In the words of that whacky British comedy troupe, Monty Python: And now for something completely different.
May I present to you the brand new Toyota Crown, successor to the milquetoast Avalon as Toyota’s flagship sedan, and a car so polarizing in its styling that it will have you mouthing: What the heck? Or words to that effect.
Here’s a car that pretty much rolls four cars into one. It’s part four-door sedan, part tall-riding crossover SUV, part four-door coupe, and part XL-sized hybrid Prius.
Think of it as Toyota daring to be different by adding a new twist to the traditional, and slowly dying, four-door sedan market. Some may hate it. To me, as a lover of all things quirky, it rocks.
Of course, raised-up sedans are nothing new. Remember the AMC Eagle? Or the funky Volvo S60 Cross-Country? Here is a car that stands over four inches taller than the previous Avalon and, rolling on super-cool-looking 21-inch rims, has a presence that grabs attention.
See it in profile and the way the roofline cascades to the rear is a thing of beauty. The way the roof meets the high waistline as it soars upwards to give that coupe-like look, is just plain cool.
OK, the front end is a little fussy. And infused with way too much black plastic. A little chrome here and there to break-up the back-to-black look would have reduced the visual heft.
And Toyota takes the “daring to be different” theme to extremes with its quirky two-tone paint options, which includes a shiny-black hood and rear-end. Thankfully it’s just that; an option.
But in the week I spent piloting the leather-lined, flagship Crown Platinum – $53,445 totally loaded – I lost count of the number of head-spins, thumbs-ups, iPhone photos and “Hey what’s that?” I got from passers-by.
Yes, you can get into a new Crown XLE for around $41,000, or a Limited for $46,600. But it’s the fancy-pants Platinum that you’d really want. How come? It’s what’s under the hood.
While all three Crown models have hybrid powertrains and all-wheel drive as standard, it’s the Platinum that gets Toyota’s new, take-it-to-the-max, Hybrid Max set-up.
Borrowed from the latest Lexus RX500h crossover, the system mates a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas motor with electric motors front and rear, and a six-speed automatic.
This techno combo conjures-up a feisty 340 horseys and 400 lb-ft of torque, with the electric assist making for positively Usain Bolt-style off-the-line sprints. Pedal to the metal, you’ll see 0-to-60mph dashes in a lively 5.7 seconds.
And hybrid power means that it’s positively abstemious in its thirst for gas. Around town you’re looking at 29 to the gallon, and an impressive 32 on the highway. The XLE and Limited models, with a less-powerful 236-hp hybrid system, can average up to 42mpg city, and 41 highway.
Out on the road, our Crown Platinum checked all the right boxes. It’s a lively performer, with eager acceleration for swift passing and safe freeway merging. Yes, the four-cylinder can get a little thrashy-sounding under hard acceleration, but it’s far from vocal.
But show it a curve and there’s hardly any body roll, courtesy of adaptive dampers, while the electric-assist steering has just enough weight and precision to make things fun. Add to that, a ride that’s luxury-sedan-smooth, even over the crustiest of blacktops.
Inside, the level of standard equipment is top notch. Everything from heated and ventilated leather front seats, to a full-length panoramic glass roof, an 11-speaker JBL stereo, and 12.3-inch touchscreen.
Yes, that swoopy roofline does steal headroom in the back, and the trunk is a little on the shallow side. But that raised-up ride height makes getting in and out a breeze.
Think of this new Crown as the perfect crossover that melds a regular sedan with a compact SUV, with the bonus of hybrid power and economy.
That would be a win, win and another win.