And Then There Were Two: Toyota Builds Second Century GRMN

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
and then there were two toyota builds second century grmn

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.

If making a sporty model of the most stately Toyota is wrong (it is), I don't want to be right (I'm not)

— Supcat @ Hot Sounds Island (@supcat) September 20, 2018

[Images: @supcat/ Twitter; Toyota]

Join the conversation
2 of 26 comments
  • Featherston Featherston on Jan 23, 2019

    "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.

  • Ryoku75 Ryoku75 on Jan 23, 2019

    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.

  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.