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Two weeks removed from my time with the 2023 Toyota Crown, and it still confounds me.
In other markets, the 2023 Toyota Crown will come in up to three additional styles, including two SUVs. I asked Toyota why it didn’t bring one of those to North America, and the response was that the company doesn’t want to abandon car buyers. The Avalon isn’t the only three-box disappearing: most of the segment is, within the year. Toyota believes many of those folks still want a car, but figures a light sprinkling of SUV-ness should sweeten the deal.
I’m not sure. Despite the embiggened proportions, the Crown offers poor interior space. It drives better than any mainstream SUV, but stops some way short of being genuine fun. On the flip side, it’s a left-field statement in a segment that’s long been criticized for being too conservative. Will 20,000 people want to make such a statement? We’re about to find out.
With 70 years of heritage, the 2023 Toyota Crown is the latest in a long line of flagships. Now that it’s in the U.S., what’s the 2023 Crown like to drive?
- Quick Platinum model
- That grille
- Lack of rear-seat headroom
- Not enough interior flair
Like the old U.S.-market Land Cruiser, the Crown is built solely in Japan, at the Tsutsumi plant. And perhaps Toyota hopes that the Crown might capture a few orphan Land Cruiser owners in search of that signature anti-brand-snob Toyota luxury experience. Crown pricing starts at $41,045 for an XLE and ranges up to $53,445 for a Platinum. Is that too expensive for a Toyota sedan?
We'd say not, but the Crown's value proposition is up for debate as much as its style. Toyota hopes to sell about 20,000 Crowns a year in the U.S., which is a healthy goal but not one that demands mainstream conformity. Maybe you hate the way the Crown looks—that's fine. Toyota is fully aware haters gonna hate, and it truly doesn't care. If we're bickering over the Crown, we're talking about the Crown.
To that point, you don't offer two-tone paint if you're looking for unanimous consensus. That option, only available on the Platinum, brings a gloss black hood, roof, and rear decklid, set against extroverted lower-body colors like "Bronze Age." The two-tone paint costs $550 extra, and we'd say it's mandatory. But we'd be happy to argue about it.
Other than those small questions of styling, the Crown’s looks are mostly fine, and that applies to the inside too. The problem is whether “mostly fine” is enough for a car that wears a Crown badge in Japan, and will inevitably be compared to a Lexus in the U.S. I guess calling the new Crown a luxury car is complicated.
As far as road manners go, it’s as good any late-model Lexus in terms of noise, vibration and handling (NVH). Toyota used acoustic glass throughout the cabin, and loaded up the Crown with sound-proofing. It’s a very quiet car — so quiet, you’ll only ever hear a hint of an exhaust note.
2023 Toyota Crown is an interesting and distinct premium hybrid full-size sedan. But more conventional competition is often more compelling.
The Hybrid Max, though, is the one to get if you're going to order a Crown. This powertrain is basically a less powerful version of what you’ll find in the new Lexus RX 500h: an entirely different type of hybrid for Toyota consisting of a turbocharged 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a six-speed automatic, and a much larger rear motor that kicks in based on a variety of conditions and situations as opposed to simply when the car detects front-wheel slippage. Output is 340 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.
Toyota claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds, and that again feels believable. It feels quite strong, even as the speeds climb. The transmission is a major improvement over the eCVT, too, providing more conventional engine revving and a more direct connection between what the wheels are doing and your foot. It also seems much quieter, most likely thanks to the turbo engine and the lack of eCVT droning. The transmission isn't lightning-fast at shifting, and is actually a little sluggish on kickdown, but it's smooth and prompt enough when shifting manually. You do lose a fair bit of efficiency compared to the base model. The Max returns 29 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 30 combined.