The hallmarks of Toyota’s vehicles are quality, durability and reliability — which is a formula that can lead to profoundly dull cars, like the Camry has been for most of its life. But while Toyota eschews rash decision-making, they often make up for it with boldness on the design front. The creators of the Lexus spindle grille have no qualms about their cars looking distinctive, if not downright weird.
Below, in chronological order, are six of the weirdest cars Toyota has ever made.
Toyota Previa (1990-97)
A mid-engine layout with a five-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive and a supercharger sounds like a recipe for a rad sports car. But no — that was the basis of Toyota’s Dodge Caravan-fighting minivan, the Previa. It had a slanted, not entirely flat-four engine. It also had an odd rounded shape.
Toyota Sera (1990-95)
Toyota building a small hatch with a flat-four doesn’t sound especially weird. But the Sera had a glass roof and butterfly doors that took much of the roof with them. (That design ended up influencing Gordon Murray when he designed the McLaren F1.)
Toyota Mega Cruiser (1996-02)
For those who thought the Land Cruiser was not quite big enough, Toyota once built the Mega Cruiser — essentially a longer, taller Humvee. It had a surprisingly narrow turning radius, thanks to four-wheel-steering. Most ended up in Japanese military use; however, Toyota did sell fewer than 200 civilian versions. Still, it wasn’t a massive hit in a country with narrow roads and heavy taxes on large vehicles.
Scion xB (2003-06)
Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand has proven an enormous success. So in the early 2000s, Toyota launched another brand: Scion, which was aimed at the youths. One of the original offerings was the Scion xB, a subcompact van that weighed less than 2,400 ounds and looked like a Yeti cooler with an underbite. The xB was a bold idea and efficient use of space, but one that’s easier to praise in theory than practice.
Toyota FJ Cruiser (2006-14)
The FJ Cruiser, a nostalgic nod to the classic FJ40, was about 10-15 years ahead of its time. It has its fans, and plenty of good attributes...but it’s also bulbous, with some significant quirks. Toyota resolved the two-door vs. four-door conundrum by splitting the difference with truncated rear suicide doors. The FJ Cruiser also has three windshield wipers, which is hard to ignore once you’ve seen it.
Toyota Mirai (2014-Present)
Buying an underpowered $60,000 sedan that runs on compressed hydrogen and is only usable in California is hardly a conventional car-buying decision. Toyota leaned into that unconventionality, giving the Mirai a sharp-angled, avant-garde design that makes the Prius look normal. The second-generation car stands to be be a definite improvement.