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Crown-ing glory

The 2023 Toyota Crown brings power, panache and parsimony to market

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CANADIAN TIRE MOTORSPORTS PARK — It’s big, it’s bold and it’s set to become the flagship for Toyota in Canada, a market it hasn’t been sold in since 1965.

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CANADIAN TIRE MOTORSPORTS PARK — It’s big, it’s bold and it’s set to become the flagship for Toyota in Canada, a market it hasn’t been sold in since 1965.

It’s the 2023 Toyota Crown, set to return to these shores in January, and as with more and more things Toyota these days, it’s only coming as a hybrid. Two hybrids, actually, and both with all-wheel drive.

It arrives in three variations, XLE, Limited and Platinum. Those first two grades get the Toyota Hybrid System that pairs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder gas engine with front and rear electric motors for a combined 236 horsepower and a part-time all-wheel-drive system with the ability to transfer as much as 80 per cent of torque to the rear. Its normal state is 100 per cent front drive.

The Platinum gets what Toyota calls the Hybrid MAX powertrain, a 2.4-litre turbocharged gas engine combined with larger front and rear electric motors for a combined 340 horsepower. The Platinum gets a full-time all-wheel drive system that normally sends 70 per cent of torque to the front and 30 to the rear, but will send up to 80 per cent of torque rearward when situations demand.

The Toyota Hybrid System uses the planetary gearset continuously variable transmission common to most Toyota and Lexus hybrids. The Hybrid MAX system uses a conventional six-speed automatic transmission.

Both models are quite parsimonious, but the XLE and Limited are the thriftiest, with fuel economy numbers not far removed from the smaller Corolla Hybrid AWD.

The Platinum is rated for 8.1 litres per 100 km city, 7.3 highway and 7.8 combined. The LE and XLE have the thriftier of the two powertrains, rated for 5.6 l/100km city, 5.7 highway and 5.7 combined. Despite being a much larger car, those numbers aren’t significantly higher than for the 2023 Corolla Hybrid AWD models (5.9/5.7/5.3).

Toyota is positioning the Crown as a premium product in the Toyota lineup, as opposed to pushing it over to Lexus, where it would compete with the similarly priced ES. The Crown starts at $45,590 and tops out at $59,990.

A premium interior helps position the Crown as a ‘premium’ Toyota product, the company says.

Members of the Automobile Journalists’ Association of Canada attending the organization’s annual TestFest, held at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park near Toronto, were the first Canadian journalists to drive the Crown.

Toyota had only a Platinum model available, so driving impressions are limited to that trim level.

The Hybrid MAX system is quite powerful, able to launch the Crown to 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds, according to Toyota. We didn’t have time for our own trials, but seat-of-the-pants driving suggests it’s a time that’s easily achievable. Drive settings include normal, eco, sport, sport+, comfort and custom.

Also impressive was Toyota’s active cornering assist, which uses the vehicle’s stability control system to reduce understeer in certain turns. Toyota doesn’t specify in literature, but my hunch, based on driving it, is that it brakes slightly the wheels on the inside of a turn. It operated seamlessly, and was evident while swerving through a slalom at TestFest.

Two wheel sizes are available — 19 and 21 inches — and both contribute to crossover-like slide-in seating. Toyota says the “hip point” at 635 mm puts the seat at a similar height to a crossover.

The interior is upscale, as befits a model positioned as a premium product. Softex — a synthetic leather-like material — and woven fabric upholstery grace the XLE while the Limited and Platinum models feature mixed leather seats. A large infotainment screen sits centre of the dash, above a row of piano-key buttons for most oft-used controls. A volume knob allows adjusting the level of the audio system without using the touchscreen.

Of course, a car can’t be premium without heated seats. XLE gets heated front seats, while Limited and Platinum toast tushies in the rear seats, too.

The Crown is only 15 mm longer than Camry, but is 95 mm taller, so it looks and feels much more substantial. That 15 mm extra length pushes it to nearly the length of the Sienna minivan, and that is evident in the Crown’s legroom, which is a bit more than Sienna’s.

The suspension on both models feature MacPherson struts up front and multi-link at the rear. The Platinum gains an adaptive suspension system that varies the oil pressure in shocks as needed to tighten the response and reduce pitch. Toyota says the goal is to reduce head movement over bumps, and our ride suggests that’s the case.

The Crown debuted in 1955, then marketed as the Toyopet Crown. In the early 1960s, to go head-to-head with such North American models as the Ford Galaxie, it grew in size and adopted a flat trunk, hood and dual headlights on either side. It was discontinued in Canada in 1965 but remained in some global markets, including Japan, ever since.

It may not have been available here for 57 years, but its presence was felt throughout. The name Corolla, Toyota’s best-selling vehicle since its inception, is Latin for little crown. The defunct Corona name is Latin for crown, and the name Camry, long a staple of Toyota showrooms, is derived from kanmuri, which is Japanese for crown.

With Toyota reintroducing its flagship sedan to Canada, only one question remains: how popular will it be in a country where crossovers make up 85 per cent of the market? I suspect with its high hip point, and nearly crossover-like entry, the Crown will bring back those buyers who would in their minds prefer a sedan but in their joints prefer a crossover.

kelly.taylor@winnipegfreepress.com

The Crown comes with two hybrid powertrain options, including (shown) a powerful Hybrid Max system, as well as electric all-wheel drive for all models.

Supplied

Toyota’s flagship returns to Canada 57 years after the Toyota Crown was last sold here.

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter

Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.

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