For the first time in 21 years, Toyota has undertaken a full redesign of the Century, its high-end limousine model that is Japan’s number one chauffeur-driven luxury car.
The first Century debuted all the way back in 1967, when it was created to mark the 100th birthday of Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda.
The new, third generation model now gets updated to include a hybrid electric powertrain as well as interior and exterior designs that blend new elements with the Century’s traditional, rectilinear look.
At the front sits the car’s famous phoenix badge, which is engraved in a process that takes a total of six weeks to complete; it depicts the movement of the bird’s wings and feathers and is set against the backdrop of the front grille, which has a traditional infinite loop pattern of crowns – a pattern that is also repeated inside the car on the dashboard.
According to Toyota’s designers, the Century’s side profile reflects the Japanese aesthetic of “passive symmetry”. The silhouette further hints at the car’s intended use as a chauffeur model through the use of a more upright centre pillar, which is claimed shifts the design focus to the rear of the car. The curvature of the doors has also been enhanced using a surface treatment along the shoulder section that is said to date back to the design of room partitions from Japan’s Heian period (794 – 1185 CE).
The new Century’s wheelbase has increased too – by 65 mm to be precise, which means there is now more room on the inside compared to the old model. The height difference between the scuff plate and the floor has also been reduced by 15 mm to ensure the floor mats lie flat, thereby making it easier to get in and out of the car.
Additional cabin details include wood trim and a raised ceiling design with a special fabric headlining with a slanting lattice motif – a traditional manji design that is said to represent prosperity and longevity in Japanese culture. The left-hand rear seat also gets a power-extending leg rest and an integrated massage system and there is rear seat entertainment system with an 11.3-inch monitor, 12-channel audio amplifier and array of 20 speakers. A seven-inch touchpad in the centre armrest gives control of the audio system, air conditioning, seat massage function and rear curtains.
In terms of power, the car is equipped with a 5.0-litre V8 hybrid electric unit that is claimed to achieve 38.4 mpg under official Japanese test criteria.
Chassis details, meanwhile, include electronically controlled air suspension and adaptive variable suspension, as well as new tyres and suspension components. And through the use of structural adhesives, body rigidity has been improve as well.
There are also new safety technologies, including Toyota Safety Sense, which comprises autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert, and pre-crash brake assist.
The new Century will be hand-built at Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji plant, with sales targets in Japan set for 50 units a month.