It’s always fun looking at familiar brands’ websites for different markets, isn’t it? Before the days of the internet, we had to rely on the occasional news piece in our domestic magazines or an annual compilation book like the Deutsche Autokatalog. Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can simply Google, say, “Toyota Japan” and see what the world’s largest automaker sells in their homeland. In this series, we’ll take a brief look at present-day cars not sold in the North American market and you can decide whether you are missing out. First, the Toyota Mark X.
Rear-wheel-drive was once commonplace among non-luxury brands but now it’s a rarity. This is a shame if you prefer the feel and the handling characteristics of this layout, like I do. In the US, if you want a mainstream mid- or full-size RWD sedan, you are limited to the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, capable yet ageing vehicles, or the floaty Kia K900. I used to brag that, while you Americans were stuck with Luminas and Sebrings, we had a whole range of rear-wheel-drive Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores down here to choose from. Sadly, that will no longer be the case after this year, although Kia is introducing the exciting Stinger sport sedan soon. In the meantime, Japanese and Chinese customers have another option in the Mark X.
The first generation Mark X directly replaced the Verossa in 2004. This was a controversially restyled Mark II (formerly known as the Cressida elsewhere), and replaced the sporty and luxury versions of the Mark II – Chaser and Cresta, respectively – which were sold through Toyota’s various separate dealership networks.
(from top to bottom right) Mark II Blit, Mark II, Brevis and Progrés
The Mark X’s arrival coincided with the introduction of the Lexus brand in Japan and the clearing out of old nameplates. Since its introduction, Toyota’s domestic rear-wheel-drive sedan range has been whittled down further. The Mark II (and Mark II Blit wagon) and the Lexus IS-derived Brevis and Progrés were all axed in 2007, while the Celsior, Altezza and Aristo all adopted Lexus badges (LS, IS and GS). The iconic Century expired in 2016, while the Comfort (nee Crown Comfort) followed it in 2017. This leaves just the Mark X and the sprawling Crown range.
Confusingly, the Mark X Zio was a mechanically unrelated, semi-premium front-wheel-drive minivan.
The Mark X retained the Mark II’s X platform designation but there are varying reports as to what the car is mechanically related to. By some accounts, it’s kin to the Crown and third-generation Lexus GS, the latter of which it shares its wheelbase length with, while others say it rides a bespoke platform. If anybody can clear this up, it would be greatly appreciated.
The Mark X entered its second generation in 2009, with crisp lines reminiscent of the Lexus IS and taillights eerily similar to the later Infiniti Q50.
While the Japanese domestic market has long been full of forbidden turbocharged and all-wheel-drive versions of cars we know, the Mark X’s engine lineup is blandly familiar. The standard engine is Toyota’s sweet but underwhelming 203 hp 2.5 V6, formerly available in the Lexus IS.
In China, where the Mark X is sold as the Reiz, there is an optional 3.0 V6 with 228 hp. Toyota’s ubiquitous 3.5 V6 – boasting an impressive 318 hp – powers the up-level models in Japan. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission available, with paddle shifters available on sporty trims.
More interesting is the double-wishbone front suspension, as well as sportier Mark X variants’ Adaptive Variable Suspension with computer-controlled damping and mono-tube shock absorbers. The discontinued Mark X G’s enhanced the car’s already pleasing proportions with an aggressive bodykit.
Toyota also produced 200 Mark X +M Supercharged by Modellista variants, all of which carried an exhaustingly long name and a 355 hp supercharged 3.5 V6.
Australian Curbsiders will recall a 3.5 supercharged V6 engine was offered here briefly in the TRD Aurion (V6 Camry). Pushing 323 hp through the front wheels, the TRD Aurion was a rather pointless endeavor. One wonders if a hi-po Mark X would have done more damage here against the Commodore and Falcon.
The Mark X mightn’t be around for much longer, considering the current generation debuted in 2009 (with mild facelifts in 2012 and 2016) and is sold in so few markets. In China, it slots into a much smaller and more logical lineup between the Crown and stronger-selling Camry, but is outsold by the latter.
Still, the Mark X offers a competent rear-wheel-drive platform and crisp styling at an affordable price, even if it is getting old. Tell me, Curbsiders: do you feel you are missing out or not?