Curbside Classic: 1991 Toyota Cresta (X80) Super Lucent Exceed – Lucentfully Crestfallen, Yet Superbly Excessive

Car model names are a thorny issue. There have been plenty of instances of bizarre or inappropriate name selection by Japanese carmakers – not just them, but they have a particularly poor track record in this particular field. (I am preparing a post on this; there is a lot to say.) Toyota (as well as Honda) have been less likely to come up with silly car names than, say, Nissan or Mitsubishi. But that doesn’t mean Toyota never put a foot wrong, especially as far as JDM models were concerned.

For after all, the Japanese are famous for misusing English words – or rather, to use them as a form of decoration, voiding the words’ meaning and mangling grammar in the process. To a certain extent, car model names could be interpreted that way – just something that is supposed to look good when written in chromed cursive and slapped on a bootlid. However, “Decoration English” (which also exists in French and Spanish versions, by the way) is never meant to be spoken, whereas car models and trim level are.

I’m sure we can all give Toyota a pass as to the use of the term “Cresta.” When this clone of the Mark II / Chaser / Cressida arrived on the scene in mid-way through 1980, Toyota were the fourth carmaker to use the name (after Hillman, Bentley and Vauxhall), so they were on well-trodden ground there.

But turning to the other cheek, we find ourselves confronted by two badges and a host of questions. Well, I’ll narrow it down to two: Super though it may be, what, pray tell, is a “Lucent”? How and/or what does said Lucent “Exceed” exactly?

The “Super Lucent” component of our feature car’s comically long name is Crestaspeak for “top-of-the-line.” Just because the Cresta was but a Mark II in a business suit did not mean Toyota scrimped on trim levels. We’re talking about the height of the Bubble Economy epoch on the JDM, the last years of the Showa era – the X80 platform appeared in august 1988. In those days, any JDM nameplate worth its soy sauce had at least a dozen trim variants to go with a half-dozen 4- and 6-cyl. powertrain options. Both are too numerous and confusing to enumerate here, but the lower-end cars even kept the live axle, so the X80 certainly provided a lot to choose from.

The JDM lapped it up. The X80, in its manifold Mark II, Chaser and Cresta variants, sold incredibly well. The Mark II Hardtop version is still a fairly regular sight on today’s roads – not many cars from that period can claim that. Chasers and Crestas, being more conservative-looking saloons, are now a bit less common.

Trim designations for the X80 Cresta originally ran the gamut from the lowly Standard, ordered by driving schools or private taxis, to the Super Lucent G. Our feature car blurs the lines a bit by wearing the GT Twin Turbo’s alloys. As time went on, Toyota kept adding special trim variants to the range. “Super Custom Extra” became a sub-Lucent level. And up above the top-dog Lucent G came the Lucent Exceed.

Trouble is, there were several Exceeds over time. Usually, the famous 1JZ 2.5 litre straight-6 was the engine of choice. However, our feature car has a distinctive chin spoiler that only came with the May 1991 2-litre Exceed, so that’s what I believe we have here, the 1G-FE (6-cyl. 24-valve EFI), providing only 135hp, as opposed to the 1JZ’s muscular 180hp.

But then the power was only part of the picture. The Super Lucent excels in cocooning its occupants in ample plushness and copious gadgetry. Doilies are extra, but you just wouldn’t have one of these without them.

Same thing for the rear passengers. Minus the gadgets, I suppose. Still, expectations were doubtless exceeded and legroom was pretty generous. I suppose that is one reason why they used this car (albeit the live axle version) as the base for the Crown Comfort taxi.

The X80 platform lasted until late 1992 in Japan as a civilian car, but the Mark II Standard saloon was kept on as a Toyota taxi until 1995 (when the Crown Comfort took over). Consequently, it had managed to outsell the previous two generations put together. The Cresta version alone, sold until 1992, managed over 350,000 units. But that was the effect of the Bubble Economy: everything was inflated and the crazy ride came to an abrupt halt, a burst of epic proportions.

The Cresta X90 and X100, which we will be visiting at some point in the near future (the photos have already been taken), were just as excellent as the X80, but sales were well below this generation. Nothing excelled like the excess of the Exceed.


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