The Toyota Crown name is returning to the United States after a long hiatus. It’s replacing the dutiful Avalon as the flagship sedan in the Toyota lineup. The new Toyota Crown isn’t quite like the Avalon, nor does it have much in common with the Crown luxury sedan from the early 1970s when it left the U.S. market. The 2023 Toyota Crown is something totally new, and it could signal the future of sedans.
What Is the Toyota Crown?
You may have never heard of the Toyota Crown, but it’s the longest-running nameplate in the Japanese brand’s history. It’s been in production since 1955 as the Toyopet Crown. The original Crown was essentially the Toyopet Master taxi but intended for private purchase. Ever since, the Crown has been a staple in the Japanese car world, available as a sedan, coupe, wagon, and even a Ranchero-style ute.
It was around the late 1960s and early 1970s that the Crown came into its own as a flagship luxury car. As Toyota’s model range expanded with more mainstream offerings, the Crown moved upmarket with luxurious features like air conditioning, rear-seat radio controls, and power windows.
Unfortunately for Americans who wanted Japanese luxury, moving upmarket is what killed the Crown in the U.S. The 4th-generation Crown was introduced in 1971 and exited the U.S. market just two years later. It turns out Americans are a bit snobby about luxury cars and insist on a prestigious name and emblem if they buy an expensive, premium automobile.
Toyota figured that out, and the Crown returned to the States in the 1990s disguised as the Lexus GS. The first three generations of the GS were derived from Crown counterparts. But, the fourth and final generation of the GS rode on a platform exclusive to the Lexus brand with no direct Crown equivalent. Therefore, the closest thing we’ve had to a U.S.-market Toyota Crown recently was the 2011 Lexus GS.
What Is the New Toyota Crown?
Toyota has rebooted the Crown with the latest generation. Although it’s totally revamped, in a way, it’s returning to its roots by offering various body styles, all bearing the “Crown” name. No SUV this time around, but it’s cool to see so much variety in one model.
When Toyota pulled the wraps off the new Crown(s) a couple of weeks ago, we saw four new cars. There’s the Sedan type, Sport type, Estate type, and Crossover type. The Sedan type is the most traditional of the bunch; it looks like a modern luxury sedan. The Sport type is like a sporty hatchback, and its body recalls the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. The Estate type is intended to be a wagon, but we’d call it an SUV by American standards.
You’ll never guess which of these Crown models is coming to the U.S. That’s right; it’s the Crossover type. Although it’s called the Crossover type, it’s arguably less SUV-like than the Estate type. Call it what you want, but Toyota’s U.S. marketing is calling this thing a sedan.
It uses the liftback design that’s been getting popular, kind of like a Kia Stinger or Audi A5 Sportback. This roofline gives the Crown an interesting profile while yielding generous cargo space. It also rides a little higher than the average sedan and bears some Subaru-like body cladding.
The interior is nice, but there’s nothing groundbreaking here. It has big screens and a Lexus-like design, but there’s a Toyota badge on the steering wheel. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if you told me this cabin was the next-generation Avalon.
The new Crown has absolutely no delusions about being an off-roader. It has standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and a taller ride height than a regular sedan, but not for the purpose of off-roading. That’s just what people like about SUVs; a commanding view of the road and confident traction in the snow. There won’t be any off-road enthusiasts trading in their 4Runner or Tacoma for a Crown, and that’s OK.
What’s Under the Hood?
You get a choice of two hybrid powertrains under the hood of the new Crown. The standard hybrid powertrain is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder mated to two electric motors and an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It’s estimated to make 231 horsepower, and Toyota estimates an impressive combined fuel economy rating of 38 mpg. For reference, the Avalon Hybrid gets up to 44 combined mpg with no AWD.
The top Platinum trim will come with Toyota’s HYBRID MAX system, which emphasizes performance more. This hybrid powertrain uses a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission rather than a CVT. It’s estimated to make 340 net horsepower and return 28 combined mpg. It also rides with Sport+, Comfort, and Custom drive modes and a standard adaptive suspension.
The Future of the Sedan?
The new Toyota Crown is a sedan that incorporates what people like about SUVs; a taller ride height and AWD. That’s what the people want and what the Crown delivers. However, it’s unlikely to be a hot seller. Shoppers will have difficulty putting the Crown in a box and will buy a hybrid Lexus instead.
Automakers have attempted the lifted sedan before, and it’s never been a success. The most recent example sent to car heaven would be the Volvo S60 Cross Country. However, the Crown could have a different fate by virtue of being a Toyota. Toyota is a much more mainstream brand with a much more extensive dealer network compared to Volvo in the U.S. Toyota is also a seasoned name in hybrids. People might wind up upgrading from a Prius to a Crown.
The Crown marks a new sedan style. We’re starting to see this transformation with more manufacturers coming out with a variation of the Subaru Crosstrek or Outback. A few examples include the Mazda CX-30 and CX-50, the upcoming Ford Fusion Active, and Toyota’s own Corolla Cross.
What’s different about the Toyota Crown is that it’s not trying to be an outdoorsy wagon. It’s a liftback sedan with some SUV-like qualities. If the sedan has any future in the U.S. market, this is where it’s headed.
Surprisingly, the Estate-type Crown isn’t coming to the States. That one looks like it would be more appealing to American appetites, but it might be too similar to the Venza to justify bringing it to our shores. Perhaps if the Crown is a flop in the U.S., the Crossover type will tap out, and the Estate type will replace it, but it sure looks like Toyota is betting a lot on the Crossover type.
If anyone wants to accuse Toyota of being boring, point them to the Crown. It may not be an exciting sports car, but the Crown is undoubtedly something different. Find a Toyota for sale