By on January 22, 2019

Built for current Toyota patriarch Akio Toyoda, the Century GRMN celebrates both the man and his desire to create a more emotive and performance-driven automaker. With the V12 gone, the standard Toyota Century is powered by a direct-injected, 5.0-liter V8 with a two-stage electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery. The powertrain is good for a claimed for 375 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, delivered silky smooth.

Painted white (below the break), the GRMN prototype nixes some chrome trim and adds black ground effects, subtle red stripes, and applicable badging. But Toyota never bothered to tell us what Gazoo Racing actually did to improve the car. Presumably, suspension and engine upgrades abound. But, as the car was meant as a one-off gift for Toyota’s president, we never heard about them.

Then, at the Tokyo Auto Salon, a second one appeared — casting doubts that this car doesn’t have aspirations for a super-lux market that’s currently thriving. 

Debuting earlier this month, the Japanese model was swallowed up by Western media’s coverage of the North American International Auto Show. However, with that coverage giving way to less-exciting news, it’s now back on top as the automotive news story with the most question marks.

Thanks to extremely limited production figures and the model’s adherence to tradition, the Century doesn’t do a lot of business outside of Japan. Its retro-inspired styling probably wouldn’t fly here anyway, nor would its intentional avoidance of excess. Instead, the Century is designed to be the best luxury car money can buy, not the most extravagant or showy.

So why build a second GRMN variant, in addition to the one that supposedly serves exclusively as a heartfelt present to Toyota’s chief, and have it shipped to an automotive trade show? Outside of being painted in a more traditional black, the second Century looks identical to Toyoda’s. It has the same visual upgrades and a unique set of wheels. Toyota also hasn’t said one word about the car’s mechanical changes and has hardly published anything about it online. An odd choice, considering it seems as if the brand is testing the waters, hoping to see how receptive the world might be to something like this.

We’re not going to tell Toyota its business, but a performance-enhanced, vintage-themed Japanese limo wasn’t something we thought there was much of a market for. Then again, the world is filled with people with terrifyingly deep pockets and money is no object for those interested in purchasing the pinnacle of sumptuousness for their chauffeur. Luxury-obsessed China might absolutely love a Century GRMN, no matter how much it surpasses the base model’s $178,000 MSRP.

We’re more inclined to believe that Toyota just wants to draw additional eyes to the brand and telegraph what its performance arm is capable of — especially given the marketing push to do just that over the last two years. If Toyota shows it’s willing to have Gazoo Racing touch a beloved model deeply rooted in tradition, then there’s no telling what it might let its performance group loose upon. The intended focus here may be on Gazoo’s market potential, not the Century’s.

Either way, it likely doesn’t matter for North America. While we’ll eventually get GR models rebranded as TRD versions, the coveted limo probably won’t ever make it to our shores. That’s a shame, as it smacks of good taste in a doughty sort of way and could likely soften the image of even the most evil of corporate magnates. It certainly works on the regular ones.

[Images: @supcat/Twitter; Toyota]

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26 Comments on “And Then There Were Two: Toyota Builds Second Century GRMN...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Build it and they will come.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Goodness that is striking in white.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    GRMN? Is that short for GReMliN?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Twitter no likey:

    “403 Forbidden: The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it.”

  • avatar
    R Henry

    They got the grille right. Why can’t Lexus?

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Now THIS has cachet, unlike any Cadillac that’s entered production over the last 20 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      Easy, there, MA(EM)M. I quite like the looks and ability of my 2007 CTS-V. ‘Art & Science’ may be two lies for the price of one but it’s still somewhat striking – at least in V form. I deliberately parked next to a CTS last year at Walmart and the dude was waiting for me upon my return. Our conversation attracted a Gen II CST-V. And the cops, who thought it was a fender-bender. A good car chat was had.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

        Cachet means prestige and respectability. I’ll grant you that CTS-Vs are pretty awesome performance cars, but as with all other recent Cadillacs they are hardly prestigious or respectable as true luxury vehicles as fit and finish, materials, overall quality and market perception all pale in comparison to Lexus, Mercedes and Audi.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          I know what it means. The Gen I Vs were meant to ‘echo’ the German marques at a much lower price point – which they did. The fact that the Gen Is were Special Order cars did them in as far as sales were concerned, but they were as well-equipped as the contemporary German cars were, less Bluetooth, which is perfect. The fact that they were much cheaper should have put them in more hands but not many people wanted to pay $25,000 more for a similar car – with a manual transmission, no less! – when shown a brochure in a showroom full of $50,000 cars. I bought mine for CDN$15,000 four years ago and will put it up against any 2007 German sedan purchased for the same money. Rat-bagged 2007 M5s around here are still going for $25,000 and up – none with the unicorn manual, either. Again, I know what ‘cachet’ means – and I avoid paying for it at all costs.

  • avatar

    It looks like Chrysler. May be there is still hope for 300?

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      While there are many things Chrysler has trouble with, the 300’s styling is good. They look classy. This Toyota also looks classy. A Rolls looks classy, but I’d rather drive a 300. The maintenance bills are less.

  • avatar
    jatz

    I think that’s longer than my last full-size pickup.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I like the Brougham-y standard version better. There are plenty of sporty or faux sporty cars already.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    If this beast were available in North America, and if I had the real loot it takes to purchase one, I’d do it immediately. In all likelihood the best made vehicle extant, no excuses needed. As for the looks, it might be conservative, even old-fashioned, but who cares? No fake vents fore and aft, no surface “excitement”, no catfish grimace, just solid all around. And the interior is sublime.

  • avatar
    PwrdbyM

    Funny how all of the automotive media outlets feed stories off eachother. No mention of the Century…..ever. Now this past week everyone has an article abot it like they discovered it themselves. Don’t miss the you tube vids as well!!

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    A small box of “badge engineering” = fantasy Buck Century.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    *Buick Century

  • avatar
    Noble713

    That white one is *gorgeous*. o_O

    And yes, it should be something available globally “upon request”, for discerning customers who are into this sort of thing: exquisite Japanese engineering with understated styling.

  • avatar
    SlowMyke

    I’ve never wanted a modern Toyota before… It’s a weird feeling for me.

    Also, this is what the Continental should have been, Ford. Make a real statement, not a really nice Taurus.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “Direct-injected” isn’t wrong, but it’d be more informative to describe the 2UR-FSE as dual-injected. Give Toyota some credit for doing things right.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Honestly, in white this looks like a super expensive ex-cop car,

    Strip out some of the extra luxury (to lower the price) and call it an LS400, maybe they’ll get a few older buyers. Otherwise I cant see this selling in the States.


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