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What’s the Official Transport of the Japanese Imperial Family?

After Emperor Akihito abdicated the Japanese throne for his son, Emperor Naruhito became the new emperor on May 1, 2019. His coronation was then held on October 22, 2019. What car is special and important enough to transport this royal family? It’s a choice that’s rarely seen outside of Japan. Here’s a look at the Toyota Century.

The history of the Toyota Century

Toyota’s flagship chauffeured sedan, the Century has been around a long time. The first generation appeared in 1967, and the second generation launched in 1997. Toyota introduced the third generation of the Century, its most luxurious car, in 2018. The Toyota Century has only been redesigned three times in 50 years. It’s only sold to select buyers in Japan, and since 1967, only 100 Century models have been sold outside the country.

The standard Century model

The third-generation Toyota Century first appeared at the 2017 Tokyo Auto Show. It has a starting price of around $180,000. This is not a car that offers much customization. There are just four paint colors: black, silver, blue, or burgundy. Its seven-layer paint is wet-sanded, giving it a lacquer finish.

While the second generation of the Century had a V12 engine, the current third-generation hybrid powertrain has a 5.0-liter V8 that produces a combined 425 hp along with two electric motors. The third generation’s drivetrain is similar to what’s in the Lexus LS600h. The safety package includes collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Most of the luxury is for the passengers in the back. The car features larger door openings and a raised ceiling. Passengers in the rear sit on 100 percent wool upholstery (leather is an option) and, on the left side, can use an adjustable power leg rest. The seats are adjustable in the rear and have a massaging function.

There is an LCD panel in the central armrest where passengers can control various functions, including privacy curtains. Optional is the writing table with reading light and the rear entertainment system with an 11.6-inch screen. The sound system has 20 speakers. The Toyota Century includes active noise control, lots of insulation, ultra-soft suspension settings, plus new engine mounts to make sure it stays super quiet inside the car. It does have its steering wheel on the right side of the car.

The Toyota Century is designed for just the Japanese market and not intended to compete globally with other ultra-luxury cars. It’s a car aimed at royalty, top government officials, and CEOs. It’s also a car designed to be driven in rather than driven. Toyota manufactures just 50 a month.

The Toyota Century Royal

A Toyota Motor Corp. Century Royal carrying Japan's Emperor Naruhito leaves the Imperial Palace on October 22, 2019
The Toyota Century Royal | Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The Toyota Century cars modified for the royal family are called the Century Royal cars. Only one third-generation Toyota Century was made as a convertible, and it was created for Emperor Naruhito’s coronation parade on October 22, 2019. This car featured a slightly higher rear seat, a fixed backrest, and gold imperial seals on the outside. The car will reappear during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

According to Japanese Nostalgic Cars, this convertible Century called the “royal parade car,” is the first new parade car for the Japanese imperial family since their 1990 Rolls-Royce Corniche III was purchased and used in the previous emperor’s coronation as well as Naruhito’s 1993 wedding.

According to CNET Roadshow, a royal vehicle should be based on a car produced in Japan, be bigger than the other cars with it, be safe and environmentally friendly, be suitable for everyday driving, and have a rear seat with the correct size that makes the royal passengers visible. Apparently, the Toyota Century was the only option that fit the bill for the coronation.

The royal family has been using modified second-generation Century limos since 2006 and owns four of them in addition to the convertible. These four custom Toyota Century limos have top-secret features, and one of these is a hearse.

The exclusive chauffeur-driven Toyota Century is in a class of its own. Its selection by the Japanese royal family only adds to that elite status.