2023 Toyota Crown: A Crown Without a Kingdom

Strong points
  • Looks like no other car
  • Spacious interior
  • Smooth and comfortable ride
  • Competent and efficient hybrid systems
Weak points
  • Heavy weight
  • Simple trunk with no liftgate
  • Disappointing build quality
  • Pricier than its closest rivals
Full report

This is the year we have to say goodbye to the Nissan Maxima, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Oh, and the Kia Stinger, too. Before those the Chevrolet Impala, Volkswagen Arteon and Toyota Avalon all left the segment. The last one, however, is getting pretty unique replacement.

The all-new, boldly styled Crown is here and looking for a kingdom to rule. With no more large cars left to compete with directly, it’s going after traditional midsize sedans just like the popular Toyota Camry. If you ask our team at The Car Guide, this duo represents the best buy you can make right now.

By the way, Toyota sold 6,140 Camrys and just 810 Crowns in Canada during the first eight months of 2023. On the other hand, a car like the Subaru Legacy (now exclusively available in top-line GT trim) landed in fewer than 300 driveways across the country.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Head-Turning Looks

The head-turning Toyota Crown looks large and in charge. Standing about 10 cm longer and taller than the Camry, it makes a strong statement with a very wide grille and headlight clusters up front. And what about the big wheels (19-21 inches vs. 17-19 inches on Camry), contrast cladding on the lower door panels, or the extremely long and swooping roofline? Clearly designers aimed to defy conventions, and we applaud the effort.

The range-topping Crown Platinum pushes the envelope even further with a two-tone exterior including a black finish on the hood and most of the rear fascia. Some will like hit, others will hate it. Personally, it’s quite refreshing and more inspiring than our Crown Limited tester in dull Magnetic Grey Metallic.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Missed Opportunity

It’s a shame about the trunk. Sure, it’s pretty deep, but the smallish opening doesn’t help. If you’re going to reinvent the modern sedan and offer a different kind of alternative to SUVs and crossovers, you should at least come up with a hatch, like Audi did with the A7 Sportback, for example. A missed opportunity in our opinion. Cargo volume isn’t particularly impressive, either—at 430 litres, it’s barely more generous than the Camry’s (428 litres).

Another unpleasant surprise with the Crown is the not-so-solid body. You can hear it and feel it every time you close the trunk or the doors. On our watch, a few undesirable noises also kept the interior from being silent on the road. As for visibility, it’s not great out the rear due to the sharply angle window. Plus, the side mirrors are a bit too small to our liking—another case of form over function.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Spacious and Comfortable

Where the Crown shines and stands out from its closest rivals is the easy access to the cabin combined with a higher driving position. In addition, the heated, ventilated and leather-appointed seats in Limited and Platinum models provide a lot of comfort and space, although drivers six feet or taller will find headroom to be limited when the sunshade for the large glass roof is closed, even with the seat set to the lowest position.

The rear bench easily accommodates two large adults since the headliner features recesses for the head and legroom is quite generous regardless of how far back the front buckets are positioned. A third passenger (preferably a kid) can sit in the middle.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Modern Cabin Without Flair

The interior of the Toyota Crown is elegant yet much less exciting than the exterior. Fit and finish is nothing to write about except for the subtle copper-style inserts. The centre console is smartly arranged (the nearly upright wireless charging tray saves space and the dual-opening armrest is a nifty touch), just like the dashboard with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and similarly sized centre touchscreen.

We’re glad designers didn’t try to copy the weird layout in the Prius and bZ4X, where the instruments are right next to the base of the windshield and partially hidden by the steering wheel. As for the touchscreen, we would have preferred a driver-oriented display enabling easier reach. Toyota’s new multimedia system is sleek and state-of-the-art, but admittedly a bit too reliant on connected services (cloud-based navigation is one example). The good news is that wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is included, too.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Hybrid Only

How’s the drive? Well, safety is not a problem since the Crown is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, the company’s most advanced and comprehensive suite of safety and driver assistance features. The TNGA-K platform underneath, shared with the Camry, RAV4, Highlander, Sienna and Venza, is an excellent foundation, too.

Similar to the Sienna and Venza, the Crown is a hybrid exclusively, though with two options instead of one. Want power? The Platinum model boasts a turbocharged 2.4-litre engine and a pair of electric motors generating a total of 340 horsepower and, more importantly, 400 lb-ft. of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

The more affordable Crown XLE and Limited also use two electric motors, but the turbo engine is replaced by a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder. With 236 horsepower, they will satisfy a majority of drivers, although some will find the gas engine fairly noisy under hard acceleration, mostly because of the CVT. Eco, Normal and Sport modes are available. Combined fuel consumption is officially rated at 5.7 L/100 km, a realistic figure considering we achieved under 6 L/100 km during our middle-of-summer week with the Crown, without making any serious effort to save fuel.

As expected, the suspension on the big Toyota delivers a smooth ride at the expense of flat cornering. The Bridgestone Ecopia tires, which are known for their low rolling resistance, occasionally squeal under the weight of the Crown, which tips the scales at 1,805-1,970 kg depending on the model (290-345 kg heavier than the Camry). Braking inspires confidence but could be smoother, honestly. Steering is good for a large sedan but obviously not as responsive as a sporty car’s.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Our Verdict

For lack of direct competition, the Toyota Crown really is in a class of its own. There’s no other car like it in terms of size, looks, powertrain and price (base MSRP of $45,590). Watch out for 2024, because we’ve been told the entry-level XLE model will be eliminated, leaving the Limited (over $50,000) as the cheapest Crown you can buy.

Toyota made a pretty bold move with the Crown, trying to revive a dying market segment and furthering its hybrid leadership. We like it a lot, yet would have wished for greater versatility in an era of SUV kings.

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