CC Capsule: 1989 Toyota Cressida – I’d Take One Over An ES300

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We’ve discussed the original mini-Cordoba Cressida a while back, but today I want to talk about the later version. While the 1976-80 Cressida was very much a 3/4-scale LeSabre or New Yorker, the 1981 model set the stage for the rest of the nameplate’s run–a Japanese W124.

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The 4th-gen Cressida came along in 1989, and in addition to being a bit larger than the outgoing 3rd-gen, had much more flowing lines than the Volvo-like 1984-88 version. But Volvo looks aside, these cars always reminded me of a Mercedes-Benz, either a W116 or W126. As a child I had a butterscotch-colored W116 toy car by Yat Ming, and I actually thought it was a 2nd-gen Cressida, due to the less-than-accurate checkerboard grille! So I always associated these with Mercs.

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Even now, they do remind me of one. Though not as big as a W126, the 4th gen does have quite similar proportions. And like the MB, they were restrained yet elegant. Maybe not as glamorous as a 1989 Brougham d’Elegance, 560SEL or 740 Turbo Sedan, but a solid choice.

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As you’d expect of the top-of-the-line Toyota, interiors were plush, with standard velour or optional leather. Despite all this, they were still very Toyota-like; the wood trim and gathered leather door panel gingerbread came later, on the Lexus ES300, which effectively replaced the Cressida in 1992.

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Despite its refinement with its smooth 190-hp 7M-GE 3.0 inline six, A340 four-speed automatic and comfortable ride, the Cressida was a ultimately a goner. Toyota was out to make a name for themselves–ironically, with another name: Lexus. The Cimmaron-ized Camry, the ES250, and the luxy V8 LS400 spelled the end for the luxury Toy, and the last ones were built in 1992 in the States, through the car itself carried on another four model years in the Middle East.

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I was happy to see our featured car a couple of months ago–on the same day as the Vanagon, matter of fact. Despite the rust just beginning to make inroads along the rocker panels, this car still looked pretty decent for a near-25 year old Midwestern car. And I bet that straight six still runs nice and smooth.

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After 1992 there was no Toyota sedan above the Camry in the lineup, but the “Japanese Impala” 1995 Avalon filled most of the void. Indeed, the current Avalon is quite a looker despite the odd double-grille–especially in black cherry metallic. So perhaps the Avalon is really the 2013 Cressida. However, one thing still grates–I wholeheartedly believe “Cressida” is a better name. Avalon sounds like the name of an overpriced, holistic health resort–not the premium Toyota!

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