Toyota’s history with upscale cars in the US is fascinating. It really struggled for years to get a proper toe hold in a segment of the market that was booming, for the European imports. But Toyota’s image was too downscale, and the Crown failed after selling modestly for some years. And the Cressida that that replaced it was more pragmatic and a bit less ambitious, but it still started out as mostly a car for Corona and Corolla buyers who really wanted a bigger Toyota, and not an aspirational car for American other import brand owners.
But that all started to change in the mid-’80s, starting with this revised version of the boxy Cressida that now had the silky smooth and powerful 2.8 L DOHC six from the Supra, as well as independent rear suspension (I presume from the Supra as well). Toyota was getting serious about the Cressida, and the subsequent generation became the closest it ever got to a Japanese BMW or such.
The 2.8 L six was tuned a bit more modestly than in the Supra, here making 143 hp, which shaved almost two seconds off the 0-60 time (10.2 compared to 12.1). Teamed up with Toyota’s electronically-controlled four speed automatic, it made for a very pleasant and refined power train. And one that would come to be known for its durability too.
Despite the changes, the Cressida still showed some weaknesses at the limits of its handling envelope. The suspension was just tuned too soft for genuine sporty driving, but then its clientele undoubtedly favored that. And let’s keep in mind that the Cressida was essentially Toyota’s proto-Lexus, with all of that brand’s qualities already on display, including the ride and handling.
The Cressida’s long suit was its interior, called “sumptuous” by the testers. Comfortable seats upholstered in high quality cloth, and a sense of quality on display everywhere. The classic Japanese upper-middle class sedan, a formula that took a while to win over Americans, but once they got on board, it was a revolution.
The leather interior models rivaled a Jaguar XJ6 for beauty and materials quality.
The smooth powertrain and the added sound deadening hid how smooth and peppy this car was.
I got a ride in a friend’s Cressida ca. 1985. It wasn’t my cup of tea as a daily driver, but I was impressed by its refinement.
This was a terrific car. Well assembled, high quality materials, and a better Oldsmobile than Oldsmobile. In 1983, you wanted to be an Oldsmobile, not a BMW. The serenity of the ride in this car was admirable in 1983. The interior offered drivers pleasant surprises and exceeded expectations. That is why it was a value. The price of entry was high, but the experiences offered justified that price in 1983.
Shame GM, Ford or Chrysler didn’t provide this kind of vehicle first.
I’m willing to bet the 5spd would lop at least a second off that 0-60 time, putting it within spitting distance of the 533i posted a few days ago.
And…..Toyota had the slickest shifting manual transmission of this time period. Even better (in my opinion) than BMW.
My folks should’ve bought one of these instead of that second Caprice.
Even with motorised shoulder belts that entangle some poor saps and dislodge the eyeglasses from their faces?
I can imagine the volcanic eruption and mushroom cloud coming up from your neighbourhood when that happens to your mum…
But Chevy is busy working the most minor of foibles out of the “X” cars. Cavaliers are here too!
Gonna beat them imports this time for sure.
We have paint robots too!
Oldsmobiles have lots of flags on the sides now, or will soon!
And have you driven a Ford lately? Our new motorized grocery cart, I mean WORLD CAR, the US market Escort is here to wipe out whatever Japanese cars remain.
Quality is, well, a job and so on and so forth and what have you.
Words are fun!
One of these was dad’s second Toyota. 1980 Supra replaced the Cutlass. The Supra had a three speed auto and separate overdrive box. The weakness in the Cressida was that new four speed auto. It was apart at the dealer so many times the first year that the pan was warped and it leaked ATF. There was something wrong with electronic control of the torque converter lockup, which sometimes wouldn’t unlock and stalled the engine coming to a stop. Lack of dealer mechanic training for the new technology is what I blame. It was eventually fixed, including a new pan.
Nice cars and the odd one still surfaces for sale here usually a deceased estate people bought Cressidas and kept them, of course Toyota dealerships were everywhere so any problems could be ironed out Supras had the 7M the Cressida the 5M and no turbos both were outgrowth of the 5M the early Crown and Corona MK2s had bullet proof bottom ends Toyota kept improving the top end and it all swaps back and forth.
Not quite right there, the Supra and Cressida both had 5M in their 60 and 60/70 series respectively. Then the 70 Series Supra moved to the 7M in 1986 and the 80 Series Cressida did the same around ’88.
The Cressida made a huge jump up in modernity with this generation compared to the more baroque earlier one, but then an even larger one a couple of years later with the more Euro body, sort of peak-Cressida in my mind. Still, these have lots of charm too.
I don’t think I’ve seen one of this generation yet in a junkyard (or really any save for a ’90 recently), whereas Maximas are relatively (but only in comparison) common. Perhaps I missed the boat but somehow I don’t think so, the ones that are left likely aren’t getting junked.
I think first impressions are important, whether it is people, houses or cars. So flashback to college, this would have been 1989 or so. A good female friend of mine brought a Cressida of this vintage to school. And I was completely smitten, it was just the right combination of American, European and Japanese influences. A Lexus before there was a Lexus, indeed. Soft, but not too soft. Sporty, but not too sporty. Broughamtastic, but not too much so. It was a hand-me-down from her CPA Dad, who had replaced it with a 1988 DeVille. By senior year, 1991-92, her dad had replaced the DeVille with a 420SEL, and the Deville came to college. No comparison, the DeVille was inferior in about every measure, except road noise isolation. It was a real apples to oranges comparison.
Road & Track tested both an automatic Cressida and an automatic Maxima. I know Car and Driver at least tested a manual 810 Maxima. I suspect Road & Track tested automatic versions of high-end Japanese cars because they didn’t want to concede that the Japanese were making better cars than most of the European and all of the British brands. The British magazines always loved to use automatic Hondas for their instrumented testing for the same reason.
I recall these being pretty expensive cars, but the inflations adjusted price-as-tested works out to just under $39K. Considering that wages were higher then, I suspect this just shows how effective efforts to hide the fall of purchasing power in the age of ZIRP have actually been.
I was thinking that I don’t have any first-hand experience with this car, but I just realized that I was blocking. Nothing against the car. I’ve seen how impervious one of these can be to neglect. An out of control favorite son I was friends with in college had a Cressida wagon of this era. I doubt that there is anything you own that you treat with equal indifference. One 4th of July, my friend had been funneling beverages including a fifth of Wild Irish Rose, as well as enough cheap beer for six ordinary drunken teenagers. It all caught up with him while we were arriving too late to watch the fireworks at Farmington Country Club. I drove back to the party we came from while he vomited in the back seat in such volume that I kept my feet off the floor as I drove. He had the car for the rest of the time that I knew him without ever having the interior cleaned. Good car. Bad memory.
It’s very strange to me that this wasn’t a bigger hit than it was. Toyotas customers in 1983 surely wanted some of that toyota feeling and goodness in something larger and plusher than a corolla or the about to debut camry, but this didn’t sell. The maxima did, especially after it became fwd. I think the maxima was about $2-3000 cheaper than the toyota and perhaps people moving up from $6000 corollas couldn’t wrap their heads around a $15k toyota, which was nudging Cadillac territory when cadillacs were expensive in real terms or bought a fully loaded 98 or electra with plenty of change left over. Both the maxima, particularly in the 85? Fwd model and the cressida had japanese interpretations of iacocca style button tufted, pushbutton luxury which resembled the iacocca style but was slightly different in material quality and style.
This must be the first car I can think of with motorised mouse belts. There was a rabbit which offered gm style door mounted shoulder belts and a chevette but is this the first motorised mouse belt car?
Yes, the first motorized mouse belt car, starting with the ’81 models. This car also had rear outboard lap/shoulder belts, the first vehicle in the US besides Mercedes and Volvo to do so.
Toyota had the Camry starting in 1983 as well which became the volume seller for people moving up from a Corolla. Nissan had…the Stanza which was a dud comparatively. Not until the Altima a decade later did Nissan have anything competitive but even then it was still a half-size smaller than the Camry for two generations and as soon as it got bigger for 2002 the Maxima then lost most of its volume as there wasn’t much point to it anymore for most people.
I can definitely attest to the part where it says that the 5-speed gives you the option of changing or not in winding roads. The 5M-GE & 5-Speed combination in my Celica XX is excellent in those cases. Shift for maximum pace, or just leave it in 3rd from anywhere between 40-100+ kph. SH25 between Tairua and Hahei is a perfect example…
Don’t you hate it when you click on a website and the page bounces up and down, while all the useless advertisements for crapppppp that you would never want, slowly loads and fills up too much of the website’s page?
I understand the need for advertising revenue dollars to keep the truly excellent and informative website up and running……but do these ads have to be SO intrusive?
If I could locate a well kept, leather interior, 5 speed manual transmission model of this car…..I’d be highly tempted to go for it.
I’ve had 4 Cressies, including a near-unicorn, a loaded ’87 with the 5-speed which was the last year it was offered. It had every option but one, The ‘supercomputer’ which replaced the clock in the dash. The 5-speed option came packaged with sport seats, LSD, heated mirrors, and headlamp washers. It had the two-tone paint in metallic black and charcoal. Loved that car. Sold it about 10 years ago to a now-friend who lived in Naperville, IL (I’m in Oregon). He drove it down to Toyotafest in Long Beach, CA (and almost blew one of the S-rated tires by cranking it up to 144 coming out of the Siskiyous). He then drove it home to Illinois. He still has it, you can find pics of it on the net. Of course they had to stop selling it here when Lexus was launched.