No, we won't get the new Toyota Century in America, but we're mystified all the same: Toyota's staid (and sometimes V-12-powered and somehow insanely desirable) chauffeur machine has succumbed to inevitability. It's an SUV now. Gaze upon its broadened haunches.
Toyota unveiled the plans to build a new Century SUV Wednesday morning on its Japanese domestic and media sites. There's a keynote here, with Toyota chief branding officer Simon Humphries explaining the jump from sedan to ute, his speech framed by a pair of Century sedans on the stage, the new SUV front and center. The presentation is worth a look, as it details the Century sedan's earliest development, which ultimately produced Japan's first chauffeur car.
As the presentation notes, the Century namesake was first introduced in 1967 to commemorate 100 years since the birth of Sakichi Toyoda, Toyota Group's founder. That early Century is unlike the magnificent Century sedan lodged in our imagination, one swathed in leather, with a passenger hold both kitschy and sumptuous and indescribably Japanese.
Perhaps then, this new Century is a bit closer to the namesake's now-established ideal. It's a vehicle designed to move VIPs from one place of business to another in absolute comfort, discretion, and quietude. The Century SUV's 3.5-liter V-6 plug-in hybrid powertrain should help to that end, producing up to 43 miles of whisper-quiet all-electric range, backed by a full output of 406 hp.
The 5600-lb ute borrows heavily from the uber-luxe architecture of established uber-expensive SUVs; there's a smidge of Cullinan in this truck's beltline and D-pillar; there's a whiff of Bentayga in the arches and wheels; this is a Toyota meant for Japan's elite, as the Century has always been.
But it's the Century SUV's interior that begs its roughly $170,000 price tag, and more specifically, its pair of rear seats. The thrones recline nearly flat, if needed, look super-cushy, and the vehicle even sports a driving mode that reduces braking jolts for the comfort of those seats' occupants. It's a divine-looking place to sit.
As Humphries explains in the presentation, regarding the Century SUV's unique clientele, "The elegance of the transition from public to private realms is an art in itself." This is a sentiment you can likely identify with if you've manipulated energy markets in developing nations or invented a bespoke process for manufacturing pincushions in the Forties or whatever.
If you're that person, do enjoy your Century SUV. Just not in America.
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