The 2023 Toyota Crown looks at first blush like a bit of a bizarre addition to the automaker’s North American lineup.
A quirky sedan at a time when sales are sagging and SUVs are surging; a nameplate that has little cachet in Canada after a decades-long absence; and little to no marketing support since its launch – it’s not exactly a recipe for success. But driving is believing with this strange sedan, which offers some upscale swagger to go with exceptional efficiency.
Slap a Nissan badge on the back and this car could easily be the next-gen Maxima. That’s not a knock on either of them, but rather it illustrates just how different the Crown is than anything else in the Toyota lineup. The narrow headlights and gaping grille give it a passing resemblance to the compact Corolla, but otherwise this sedan has its own look entirely.
Other features shared with compatriot Toyota products include the funky little gear selector that’s also found in the gas-electric Prius – as well as its plug-in hybrid twin, the Prius Prime – and the widescreen infotainment display that’s working its way through the lineup. Otherwise, this tester’s black and brown motif provides the perfect backdrop for the subtle gold details sprinkled throughout the cabin. (On that note, that the interior door handles are finished in silver rather than gold is something of a glaring mismatch.)
Wrapped in leather upholstery thanks to the optional Limited package ($5,655), the seats are supremely comfortable and supportive, giving the ones in the all-electric Nissan Ariya some competition for the title of best in the mainstream business. While not overstuffed like a La-Z-Boy recliner, there’s just a slight sense of sinking into the driver’s seat rather than perching on top, providing cozy confines no matter how much time is spent behind the wheel.
The entry-level XLE trim tested here rides on a conventional suspension setup that goes without the Platinum’s adaptive dampers, and yet ride quality is spectacular. In fact, it’s as good – if not better – than that of more expensive machines from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, soaking up imperfections with ease while never leaving the Crown without a tremendous sense of composure.
Driving Feel: 8/10
That’s in spite of its slightly elevated ride height, which could easily lead to a stilted sensation when cornering. Of course, the Crown won’t be mistaken for its Supra sibling, but it feels firmly planted to the road below. Likewise, the steering won’t be confused for the Supra’s, but it’s certainly smooth.
While the Platinum trim gets a high-output hybrid system that uses a turbocharged gas motor to help spin up 340 hp, the powertrain here is far more docile. While this one’s also a hybrid, it’s more conventional in the sense that it employs a naturally aspirated engine that isn’t as generous with output.
Alongside the electrical half of the hybrid system, it’s more than up to the task of motivating this midsize sedan swiftly enough. Net output from the combination of the gas and electric motors is 236 hp – slightly more than the Camry Hybrid that uses a similar setup. It gets a little buzzy under heavy throttle application, which is more the fault of the automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), but the powertrain never feels short of the oomph that’s asked of it.
Fuel Economy: 10/10
Regardless, it’s not noisy enough to be classified as unrefined. More importantly, the powertrain is incredibly efficient, with an official combined consumption rate of 5.7 L/100 km – a number that was easily exceeded (albeit slightly) during testing. A little more than 700 km of mixed driving netted an indicated average of 5.5 L/100 km. The Crown runs on regular-grade gas.
Among the reasons shoppers are opting for SUVs instead of sedans is the added versatility and space they provide while occupying the same footprint. Take, for example, the Toyota Highlander that’s also available with a hybrid powertrain; at 4,951 mm (194.9 in) it’s slightly shorter than the Crown but offers three rows of seats inside.
Being a sedan means the Crown is a little more compromised in terms of space, while headroom is a particular pain point. On the bright side, the deep and wide trunk offers a generous 430 L of space. And while cabin storage isn’t exactly abundant there are a few clever spots for stuff, including a slot for a smartphone with an integrated wireless charger, and a console storage bin that’s hinged on both sides.
That vertically mounted wireless charger is standard fare as are wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connections. Ditto the 12.3-inch touchscreen and same-sized digital instrument display, five USB charging ports split between the front and back, and heated front seats with eight-way power adjustability. The optional Limited package adds memory settings for the driver’s seat, leather upholstery all around, ventilated front seats, heated rear ones, a heated steering wheel, fixed panoramic glass sunroof, and 11-speaker stereo. Meanwhile, the range-topping Platinum trim gets all that good stuff plus a few others, along with an upgraded powertrain.
As has become modern-day Toyota tradition, a full suite of advanced safety features is standard fare regardless of trim. That means adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection are included, as are automatic high-beam headlights. The XLE trim’s optional Limited package, as well as the Platinum trim, adds a self-parking system that works in parallel and perpendicular spots, as well as rain-sensing wipers.
The systems work as intended, although the proactive driving assist that automatically slows the car down when it catches a glimpse of a vehicle ahead takes some getting used to. Think of it like adaptive cruise control without a set speed, which can be handy; but then it won’t bring the car to a complete stop when traffic is slowing for a red light, for instance. It certainly takes some time getting used to – or figuring out how to disable the system entirely.
It’s true that some features are buried deep within the infotainment menus; and unlike other Toyota vehicles, the touchscreen-based system here lacks dedicated shortcuts or buttons to easily navigate between the various functions or get back to the home screen, which is especially annoying when using either of those wireless smartphone projection systems. But the interface is straightforward if occasionally tedious to use.
Another annoyance is the trunk release button that’s hiding in plain sight on the back of the car. Its location isn’t as intuitive as it seems, and it remained impossible to press without first looking for it throughout this entire test week. Otherwise, the Crown isn’t quite as uncomplicated as its midsize sibling, the Camry, but it’s easy enough to live with day to day.
Starting at $45,590 – plus a non-negotiable freight charge of $1,860 – the Crown is pricier than the most expensive gas-electric Camry that uses the same basic hybrid system, as well as the new-for-2023 Honda Accord Hybrid; but then it features all-wheel drive and its own character altogether. Meanwhile, adding the Limited package makes it a $51,245 sedan, while the Platinum trim is $59,990 before freight and taxes.
That’s not exactly cheap, but then the 2023 Toyota Crown feels like it’s worth every penny. Supreme smoothness is this car’s defining characteristic, from the peerless powertrain to the supple suspension. There’s a Lexus-like quality to just about everything here, and all for a fraction of the cost.
Like a monarch in modern society, the Crown’s return to this part of the world might not make much sense – at least not from a practical perspective. But then it’s a magnificent midsize sedan that’s unabashed with its upscale aspirations. It’s not as if Toyota is going to sell more than a handful of Crowns in Canada each year; but that adds an air of exclusivity to each and every one of them that makes this sedan even more special.
|Engine Cylinders||Hybrid I4|
|Peak Horsepower||236 net hp|
|Fuel Economy||5.6 / 5.7 / 5.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||360 L|
|Model Tested||2023 Toyota Crown XLE|
|Price as Tested||$53,460|
$5,910 – Limited package, $5,655; Oxygen White paint, $255