The Morning Call and's view

When the Toyota Cressida was introduced in the 1978 model year, luxury cars were not one of Japan’s biggest exports. No, the Japanese were busy pumping out small economy cars for an American market that, faced with rising fuel prices and the memories of gasoline shortages, seemed to place miles-per- gallon above everything else.

Apparently someone in Toyota assumed that if people were still willing to pay high bucks for small European touring sedans, they would probably pay big bucks for a small Japanese luxury-type sedan. This turned out to be a correct assumption. Since that time many, many, small luxury-type cars have come out of Japan.

Today, the Cressida remains essentially the same as it had been. That is, it is still a small Japanese luxury car competing with the European models. And, by the way, doing quite a good job on it saleswise. It, of course, is more luxurious (most cars, from economy and luxury, have been upgraded over the past 10 years) and even more European. Not surprisingly it is also quite a bit more expensive than it had been.

The test car (supplied by J.H. Bennett Inc., 2300 Hanover Ave., Allentown), for example, had a bottom line of $21,682.95. Not exactly a king’s ransom in this day and age, but certainly a tidy sum for any car. The high Japanese yen is one factor in the price of the Cressida but I also feel there is some of the old supply-and-demand factor involved. There is a lot of the old Toyota selling strategy: It may be more expensive but so is the competition. However, in the final analysis it is up to the buyer to determine if the price is right.

OK, just what do you get for your money? First off, as mentioned, a lot of luxury. Life is not difficult in a Cressida. The long list of standard equipment includes soft touch automatic air conditioning; AM/FM/ MPX tuner with four speakers, auto reverse cassette and an acoustic tone equalizer; cruise control; power windows, door locks and mirrors; leather wrapped steering wheel and parking brake lever; bronze glass; seven-way adjustable driver’s seat, and an automatic variable ON/OFF headlight control system. The interior features a good grade of materials and is somewhat subdued; no flashy, razzle-dazzle here.

The car has a wheelbase of 104.5 inches, overall length, 187.8 inches; width, 66.5 inches; height, 54.1 inches, and curb weight, 3,296 pounds. Passenger room is decent but by no means overwhelming. The EPA give the Cressida sedan a volume rating of 103 cubic feet (90 interior, 13 cargo) which makes it a compact (100-110 cubic feet). Driver and front seat passenger have plenty of room while rear seat passengers will have to hope that the front seats aren’t extended fully rearward. The trunk can hold a decent amount of cargo.

Styling on the Cressida is also somewhat subdued. It is not a bad looking car but it is not a car that is going to jump out at you. In an age of aerodynamics, the Cressida appears to be fighting the trend.

However ambiance and styling are only part of the Cressida’s makeup. What is the most impressive aspect of all is its performance. It is not exactly a sleeper but it should impress even the most avid of driving enthusiast.

Supplying the power for the Cressida is a configuration of engine not seen very much these days. It is a double overhead cam, four-valve-per-cylinder, in-line six-cylinder engine. This is the type of engine made famous by Jaguar and still used by that old, respectable English firm. Toyota had used a double overhead cam six in a limited production sports car of the early 1970s and revived the design a few years ago for its Supra sports car and then passed it on to the Cressida. (Toyota also has brought out several double overhead cam four-cylinder engines in recent years.

In addition to really looking impressive under the hood, a double overhead cam engine is noted f r being able to take high rpm without coming apart. It is also a bit more expensive to build than say a single overhead cam engine. As sort of a side note, the in-line six-cylinder engine itself is not seen as much as it had in the past. These days the V-6 is in the majority but the straight six, in addition to the Jaguar, is still used, and quite effectively, by such companies as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The Cressida’s engine measures 2.8-liter/168-cubic-inches and produces 156 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 165 foot pounds torque at 4,500 rpm. Performance, as can be expected, is quite good. Although there is plenty on tap at the lower end, this engine really comes alive at highway speeds. In fact, if you don’t keep a check on things it could run away from you – not a desirable situation in a state with a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit.

Fuel mileage on the test car averaged 15 miles per gallon for city driving and 23 mpg over the highway. Unleaded premium was used.

The test car was equipped with a four-speed automatic (a five-speed manual is also available) that didn’t seem to hurt performance one bit. The transmission has an easy-to-use overdrive lock-in, lock-out button mounted on the selector lever.

Two features on the test car – one standard, the other an option – helped give it a dual personality in both performance and handling. One gave a choice of shifting while the other controlled the suspension. The transmission can be operated in either a normal or power mode by pressing a button. In the power mode, the shifting points are changed are crisper shifts and better acceleration. The other feature is TEMS (Toyota Electronic Modulated Suspension). TEMS allows the driver to select from normal and sport suspensions and electronically adjusts shock absorber firmness to match driver preference.

It is quite obvious to see that two entirely different-type drivers can share the Cressida without infringing upon the other.

The four-wheel independent suspension system, itself, it quite substantial and features MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar up front and semi-trailing arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar in the rear. Four wheel disc brakes are used and 205/60/15 tires are mounted on aluminum alloy wheels.

Base price for the Cressida is $19,850 and includes all of the standard equipment listed above. In addition to a destination charge of $325, other expenses on the test car were an electric sunroof with tilt and slide, $790; sports upgrade package (TEMS and headlamp washers), $470; carpet mats, $98, and undercoating, $149.

The Cressida is covered by a 36 months/ 36,000 miles warranty on powertrain components (including steering, brake and suspension) and a five years/unlimited mileage warranty for rust perforation.

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