The traditional sedan has been in a steady decline for at least 30 years. Replaced by the larger, boxier, higher-riding and more adventurous-looking SUV, there’s been little to celebrate in the sedan world, and every indication the body style might disappear completely. But Toyota hasn’t given up on the once-dominant four-door car. Instead, the automaker has decided to apply many of the classic traits one normally associates with SUVs to the all-new 2023 Toyota Crown that just made its world debut and goes on sale in the U.S later this year.
The all-new Toyota Crown offers a longer, wider, and taller body than, for example, the Camry. It also comes with standard all-wheel drive, one of two hybrid drivetrains, and a long list of advanced technology. In short, this sedan is anything but traditional. But it still begs the obvious question: Why? Well, like so many seemingly inexplicable twists in the auto industry, you can credit (or blame) a foreign market for this car. Large, premium sedans are still quite popular in Toyota’s home market of Japan, as are hybrids, which makes the unexpected Toyota Crown suddenly quite rational as a component of Toyota’s global product plan, even if the Crown likely plays a secondary role in future U.S. sales.
But if you’re one of those rare individuals seeking a compelling non-SUV option in the new car marketplace, there’s a lot of shine on this Crown. First, its substantial size and elevated ride height suggest it will offer SUV-like passenger space and visibility. Toyota hasn’t released interior dimensions yet, but we know it’s longer overall and has a longer wheelbase than the Camry, with an overall height almost four inches taller than the Camry. And we can see what is clearly a very spacious cabin in these photos.
Now consider the Crown’s premium and high tech features. Standard items on the XLE trim include 8-way power and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch touchscreen display, wireless phone charging, multiple USB (and USB-C) ports, over-the-air system updates, and a 4G WiFi hotspot supporting a range of connected services. The mid-grade Limited and top-line Platinum models add everything from ventilated front seats and heated rear seats (in leather) to an 11-speaker JBL audio system, a digital (cell phone-based) key, and automatic parking. Toyota says every Crown also features acoustic glass to create a serene cabin, free of wind and road noise.
The Crown’s two hybrid drivetrain options are probably the biggest news, as they represent technology we’re sure to see in more Toyotas over the next few years. It’s worth noting that while all the current buzz is around pure EVs, the reality is that neither the technology nor the mainstream consumer is ready for the high prices, limited range and long charging times required by electric vehicles. At some point these problems will be resolved, but it hasn’t happened yet and it wont happen for at least several years. That means hybrid (and plug-in hybrid) drivetrains remain the best solution for the largest number of car buyers.
The base XLE and mid-grade Limited trims use what Toyota describes as its fourth-generation hybrid system. It combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Normal, Eco, Sport, and EV driving modes are offered, the latter setting the Crown to run in pure electric mode at low speeds for short distances. Power is sent to all four wheels, with one of the two motors driving the rear wheels and up to 80 percent of power being sent rearward, depending on driving conditions. Toyota says this drivetrain will deliver 38 mpg.
The top-line Limited trim gets Toyota’s new “Hybrid Max” drivetrain, which features a 2.4-liter four cylinder turbocharged engine combined with a front electric motor and six-speed automatic, plus another rear electric motor. Toyota calls this its performance hybrid drivetrain, and with peak horsepower rated at 340, along with all the low-end torque coming from those twin electric motors and the turbo engine, which hits peak toque between 2,000 and 3,000 rpm, we believe them. Zero-to-60 time with the Hybrid Max is predicted at 5.9 seconds. Driver modes for this model include Normal, Eco, Sport, and Sport+, and with the Platinum’s standard active/adaptive suspension we suspect confident handling accompanies the responsive drivetrain in Sport+ mode. Toyota says this drivetrain will return 28 mpg.
Would the new Toyota Crown exist without Japan’s ongoing hunger for premium sedans? We doubt it, but we’re not complaining. Just as we may be rushing toward EVs too quickly, we also may have rushed away from the sedan in haste. Toyota is offering a compelling middleground with the upcoming Crown. Its a large, SUV-like sedan, with advanced hybrid technology and no recharge times or range anxiety. Like most modern hybrids, it makes an excellent bridge between where we want to be, someday, and where reality still has us anchored, today.