New Toyota Century PHEV Preview – Ultra-Luxury Chauffeur-Driven SUV Arrives in Japan

By Steve Laser

While Toyota and Lexus offer a wide array of luxury vehicles in Japan, the ultimate, typically chauffeur-driven, flagship is the Century. Launched 56 years ago, Century has retained its stately sedan profile though three generations.

Times are changing and Toyota has introduced an all-new, SUV-style sibling that expands the Century lineup (above). Like the sedan, it will be built in low volume (Toyota projects 30 units per month), and can be trimmed and fitted to meet the needs and desires of customers.

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 (above). The second-generation Century that followed 30 years later (1997) was the first Toyota to offer a V12 engine.

The third-generation sedan (above), launched in 2018, features a 5.0-liter V8 Hybrid system, more contemporary styling, and limo-style rear seating. Toyota says that this Century sedan will remain in production.

While the latest Century has an all-new design, traditional key elements of the sedan have been carried over. For example, as a chauffeur vehicle, the center of gravity is in the rear, and long rear doors provide easy access. The vertical side panels are inspired by a loom’s “shuttle,” as a tribute to Toyota’s heritage as a manufacturer of automatic looms for weaving textiles and fabric.

Like the sedan, the new Century wears a grille that features an intricate Kumiko-style pattern (a traditional craft of woodworking with thin pieces assembled without nails). It proudly displays the Phoenix emblem as a symbol of the Century.

The Phoenix is hand carved by a craftsperson said to follow the flow of Edo-age metal engraving. For the new Century, the Phoenix has further evolved with even greater detail and precision.

Highly skilled Takumi master craftspeople also create a mirror-like finish for the exterior of the Century. Three body colors are said to be initially available, while additional exclusive colors are planned for the Kiwami Line option, offering even greater distinction.

The new Century is built on the TNGA platform with high rigidity. Details include a new 3.5-liter V6 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) system, electric continuously variable transmission (e-CVT), and E-Four Advanced AWD. Dynamic Rear Steering and Adaptive Variable Suspension are also featured. Drive Mode Select includes a new Rear Comfort Mode designed to assist braking control.

The Century’s four-passenger interior delivers an abundance of ultra-luxury features and supreme comfort. Rear seat access is easier, thanks to doors that open to a 75-degree angle, plus automatic retractable power steps, and C-pillar grips.

Flexible rear seating gives passengers the opportunity to use the space as a mobile office, for entertaining, or simply relaxing with the fully reclining feature. Overhead is a panoramic, power glass sunroof equipped with a power sunshade.

Passengers can conveniently control their environment with built-in, removable, 5.5-inch touchpads for seat controls, audio, air conditioning, sunroof, and lighting. A separate rear-seat entertainment system includes dual, 11.6-inch screens mounted on the backs of the front seats.

Toyota has also designed a professional and comfortable environment for the driver. An electronic shifter is included, along with paddle shifters, plus a wide, 14-inch center display. The heated steering wheel offers controls for voice recognition, audio, and driving support  features, such as radar cruise control and lane tracing assist.

Century features a 12.3-inch TFT color meter cluster and multi-information display that the driver can customize for ease of use. Also included is a color head-up display, and a separate, rearview mirror with selectable conventional and digital modes.

The new Century has an SUV-like rear tailgate for easy loading of cargo. The passenger and cargo compartments are separated with a bulkhead for privacy, and to help reduce noise, with the upper portion featuring a clear laminated glass panel.

Toyota says it plans to offer customers the opportunity to further customize their vehicles in the future.

Note: New generation Century vehicles shown in this story are prototypes. Features and specifications for Japanese market models are subject to change without notice.

News source and photos courtesy of Toyota Motor Corp.

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