After a half-century hiatus, Toyota's oldest nameplate returns to North America this year. Making its debut Thursday, the new 2023 Toyota Crown is a very different vehicle than the sedan that's evolved over 15 generations in the company's homeland of Japan, standing quite literally head-and-shoulders above the rest of Toyota's sedans with its taller, crossoverlike proportions.
The Crown's footprint is a touch larger than the current Camry and slightly smaller than the Avalon, measuring 194 inches from bumper to bumper with a 112.2-inch wheelbase. With the Avalon gracefully bowing out of the lineup this year, that makes the Crown the automaker's new flagship sedan. However, the Crown's 60.6-inch roofline puts it around 3.7 inches taller than the Camry, with very different proportions than anything we've seen before from Toyota's designers. Representatives of the brand tell us most of the Crown's verticality comes from the "lift-up" proportions of its body and not from significantly increased ground clearance.
Raising the roof allowed the Crown's designers to raise its seating position to a more crossover-like height, as well, hopefully combining the familiar driving dynamics, silhouette and discrete trunk of a sedan with the forward visibility, confidence and easy step-in entry and exit of a small SUV. But with so many of today's SUVs already boasting very car-like road manners, Toyota may be splitting hairs over perceived driving experience advantages.
The Crown's handling department is staffed by a MacPherson strut suspension up front and a multilink setup for the rear wheels with standard 19-inch wheels for lower grades and optional 21-inchers for the Limited trim. The top-spec Platinum grade makes those 21s standard equipment and upgrades the suspension with standard adaptive dampers.
340-hp Hybrid Max
Two powertrain options are available to Crown buyers, and both are hybrids with standard electronic all-wheel drive. The base setup for XLE and Limited grades is the 2.5-liter Toyota Hybrid System, which mates the automaker's bread-and-butter gas-electric hybrid setup on the front axle with a second electric motor on the rear axle for on-demand all-wheel drive. This is very similar to the setup you'll find in the current RAV4 Hybrid, but tweaks to the battery and other systems place the Crown's output at 236 horsepower and its estimated economy at around 38 mpg combined.
Opting for the Platinum grade also swaps the powertrain for the automaker's new Hybrid Max system. This upgrades to a 2.4-liter turbocharged gas-electric hybrid system with a six-speed automatic sending power to the front axle and water-cooled electric motor powering the rear axle for more performance-oriented, full-time all-wheel drive. With everything working in concert, the Hybrid Max system peaks at 340 hp and, with an even right foot, delivers up to 28 combined mpg according to Toyota's internal estimates.
The Crown is built on Toyota's New Global Architecture K (TNGA-K), which also serves as the base for the Camry, RAV4, Highlander and Sienna. This means the odds of seeing a Polestar 2-battling, fully electric version of the tall sedan are slim to none. This feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to flex the E-TNGA dedicated electric architecture used on the new BZ4X, but it's likely the Crown's development predates that platform.
Another missed opportunity is the lack of a plug-in hybrid version of the Crown. A bigger battery and a couple dozen miles of EV range at the beginning of each day would add a bit of future-proofing as governments push for fully electric fleets over the next decade. It would also help the Crown serve as a gateway for shoppers on the fence about plugging in as Toyota makes its own slow transition to electrification. Toyota won't comment on future products, so who knows? Maybe there's a Crown PHEV on the drawing board waiting to debut.
Connected multimedia tech
The Crown's cabin is home to the latest generation of Toyota's dashboard tech. Dual 12.3-inch screens are standard -- one ahead of the driver serving as a user-customizable digital instrument cluster and a second, central touchscreen that's home to Toyota's Audio Multimedia infotainment software. We've seen this system before inwhere its built-in data connection allows for over-the-air software updates, subscription-based remote services, managing multiple Toyota user profiles and connected destination search. There's also the "Hey, Toyota" hotword recognition that allows users to initiate searches with the sound of their voice.
Below the displays are physical controls for the climate systems (thanks for that!), a deep pocket for wirelessly charging a phone and two USB type-C ports for charging other passenger electronics. Two more type-C ports can be found on the second row and a USB type-A port is located inside the center console for media playback or standardor connectivity.
The Crown will also come standard with the automaker's Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 driver aid suite. Its pedestrian detection system now includes recognition of motorcyclists and guardrails. Meanwhile the precollision system can now detect and automatically brake to avoid accidents when turning across an intersection. Radar adaptive cruise control and lane tracing assist also claim upgrades for this generation. Low-speed safety is enhanced with a standard backup camera or a 360-degree camera system that's optional for Limited grade and standard on Platinum.
The 2023 Toyota Crown is an interesting exercise in defying and blending classes with its mix of sedan and crossover characteristics, but it also feels oddly timed. It's a sedan launching as new car buyers shift to SUVs and a hybrid hitting the road as the industry creeps toward a tipping point for full electrification. We'll have to wait to see how well shoppers receive the Crown when it goes on sale near the end of this year. Pricing and final fuel economy are expected to be announced closer to that launch window.