Since I’ve been in Japan, I’ve seen a few Toyota Centuries about, but always older G50s. It figures, as those were made from 1997 to 2017, so nowadays they’re the most common (if such an epithet can be employed) of the breed. But since June 2018, the new generation Century has quietly taken over. Very few have hit the streets as of yet – here’s the first one I’ve ever seen, captured just this week.
The chauffeur pulled up and went into the convenience store I was in at the same time. He was right behind me at the checkout, so I had no time to waste. I had to be discreet about it, too. These guys don’t usually like folks to take photos of their charge. So I took a couple photos and went to the street corner to wait for the car to pass by, which turned out to be a pretty good strategy.
Of course, this meant that an interior shot was out of the question. That’s ok, Toyota have provided a few nice interior pics for public consumption. The dash is not exactly grandiose, with switchgear that one might also find in a lowly Prius… Something of a tradition for Centuries, that.
The rear compartment is where the Toyota folks have always put more effort in their super-luxury saloons. That’s where the VIPs who have enough connections to get a hold of these cars spend their time, after all.
The G60 Century is still built mostly by hand by Toyota’s Kanto Auto Works, as per previous generations, at the rate of about 50 per month. Four colours are available, including silver, blue and burgundy, but the majority of cars will likely be in the traditional black. Thus far, only Tokyo-based customers have been able to part with the equivalent of US$ 180,000 for a G60, but it should be made available (by invitation only, of course) throughout Japan by May of this year. So there are very few of these about as of yet.
There are a few late-model Rolls-Royce tanks and bulbous Bentleys about in town, of course. They don’t compare all that well to the new Century, at least from the point of view of presence and elegance. Not to mention the weight of tradition, which the Toyota bears with dignity and fortitude when its Anglo-German colleagues turned into Mitsuoka-esque caricatures of themselves.
The evolution of the Century bloodline has been positively glacial: the first generation (G20 / G30 / G35 / G40, top row) lasted 30 years (1967-97), though it did undergo a couple facelifts during that time. The second one, the G50 (bottom row), lived for 20 years, making our feature car the third iteration in half a century. Aside from this new generation’s daringly modern door-mounted mirrors, which some later G50s also featured, the family resemblance is uncanny.
Under the hood is a little different, though. The G20’s 3-litre V8 grew to 3.5 and then 4 litres over the years; the G50 topped that by sporting a bespoke 280hp 5-litre V12. But that inflationist tendency has become a bit passé, even for the exclusive Century: the V12 was ditched for the G60. Toyota figured that since the car was spending about 90% of its time idling at the curb or puttering along at 50kph in city streets, a 5-litre V8 coupled with a hybrid powertrain would suffice and provide better mileage for the G60, while providing over 430hp of oomph in total.
And it does make for a more economical plutocratmobile. Toyota should know, as they proved the concept on the 2006-17 Lexus LS 600h L. The G60 is unabashedly based on the LS 600h L – same engine, same 309cm wheelbase, same CVT. However, the Century is a tad wider, longer and heavier than the Lexus, and the drivetrain is RWD as opposed to AWD. I suppose powering the front wheels is regarded as superfluous on such a car…
Though very recent, the G60 has already spawned a couple of interesting variants. One is the “sports” model dubbed Century GRMN (“Gazoo Racing, tuned by the Meister of the Nürburgring”) was presented by Akio Toyoda himself in September 2018. Another one (painted black) was seen at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2019. Our feature car has the same alloys as the GRMN, which may well be an optional extra. So far, only two bona fide GRMN Centruries have been documented, and other than esthetically, it’s unclear what differences this model may have compared to the standard G60.
The other famous G60 special was the imperial convertible saloon, seen publicly last November for the coronation of Emperor Naruhito. This car is currently on display near the imperial palace in Tokyo. It’s good to be the king.
There can be little doubt that this is a “Future Classic” indeed – an instant classic, even. It was quite a sight to see this flagship wafting down the street amidst the Crown taxis, which look like toys by comparison.
Luckily, I was able to catch up with this grand vessel even after the lights turned green. It was still anchored at the crossroad, waiting to lean on its starboard side and navigate the concrete ocean of the Kanto plain. I was thus able to immortalize the turn of the Century. He he he. May God bless her and all who sail in her.
Car Show Outtake: 1997 Toyota Century – An Expression Of Japanese Dignity, by Johannes Dutch