The car you see here is the newly-designed, third-generation Toyota Century — the first redesign of the model in 21 years — and you can think of it as Japan’s answer to the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce. It’s a big, regal sedan meant to be piloted by chauffeurs, not owners. But before I tell you more about how the Century is powered, how much it costs, and all the other automotive writing rigamarole I would like to direct your attention to the car’s upholstery, for it most clearly illustrates why the Century is unlike any other luxury car for sale today.
Notice how it looks like it’s lifted from a 1990s economy car? Notice how there’s no trace of shiny leather? That’s because the seats and door cards are all finished in wool (though if you want leather, you can spec it). Think not of the thick, itchy thrift store sweater but a classy Mr. Porter garment, or a finely-made suit. Quality wool is actually a fantastic material for car interiors because it’s naturally breathable, naturally moisture-wicking and it does not become ass-searingly hot in the summer or ice-cold in the winter as leather does. It doesn’t squeak, and it doesn’t rumble when you sit or fart in it. Despite this, wool is all but non-existent in the auto industry while leather continues to be the fancy, de facto choice.
But Toyota knows better. It’s known for some time, actually, as wool’s been the standard choice of upholstery in the Century for decades. Never mind the fact that it does not look as flashy as leather, because the Toyota Century is not about that. It’s about providing objective comfort, which is why the front passenger seat has a drop-down back that the rear-seat passenger can use to prop up their legs. The rear passenger area, by the way, features not only a massive display but also an additional touch-screen interface for controlling the volume of the 20 speakers as well as air conditioning, seat massage function and the curtains. Perhaps more telling of the Century’s incredible interior is the fact that Toyota proudly boasts that “the height difference between the scuff plate and floor has decreased by 15 millimeters to ensure the floor mats lay flat when installed.”
The Century has about 425 horsepower which comes by way of a hybrid V8 system, replacing the outgoing Century’s V12. It goes without saying that the Century is well insulated to keep any noise from the engine from creeping into the cabin, but Toyota also added an “active noise control system” which reduces noise and vibration upon startup. To make sure the ride is as comfortable as possible, the Century has an electronically controlled air suspension to iron out road imperfections.
It will go on sale with a list price of 19,600,000 yen, or about $180,000. That is a lot, but consider the comparable Bentley Mulsanne which starts at around $304,000 or Rolls-Royce Phantom which starts at just over $417,000. And yes, while it’s not as ostentatious as either, the Century is very much equal regarding comfort and finish.
You’ve probably also figured out by now that this is a car made for Japan and you can’t get it in the US. And you’re right. The good news is, you can legally own the very first generation of the Century in the US which, while dated, still rolls with comfortable wool seats, a spacious interior and a quiet and buttery-smooth ride. Better still, that’ll only set you back around $10,000.
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