by Martin Pretorius
The midsize sedan market segment may be losing popularity, but Toyota reckons that its new Crown will slow down that trend. Arriving in the USA for the 2023 model year, the new Toyota Crown heralds the return of a model name that dates back to Toyota's tentative first outing to North America, and serves as an unofficial replacement for the Avalon. But, because sedans are not selling all that well anymore, Toyota did what Volvo and Subaru have been doing successfully for years: They turned a normal car into a crossover.
We've only ever seen such a sedan-crossover mash-up in the metal once before, when Volvo put hiking boots and some body cladding on its milquetoast S60 sedan to create the Volvo S60 Cross Country, but that experiment ended after buyers stayed away in droves. Customers much preferred the conceptually similar but wagon-shaped V60 Cross Country instead.
Toyota may have a better chance of making this concept work, though, but perhaps not due to the crossover element. Instead, the new Toyota Crown sedan should rack up solid sales figures mainly because it will appeal to the same demographic who would have considered an Avalon sedan when it was still around. It's about the same size, but its elevated stance and raised seating positions should make ease of entry a major selling point in a world where sedans have gotten too low-slung to be useful to many buyers.
The hardware underneath sure looks interesting enough, with a choice between two four-cylinder hybrid powertrains producing either 236 or 340 horsepower, along with all-wheel drive on all models and a comfortable interior with borderline premium-grade trimmings.
Built on the same accomplished Toyota GA-K platform as the Camry, the 2023 Crown will stand tall in its role as Toyota's range-topping sedan, and could even challenge the related Lexus ES for attention. Toyota Crown competitors include the sportier but lower-slung Kia Stinger and outgoing Nissan Maxima, but only the Stinger can be had with optional AWD and neither one of these alternatives offer a hybrid powertrain option.
The 2023 Toyota Crown is a brand-new model in the North American market. Toyota claims that it is not a replacement for the Avalon, but its size, market positioning, and price tag are nonetheless in the same ballpark, even though they are substantially different in concept and execution. This marks 2023 as the first model year for the revitalized Toyota Crown, the first model to carry this nameplate in the USA in 50 years.
The new Toyota Crown XLE's price starts with an MSRP of $39,950, without dealer options or destination charges. In Limited trim, the starting MSRP rises to $45,550 before options, and the Toyota Crown Platinum's MSRP starts at $52,350.
All 2023 Toyota Crown models are subject to a reasonable $1,095 destination charge, which has to be added to the MSRP. Haggling with the dealership to get a lower price is likely to be unsuccessful, however, because strong demand and short supply for these cars means that dealerships will not struggle to move Crowns off the floor - in fact, some dealerships may be able charge over MSRP, get away with it, and still not have enough stock on hand.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Hybrid
In its two lower trim levels, the Toyota Crown gas hybrid employs the entry-level powertrain. The base engine, which is used in the base XLE and mid-level Limited trims, has a high-efficiency, naturally-aspirated engine with an eCVT, combined with front and rear electric motors to realize reasonable performance. Motivation is provided by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine running the Atkinson cycle, augmented by electric motors to deliver a system total of 236 hp. It should get from a standstill to 60 mph in a claimed 7.6 seconds, which is adequate for a car of this type and power, but its howling eCVT detracts from the premium experience promised elsewhere.
The high-end Platinum trim uses a different layout named Hybrid Max, with a six-speed automatic gearbox replacing the eCVT and a 2.4-liter turbocharged gas four-cylinder engine instead of the naturally-aspirated base engine, along with electric motors in front and at the rear. Its performance is in a different league to the base engine's, with system outputs amounting to 340 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque equating to a 0-60 mph sprint in a very respectable 5.7 seconds. This powertrain is also considerably more refined than that in the base models, and goes a long way to justifying the Platinum trim's base MSRP of $52,350.
All-wheel drive is standard on all models, so traction will never be an issue, so that plays neatly into the Crown's crossover theme. But, while the AWD system adds all-weather security, it is not designed to improve the driving experience. On-road, the big Crown handles like a typical large sedan, with accurate if numb steering and a suspension that's biased more towards comfort than precision. As a result, the ride can get floaty over large disturbances and body roll through corners is very noticeable, a sensation that's amplified by the elevated seating position. The Toyota Crown is not built to hustle down a mountain pass, though, so its ride/handling compromise is well-judged for real-world usage.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
Toyota hasn't made a bad car in a long time, so the default answer here is yes. In objective terms, the Crown does everything a mid-sized sedan has to do very well, and it does so while adding a surprising dash of originality that's lacking in rivals such as the Nissan Maxima and Kia Stinger. It's well-equipped as standard, has a comfortable ride quality, excellent fuel economy, standard AWD traction, and good performance even in base trim, and it looks truly distinctive in today's motoring landscape.
As confirmed by our Toyota Crown first drive review, the only downsides involve surprisingly confined interior space and the fact that its opponents are more fun to drive. Rather than imagining it as a crossover, we'd really see the Crown as a riposte to the rise of the SUV as well as a natural evolution of the traditional sedan body shape. The market for this kind of car may be shrinking, but the Toyota Crown may just have the credentials to hold back the tide toward crossovers for a few more years.
Looking at the Crown with a coldly rational eye, the base XLE trim offers most of the things you need and nothing that you don't, and this configuration is certainly the best buy in the range. You certainly won't feel short-changed handing over about $40,000 and driving away on those smooth cloth seats, when the rest of the car is so appealing.
However, the mid-level Limited includes a bunch of extra comfort and safety features, and the glass roof may be essential to some to lift the cabin's somber ambience somewhat. The smart money will likely opt for a Limited, but those with a need for stronger performance won't be disappointed by a Crown Platinum, either - provided they don't mind paying premium-brand money for a non-premium-brand car.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Toyota Crown: