finally ended in January. With that steep price and competition from the likes of the Lexus LS, it’s not surprising sales of the outgoing model totaled just 8,700 units over its 20-year lifespan.
The third-generation Century goes on sale in the middle of 2018.
Media days for the Tokyo Motor Show begin Oct. 25.
“Toyota Century enters 21st century with hybrid upgrade” originally appeared in Automotive News on 10/5/2017