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Auto review: A new Crown tops Toyota’s car lineup for 2023

Reviewer Larry Prinz writes, "Like its forebear, the Crown proves quiet and comfy enough to drive, but the new hybrid driveline brings little driving fun to the equation. You can hustle it through the twisties, but there’s little reward for doing so."

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The 2023 Toyota Crown Platinum has a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine and dual electric motors.
Toyota/TNS
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Fifty years after it last appeared in the United States, the 2023 Toyota Crown returns to the U.S. market as a replacement for the 2022 Toyota Avalon, which tried mightily to shed its stodgy image as a geezer pleaser in its final years. Toyota replaces it with a new model that’s oddly traditional, but not conventionally so. Planned with the American market in mind, it’s one of four Crown models sold in Japan.

More than four inches taller than the 2022 Avalon sedan it replaces, the Crown is nearly two inches shorter, with a sloping fastback design that disguises the fact that this is a sedan, not an SUV or hatchback. With its oddly shaped grille and blacked-out c-pillar, the Crown’s short-but-tall proportion is exacerbated by a two-tone paint job that visually pulls apart the Crown’s design coherence, making its unusual proportions more apparent. (For the record, two-tone paint is standard on the top-of-the-line Platinum, and optional on the base XLE and mid-level Limited trims.)

There’s little in its design that indicates its top-drawer status aside from its size. This includes the interior, whose materials are average in quality, even in the Platinum trim. Perhaps designers were attempting to convey modernity and sportiness. Instead, it comes off as carefully budgeted, lacking the surprise and delight of design being done by Hyundai and Kia. Yet the new 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, powered by Toyota’s U.S.-designed user interface, is a welcome change far easier to use than its older system, which used a fiddly, finicky mouse. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth with Wi-Fi 4G connectivity for up to five smartphones comes standard, as does Qi wireless charging comes standard, USB-A and -C ports and a 12-volt outlet.

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The 2023 Toyota Crown has a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, powered by Toyota's U.S-designed user interface.
Toyota/TNS

You’ll find the Crown’s entry and exit are far easier than most sedans, with front seat legroom remaining unchanged. But rear seat legroom declines by 1.5 inches, while cargo space drops by 0.69 cubic feet, measuring a disappointing 15.4 cubic feet.

Most models use Toyota’s fourth-generation hybrid system that pairs a normally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with electric motors through a continuously variable automatic transmission that now generates 236 horsepower. While it’s not overly fast, it is frugal, running 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds while returning 42 mpg city, 41 mpg highway. But while the 2022 Avalon Hybrid gives up 21 horsepower to the Crown, it delivers better fuel economy: 43 mpg city, 44 mpg highway. Nevertheless, most buyers will be perfectly satisfied with the Crown’s perfectly satisfactory driveline.

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The car truly shines with its new Hybrid Max driveline, which pairs a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine, and an electric motor on each axle, through a direct shift six-speed automatic transmission to generate 340 horsepower. Yes, fuel economy drops to 29 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, still good for a larger, heavy sedan. But its performance increases noticeably, reaching 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and feeling far more refined.

Like its forebear, the Crown proves quiet and comfy enough to drive, but the new hybrid driveline brings little driving fun to the equation. You can hustle it through the twisties, but there’s little reward for doing so. It’s heavier than the hybrid it replaces, and it lacks the over-the-top finishes that might make lower fuel economy or the unusual styling worth the tradeoff. Yes, its infotainment system is far better, and all-wheel drive is standard on all models. Yet is that enough? Certainly, the Crown delivers what Toyotas always have: a quiet, comfortable, competent driving experience with the promise of excellent reliability.

But then there’s the question of price.

The 2023 Toyota Crown XLE starts at $39,950, before destination charge, sales tax and options, which sounds reasonable, while the Crown Limited starts at $45,550. But the 2023 Lexus ES300h Hybrid costs less, starting at $43,690. OK, its trunk is even smaller at 13.9 cubic feet, and shares the 2022 Avalon Hybrid’s horsepower, EPA numbers and lower seating position. Even if you’re considering a Toyota Crown Platinum like my test car, you’ll start at $52,350, a mere $130 less than the Lexus ES 300h Ultra Luxury, the Lexus ES’ poshest trim. And it’s a Lexus, not a Toyota.

Given those numbers, it seems that this Crown may fare little better than any of its forebears in the U.S.

2023 Toyota Crown Platinum

  • Base price: $52,350
  • Powertrain: 2.4-liter turbocharged engine and dual electric motors
  • Horsepower/Torque: 340/400 pound-feet
  • EPA fuel economy (combined): 30 mpg
  • Length/Width/Height: 194/72.4/60.6 inches
  • Ground clearance: 5.8 inches
  • Cargo capacity: 15.2 cubic feet
  • Payload: 979 pounds
  • Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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