Toyota has unveiled the Century SUV as a companion model to its traditional Century luxury sedan that has been sold exclusively in Japan.
The Century SUV will be powered by a 3.5-liter V6 PHEV drivetrain, and will offer four-wheel steering, as well as optional minivan-style sliding doors.
The luxury model, shorter in length than the Cadillac Escalade, will be available solely as a four-seat model and will offer many customization options.
Live long enough, and eventually you'll see everything become an SUV. This adage, which has been seldom proven wrong for the past quarter century, now applies even to the Toyota Century—Japan's traditional personal limo with a decades-old history. One of Japan's best-kept secrets, the Century has been the car of industry titans, old money, and royalty, but was never quite a driver's car despite an available V12 underhood.
Purposefully anachronistic and understated, the Century sedan was too exclusive even for Japanese ambassadors in foreign capitals, who often used the Crown sedan instead—another large and conservatively styled sedan often employed as a taxi in Japan and Hong Kong.
Still, a few Century sedans have escaped Japan over the years, despite Toyota never officially marketing them outside the country.
Just a few years after the Century sedan itself received a redesign, trading its softer lines for something more slabby and minimalist (and its 5.0-liter V12 for a hybrid V8 setup), the nameplate will now be applied to a large SUV that will remind more than a few of our readers of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Intended to be driven by a chauffeur, the Century SUV will retain its focus on rear passenger comfort, with two airline-style reclining seats in the back and plenty of luxury features.
A 3.5-liter V6 will be paired with a PHEV setup to power this personal limo, which features generous overhangs that should give it some interesting handling dynamics, thanks in part to a curb weight of 5665 pounds and a wheelbase of just 116.1 inches. For comparison, a BMW 5-Series sedan has a 117.9-inch wheelbase.
A four-wheel steering system will help the Century SUV maneuver in Tokyo traffic, but in terms of overall length this luxury galleon will still be a few inches shorter than the Cadillac Escalade, for instance, with an overall length of 204.9 inches compared to the Escalade's 211.9-inch fuselage. It will also be about six inches shorter than the Escalade in height.
What the Century SUV won't offer is a vast cargo area or a third row of seats—this will be strictly a four-seater.
Despite being intended as a chauffeured limo, to be seen purring streetside in Tokyo's financial district and really nowhere else, Toyota plans a GR version as well, for some reason complete with minivan-style sliding rear doors. Quite a few customization options will be on the menu as well, including adventurous two-tone paint schemes.
But given its target clientele, we'd imagine that most of these will leave the factory in rather muted colors, inside and out.
With a starting price of around $170,000, the Century SUV should be a curious alternative to the likes of the Bentley Bentayga or the Rolls Cullinan.
But there is no danger of the Century SUV ever trading paint with an Escalade, at least in North America, as Toyota is expected to keep the Century SUV for its home market.
Could these do well outside of Japan, or is the Century SUV too niche to take on the Mercedes-Maybach GLS and other luxury SUVs? Let us know what you think.