After a year out of production, the impressively understated Toyota Century has returned with an all-new third-generation model, making its debut at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show ahead of its Japan-only release in mid-2018.
While F-segment limousines have become increasingly elaborate and showy over the past half-century, Toyota’s domestic flagship has lived a more Morgan-like existence, with the original staying in production from 1967-1997, and its replacement surviving until just twelve months ago. Suitably reserved for a car made solely for Japanese VIPs – allegedly a firm favourite of both heads of global corporations and those high up in the yakuza crime syndicate – it’s been a case of evolution, not revolution, in stark contrast to limousines from sister company Lexus.
The new third-gen Century, much like the generation before it, takes all the shapes, proportions and design cues of the previous model and subtly brings them up to date. This means simple quadrilateral lights (now with adaptive LEDs), a modestly-sized yet intricate grille, completely uncluttered surfacing, textbook proportions in profile and chrome trim running all the way around the bottom of the body which references the ’67 original’s chrome bumpers.
The new car is 65mm longer overall, all of which comes from an extended wheelbase. It is also 40mm wider and 30mm taller.
While the Century’s lineage is immediately clear, the rear pillar’s angle, thickness and the way it blends into the rear deck also call to mind the outgoing Rolls-Royce Phantom VII – another heritage-driven limo which aimed for stately, dignified elegance.
Inside, the car is shown with its wool upholstery, a Century trademark which Toyota claims is ‘extremely flexible and soft’ and, as legend has it, is usually chosen by Japanese VIPs for its extreme quietness. Leather is optionally available for the unimaginative. Filling the gap between the front seats is a console containing a rear-facing LCD screen to adjust the rear massage-equipped seats, power leg rest, air conditioning and the 20-speaker audio system.
Rear passengers also benefit from net curtains, a writing table and a reading lamp each.
While the previous-generation Century had the pride of being Japan’s only V12-powered car, this new one has a more sensible 5.0-litre V8 engine combined with Toyota’s Hybrid System II – a layout nigh-on identical to that of the outgoing Lexus LS600h, which probably isn’t a coincidence.
However, for well-heeled Tokyo executives being chauffeured around, the more traditionalist Century ought to provide a completely different experience to the more trendy and futuristic Lexus LS.
We’ll find out more at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month.