Lexus is Toyota’s premier brand in the U.S., but in Japan, the top model is the Century. First sold in 1967, it represents Toyota’s highest level of craftsmanship, luxury, and comfort — and 21 years since the last redesign, the 3rd-gen Century has launched, ready for a lucky few Japanese VIPs. Toyota plans to sell just 50 of the chauffeur-driven cars per month, according to a company release.
The 2018 Century’s price sheet starts at 19,600,000 yen, or $178,164 at today’s exchange rate. For comparison shoppers, the Century’s base price is roughly the same as the cost for two well-equipped 2018 Lexus LS sedans, two 2018 Toyota Land Cruisers, or five top-of-the-line 2018 Toyota Camry V6 XSEs.
A glance at the Century’s exterior reveals its purpose. The rear seat interior space is proportionately greater than in most sedans, indicating that’s where the important people sit. The chauffeur’s forward seat isn’t cramped by any means, but it’s significantly smaller than the accommodations in the rear.
You could mistake the Century for a Rolls Royce, especially from the side. The resemblance seems intentional. Calling the Century’s shape “an attractive eternal design that infuses tradition and dignity,” Toyota states the luxury vehicle’s “outline reflects the Japanese aesthetic of passive symmetry while employing a proprietary ideology that focuses on creating a regal rear seating space.”
The Century’s intricate front grill sets off the car’s hand-engraved phoenix emblem, which Toyota says requires six weeks of work by a skilled craftsman.
The 2018 Century has a hybrid powertrain, combining a 375-hp 5.0-liter V8 and a 221 hp electric motor for a total of 596 horsepower. According to Toyota, the Century’s power combo delivers 13.6 kilometers per liter of fuel — approximately 32 miles per gallon.
Standard equipment includes active noise control and an electronically-controlled air suspension.
The 2018 Century includes Toyota Safety Sense with four components. Pre-Collision System helps prevent or mitigate hitting anything, vehicles and pedestrians included. Lane Departure Alert uses audible and visual alerts to let the driver know if the car is drifting from the lane, with standard lane keeping assistance that will tug on the wheel to keep the vehicle on course.
Radar Cruise Control with All-Speed Tracking helps maintain distance from a leading vehicle, and the Adaptive High Beam System controls the headlights. Blind spot monitoring and parking assistance are standard.
If you didn’t realize from the Century’s exterior that the rear compartment is where the buyers of this car are meant to ride, the interior will set you straight. The rear seating area has a raised ceiling with luxury ceiling fabric. The left rear passenger seat has an adjustable power leg rest with a built-in pneumatic massage function.
The Century’s back seat has an 11.6-inch rear seat infotainment display and a 12-channel audio amp with 20 speakers. A 7-inch display in the rear center armrest gives VIPs control of the car’s audio system, air conditioning, massage function (left seat only), and power lace rear side window curtains.
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