By Steve & Tamami Laser; with Nahoko Osuka reporting from Japan
Before there was Lexus, Toyota built cars like the flagship Century. This long-running luxury sedan has been in production for 51 years, with the last major upgrade occurring 21 years ago. While the new, third-generation Century retains conservative styling and stately proportions, it gains many modern touches to please passengers and the driver (typically a chauffeur) alike.
A friend asked, “Why does Toyota continue to build this car when the new Lexus LS offers so much luxury?” We responded with one word: “Tradition.” As long as Toyota stays in business, we can be certain that the Century (and the Land Cruiser) will carry on.
The Century name was originally selected to commemorate the 100th birthday of the founder of the Toyota Group, Sakichi Toyoda, when the car was launched in 1967. The second-generation Century that followed 30 years later (1997) was the first Toyota to offer a V12 engine.
Fast forward to today and the new eco-focused Century receives a 5.0-liter V8 Hybrid system that delivers 289 kW (381 PS) @ 6,200 rpm and 510 N-m of torque at 4,000 rpm. Combined output from the gas and electric drive system at 317 kW (431 PS) should be more than sufficient to effortlessly propel the big sedan up mountain roads and cruise along expressways.
Toyota says the enhanced Century’s design reflects the Japanese aesthetic of passive symmetry while focusing on creating a “regal rear seating space.” At the side, the curve of the doors is said to be enhanced by a surface treatment used in the Heian period, while character lines contribute to an air of dignity and excellence.
Century is built continuing the tradition of master craftsmanship and monozukuri (all-encompassing manufacturing). For example, Century’s phoenix emblem (above) is carefully engraved during a six-week period by a craftsman.
Another example of attention to detail can be found in a new exterior color, an eternal black, called Kamui. The luxurious finish features seven layers including a clear coat that contains black paint to give it the impression of a black lacquer finish. Toyota says that wet sanding is repeated three times for a deep luster and shine.
Stepping inside the cabin, a 65 mm increase in wheelbase provides a more spacious rear seat area with ample legroom.
Befitting its luxury status, the interior is trimmed with wood while the raised headliner is dressed with a fabric featuring a slanting lattice motif for a rich appearance.
The lucky rear seat passenger (on the left side) is treated to a stepless adjustable power legrest and massage function. There’s an 11.6-inch rear seat entertainment system (above), 20 speakers positioned around the cabin, and a 7-inch touch panel in the rear center armrest (below) to control the audio, climate, massage function, and curtains.
Advanced engineering techniques help reduce noise inside the cabin while providing a smooth and luxurious ride. Century rides on an electronically controlled Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with new suspension arms, bushings, and mounts, while structural adhesives help to improve body rigidity.
Toyota Safety Sense features are standard, of course, including a Blind Spot Monitor, Parking Support Alert, Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, Radar Cruise Control, and Adaptive High Beam System. Two new features include HELPNET, an automatic emergency reporting system that activates if an airbag is deployed, and D-Call Net that can make swift decisions to dispatch air and ground ambulances if an accident is estimated to be severe based on vehicle data.
With a sales target of just 50 units per month, Century is crafted at the Toyota Motor East Japan Higashi-Fuji plant. Sales begin today in Japan at Toyota, Toyopet, and Tokyo Toyota dealers with an MSRP of ¥19,600,000 (about $178,180).
New Toyota Century at the Tokyo Motor Show
We made this video of the new Toyota Century at the Tokyo Motor Show. Our video also includes a look at Toyota’s Crown concept (previewing another upcoming next-generation model), JPN Taxi, and Sora FCV bus. (video: CarNichiWa.com)
While we didn’t have a chance to sit inside, we got our first look at the new Toyota Century during our visit to the Tokyo Motor Show last fall. Although it was dubbed a prototype, it closely resembled the new production model.
For more information on the Century visit the Toyota consumer website in Japan.
News source and photos courtesy Toyota Motor Corp. Features, specifications and prices for Japan market models are subject to change without notice. (Price includes consumption tax but does not include recycling fees. Prices differ in Hokkaido and Okinawa.)
Story © 2018 CarNichiWa.com / car show video © 2017 CarNichiWa.com