Toyota Mark X

Debut: 2009
Maker: Toyota
Predecessor: Mark X (2005)


The son of Mark II is facing a possibility of extinction...

An anonymous car ran nearby. Initially it appeared to be a Lexus IS, but once you had adjusted your focus, you would find it a little larger and more organic. Wing-shape headlamps, curvy front fenders and sporty skirts attempt to deliver a "driver's car" impression. More exciting, its long-hood proportion implied longitudinal engine and rear-wheel drive. Its grille was dominated by a cross – what brand is it ?

In fact, it is the letter "X", standing for Mark X. English automotive world has long ignored Toyota Mark X because its sales has always been bounded in the domestic market. Back in Japan, Mark X and its predecessor Mark II enjoyed quite some reputation as a driver-oriented executive car, or an affordable alternative to the imported BMWs. In its hey days, Mark II (and Nissan Skyline) fended off the foreign competition very well.


Sales target of 36,000 cars a year is merely enough to recover its development cost...

However, those days have gone. Today, globalization is deemed to be a must for survival. Continuous shrinkage of the domestic market and the shift to K-cars make the home-bounded Mark X and Skyline all the more difficult to survive. This is why Nissan redesigned Skyline to be a global car (Infiniti G-series). But the bureaucracy inside Toyota is more resisting to drastic changes. Despite of the overlapping with Crown Athlete and Lexus, it still gave Mark X a new generation in 2009. Sales target has been lowered from 60,000 to 36,000 cars a year, a figure merely enough to recover its development cost. Target customers are manager-grade males at their 50s. Its survival space is narrow, especially compared with the ever-extending range of Crown.

The second generation Mark X - shall we call it Mk X Mk II ? - is not an all-new redesign. In my opinion, it is old wine in a new bottle. The old wine is the FR platform which it shares with the old car as well as Crown. Its 2850 mm wheelbase, double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspensions are carried over. The same goes for the adaptive air suspensions at the top model. The only mentionable upgrade is VGRS variable gear ratio steering, yet it is only available on higher-spec. models. Mechanically, the new Mark X is so close to the old car that its overall length, height and wheelbase are identical. Only its width is increased by 20 mm.


The new bottle is definitely more modern...

The new bottle is definitely more modern than before, especially inside, where quality plastics and switch gears are finally presented. Nevertheless, the interior is short of style as well as fancy features. If you are looking for a TFT LCD instrument reading like Crown, you will be disappointed to find out its traditional gauges. Ergonomic-wise, its center console is hard to fault. It just lacks some sense of occasion to satisfy our ever increasing pursuit for luxury.

Thanks to the long wheelbase, there is plenty of knee room for rear passengers. The increased width enabled the front seats to position 20 mm further apart, liberating elbow room. However, to make the Mark X cheaper as well as lighter (by about 100 kg) than Crown, it sacrifices some sound insulation and standard equipment. A base Mark X is leanly equipped with fabric seats with manual adjustment and the simplest CD player / radio - not even Bluetooth is offered ! Fully equipped with high-spec audio, sat-nav, pre-crash safety system, radar cruise control, 8-way electric leather seats, air suspensions, VGRS and a powerful 3.5-liter V6, the Mark X becomes really expensive. Therefore the majority of sales goes to the base 250G model.

Time did not improve the 2.5 engine, but actually worsened it...

250G, as indicated by its name, is powered by a 2.5-liter V6. The direct-injection engine is basically the same unit as in the last generation, but its output has been detuned to 203 horsepower, versus the previous 215 hp, in order to enjoy environmental car tax benefit. In normal driving, it serves well as an executive car powertrain together with the smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic gearbox. However, if your right foot ask more from it, you will be frustrated by its lack of low-down torque as well as its coarse vocal from 4000 rpm upward. It feels noticeably slower than the old car. Now 0-60 mph takes 8 seconds, disappointing for a driver-oriented machine. Apparently, Toyota's 4GR-FSE engine is no match with BMW's 2.5-liter straight six for both performance and refinement. Time did not improve it, but actually worsened it.

The 250G's 215/60R16 rubbers result in a supple and quiet ride. Undoubtedly, there is some playfulness in its FR chassis. Its rear axle feels more lively, and the front end is more eager than Toyota's front-drive models. A pity the modest setup in 250G does not put this chassis in good use.

  
Quick and capable but not very much fun, 350G drives very much like Lexus IS350...

Naturally, 350G is much better. Its air suspensions might be less refined on high-frequency bumps, but it tightens the body roll. The 235/45WR18 rubbers generate much more grip to encourage attack mode. The VGRS steering is also more responsive than the standard setup, although it is still short of communication. The 3.5-liter V6 comes straight from Lexus and Crown, using its dual-injection (port injection plus direct injection) and extra capacity to produce a respectable 318 horsepower, i.e. 62hp more than the 3.0-liter engine of the old Mark X. Though performance figures are not revealed, I think it should be capable of doing 0-60 in 5.5 seconds. That said, compare with the best six-cylinder engines like that of BMW 335i or Infiniti G37, the 2GR-FSE's power band is rather narrow. It needs to be revved harder to get the best. Besides, its sound is also quite dull. Overall, Mark X 350G drives very much like Lexus IS350. It is quite quick and capable, but it does not deliver the communication and excitement of its German rivals.

Nevertheless, the greatest threat of Mark X does not come from the German, but from the internal competition of Crown. In recent years, we saw Crown received much greater care from its creator. It got the latest technology like hybrid powertrain as well as an ever more sporting Athlete model. Moreover, it continues to be the best selling executive car in Japan. All these mean Mark X becomes rather superfluous. If it does not sell better, this generation might just be the last of its line.
 
 The above report was last updated on 13 Feb 2010. All Rights Reserved.
 
AutoZine Rating


Mark X



Specifications








Table 1
11
12
13
General remarks
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)
Mark X 250G
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4730 / 1795 / 1435 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
-
215/60HR16
1530 kg
-
7.9 (c)
-
Mark X 350S
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4730 / 1795 / 1435 mm
2850 mm
V6, 60-degree
3456 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
DI
318 hp
280 lbft
6-speed automatic
F: double-wishbone
R: multi-link
Adaptive air springs
235/45WR18
1560 kg
-
5.5 (est)
-


Performance tested by: -

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