Toyota Century: Is the Company Unleashing Its Bentley Competitor World-Wide?
Car enthusiasts worldwide recognize the Lexus LS as Toyota’s most prestigious model, but in the automaker’s home country of Japan, another car wears the luxury crown. That vehicle would be the rarified Toyota Century, which has a fascinating backstory that we’ll circle back to later. Suffice to say that for decades, the Century was a large, limousine-style sedan akin to a Mercedes Maybach SUV.
Nowadays, with buyers eschewing traditional sedans, Toyota is rolling out an SUV version of the Century for the 2024 model year. Although details are still somewhat murky, the consensus is that Toyota’s take on the Bentley Bentayga will remain a JDM tease and not get exported to the rest of the world at scale.
How much does the Toyota Century cost?
According to a recent Toyota press release, the base price for its new Century SUV is 25,000,000 yen, which is equivalent to about $165,000 at current exchange rates. It’s fair to say that price tag could escalate by leaps and bounds because Toyota is offering a multitude of custom paint and interior finishes.
For the performance-minded, there’s also a hot GR version. Besides different wheels and a sportier appearance, the GR Century SUV has a set of head-turning minivan-style sliding rear doors.
Like Toyota’s classic Hummer lookalike, the Mega Cruiser, the Century SUV has four-wheel steering for “easy handling at low speeds and seamless, natural handling at medium to high speeds.” Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 with plug-in hybrid capability and all-wheel drive to match its all-wheel steering.
Those specs sound a heck of a lot like the U.S.-made Lexus TX to us, although the Centurty will be built only in Japan at a rate of 30 vehicles per year.
Even though the Century’s length is only a few inches shy of a full-size Chevy Tahoe, it holds just four lucky occupants. That’s so rear seat passengers—most likely the chauffeured owners—have an abundance of space and the ability to fully recline their seats to the point of a makeshift bed.
Where will the new 2024 Toyota Century be available?
For now, it’s being reported that the Century SUV will only be sold in Japan, with perhaps a few rare special exception exports, as has been tradition. According to a MotorTrend interview, approximately 100 of the luxe Toyota, some left-hand drive, have been exported over the past 55 years.
In any case, this is most definitely not a mass-market item. The new SUV will be in addition to, not a replacement for the more traditional Century sedan, which will continue to be produced.
With only 30 handcrafted units planned per year, we don’t expect Toyota to have the manufacuring capacity for the Century SUV to catch on worldwide in a big way, but you never know. It came as a shock to many gearheads when Toyota announced that a large-ish crossover variant of its luxurious Crown is coming to American shores this year, but yet here we are.
History of Toyota’s ultra-luxury SUV
The Century was initially developed for the 100th birthday (see what Toyota did there with the model name?) of company founder Sakichi Toyoda in 1967. For many years, the iconic Century remained largely unchanged, the Japanese equivalent of the stately Rolls-Royce Phantom or Cadillac Series 75.
Eventually, the Century was redesigned in 1997 and again in 2018, but it’s what happened in between those dates that’s significant. Historically V8-powered, Toyota made a wild exception for the Century between 1997 and 2017. For that second generation, Toyota designed and built a bespoke V12 engine for their flagship machine—the only factory V12-powered Japanese car ever.