The most luxurious Toyota you can’t buy!

Introduced in 1994, the Avalon helped Toyota become a notable force in the full-size segment in the United States. At the same time, the Lexus LS achieved a similar status in the luxury market. However, the Avalon isn’t Toyota’s largest vehicle. While the Japanese-spec Crown is slightly shorter than the Avalon (by some three inches), the second-generation Century trumps even the latest Lexus LS in terms of length at a whopping 207 inches. Or at least it did until it was discontinued in October 2016. But only one year has passed, and Toyota is getting ready to launch the third-generation model at the 2017 Toyota Motor Show.

Longer and wider, the new Century has been redesigned from the ground up. But, interestingly enough, it retained the traditional boxy design of its predecessor, which makes it a classy, old-school limo that reminds of the 1990s. In a good way! Toyota also replaced the old 5.0-liter V-12 with a V-8 and added an electric motor for enhanced fuel economy. As usual, it’s equipped with Toyota’s most luxurious features and technology, but updated to modern standard compared to the 20-year-old second-gen model. Unfortunately, the Century remains a Japan-only model, so don’t get your hopes up seeing it on North American roads. Let’s have a closer look at what we’re missing.

Continue reading to learn more about the Toyota Century.

Nameplate History

2018 Toyota Century
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The Century nameplate is a whopping 50 years old as of 2017, which makes it older than the iconic Camry

The Century nameplate is a whopping 50 years old as of 2017, which makes it older than the iconic Camry. Launched as the largest Toyota ever in 1967, it served as the company’s flagship model in Japan and was the brand’s most luxurious offering until the Lexus LS was introduced in 1989. It was developed in order to compete with the Nissan President, launched in 1965.

The original Century was based on the Crown Eight sedan and arrived in showrooms with an upgraded version of the company’s then-popular 3.0-liter V-8. A new 3.4-liter V-8 was introduced in 1973, while the larger 4.0-liter V-8 arrived in 1982 with fuel injection and emission control technology. The Century was 5.1 meters long and 1.9 meters wide, but the 1982 update extended the car to 5.27 meters. During Japan’s "Bubble Economy," when sales of the Century doubled from 1985 to 1989, Toyota launched a longer wheelbase model, called the Century Limousine. This variant was a whopping 5.77 meters long.

2018 Toyota Century
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The first-gen century remained in production until 1997 with minor changes inside and out

The first-gen century remained in production until 1997 with minor changes inside and out. However, the 1982 update brought some revisions to the original 1960s styling. This was further upgraded with the second-gen car, which arrived in 1997. Although it retained the dimensions of the first model, the Century gained more modern looks and a brand-new, 5.0-liter V-12 engine. It also gained it first four-speed automatic transmission, which was replaced by a six-speed in 2005. The V-12 was rated at 276 horsepower, which wasn’t bad for the mid-1990s, but wasn’t a lot either given that the sedan tipped the scales a 4,390 pounds.

2018 Toyota Century
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The second-generation Century was discontinued in late 2016

In 2006, Toyota launched the Century Royal, a 6.15-meter long version produced for the Imperial House of Japan. Specs were the same, but the interior had custom appointments and significantly better comfort. The longer body and the revised internals made the Royal more than 2,000 pounds heavier than the standard model. Only four of these cars were built and word has it that each cost $500,000 to build. The second-generation Century was discontinued in late 2016, after almost 20 years of production.

Exterior

2018 Toyota Century Exterior
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Design-wise, the new Century is unbelievably boxy

Design-wise, the new Century is unbelievably boxy. This isn’t exactly surprising given that previous-generation models have been like that for 50 years, but it feels a bit weird to see such a boxy design on a car made in 2017. It’s like Toyota created this car in the 1990s, but surprisingly enough, it looks and feels modern. And more importantly, it looks darn classy.

Up front, the new Century reminds of the previous model through its big, rectangular grille and squared off headlamps. However, the grille feels much more modern and employs an intricate mesh design with a honeycomb-like structure behind a "wall" of vertical and horizontal slats. At the center of the grille there’s the traditional Century crest that represents the Imperial House of Japan.

2018 Toyota Century Exterior
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The new Century reminds of the previous model through its big, rectangular grille and squared off headlamps

While also rectangular, seemingly an old-fashioned design, the headlamps have a modern vibe thanks to the outer edges that extend into the fenders and the LED Array technology. Down below, the bumper is rather simple and clean, but the lower section is finished in silver in a nod to the second-gen car, which had chrome bumpers. The look is rounded off by thin and long LED daytime running lights at the bottom.

The car’s profile is a slightly more significant departure from the outgoing model. Sure, it’s still a boxy design with clean body panels and an almost dead straight beltline, but the cabin is rather different. Now taller toward the rear, a measure taken to provide more headroom for rear-seat passengers, it also sport a much thicker C-pillar, which gives the sedan a Rolls-Royce-esque vibe. We can also see modern door handles, aerodynamically optimized side mirrors, and multi-spoke wheels with the same crest as on the front grille. The side skirts are finished in silver to match the lower front and rear bumpers.

2018 Toyota Century Exterior
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Around back, the Century also boasts a clean and simple look

Around back, the Century also boasts a clean and simple look. The taillights, which also use LED technology, have a slender, rectangular shape, with chrome trim all around enhancing its classic look. The "Century" lettering on the trunk lid further contribute to its 1990s-inspired vibe. Below, there’s a simple, almost featureless bumper with silver lower section.

Needless to say, the new Toyota Century and unlike any other luxury car available right now on the market.

Interior

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While modern and luxurious, the interior feels rather simple and clean

Inside the cabin, the layout is somewhat similar to the exterior. While modern and luxurious, it feels rather simple and clean. In the rear, because that’s the compartment that matters most in cars like these, we find two seats draped in 100-percent wool that looks as soft as it gets. Both seats are large and feel comfortable, having soft seating surfaces and somewhat large bolsters on each side. The headrests seem very comfortable too.

Both of them have adjustable, power leg rest and a massage function, while the LCD panel hidden in the central armrest enables passengers to control these functions, as well as air conditioning and audio systems. Speaking of that, the Century is equipped with 20-speaker premium sound system, but Toyota has yet to unveil the brand.

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Customers who aren't fans of wool can have the seats wrapped in leather

Customers who aren’t fans of wool can have the seats wrapped in leather, which come with a "high-end, soft-textured upholstery." The door panels are dressed in matching materials, with wood veneer at the top and on the armrest. More wood can be found on the center armrest, and the upper section of the front seatbacks. Toyota also equipped the Century with a writing table, reading light, and a rear-seat entertainment system with a large display. The raised ceiling provides ample headroom, while the curtains provide privacy when needed.

All told, the Century is arguably the most luxurious Toyota ever made, and it’s safe to say that it rivals the Lexus LS in many aspects. However, it’s by no means as fancy as German luxury sedans like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Audi A8. On the other hand, I’m sure Toyota didn’t design the new Century as a rival for the aforementioned cars and I bet it’s not as expensive as the Merc or Audi either.

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Unlike the door panels, the dash features two types of veneer

Up front, the Century is a mix of old and new. The same wool upholstery dresses the seats and the door panels, combined with bright wood veneer and modern controls. There’s also a bit of white contrast stitching on the black center console. The dashboard is pretty old-school. While the upper section appears to be made from plastic, the center section is made of wood, which gives it that classic American look. Unlike the door panels, the dash features two types of veneer.

There’s a big slab of bright brown veneer in the background, with a darker, smaller section up front. The latter incorporates the center A/C vents and infotainment screen, while the former acts as a piece of trim around it. The lower dash is wrapped in leather, as is the steering wheel, while the center stack has piano black trim. The instrument cluster appears to be digital, but the clocks are designed as analogue units for an old-fashioned look.

Drivetrain

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Under the hood, Toyota dropped the 12-cylinder powerplant in favor of a V-8 hybrid

Toyota made significant changes under the hood of the Century too. While the previous model was powered by a 5.0-liter V-12 for its entire 20-year career, Toyota dropped the 12-cylinder powerplant in favor of a V-8. But while it has less cylinders, the new unit also displaces five liters, so fans of large-displacement powerplants won’t be disappointed. Dubbed 2UR-FSE, this engine is a version of Toyota’s already iconic UR engine and it’s closely related to the V-8 offered in the previous generation Lexus LS (2008-2017).

But the really big news here is that the new Century also uses a hybrid system. Toyota didn’t have much to say about it, but it did mention its THS II system, which includes a power control unit with low-loss components that help reduce electrical loss by 10 percent and lithium-ion and nickel-metal hydride batteries.

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The combo delivers 394 horsepower, which accounts for a significant improvement over the previous 276 horses

The combo delivers 394 horsepower, which accounts for a significant improvement over the previous 5.0-liter V-12, which was rated at 276 horses. No info on transmission, but it should have an automatic since the Century hasn’t been offered with a manual since 1975.

Just like it’s predecessor, the new limousine comes with a specially-tuned suspension that delivers premium ride comfort and enhanced stability. The newly developed tires also contribute to the smooth ride, while also enabling reduced road vibration. Engine mounts were also redesigned, while a active noise control system was added for "overwhelming serenity in the cabin." Finally, a two-stage motor speed reduction system returns quiet and smooth driving.

The safety package includes the Toyota Safety Sense P collision avoidance support, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert, but the Japanese firm has yet to release the full specs.

Prices

Pricing information is not yet available, but the new Century should cost significantly more than the Crown, currently the largest Toyota available in Japan. This sedan retails from JPY5.77 million, which converts to around $51,200.

Competitors

In Japan

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class High Resolution Exterior
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Since the Toyota Century is available in Japan only, this section should be about similar cars you can buy if you don’t live in the "Land of the Rising Sun." But, before we do that, let’s have a look at alternatives you can find in Japan. And choices are quite diverse, with Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi having a strong presence in the country. So if you’re a fan of luxury cars but don’t want a Toyota, you can go with the S-Class. Priced from JPY11.2 million (about $99,400 as of October 2017), it’s available in just about any trim from the S400 to the AMG S65 (including the LWB model). Mercedes is also selling the Maybach version if you want to go wild. Moving over to Audi, the German firm has yet to launch the new A8 in Japan, so you’ll have to settle for the outgoing generation in the mean time. Pricing starts from JPY11.2 million, with options including the L W12 Quattro and the S8 Plus. Finally, there’s the BMW 7 Series, which retails from JPY10.6 million (around $94,100), making it the more affordable of the three.

Of course, the new Century will be more affordable than its German competition since it’s built in Japan. The S-Class, A8, and 7 Series, on the other hand are imports, which makes them even more expensive than usual.

Read our full reviews of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8.

Can I Get Something Similar in the U.S.?

2018 Lexus LS 500 High Resolution Exterior
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Unfortunately, the answer is no. And by that I mean you can’t get something that looks like the Century, simply because no one is making luxury sedans with 1990s-inspired design. But if it’s the size and the features you’re after, your best bet is the latest Lexus LS. It has a more modern exterior with decidedly more aggressive cues, while it’s interior is as luxurious as they get. It’s far more modern too and a significant departure from the Century’s clean and simple cabin. Under the hood, you can also get a hybrid drivetrain that mates a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine and a pair of electric motors. Total output is rated at 354 horsepower, which is below the Century’s, but the lighter LS should be sportier. Pricing is not yet available, but the LS 500h should cost less than $90,000 before options.

Read our full story on the 2018 Lexus LS and LS 500h.

Conclusion

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As a fan of 1990s limousines, especially the Lincoln Town Car and Cadillac De Ville / Fleetwood, I could say I’ve fallen in love with the new Century. It’s classy, subtle, but modern. More importantly, it’s old-fashioned in a really exquisite way. Sure, it’s not as luxurious as a Mercedes-Maybach or a Rolls-Royce on the inside and it can’t even compete with the Lexus LS, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s proof that Toyota can build premium cars independently from Lexus and a sign that not all big sedans must be muscular and aggressive to look good. It’s like Toyota designed a classier version of the LS, but without the Lexus badge. It’s really a big shame that the Century isn’t sold outside Japan!

  • Leave it
    • * Not as fancy as the Lexus LS
    • * Not for sale outside Japan

References

2017 Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept
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Read more Tokyo Motor Show.

2017 Toyota Tj Cruiser Exterior
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There’s no word on power output, but it could be FWD or AWD

Read more Toyota news.

Press release

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) is scheduled to showcase the new Century (to be released in the middle of 2018) at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show 2017*1, taking place from October 25 through November 5 at Tokyo Big Sight. The theme of this year’s show is "Beyond the Motor."

The new 3rd generation Century carries on the tradition of master craftsmanship and high-quality monozukuri (all-encompassing manufacturing) while realizing high-demand environmental performance and a design layout that pursues passenger comfort. The interior and exterior design injects new charm into the Century in line with its heritage. Moreover, the new Century features advanced equipment and comfort amenities only suitable for a luxury limousine.

Specifically, the Century is now powered by a 5.0-liter V8 hybrid system for outstanding fuel efficiency. In addition, the wheelbase has lengthened, the height difference between the scuff plate and floor has decreased, and the height of the door opening has increased, all of which are refinements improving the rear seat riding experience. The intricately glamorous and chic exterior is highlighted by traditional Japanese design elements used throughout the car including the grille and black trim on the rear combination lamps. The interior features a raised ceiling*2 design and exclusive fabric while the adjustable rear seats (with massage function), are upgraded with a power leg rest for first-class comfort and a sophisticated riding experience.

*1The 45th Tokyo Motor Show 2017 is to be held at Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo’s waterfront area from October 25 through November 5, with press days on October 25 and 26, a special-invitation day on October 26, a preview day on October 27, and general public days from October 28 to November 5.

*2The raised ceiling is an architectural ceiling design with additional height in the center area.
Main Features

Regal presence suitable for a representative Japanese luxury sedan embodying the concepts of legacy and evolution

Layout

Increase in vehicle length, wheelbase, and tread exudes a roomy and dignified style.
Ample comfort is provided to rear seat passengers through the increased space created by the expanded wheelbase. Additionally, the rear seat riding experience has been improved through the decreased height difference between the scuff plate and the floor and the increased height of the door opening.

Exterior design

The heritage of the Century can be seen at first glance from the front of the vehicle where the grille, lamps, and other elements blend seamlessly together creating a simple and modern aesthetic.
The grille has a dual structure with a crown pattern applied behind the vertical grid and clearance lamps.
The combination of three projector headlamps and LED Array AHS*1 produce a clear and distinctive appearance.
While maintaining elegance in a horizontal foundational posture, the underbody, which dips slightly rearward, combined with the ascending rear cabin, secures the rear seat space and creates a supple movement when viewed from the side.
By straightening the slope of the C pillar, the design focus of the cabin shifts to the rear, heightening the importance of the rear in appearance.
A refined sense of unity is evoked through the blackening of the of the trim of the rear combination lamps
Glamor is evoked from the three-dimensional lens of the rear combination lamps that emit a light of harmony.

Interior design

A raised ceiling and the application of a traditional pattern befitting a vehicle of the highest class
In the rear seat area, heather-patterned upholstery is applied from the backs of the front seats to the door panel trim, emphasizing horizontal space. The seat upholstery is made of high-quality materials, including 100% wool that is extremely flexible and soft. Models with leather interiors offer high-end, soft-textured upholstery.
Similar to the rear seat area, the front seats utilize horizontal heather-patterned upholstery that emphasizes space. The black heather-patterned decoration in the center of the instrument panel expresses a noble and sophisticated interior.
The step-less, adjustable power leg rest and adjustable rear seats (with a massage function) ensure a comfortable ride.
A multi-operational LCD panel located in the central armrest enables passenger control of all seats, air conditioning, and audio controls.
Equipped with furnishings that can be used for business or pleasure such as a writing table, reading light, rear seat entertainment system with a large-sized display, and a 20-speaker premium audio system

Basic performance for the ultimate riding experience

In addition to a specially-tuned suspension and high rigidity body, both driving stability and premium ride comfort are realized by the use of newly developed tires specialized for ride comfort and reduced road vibration.
Optimization of the engine mount and the active noise control system reduces noise and vibration when the engine starts and achieves smooth acceleration and overwhelming serenity in the cabin.
The 5.0-liter 2UR-FSE V8 engine using "D-4S*2" direct injection technology for low fuel consumption and high output is installed in combination with hybrid system (THS II*3) in pursuit of the lowest fuel consumption in its class. In addition, a two-stage motor speed reduction device realizes quiet and smooth driving.
Safety features suitable for a limousine such as Toyota Safety Sense P collision avoidance support, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert are adopted.

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