Some people simply don’t want an SUV; they’re happy with their traditional big sedans, and the idea of going to a high-riding, truckish off-road thing just doesn’t appeal to them. The problem is, products for these people are disappearing: The Chevrolet Impala is gone, we haven’t seen a Ford Taurus in years, the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Charger have one more year left, and Toyota’s axed the Avalon after 2022.
But Toyota hasn’t abandoned those buyers entirely; instead, the Japanese automaker decided to try something unusual, bringing us the 2023 Toyota Crown, which we got a closer look at during the 2023 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The Crown is not a traditional sedan like the Avalon. If it’s anything, it’s a high-riding crossover coupe. But unlike most crossover coupes, it’s not a hatchback because it has a traditional trunk instead. It’s a bit more than 4 inches taller than the old Avalon, but shorter, wider and sits on a 1-inch shorter wheelbase, so the interior doesn’t feel quite as spacious. All that tall sheet metal enabled Toyota to retain amazing trunk space, so you can still stuff it full of suitcases or have a big ol’ trip to Costco with the whole family.
The exterior styling is unusual, but I like it — it’s the best interpretation yet of Toyota’s family look, and appears stylish and sleek while avoiding the unfinished, fish-mouth look of the smaller Camry sedan. They’ve cleverly disguised the vehicle’s height through the use of things like black wheel arch rims and big wheels and tires, so it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s a tall-riding conveyance. The optional two-tone black trim on the Platinum trim is interesting, and I won’t ding Toyota for offering something this unusual. Getting creative with paint and color has never been something the normally conservative automaker has done, so I applaud any effort to make its showrooms look more interesting.
Where the Crown stumbles a bit is in interior headroom, oddly enough. Despite it being an ostensibly tall sedan, headroom front and rear is tight thanks to the glass roof and sliding shade panel. My noggin was touching the top of the A-pillar despite the driver’s seat being in its lowest position, and getting in and out isn’t as easy as you might expect, as you actually have to duck under that rakish windshield’s far rearward sweep. The rest of the insides look top-notch, with excellent material quality, sharp designs and modern technology that includes Toyota’s latest multimedia system. There’s decent legroom in the back, too, despite there being a small tunnel hump in the floor to accommodate the standard all-wheel-drive system.
Who’s It Actually For?
The bigger question: Who will buy this thing? Traditional sedan buyers won’t necessarily be interested in a crossover coupe, and crossover buyers aren’t likely interested in something that doesn’t have a hatchback. Older customers, who traditionally bought Avalons, might not be interested in the swoopy styling and newfangled gadgetry of the Crown’s technology, but might indeed be interested in its 38 mpg fuel economy in its base hybrid form. Yet there will also be a higher performance hybrid model aimed at … enthusiast drivers? It’s all rather confusing. At least Toyota has made it relatively easy to operate, keeping buttons and switches instead of going full-on touchscreen with a lot of the ancillary controls.
The Crown will be perfect for someone, that’s for sure. But seeing who that someone might be continues to elude me.
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