2023 Toyota Crown: Not Your Ordinary Sedan

Strong points
  • Modern and distinctive looks
  • Pleasant performance and fuel economy
  • Agility and flexibility on the road
  • Spacious interior
Weak points
  • Cabin design lacks flair
  • Rear seats could be improved
  • A rear hatch would be more practical
Full report

It seems like every day we’re reporting about—and crying over—the demise of the traditional sedan here in North America, where people are massively going crazy about SUVs. Despite launching in Japan as a crossover, the all-new Crown is being advertised as a sedan on these shores. Are we missing something, or is Toyota more visionary than the rest of us? I guess we’ll find out soon.

There are four separate body styles for the 16th generation of the Crown, a model that originally debuted in the land of the rising sun in 1955 and is currently the world’s No.1 automaker’s longest-running nameplate. In 1958, it became the first Toyota to be sold in the U.S., and from 1965 to 1972 Canadians could buy one, as well. A half-century later, the Japanese icon is back.

Will the three other Crown variants—a conventional sedan, a wagon and an SUV—ever be offered on North American soil?  Considering the extensive portfolio Toyota has now, don’t count on it.  

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

Elegant High-Rider

The 2023 Toyota Crown is built on the same modular TNGA-K architecture as the Camry, Highlander, RAV4, Sienna and Venza. The fastback profile, with a roofline that gracefully merges into the trunk lid, does a nice job of concealing the car’s imposing stance, which is otherwise emphasized by the 19- or 21-inch wheels.

The Crown is much taller than the Camry and even trumps the Avalon it’s supposedly replacing (according to Toyota) by four inches, although they are roughly the same length and width. Consequently, the front and rear seating positions are significantly higher, improving access quite a bit and providing a better view of the road. It’s pretty clear that Toyota believes there are still many North American drivers who want the practical features of an SUV with the comfort, agility and refinement of a sedan.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

The company recently invited the media to a one-on-one session with the Crown as part of the AJAC’s annual TestFest at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario. Each journalist was allowed 45 minutes—and not a second more—with a top-line Platinum model to take pictures, explore the various features and go for a drive on the roads that surround the legendary track.

The car was actually a pre-production unit, with the kind of rough layout and materials you wouldn’t expect to find coming out of the factory. By the way, all Crowns will be assembled at Toyota’s Motomachi and Tsutsumi plants in Japan.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

Two Distinct Flavours

The 2023 Crown lineup includes three trim levels. Both the XLE and Limited use a familiar hybrid system consisting of a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with an electric motor up front and another one in the rear. The 236 combined horsepower are controlled by an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT). Fuel economy is impressive with a consumption of just 5.7 L/100 km on average.

For stronger performance off the line and more spirited driving overall, there’s the Crown Platinum, which gets a Hybrid MAX system delivering a total of 340 horsepower. Here, a turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder teams up with front and rear motors, while the eCVT is replaced by a six-speed automatic transmission. Expect 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.8 seconds as well as a combined 7.8 L/100 km, which is remarkable for such a large car.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

In this setup, torque distribution can vary from 70/30 to 20/80 depending on the conditions. At 1,953 kilograms, the Platinum model is 25 kilograms heavier than the XLE and Limited—not to mention 418 kilograms heavier than the late Avalon. It also sports the largest wheels (21 inches) ever fitted to a Toyota, complete with 225/45R21 tires, variable damping suspension and beefier sway bars. The brakes are identical, however.

In another Toyota first, a unique two-tone exterior is available on the Crown Platinum, pairing a black finish for the hood, roof and trunk lid with a choice of Wind Chill Pearl, Heavy Metal, Supersonic Red or new Bronze Age colour. Whichever you choose, it won’t look anything like your grandpa’s sedan, that’s for sure.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

Joy and Relaxation

Beyond the red-on-black livery of our tester, the dark interior of the Crown looked and felt infinitely more down-to-earth by comparison. Toyota designers played it safe, with only a handful of copper-coloured accents providing contrast. On the plus side, the front seats are nicely sculpted and very accommodating. I also didn’t mind sitting in the rear even though the hip points are low and there isn’t much space for your feet. You can fold the 60/40-split seatback to expand the 430-litre trunk.

The physical controls that remain are quite decent overall, while the two 12.3-inch displays do a fine job most of the time. The centre touchscreen is powered by the new Toyota multimedia system with virtual assistant. What’s more, all 2023 Crown models feature the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite of advanced driver assistance technologies using sensors with improved detection capability. 

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

Once it gets going, the Crown Platinum turns on the charm and puts a smile on your face. Sprints are linear and pleasantly quick, while ride quality proves excellent even on beat-up and bumpy stretches of pavement. Weight transfers are expertly controlled, with only a hint of body roll resulting from the comfort-tuned suspension.  

The top-line Crown shows commendable agility, too, attacking corners with conviction and confidence. We can’t wait to spend more time with it on the road—and find out if similarly pleasant dynamics are achieved by the less powerful XLE and Limited.

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