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Toyota’s New Crown


Let’s begin with the obvious: Just what-the-hell is it? With an almost conventional 4-door profile sitting on what today comprises a massive proportion, Toyota’s all-new Crown is intended to serve Toyota dealers and their clientele as an Avalon replacement. But given its heightened ride height and easy ingress, it could easily serve as a courtesy car for an assisted living center (my assisted living center?) in Moab. And with a hybrid drivetrain across all three trim levels, those wishing to minimize their environmental footprint while running errands in any number of ‘blue’ zip codes now have a 4-door – albeit a big 4-door – to do it in. Toyota’s Crown builds on the foundations of the company’s hybrid heritage, but does so in a brand new/very old way.

In the tale of the tape (and numbers don’t lie, folks – unless provided by your federal government…), the Crown’s 196 inches are underpinned by a wheelbase of 112 inches, while its height ‘tops out’ at just over five feet. Although the ground clearance is what seems to be a modest 5.8 inches (typically, 8 inches is regarded as offroad-capable, if ‘offroad’ is a gravel logging trail), with our test Crown’s 21-inch wheels and 45-series rubber, it looks as if it could clear tall buildings in a single bound. The kicker? In its overall length and wheelbase, the Crown’s footprint isn’t significantly different from its immediate predecessor, the Avalon. Its height is 4 inches taller, and ground clearance is a ½-inch more generous. But in its visualization the difference is enormous; add two feet and they could have called it Electra 225.

Inside, the relevant descriptives all start with ‘big’. The front buckets are wide, the rear seat’s 53 inches of hip room looks fully capable of accommodating three real adults, and the trunk will hold 15 cubic feet of luggage, although it looks more generous than that. The rear seat will fold and there’s a pass-thru, big enough for your ladder or snowboard, but don’t be thinking bicycle; I did, and it’s not gonna’ work. I’m sure the Crown’s design team was thinking structural integrity in minimizing the size of the pass-thru, but I would have liked to have carried a bicycle without resorting to a rack…or our Grand Cherokee.

While the size of the Crown may be the headline, it’s what’s under the hood that provides its compelling ‘why should I buy it?’. In its XLE and Limited trims the Crown offers a 2.5 liter normally aspirated four with electric assist, delivering 236 combined net horsepower and 340 lb-ft of combined net torque. Based on my experience with my wife Tina’s Venza with a similar powertrain, I would describe this performance as adequate, its efficiency (42 City/41 Hwy/41 Combined) excellent. 

Opt for the Crown Platinum, and you’ll enjoy (really enjoy!) a 2.4 liter turbocharged four coupled with an electric assist for 340 combined horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. This combo delivers a 0-60 of 5.7 seconds (according to Toyota), an almost two second improvement relative to the lower power level of the XLE and Limited. But it drives down your fuel efficiency, knocking the EPA estimate to 29 City/32 Hwy/30 Combined. Obviously, that remains great territory for a spacious sedan (the 29 I saw on the dash is one mile-per-gallon better than I see on my Miata), but it’s not what you expect when ‘hybrid’ is added to a model name.

Beyond the numbers is the serene/sublime way the Crown Platinum goes about its business. Since it’s not a Highlander you’ll enjoy a low center of gravity appropriate to its ‘sedan-ness’; its cornering is reasonably flat, handling predictable and ride composed. And from behind the wheel the Crown feels far smaller than its footprint suggests. I wouldn’t call this big(gish) Toyota flickable, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to describe it as nimble…for, of course, its size.

In its design the Crown is unabashedly distinctive. And while the interior is comfortable I wish Toyota would reduce the number of hard surfaces. Give me a folding rear seat that could actually add to the Crown’s utility, allow me time to get my head (and wallet) around a $54K window sticker, and with a complimentary AARP membership they could get my money. Or, at the very least, a credit app…

You take a look, while I try to figure out the appropriate pronoun.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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