2023 Toyota Crown Hybrid MAX Review Quirky and sublimely quick
The Toyota Crown is a nameplate that has been around since 1955 and in Japan, almost every taxi you see is one, however, in 1972 it was discontinued in the US. Now surprisingly it has made a comeback in quite a bold and quirky and in the case of the Hybrid MAX tester I have, sublimely quick.
The boldly styled 2023 Toyota Crown is replacing the more sedate Avalon, a car that Toyota says had a median buyer age of 64, not your typical folks who are looking for the ultimate driving machine then.
Interestingly the car I think it resembles the most is the Honda Crosstour which was sold from 2010 up until 2015 when it was discontinued due to slow sales. What Toyota has done here is produce a car that gives the driver a higher Crossover seating position while designing it like a car. It’s quirky and different but will people want one?
This high-riding stance is mostly a trick since even though it is 3.7 inches taller than a Camry, the ground clearance is only 5.8 inches, just a tenth of an inch higher than the Camry. The comically large 21-inch wheels which have a decent-sized gap between the wheel arch and tire serve to enhance this high-riding illusion that isn’t. I’m all for it if Toyota can persuade people to buy sedans again.
From the outside
At the front, the weirdness continues since the front grille is solid as if it were a battery-electric vehicle, but it’s not. LED headlights finish off the overall look. At the back, the CROWN is spelled out in large letters in the center of the tailgate, and the giveaway is that this is not the base model is a Hybrid MAX badge on the left. The one negative is it has a trunk lid and is therefore not a hatchback unlike its most direct competitor the VW Areteon AWD SEL and that’s a miss since it gives away utility.
Under the hood
Every Crown is hybrid with all-wheel drive and there are two hybrid powertrains on offer. The XLE and Limited use a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with three electric motors to deliver a total of 236 horsepower through a continuously variable transmission.
The rear axle is electric-only which means no driveshaft and its motor makes 54 horsepower and 89 lb-ft of torque. This isn’t the powertrain for folks who have a need for performance since it takes 7.2 seconds to get from 0- 60 mph.
Step up to the Platinum trim like his one though and you get a turbocharged 2.4-liter four and two electric motors which deliver 340 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. In the Max, the rear motor makes 79 horsepower and 124 pound-feet and is always engaged. All this power is driven through a six-speed automatic that uses a wet clutch instead of a torque converter. From a standstill, it takes 5.1 seconds to get to sixty, and with a careful right foot expect 32 mpg highway.
If you do decide to step up to the Hybrid MAX you get adaptive dampers that give you several drive modes, Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport S, Sports+, and Custom. We tried most of them and to be honest, since the car is not really set up to be sporty it’s best to leave it in Comfort.
As was expected the suspension tuning is definitely biased more toward comfort than performance but given the combined 340 hp the Crown is genuinely quick from corner to corner. Things get less exciting once you enter a turn where the skinny tires and soft suspension mean you have to hit the brakes and go in a little slower than the performance might suggest.
It’s well composed though and the Michelin Primacy tires hung on as best they could, albeit with some squealing. The best way to enjoy the crown is to just sit back and relax and when the moment arrives for power simply push on the go pedal and whoosh past. It’s definitely a car that doesn’t want to be driven at ten-tenths. Low- and mid-range torque is really good even though there is a turbocharger, the Crown exhibits very almost no lag thanks to its two electric motors.
The brakes provide good stopping although a firm push is required and the steering is quite light even if you select the most aggressive setting, Sport S+. Being at a crossover-height driving position translates to great visibility ahead of you at all times.
Sink into the very comfortable eight-way powered seats and you notice that the Crown platinum is lacking any trim to jazz up the interior, it’s a bit austere, something that Toyota has said they will address in the upcoming 2024 model. Material quality wouldn’t look out of place in a Lexus and the standard 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is integrated nicely into the dash with the 12.3-inch driver display.
The main display runs Toyota’s new Audio Multimedia system, which is so much better than the old one with crisp graphics, responsive controls, and easy-to-use menus. I also praise Toyota for embedding the HVAC controls in an on-screen menu, instead, they are laid out logically below the screen using physical buttons.
Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are standard as are plenty of power as often, though both are standard.
Four USB-C ports adorn the interior, in addition to a sole USB-A in the center console, but my favorite part is the vertically mounted Qi wireless charger, which saves space while keeping your phone within close reach, so it’s not forgotten upon arrival.
The only letdown is the 11-speaker JBL audio system in the Platinum (XLEs have a basic six-speaker system). The JBL sounds really tinny, there’s almost no base so it’s tough to enjoy when you turn up the volume.
The back seat aspect is generous and there’s plenty of legroom but the way the rear bench is sculptured makes it tricky for a middle-seat passenger to be comfortable. The rear seat is heated and you get two USB ports and HVAC vents.
It offers 15.2 cubic feet and you can fold down the rear seats to poke through but only offers a trunk lid and not a hatch.
The Platinum trim starts at $52,350 and there are no packages to buy. This one has this 2-tone paint for $550 and puddle lamps for $463 taking the overall price to $55,068 including destination.
Safety and Security
The Crown comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, the latest iteration of the automaker’s suite of passive and active driver aids. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high beams. It also includes Proactive Driving Assist, a new feature that helps maintain the correct distance between the vehicle and pedestrians or cyclists.
This is a difficult one because this car goes up against the Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium AWD which is quicker even though it makes less power. That car is cheaper too but the Toyota we would expect it to be more reliable. As a slightly quirky alternative to a Crossover, I think it works, and that powertrain is one of the smoothest I have ever driven.
2023 Toyota Crown Hybrid MAX numbers
ESTIMATED BASE PRICE: $52,350
ESTIMATED PRICE AS TESTED: $57,750
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7 passenger, 4-door SUV
ENGINE: 2.4 liter turbocharged four plus two electric motors
COMBINED POWER: 340 hp
COMBINED TORQUE: 400 ft-lbs
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
0-60 MPH: 5.1 seconds
CURB WEIGHT: 4,250 lb
CARGO VOLUME: 15.1 cubic feet
FUEL ECONOMY Combined/city/highway: 30/26/27 mpg
OUR OBSERVED: 21.8 mpg
PROS: Super smooth, tons of torque, roomy inside
CONS: Needs a hatchback, bigger tires needed for more grip