Third generation of the Toyota Century launched in Japan today

First generation of the Century introduced in 1967.

In 1967, to commemorate the 100th birthday of the founder of the Toyota Group, Sakichi Toyoda, the company unveiled a flagship model known as the Century. For its time, the Century was extremely luxurious and equipped with the best features and systems available in the late 1960s (eg automatic climate control). With its prestigious image, it quickly became a favourite of top executives in Japan and would remain so for more than 50 years.

Sold only in small volumes each year and only for the Japanese market, the first generation was produced for a period of 30 years before the next generation replaced it.

This second generation of the Century, which appeared in 1997, had the distinction of being the first and still the only Japanese front-engine, rear-wheel drive production model with a V12 engine. The engine (coded 1GZ-FE) had a 5-litre displacement and produced 276 bhp/481 Nm and was only used in the Century.

Now, after 21 years, the second generation is succeeded by a fully redesigned model. The development theme blends the concepts of legacy and evolution. It carries on the tradition of master craftsmanship and high-quality monozukuri (all-encompassing manufacturing) while the hybrid system realizes high-demand environmental performance, and an interior and exterior design injects new charm into the Century in line with its heritage.

The Eternal Black finish is a newly developed colour dubbed ‘Kamui’. The rich coating consists of 7 layers, including a clear coating containing black paint to give the impression of a black lacquer finish. Sanding and polishing, based on traditional Japanese lacquer craftsmanship, give the car its deep lustre and shine. A wet sanding technique is carried out three times to smooth out the minute unevenness. The body then receives a mirror finish to ensure there is not the slightest cloudiness or dullness in colour.

The distinctive emblem portrays the vibrant movement of the wings and delicate feathers, while the grille serves as an ornate backdrop, featuring an infinite loop crown pattern1 that exudes a dignified panache.

The outline of the car reflects the Japanese aesthetic of passive symmetry while employing a proprietary ideology that focuses on creating a regal rear seating space. The silhouette is easily recognizable as a chauffeur model. By straightening the slope of the C-pillar, the design focus of the cabin shifts to the rear, heightening the importance of the rear in appearance.

The design also shows beautiful curvature to the doors enhanced by a surface treatment used in room partitions of Japan’s Heian period which are found on the character line of the shoulder portion. Two distinguishing lines have been polished at an angle with only a slim space between them so that they appear as a single, prominent line, lending the body an air of dignity and excellence.

As with its predecessors, the new Century features advanced equipment and comfort amenities that make it an ultra-luxurious limousine, with numerous engineering improvements made to achieve serenity and cruising stability. Of paramount importance has been that the cabin space is suitable for VIPs.

The wheelbase has been lengthened by 65 mm, and the extra length has been allocated to the rear section to provide a more spacious rear seat and ample legroom. A tiny detail: the height difference between the scuff plate and floor has decreased by 15 mm to ensure the floormats lay flat when installed. This also improves ease of entering and exiting the car. A step-less adjustable power legrest and massage function (in the left rear seat) ensure a comfortable ride.

The interior features wood trim to create a distinct rear seating space, a raised ceiling design, and exclusive fabric with a slanting lattice motif to create a refined, rich look. The 11.6-inch rear seat entertainment system, 12-channel audio amp, and 20 optimally-positioned speakers create the perfect ambience. Also fitted is a 7-inch touch panel in the centre armrest which enables passenger control of the audio system, air conditioning, massage function, and curtains.

Toyota does not mention customisation options and presumably, every Century would have identical specifications with only a few variations.

The 2UR-FSE petrol engine has the same 5-litre displacement as the second generation but it is not a V12 and instead returns to the V8 configuration that was used for the first generation. It is also a hybrid powertrain with a 165 kW electric motor and the combined output of the engine and motor give a system output of 431 ps. Torque is massive, with 510 Nm from the engine and 300 Nm from the motor. With the electric motor reducing demand on the engine, the fuel consumption is said to be 13.6 kms/litre.

Just as with the engineering in Lexus models, skilled craftsmen have dedicated much time and effort to ensure optimized noise-proof measures, including seamless installation of noise-proofing materials. The active noise control system additionally reduces noise and vibration when the engine starts and achieves smooth acceleration and utmost serenity in the cabin.

In addition to an electronically-controlled air suspension with an AVS8 function, body rigidity has also been improved through the use of structural adhesives. Both driving stability and premium ride comfort are fine-tuned using newly-developed tyres, suspension arms, bushes, mounts, and other rubber parts specialized for ride comfort and reduced road vibration.

The new Century goes on sale in Japan from today with a pricetag of 19,600,000 yen (equivalent to about RM711,300). With Lexus already established as a premium luxury brand globally, Toyota doesn’t have plans to make the Century an export model (other than for sale to its embassies and Japanese companies outside the country) and has a target of selling only 50 units a month.

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[Chips Yap]