IAIN ROBERTSON 

Some cars are destined for consumption strictly in their home markets, states Iain Robertson, which is the case with Toyota’s much-vaunted Century limousine, although its ‘RR-esque-ness’ might find willing homes in Great Britain…

Combining modern-ish styling cues, with a traditional, dignified look that references the Century model’s heritage, its cabin is equipped for VIP back-seat passengers to be chauffeur-driven in total comfort. The comprehensively restyled model, which bares unashamed comparison with Rolls-Royce, is equipped with a 5.0-litre V8 hybrid-electric powertrain and adopts the most-advanced safety technologies, including Toyota Safety Sense.

The first Century debuted in 1967, having been created to mark the 100th birthday of Sakichi Toyoda, founder of the Toyota Group. For more than 50 years, it has been Japan’s most popular chauffeur-driven luxury car, favoured by the country’s leading industry executives. The second generation updated it accordingly, although it would never have sat comfortably with potential British owners.

The new, third-generation model sustains its tradition of master craftsmanship and ‘monozukuri’, a Japanese term that represents all-encompassing manufacturing. Its new hybrid-electric powertrain addresses the demand for improved environmental performance, while the interior and exterior designs blend enticing new elements with the car’s heritage appearance. The super-luxury model is built at Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji plant and sales targets in Japan are for a surprising 50 units per month.

The car’s profile reflects the Japanese aesthetic of ‘passive symmetry’. Its silhouette is easily recognisable, with a more upright centre pillar that shifts the design focus towards the rear of the car. The curvature of the doors is enhanced using a surface treatment along the shoulder section that dates back to the design of room partitions from Japan’s Heian period (794-1185 CE). The coachwork features two distinguishing lines that are polished at an angle and separated by a narrow space so that they appear as single, prominent line, lending the bodywork an air of classical refinement and elegance.

The model’s heritage is represented by its phoenix emblem, engraved by a craftsman in a process that takes six weeks to complete. It depicts the vibrant movement of the bird’s wings and delicate feathers, set against the backdrop of the front grille, which has a traditional infinite loop pattern of crowns. Finished in a new Kamui black, which gives the impression of a lacquered finish, sanding and polishing is developed from traditional and time-consuming techniques to give the bodywork a deep lustre and shine. Each car undergoes three wet sanding treatments to smooth out even the slightest unevenness, before polishing to a mirror finish.

Ease of access was a priority for the Century and its rear cabin features wood trim and a raised ceiling design with an exclusive fabric headlining that contains a slanting lattice motif, a traditional manji design representing perpetual prosperity for the home and longevity. The nearside rear seat has an electrically extending leg rest and an integrated massage system and there is a rear seat entertainment system, with an 11.3-inch monitor, 12-channel audio amplifier and an array of 20 speakers. A seven-inch touchpad in the centre armrest gives easy control of the audio system, air conditioning, seat massage function and management of the rear privacy curtains.

An all-new 5.0-litre V8, 376bhp, hybrid-electric system delivers the kind of smooth, confident power that a chauffeured car demands, together with excellent environmental performance. Under official Japanese test criteria, it achieves an outstanding 38.4mpg. Skilled artisans are responsible for installing extensive noise-proofing measures, including wide use sound-absorbing and insulating materials. An active noise control system also reduces noise and vibration levels at engine start-up and under acceleration.

The car is equipped with electronically controlled air suspension that is both variable and adaptive. Body rigidity has been improved with the use of structural adhesives, while new tyres and suspension components all contribute to ride comfort and reduced road vibration. If you need to ask the price, you cannot afford it!

Conclusion:    While you will not be able to acquire an example of Japan’s ultimate domestic market model, it is nice to dream, because the New Century is sure to be markedly less expensive than most of Toyota’s rivals’ products.