CC Capsule: 2006 Toyota Century (G50) Taxi – Wouldn’t You Love To Meter?

What’s the usual taxi in your area? It obviously depends where you are, but I bet it’s something decently large, but also economical. Like a Prius or a Ford Escape. Or, if you’re in Europe, a big Škoda or a Peugeot; Maybe a Mercedes or Lexus, for a little more pizzazz. In Japan, the usual choice is the new JPN Taxi, the old Crown Comfort or the Y31 Cedric. There are unusual choices available too. How about a hand-built, V12-powered mastodon with gadgets galore?

This post is not going to delve into the 1997-2017 G50 Century as such. I’ll write that in due course (it deserves a proper long-form CC). But now that this generation of Century is slowly sliding towards banger status, some are being repurposed for the humble (but harsh) servitude of the meter.

On the one hand, the Century’s main role was always to be chauffeured, so it’s just as good at it with a light on its roof as it was in government service, or at the beck and call of some CEO. On the other hand, it’s ludicrously overqualified for the job.

No cab driver would complain about this for a workstation. Real wood (courtesy of Yamaha), real Ruikyo wool upholstery, real nice! But the business end, as is the case for all taxis, is the back seat.

Acres of legroom, of course. But what happened to the power-operated lace curtains and the obligatory seat doilies? Just doesn’t feel like the pinnacle of Japanese luxury without these. The amount of gadgets hidden about in these is crazy: TV, DVD, a 12-speaker stereo system, reclining, massaging, cooled and heated seats, Dictaphone, reading lights, vanity mirrors, and the famous front seat “ottoman” feature that enables the left rear passenger to fully stretch their legs – all that for the price of a cab fare?

And then there’s that 5-litre V12 doing all the work – very discreetly. Officially, it produces only 280hp, but it’s alleged at least 50 uncredited extra ponies are pulling along. Being a series II (2005-10), this car has a 6-speed automatic, bringing fuel consumption down to 18mpg on average. Yes, you read that right.

I guess that substantial trunk should also be put in the positive column. But man, 18mpg. For those of us who prefer our metrics in, er, metric, that’s 12.8 litres / 100 km. That’s a thirsty taxi.

This is not a (beautifully lacquered) black swan, either. Century G50 taxis are rare, but I’ve caught a half dozen over the years. Both of the green plate variety (meaning registered as a commercial car) like our feature cab, or of the privateer white-plate kind.

How can running a Century be anywhere near financially viable? Well, one of the Golden Chicken’s secrets could be CNG, which was offered from 2003 on from the factory (but should be indicated on the car somewhere), or an aftermarket LPG conversion.

That would go some way towards helping with running costs. A new G60 Century would be even better, as those are hybrids and have a more modern engine (still a 5-litre V8, though), so 32mpg can be expected. But the asking price is steep: about ¥20m, compared to ¥3-5m for a second-hand G50.

I must be missing something here, but this taxi makes no sense to me. I would, however, gladly fork out a few thousand yen to ride in one for a spell. It’s on the bucket list, and I’ll make sure to document it and report my findings if it ever happens.


Related posts:

Car Show Outtake: 1997 Toyota Century – An Expression Of Japanese Dignity, by Johannes Dutch

Perpetual Classic: 2013 Toyota Century: The Ultimate Brougham Time Machine, by MCC.PJ

Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: Toyota Century V12 – It’s Finally Available In The US For You Big Sedan Lovers, by PN