2023 Toyota Crown Review: Lovable oddball
The conversation was terse, as they often are in highway rest stop bathrooms.
“Sharp car,” said the guy on my left. “What is it?”
“A Toyota Crown. Replaces the Avalon.”
“How much?” he asked.
“That one’s over $54,000, but it starts at about $41,000.”
“It kind of is for a flagship,” I said.
“Built in America?”
“Nope,” I said. “Japan.”
Business transacted, we wished each other safe travels and went on our way.
That was not the only compliment the black-over-bronze Toyota Crown Platinum received. The car looks miles better in person than it does in pictures. Either way, it’s an odd duck, and a stretch for the usually conservative Toyota.
The Crown, reviving a name from earlier in Toyota’s history, straddles the line between sedan and SUV. From the (roomy) inside, the feel is more car than sport-ute, though the rear hatch opens to reveal 15 cubic feet of cargo room. The rear seat is spacious enough for a pair of six-footers, and a smaller third person in the middle. Though the sloping roof looks like it might limit headroom, there’s plenty. It’s a better design than the similar, late Honda Crosstour.
There are two powertrains, both of them hybridized. The base XLE has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, helped out by an electric motor in the rear; output totals 236 horsepower, which is modest for a car weighing in at over 4000 pounds. The specific trim we tested, the Platinum, has a turbocharged 2.4-liter four cylinder engine and a pair of motors, one front, one rear, that totals a heftier 340 horsepower. The transmission is a six-speed automatic in the Platinum, a CVT in the base car.
The 21-inch tires (surprisingly grippy Michelin Primacy 225/45 R21s) fill the wheel wells nicely. Those wheels, silver and black 10-spoke, are suitably bold for a car wearing two-tone brown and black paint. There’s a big CROWN in capital letters across the back, another way the car shouts its presence.
Specs: 2023 Toyota Crown Platinum
Price: $52,350/$54,638 Base/as tested
Powertrain: 2.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged hybrid with a six-speed automatic transmission
Horsepower: 340 combined
Torque: 400 lb-ft combined
Layout: all-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger sedan
EPA-rated fuel economy: 29 city, 32 highway, 30 combined
0–60 mph: 5.7 seconds
Competitors: Nissan Maxima, Volvo S90, Volkswagen Arteon
On the road, the Crown Platinum handles far better than you’d expect. It is startlingly nimble on the winding roads of Ohio’s Hocking Hills, yet it maintains a comfortable ride. The transmission shifts down a little reluctantly, but the engine’s power makes up for it. Though the EPA overall average is 30 mpg, we came in just short of that despite enthusiastically diving into and powering out of corners. If mileage is important, opt for the cheaper XLE model; it’s rated at 42 mpg in the city, and 41 mpg on the highway and overall.
Toyota apparently spent some money on sound deadening, because it’s quiet inside, at least when the 11-speaker JBL sound system isn’t engaged. The interior in general is conservative compared to the outside, which isn’t a bad thing. The shifter is console-mounted, next to a pair of cupholders. Most controls are piano key-like, mounted under the 12.2-inch touchscreen. The steering wheel is fat and leather-wrapped. A few expected luxury-type components are conspicuously missing: the tailgate is of the non-power variety, and the hood is held up with a prop rod rather than gas dampers.
Outside, well, the photos do the talking. If the two-tone models are too much, the Crown does come in single colors, which tempers the stylistic impact. Presumably Toyota is hoping the Crown picks up the same, not-inconsequential senior market that long embraced the Avalon. I’m not sure the styling fits that demographic, but the car certainly does, and that is not a criticism.
Those of us who drove the Crown liked it far better than I was expecting. Said Sajeev Mehta: “Put the Crown in Toyota’s most aggressive Sport Plus mode and the traction control disappears from sight, allowing a more aggressive throttle mapping to hurl the big brown Crown out of all but the tightest corners with ease. The long-travel suspension has reassuring amounts of body roll, but the turbocharged hybrid powertrain is shockingly aggressive in putting power down to the correct wheel at the correct time. Some of the pleasant surprises come from the fact that the hybrid’s bulky battery is parked ahead of the rear axle, making the weight distribution akin to that of the also-hybridized Ferrari SF90. If only in theory, as no Ferrari would force upshifts in Sport Plus mode as quickly and rudely as the Crown did on our test. But this car can hustle, and it’ll hurt some feelings when caravanned on a tight road with ‘real’ performance cars.”
While the Avalon always felt like a Camry dressed in pressed pants, this looks and feels like something different.
Something better, assuming you and the design get along.
2023 Toyota Crown Platinum
Highs: Adventurous styling, relative bargain price, surprisingly competent handling.
Lows: Two-tone will turn some people off, some luxury equipment is missing, base model is down on horsepower for such a heavy car.
Takeaway: Why isn’t this car getting more respect?