- The Crown is a new large sedan that replaces the Avalon
- Hybrid-only powertrains, including one using a turbocharged engine
- Taller than other sedans, with good headroom across both rows
- Introduces the fifth-generation Crown for 2023
Driven: 2023 Toyota Crown Offers More Fun for More Gas
The Crown's more powerful hybrid powertrain is a delight, but its lack of efficiency may be hard to swallow
What is the Crown?
The large sedan class has fallen by the wayside as American families have moved en masse into crossovers, but don't tell that to Toyota. It's introducing a brand-new large sedan: the 2023 Toyota Crown. This is technically the fifth-generation Crown; it's been sold overseas for some time as an upscale sedan with more luxurious features than other Toyotas. But what's coming to America is more of a straight replacement for the Avalon, which Toyota has already confirmed it's discontinuing after 2022.
What will make the Crown stand out at first is its distinctive look. It only rides 0.1 inch higher than a Camry, but it's 4 inches taller overall, giving the cabin a fastback sort of shape (even though there's only a regular trunk opening). And when outfitted in its two-tone paint job, the Crown won't be mistaken for anything else on the road — for better or worse. It also introduces a new, more performance-oriented hybrid system for Toyota, as well as upgraded technology and safety offerings over the Avalon. Pricing will start at $41,045 (including destination) once the Crown rolls out early next year.
What's under the Crown's hood?
The 2023 Crown will be available in XLE, Limited and Platinum trim levels. The XLE and Limited have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a hybrid system to produce a combined 236 horsepower. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive are standard, too. Toyota says this combo should achieve 41 mpg in combined city/highway driving. This is a bit less than what the Avalon Hybrid got (up to 44 mpg combined) but it's still impressive for a big sedan.
The Crown Platinum is a completely different beast. Like the recently unveiled Lexus RX 500h, the Platinum replaces the naturally aspirated four-cylinder with a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder plus more powerful electric motors for the hybrid system. The result is a big boost to power, with a total output listed at 340 hp. The transmission is a traditional six-speed automatic instead of the CVT automatic. Toyota also fits the Crown Platinum with adaptive suspension dampers to give the driver a choice between sporty and comfortable driving characteristics. Toyota calls this system "Hybrid MAX," though it declined to call the less powerful system "Hybrid MIN." Go figure.
All the Platinum's performance enhancements come at a big penalty to fuel economy — Toyota estimates this version of the Crown will return 30 mpg in combined driving. That's a respectable number for a 340-hp large sedan but will probably be a letdown if you associate hybrid vehicles with the ultimate in fuel savings.
How does the Crown drive?
As you might expect given the 50% advantage in horsepower that the Hybrid Max powertrain enjoys, there's a big difference between the way the XLE and Limited models drive versus their Platinum counterpart. The standard hybrid powertrain is much noisier on the road. The four-cylinder engine kicks in and drones somewhat loudly at anything higher than gentle acceleration. The inherent nature of a CVT's high-revving gearing adjustments can also keep the engine's unpleasant noises going at highway speeds.
The Crown's standard suspension is tuned for comfort. It does a good job of smoothing out most road imperfections but gets a bit floaty on curvier roads. Prepare for a lot of body roll when driving enthusiastically around turns.
Hop into the Platinum with the Hybrid Max powertrain and it's a completely different experience. We also tested this setup in the 2023 Lexus RX 500h and in both instances the system makes the vehicle feel more sporty than it has any right to. The instant jolt of electric torque from the motors makes the Crown feel light and lithe off-the-line, and when the gas engine kicks in to join the party, it makes the Crown legitimately quick. Pairing this with a six-speed automatic instead of a CVT was also a great choice; it makes the engine feel more responsive as well and you don't get the same levels of engine drone when accelerating.
The Crown sneakily feels a bit like a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan with this powertrain. The Hybrid Max's AWD system differs from the standard system because it's always sending at least 30% of its power to the rear wheels. That makes it a lot more fun but a lot less efficient than the on-demand AWD found in the XLE and Limited, which only moves power around if the front wheels slip. Just be prepared to pay for that privilege at the pump because the gap between 41 mpg and 30 mpg combined is wide, though at least both models take regular gas.
The adaptive suspension also does a much better job of controlling the Crown's weight. Initial turn-in does induce a little bit of body roll, but the suspension sorts that out midway through the corner and the sedan never feels sloppy. Though the steering ratio isn't quite as quick as something you'd hope for in a sports car, the Crown in Platinum guise is a lot more fun than it has any right to be.
How's the Crown's interior?
Step into the Crown's tall cabin and you'll see that the Crown's cabin design is much more subdued than its exterior. The driver has a clear view of the digital instrument panel and center touchscreen, and the controls on the steering wheel are refreshingly easy to figure out. The center stack is similarly designed with ease-of-use in mind; Toyota has opted to include a row of physical climate control buttons rather than bury these functions in a touchscreen menu, which is what some other automakers are fond of doing these days.
The extra cabin height does make it easier to climb in and out of the car, with extra large door openings. The front seats are comfortable and come with eight-way power adjustments plus heating. The leather upholstery that comes standard on the Limited and Platinum trim levels is a big upgrade over the XLE's fabric upholstery. Headroom in the back seat is slightly intruded on by the Crown's shape, but for passengers around 6 feet tall and under, there should be plenty.
How's the Crown's tech?
Matching 12.3-inch screens come standard — one for the instrument cluster and the other a 12.3-inch touchscreen for the infotainment. The infotainment system can be updated over the air and the navigation system is cloud-based, using Google point of interest data so it remains more up-to-date than most native navigation systems. Though mounted high on the dashboard, the screen is still within easy reach of the driver so you won't have to stretch too far to reach the right side of the display.
The system comes with standard wireless connectivity for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and there's also a standard wireless charging pad with a fan to help keep the phone cool as wireless charging can produce a lot of heat. The pad is placed in front of the shifter, and your phone slots in vertically so it's easy to put in and take out. The downside of this placement is that front storage spaces are lacking.
On the safety front, all Crowns also come with a blind-spot warning system plus the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite of driving aids, which includes forward collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane centering assistance, a rear seat reminder and road sign identification. The Platinum model further adds an automated parking system. There is also a driver attention monitor that is extremely overactive. Look away from the screen for anything more than a second and a large message pops up in the instrument cluster that reminds you to keep your eyes on the road. It makes the system an annoyance and we can see most owners shutting it off. Making these systems more livable is crucial for their adoption. If something bothers owners and gets shut off, it's like the feature doesn't even exist on the car and it becomes less safe.
The Crown might not be fit for a king (or queen), but it is a well-appointed and comfortable large sedan that would make a great road trip companion with its smooth ride and hybrid powertrains.