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Toyota Century

Carpedia  ·  May 22, 2023

Toyota Century

Although it can hardly be found outside Japan, the Toyota Century managed to become a true icon among luxury car enthusiasts around the world. 

It perfectly showcases the Japanese understanding of luxury, where precision and pure quality still play a more important role than typical opulence. It was never sold Down Under, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn a few things about this luxury icon.

The First Generation of Toyota Century (1967-1997)

As a genuine high-end luxury car, the original Century was designed to last. Thanks to its advanced (at the time) technologies and classic design, it remained in production for a full three decades. The development started in the early 1960s with the goal of creating an ultimate luxury sedan.

The overall design was unique, as were lots of technical solutions, but the original Century wasn't built from scratch. It was based on another well-known luxury sedan – the good-old Crown Eight, a mid-size luxury sedan at the time. The Century came with notably bigger dimensions, reinforced chassis and a completely new suspension setup.

Considering that the car was in production for a full three decades, we saw occasional updates, which made this car better and better. Interestingly, the styling remained largely the same throughout these years, but upgrades under the skin were significant, including the suspension setup. 

As was typical of the era, the initial 1967 model was introduced with a double wishbone setup at the front and rear springs on the rear end. As the automotive industry advanced, the Century evolved as well, following the highest standards in the segment. 

The original setup was replaced with air suspension in later production years. Several more upgrades improved comfort and convenience, including automatic climate control in 1971.

Besides comfort and convenience, the Japanese manufacturer also consistently updated the mechanics, including the engine and transmission. We will get on that in a moment.


The Toyota Century came as a full-size sedan, with a wheelbase of 2,860mm and a total length of 5,120mm. These dimensions were similar to models like Rolls Royce Silver Spirit, Cadillac de Ville Series, Lincoln Town Car and other full-size luxury sedans at the time. The L-type version was also available, with the wheelbase stretched to 3,010 mm and a total length of 5,270 mm. 

In 1989, the company also introduced a limousine version, with an impressive 3,510mm wheelbase and a total length of 5,770 mm. All versions were 1,890mm wide and 1,430-1,460mm tall.


The original Century wasn’t powered by a completely new engine. The company took the 2.6-litre V8 engine from the Crown Eight and increased the engine capacity to 3.0 litres. That engine, codenamed 3V, was rated at 110kW. 

Six years later, the company upgraded the car with a 4V engine, with 3.4 litres in capacity and increased output. In 1975, this engine received further upgrades to meet new emission standards. 

Finally, the 5V engine was introduced in 1982, with a max output of 140kW, and remained in use until 1997.

As for the transmission, the initial models were available both with manual and automatic transmissions, but Toyota discontinued the manual gearbox in 1973. In 1987, and the original 3-speed hydraulically operated automatic transmission was replaced in with a new electronically operated 4-speed unit.

The Second Generation of Toyota Century (1997-2018)

The second generation was finally introduced in 1997. For the first time, Toyota offered the Century outside Japan but only in a few selected markets. Unfortunately, the Toyota Century Australia version never happened. 

It’s possible to find a few examples on the used car market, but those are imported cars.

At any rate, the new generation brought significant improvements throughout the 30-year production run of the original. Toyota decided to maintain a similar styling and offer conservative aesthetics, as the car was predominately used by the royal family, ministers, and the higher end of Japanese society in general.

Compared to the previous model, the second generation came with a completely new platform, new engines, an impressive batch of advanced technologies, and standard air suspension.

For the interior design, Toyota once again took an approach that emphasized luxury in Japanese terms. The precision and craftsmanship were at a spectacular level, but there weren't many shiny details. Moreover, in a typical Japanese tradition, wool cloth upholstery was the most common choice.

Once again, rear passengers were in focus, complete with reclining rear seats. The front passenger seat folds down and allows rear passengers to stretch their feet – something that’s pretty common in modern-day luxury cars. Doors were equipped with soft-touch mechanisms.


The second-generation Century is impressive in so many ways, but the thing we like most is its engine. This was and still is the only Japanese car with a front-engine/rear-wheel-drive setup powered by a V12 engine. 

Back in the day, the company introduced a completely new, 5.0-liter V12 engine, rated at 206kW for the domestic market. Some export versions were tuned to 220kW. The key strength of this engine was and still is the incredible level of refinement, with super smooth operation.

The initial version was equipped with a 5-speed automatic transmission, while the 2005 update brought a new 6-speed unit. Another thing worth mentioning about Toyota Century specs is that the company was offering a CNG version of the engine, albeit for a short time only, between 2003 and 2004.


As mentioned, the second generation was offered in just one size. So, let’s take a look at the key measurements:

Toyota Century Royal

The second generation was offered in only one size on the market, but there was a stretched version reserved only for the members of the royal family. That model featured a 3,510mm wheelbase and 6,155mm total length. The Century Royal was 1,770mm tall and 2,050mm wide, while the kerb weight went up to nearly 3 tons (2,920 kg).

The size increase wasn’t the only upgrade over standard models. This version was characterised by vertical taillights, unlike the civilian version that featured horizontal ones. Furthermore, there were few upgrades on the inside. 

This Toyota Century interior featured front leather front-passenger compartment, granite entry steps and washi rice paper headlining. 

Only four modes were produced, and they replaced old Nissan Prince Royal limousines after 40 years of service.

The Third Generation of Toyota Century (2018-present)

The third-generation Toyota Century sale started in 2018. The new model was introduced with a whole load of new design solutions and technologies. 

One of the most important things to mention is that the new generation isn't as exclusive as it used to be. Consider that the new model shares a lot with Toyota's most luxurious export car – Lexus LS. Still, the Century sits above in terms of luxury and every other aspect.

Unfortunately, the Toyota Century V12 is gone, and the third generation is designed in a modern-day spirit, with a hybrid powertrain. 

As mentioned, the Century shared many parts with the Lexus LS, including the powertrain. The hybrid system is based on a familiar 5.0-litre V8 engine, which gets help from a 165-kW electric motor. The whole system delivers a combined output of 317kW and comes with an eCVT gearbox.

The new generation looks notably bolder and more aggressive but still keeps key styling bits of the predecessors, like the well-known vertical chrome strips and taillights closely resembling the 1967 original. 

Once again, rear passenger comfort is the focus, so back seats not only recline but also come with heating and massaging functions. There’s a massive 20-inch screen for the rear seats, while the cloth wool upholstery is still standard.

The Toyota Century 2020 model brought one big change. After 53 years, the production was moved from the Higashi-Fuju plant to Toyota City’s Motomachi plant.

Toyota Crown Royal Parade Car

Although the royal family still used those four second-generation models, one example of the new generation was ordered as well. That model was ordered in 2018 and delivered in 2019, as an open-top car, with the primary purpose of serving as a parade car. 

For that occasion, a few modifications to the standard model were required. For example, the rear seats are 40mm higher than standard models. This is a 4-door rear convertible with conventional rear doors.

Hope you found this article useful and informative! Check our Carpedia page and learn more about the most interesting car models in Australia and worldwide.


By Nebojsa Grmusa

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