Toyota sunset its flagship sedan, the Toyota Avalon, after the 2022 model year. Now, the company is dutifully replacing it with a brand-new design named after the iconic head jewelry for Monarchs.
The 2023 Toyota Crown is here. Lovely. But, in actuality, Toyota first built the Crown in 1955. And, over the years, Toyota has ticked off 15 generations of this big sedan. What’s new is that generation 16 is US-bound for the first time.
Take a moment to look at the 2023 Toyota Crown. Good. Now, please take another moment to sympathize — for me. So many crown puns constantly fire off in my brain and swirl around looking for an exit, trying to take control of my fingertips as I write. But, thus far, I’ve resisted these temptations. You’re welcome.
Name aside, this new flagship sedan plays a heady and serious role in the Toyota lineup and, indeed, the automotive market as a whole.
After all, the Crown is a car and not an SUV. And Toyota bets that Americans — at least some of us — will continue to choose cars. More specifically, we’ll choose a swoopy-shaped, tall “sedan” that comes standard with all-wheel-drive and one of two propulsion options, both of them hybrid.
And don’t let the shape fool you — it is a sedan. You get a trunk, not a liftgate. And despite standing more than 5 feet tall, ground clearance is only a tenth of an inch more than a Toyota Camry’s, at 5.8 inches.
That said, it still marks a rather significant departure of concept when compared to the outgoing Avalon, which relied on front-wheel-drive and conventional sedan styling. This successor may meet the technical requirements of car-ness, but it certainly took more than a couple of cues from today’s crossover SUVs.
2023 Toyota Crown Review
What Makes It Go?
Toyota says to expect the Crown to arrive here in early 2023. At that time, you’ll see three trim levels: XLE, Limited, and Platinum.
For the first two, Toyota bolted up a 2.5L, four-cylinder engine and two electric motor assistants. One of the two sits up front with the engine. The other attaches to the rear axle and is what provides the rear wheel part of all-wheel drive.
Rear axle energy comes from a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, which is itself charged by braking energy or the internal combustion engine up front.
All three machines working together produce a peak 236 horsepower. The internal combustion engine does ultimately do most of the work. But the front electric motor can provide as much as 118 horsepower and 149 pound-feet of torque. And the rear motor contributes up to 54 horsepower and 89 pound-feet of torque.
Keep in mind, the electric motors and gasoline engine can’t all deliver peak power at the same time. That’s why you can’t just add the outputs up.
Certainly not blockbuster numbers here, but plenty to haul this 4,250-pound sedan around. And, indeed, you need but 7.6 seconds to reach 60 mph from rest. Better still, it does so all while delivering 42 mpg in the city, 41 on the highway and combined. Not bad for such a big thing.
A couple of interesting notes. The transmission is what Toyota calls an eCVT, or electronic continuously variable transmission. Utilizing the electric motor and clutches, you get what feels like gears — more or less — but no actual gears are involved.
Also, it is AWD, but what Toyota calls on-demand AWD, meaning it’s front-wheel-drive unless traction limitations dictate getting the rear involved.
2023 Crown Platinum
But the third trim, Platinum, stands alone with a different, more powerful, and driver enthusiast-friendly hybrid powertrain. Fundamentally, it’s a similar layout: four-cylinder internal combustion engine, two electric motors, one of them mounted on the rear axle. But the similarities stop there.
To start, Toyota gave it a name: Hybrid Max. It includes a turbocharged 2.4L engine (instead of that naturally aspirated 2.5L engine), different electric assistants, a six-speed automatic transmission, and an entirely different tuning philosophy. The rear motor, in particular, delivers a much healthier 79 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque.
Altogether, the Hybrid Max delivers 340 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, and it propels the Crown to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. Not bad for a Toyota hybrid, huh?
And don’t discount the transmission — getting real ratios to work with quickens the powertrain’s reactions to your right foot. Paddle shifters mounted on the wheel give you a bit of control, of which cogs do the work. Moreover, Toyota swapped out the typical torque converter for a wet-clutch setup, which is smaller, lighter, and quick-reacting.
The downside to all this added performance is efficiency. Fuel economy drops to 29 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway, and 30 combined. You can blame the turbo motor, added power, and slightly heavier curb weight. The Platinum weighs 4,306 pounds, according to Toyota.
But, this powertrain is also full-time AWD. At any given moment, the rear axle is providing at least 30% of the work to move the Crown around. And it can manage as much as 80% depending on the selected drive mode and conditions.
Step Inside the Toyota Crown
Being burdened with the flagship status does bear out with interior comforts in the Crown. Standard equipment includes wireless smartphone connectivity and charging, heated front seats, a 12.3-inch center console touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, plenty of USB ports, and plenty of space, too.
As I already mentioned, this Crown stands tall, 60.6 inches, to be precise. It’s also 196.1 inches long and 72.4 inches wide. For context, that’s the same width as a Toyota Camry, but about 4 inches longer and taller.
This shape and size combine to allow for plush seats and plenty of headroom, even if you select a Limited or Platinum trim, which adds a panoramic glass roof.
Going with a Limited trim also adds leather to your front seats, which are now heated and ventilated. And folks hanging out in back get heated seats, too. From the inside, Platinum and Limited trims look similar. Get behind the wheel, however, and the differences immediately become apparent.
Time to Play!
From the driver’s seat, the Crown Platinum’s distinct personality comes out. It’s not just a different powertrain — handling received a lot more attention here from the ride and handling engineers.
You roll on 21-inch wheels, instead of 19s like the XLE and Limited. Also, Toyota installed adaptive shock absorbers to properly firm things up when the going gets twisty.
Throw the car in Sport + drive mode, chuck the Platinum into a corner, and the body stays surprisingly flat, even if the tires are screaming for attention. The steering, while a bit on the light side, is precise, which makes it easy to place the car just so. And the torquey electric motor at the rear axle puts in a mighty effort to use power to keep your path tidy as you exit.
That’s not all. The Crown also has a system called active cornering assist, which uses the stability control system to mitigate understeer.
As a driver, you feel much better chassis balance than expected — and enough power to squish your backside into the seat and motor off to the next corner. Good clean fun, I’d say.
Mind you, this is still a two-plus-ton big-ol’ sedan, hence, performance is relative. Its limits are low and general behavior is still quite sedate. But it also is a lot more playful and dynamically engaging than you’d expect.
I mean, the fact you even get a “Sport +” drive mode surprises me. It’s one of six modes, by the way. There’s also Comfort, Custom, Normal, Eco, and Sport.
Road Manners Befitting a Monarch?
Of course, if you prefer calm surroundings and a serene demeanor with proper etiquette displayed at all times, Toyota’s biggest sedan does that, too.
Just set the drive mode to Comfort to soften up the shocks and remind the engine to keep quiet as much as possible. After all, Toyota did install acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows to keep out the chaos.
In fact, the Limited and XLE Crowns feel that way all the time. These trims take the comfort settings of the Platinum and just roll with it.
You don’t get the engagement benefits of the full-time AWD or the more adventurous power, but neither of those adds to your serenity, anyway. And being the flagship Toyota, the Crown delivers Lexus ride quality and near Lexus luxuries too.
2023 Toyota Crown Styling
Visually speaking, the Crown makes a bit of noise, however. It’s not jaw-droppingly bold, but industry-wise a bit different, perhaps. But compared to the Avalon? Definitely so.
The black, low-sitting grille is nestled under narrow, almost squinting LED headlights that look cool. The Crown then gracefully flows into the curved hood that sets the tone for the rest of the body.
In profile, the Crown appears a touch bulbous. But it largely works with a singular line flowing from the front of the roof all the way down to the rear of the car, which then shoots straight to the ground with one nice, clean vertical line.
It looks like a hatch. It’s not. It’s a trunk with 15 cubic feet of space and split folding rear seats for more room.
2023 Toyota Crown: All Hail the Car!
Considering all of this, the XLE starting price of $41,045 seems plenty fair. You get a lot of space and comfort for that money and better than 40 mpg to boot.
Staying fuel-miserly, but more luxuriously, in the Limited starts at $46,645. Going all in with the top-of-the-line Platinum model will set you back at least $53,445.
Part of what you get, ironically enough, is something that stands out … in a Toyota. How so? Few cars look like this, to start. Fewer still do it while offering standard all-wheel-drive and hybrid power. And, finally, even fewer do it as a car.
SUVs continue to make up the lion’s share of the US market. And resources of manufacturers very logically follow suit. The fact that Toyota continues to maintain its sedan lineup and, indeed, invests in it, makes me happy.
SUVs represent the easier path; Toyota chose the other. And I’d call that a crowning achievement. Wait, is that a pun? Dammit!