By Cars.com EditorsOctober 25, 2022
Ladies and gentlemen and non-conforming persons, welcome to the Great Toyota Experiment of 2023.
That's this, the new 2023 Toyota Crown, and it's meant to replace the Avalon in the Toyota showroom going forward, the Avalon being the big full size sedan. But when we first got a look at this new Crown at the Detroit Auto Show about a month ago, we were a little bit befuddled as to what exactly we were looking at. Is it a Sedan? Is it a high riding crossover coupe? Is it an SUV? Is it all of these things, or none of these things, or something completely different? It was a little unusual, and that's not something that you expect from Toyota. Well, we've actually had our first drive of the new '23 Crown, and I'm afraid we've actually still come away just as Crown-fused as before. We talked about the styling of the '23 Crown in our up close video from the Detroit Auto Show, which you can find on our site as well, but it bears looking into one more time, especially out here in the sunlight where you get, I think, a much better look at how this thing appears out in the real world, and I have to say, I think it's fantastic. This is such a different design from Toyota, something that we don't really expect from Toyota, which is really more associated with things that are a little bit more mundane, a little bit ordinary, a bit more mass appealing than something like this. Now, this being the Platinum model, it's got a couple of interesting features most notably being this bi-tone paint job, black over bronze on this one. There are four different color options for this lower level, if you want. You've also got 21-inch wheels on some fairly thin Turanza tires here, so more about what that does to how it handles in a little bit. But overall, this thing really does look dynamite. It's unlike anything else on the road today, and from a company like Toyota, that's kind of unexpected. As much as the exterior is a serious departure from the current Avalon, the interior is also just as big a change. It's not as big as it looks in pictures. The Crown looks like it's a very large sedan with lots of room inside in all of the pictures and video, nut once you get in it, you realize that this is really a mid-sized vehicle. It doesn't have the same level of space that the Avalon does, either in width or length or especially in height. My head is hard up against the headliner and this emergency grab handle, despite the fact that I have the seat all the way down. Now, yes, I've got a little extra cushion for the pushin' in the back, but still, this is not as big as you would expect it to be. The material quality, however, is really quite good. The upholstery looks good, you've got nice piping here on the Platinum trim level. You've also got the 12.3 inch touchscreen with the new Toyota Audio multimedia system, which is a lot better than Toyota's systems in the past, but still has a couple of quirks in that, you know, you can only do one thing at a time. If you're on navigation, you're on navigation, if you're on music, you're on music, if you're on phone, you're on phone, and given the real estate that this screen has, you'd expect There to to be some kind of split screen multi-function capability, which there isn't, which is kind of strange. Toyota has opted, however, to not put everything into this touchscreen, such as the actual hard buttons for the climate control, which we love, quite frankly. It looks a little old school, but frankly, to have actual hard buttons for things like the seat heating and cooling, the actual climate control itself, top notch in my book. The rest of it, well, the styling is good, the comfort is okay. Like I said, if you're a bigger or taller person, you're gonna have to take a long drive in this thing to make sure that you are going to be comfortable in it, because it's not as big as the Avalon. If you are expecting an Avalon replacement with the new Crown, I think you're gonna be a little disappointed, because this does not feel like an Avalon in most ways. Instead of a big floaty, cushy, full size sedan meant for, hmm, let's be honest, older folks who have typically bought that model, instead you've got what Toyota is billing as a performance sedan, meant to go up against the Kia Stinger and the Nissan Maxima, both of which are not expected to be around much longer. So pretty soon, Toyota might have this field all to themselves. But what they've created here is just a little bit unusual. This is the Platinum trim with the Hybrid MAX system, which is Toyota's first specific performance hybrid system, as they're calling it. And it does have plenty of torque, it's got plenty of pep. It's got a turbocharged 2.4 liter four cylinder engine mated up into the hybrid system, and it makes 340 horsepower and 400 pounds feet of torque, which is a lot. But then you consider that this thing weighs over 4300 pounds, according to Toyota, so it's a heavy sedan, a heavy car, which kind of balances out all of this power. Yeah, plenty of power, plenty of torque, really decent responsiveness. Perhaps most interesting is that it doesn't use an electronic continuously variable transmission. The lower trim levels do, but when you opt for the performance Hybrid MAX version, it uses a six speed dual clutch automatic, and that's actually kind of interesting. It's very responsive, plenty peppy. You definitely get that feeling of electric torque, that immediacy of speed, which is quite nice. Toyota says that it'll do zero to 60 in about 5.7 seconds, which is nothing to sneeze at, but in terms of it being sporty, I really don't feel it. The steering feel is accurate, but it's not. There's really no feedback happening through the wheel at all. It doesn't feel like an aggressively sporty situation, and I've got this thing in the sport plus mode. The Platinum level with the Hybrid MAX powertrain has a bunch of of different adjustable drive modes that you could choose from, and sport plus is sportier, but it's still a big heavy sedan. It's got a decent amount of body roll, and there's not a lot of great steering feedback, so you can drive it relatively quickly, but honestly, you can also drive the Avalon quickly, and it feels kind of about the same. It is quiet, I'll certainly give 'em that. The hybrid powertrain does allow it to operate in electric mode more often than you might think, and that definitely contributes to this overall sense of quietness. There's very little road or wind noise, and that's especially impressive, given that you've got these optional 21-inch wheels on this trim level with very thin performance tires, so the ride quality on broken pavement, when we've actually been able to find some here in rural Tennessee, has been, hmm, a little uneven, until you put it into the comfort mode, which actually does smooth things out quite a bit. So the suspension that comes with this trim level does actually make a difference in terms of how the vehicle rides and feels. Where you really feel the mass of the vehicle is in braking. You push the brakes, they'll stop the car, but you realize you're gonna have to push them a little bit more, because you've got a lot more momentum coming into a corner then you thought you did, because there is a lot more mass to this vehicle than you realize. So yes, this great experiment of Toyotas is still a little bit baffling. If they're trying to make something that's a Maxima or Stinger competitor, those vehicles are low. You're sitting lower, it's got a lower center of gravity. It's meant to be a sport sedan. This, you're specifically and intentionally sitting higher than you would. It's four inches taller than a Camry. So the driving position is a lot higher off of the road surface, which doesn't necessarily lend to a more sporty attitude or orientation, which makes me think that it's... As a competitor for those two cars, it's a little unusual to try and compare 'em with, but what else can you compare this thing with? It's kind of a field all its own, an entry all its own, a segment all its own, because there's really nothing else quite like it on the market right now. So what exactly are we looking at? That is the overall question, and the answer seems to be, well, it is exactly what it appears to be. It is a big-ish sedan that has some qualities of sedans and some qualities of SUVs and crossovers. It has a high performance hybrid powertrain, but still gets decent fuel economy. It's got standard all wheel drive and it costs anywhere from around 40 grand up to the high $50,000 level. And is this something that people getting out of traditional Avalon sedan are really going to want to get into? I have a hard time believing that one, but I think, again, that's kind of the point. Even Toyota isn't entirely sure who's going to go for this thing. They've said that they really only expect to sell about 20,000 of them a year, which is an absolutely minuscule amount for a major automaker like Toyota to bring something like this to market for such a small volume. So they're gonna be following very closely to see who goes for the new Crown, and we're gonna be keeping an eye on that as well. If that happens to be you and you are interested in a new Crown, you can look everything up about at cars.com.