Toyota Crown


Debut: 2013
Maker: Toyota
Predecessor: Crown Mk13 (2008)



 Published on 17 Dec 2013
All rights reserved. 

Crown Athlete

Whenever we mention Toyota Crown, we would think of a conservative near-luxury saloon serving mostly company executives of 50 to 60 years old. So what would you think about the pink car with a funky grille pictured above? It is not a modified Crown but a stock new one. It signals Toyota's desire to change the 58-year-old nameplate. Why the need for big changes? Falling sales, of course. 20 years ago the Crown was still enjoying an annual domestic sales of 200,000 units. Last year it fell to just over 30,000, probably below the breakeven point. The fall is just as dramatic as the sales of Commodore and Falcon in Australia. On the one hand it shows the dead-end road for domestic-bounded cars, on the other hand it tells us even a reputed nameplate has to adapt to the changing market trends. 

Toyota observed 2 market trends. The first one is the migration towards sportier cars. This is not only evident on BMW, Mercedes and Audi but also on the Crown itself – introduced in 1999, the Crown Athlete model has been increasing sales gradually and now it outnumbers the Crown Royal. Therefore, Crown Athlete is to take a center stage this time in the making of the 14th generation. Another trend is the prosperity of hybrid models in the domestic market. The domestic sales chart is now dominated by Prius, Aqua and whatever models with hybrid offerings. The new Crown has to do more on the hybrid side.



What the new generation Crown cannot change is the platform on which it is based. Sharing platform with Lexus GS, IS and Toyota Mark X, it is practically a light evolution from the last generation. Its 2850 mm wheelbase is kept, while outer dimensions vary just a tiny bit (+25 mm length, +5 mm width and -20 mm height). Toyota claimed more spot welds improve chassis rigidity but didn't say how much, so don't expect it to match the full model makeover of its German rivals. The suspension remain double-wishbone up front and multi-link at the rear, backed by AVS adaptive damping. Detailed changes to the suspension improve ride and handling though. The rear suspension now employs control arms with C-shape cross section to reduce unsprung weight. The front tie rods and rear toe-control arms are offset to improve cornering stability. Improved monotube dampers also improve ride quality, claimed Toyota.


Crown Royal

The new body shape is slightly sleeker and its lines slightly crisper than the old car's, although it still looks more conventional than its Western rivals as well as its Lexus siblings. More radical is the massive front grille. There are 3 versions actually – on Athlete model, the grille is shaped like a crown; on Royal, it is merged with the lower grille; on the range-topper Majesta, it employs vertical elements like a waterfall. However, none of them can be described as beauty. Its designers might see a big grille as an identity of luxury, but it doesn't mean the desired effect can be achieved by arbitrary designs, as many Chinese car makers do. If you look at Audi's single-frame grille, it took a lot of experiments and polishing before resulting in the final design. Ditto the prominent grille of Rolls-Royce, which has been evolving gradually throughout its long history. The Crown's grilles just look weird and designed out of a poor taste, especially the Royal.

If you can overcome its controversial grille, the Athlete model is the one to have. Its front bumper intakes, fog lights and aero kits look sportier and more stylish. The same goes for the larger alloy wheels, wider and lower profile tires it employs. Therefore it is expected to account for more than half the sales. At the other end, the Majesta will continue to be a rarity. Targeting at company bosses – it is the domestic equivalent of Lexus LS – it has a 75 mm longer wheelbase than others, providing more room for the boss to stretch his legs.


Crown Majesta

Speaking of interior, the new dashboard design looks more functional than artistic, but the materials and build quality has received a noticeable upgrade like the rest of the industry. Ergonomics is improved by mounting the infotainment touch screen higher on the console thus keeps your sight closer to the road ahead, although the software user interface is too complicated. A few more physical buttons for controlling regularly used functions would be welcomed. The main instruments still employ hardware dials, skipping the TFT reconfigurable display that many new rivals have adopted. This shows the old-fashion side of the Crown. However, the sound insulation is excellent, keeping the cabin quiet on the run. Rear passengers on the standard wheelbase model enjoys 20 mm boost of legroom, thanks to the thinner front seat back. The 552-liter boot is generous, too.



From enthusiast point of view, we would have liked to see the new Crown, especially the Athlete, to be faster yet more frugal like its European counterparts. However, this is not the case. One reason is the budget cap, which means all powertrains have to be carried over from either the old car or its Lexus siblings. Another reason is that the new car is more oriented to fuel economy.

As before, the entry-level engine is a 2.5-liter direct-injected V6 (now rated slightly lower at 203 hp), while reserving for the performance-oriented Athlete is a 315 hp 3.5-liter V6 with D4-S dual injection and 8-speed automatic transmission. The mid-range 3.0-liter V6 has been substituted by a new hybrid powertrain taken straight from Lexus IS/GS300h. It consists of a 2.5-liter DI Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and electric motors, producing a system output of 220 hp. The last generation Crown also had a hybrid model, but that one employed a 3.5 V6 thus you can see the new hybrid is easily cheaper to buy and a lot more frugal to run. Expect the new hybrid will account for 60 percent of all sales. Both Athlete and Royal can be equipped with this powertrain.

The 3.5 V6 hybrid hasn't died though. It now lives under the bonnet of Majesta, replacing the old car's 4.6-liter V8. The system output of 343 hp should keep its performance close to before while saving a great deal of petrol.


Crown Athlete

On the road, the performance the Mk14 offers is very similar to the Lexus GS with equivalent engines, but the ride and handling depends very much on models. Naturally, the Royal and Majesta are comfort-oriented, with very soft suspension and light steering setting. They roll a lot and understeer early in corners. The grip offered by the modest tires is mediocre. The overassisted steering offers little feel. In other words, no fun to drive these cars at all. They are suitable to only those want to drive relaxingly, or even better, those sitting at the back. In contrast, the Athlete with its firmer suspension, heavier steering and grippier rubbers is much better suited to keen drivers. It feels almost like another car. However, the lack of extensive road test on Nurburgring etc. during its development means its driver appeal could fall off quickly when the road gets more challenging and the pace is increased, although this is harder to prove on perfect Japanese roads.

Anyway, the future of Crown remains uncertain. If the new hybrid model is proved to be popular, it could sustain longer. But in longer term globalization seems to be inevitable, especially when the domestic market for large cars is set to shrink further. Now the Crown already shares a lot of underpinnings with Lexus GS. One day they could make a complete integration, by then the Crown could be the Japanese name of the Lexus.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine

Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power


Max torque

Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Crown Royal 2.5G
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4895 / 1800 / 1460 mm
2850 mm
V6, 60-degree

2499 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
DI
203 hp


179 lbft

6-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
215/55VR17
1590 kg
-
-
-
Crown Royal Hybrid
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4895 / 1800 / 1460 mm
2850 mm
Inline-4, Atkinson-cycle + electric motors
2493 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
DI
Engine: 178 hp
Motor: 143 hp
Combined: 220 hp
Engine: 163 lbft
Motor: 221 lbft
CVT
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
215/55VR17
1680 kg
-
-
-
Crown Athlete 3.5G
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4895 / 1800 / 1450 mm
2850 mm
V6, 60-degree

3456 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
DI
315 hp


278 lbft

8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/45WR18
1650 kg
-
-
-




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine

Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power


Max torque

Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Crown Majesta
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4970 / 1800 / 1460 mm
2925 mm
V6, 60-degree +
electric motors
3456 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
DI
Engine: 292 hp
Motor: 200 hp
Combined: 343 hp
Engine: 261 lbft
Motor: 203 lbft
CVT
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
225/45WR18
1830 kg
-
-
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