2023 Toyota Crown Review – Not Quite a King

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

The Toyota Crown may wear a well-known nameplate, but we haven’t seen it in the U.S. since the early 1970s. Now it’s back, replacing the venerable Avalon as the brand's full-size sedan.

And it’s … well, the 2023 Toyota Crown experience is just a bit different than what the Avalon offered.

Toyota invited me to join other Chicago-area automotive journalists at one of the company’s offices in Chicago’s far western suburbs last week to sample the Crown and the redesigned Prius. My drive was brief yet still informative.

(Full disclosure: Toyota fed us and offered a Yeti coffee mug which I did not take, as well as a notebook that I did take.)

In case you’ve forgotten, the Crown comes standard with all-wheel drive and is only available as a hybrid – and there is no plug-in setup. The base powertrain pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with two electric motors for a system horsepower of 236. A continuously-variable automatic is the transmission that gets the power to the wheels. This powertrain is what you get when you opt for the XLE and Limited trims.

Splurge for the top-trim Platinum and you get what Toyota calls the Hybrid Max. This system uses a 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder and two electric motors. Here the system total is 340 horsepower. Crowns so equipped have a six-speed automatic transmission with a wet clutch – and no torque converter.

Furthermore, this hybrid system is set up so that there’s always at least 30 percent of the power going to the rear wheels, whereas the base system can be 100 percent front-wheel drive. Both systems can go up to 20 percent FWD/80 percent RWD. Opt for the Platinum and you add Sport+, Comfort, and Custom drive modes over the base powertrain’s Normal, Eco, and Sport

The Crown is a lifted sedan – it’s four inches taller than a Camry but it’s not a crossover. It also uses a good, old-fashioned trunk.

I had a chance to wheel both cars on a short drive loop through the exurbs at the edge of the Chicago metro area. It’s Chicago, so most corners were either gentle sweepers or super-slow bends. Not exactly a California canyon road. Keeping that in mind, I found the Crown to handle a bit better than the somnambulant Avalon, though this is still a touring car. Putting the Platinum in Sport and Sport+ mode made things a tad more fun, but this is no sport sedan. It’s entertaining enough to amuse, but not much more than that.

The steering feels a bit too light and artificial, but at least body roll was muted surprisingly well, given the car’s lifted setup. The brakes were a tad spongy.

On the positive side of the ledger, the Crown accelerated nicely in Platinum guise. It’s no burner, but you’ll get up to speed easily enough during freeway merges, and passing shouldn’t be too challenging.

I found the ride to be stiffer and not nearly as soft as on the Avalon. This is generally a good thing for urban driving, though I suspect the Avalon will be missed when it comes to long road trips.

The Limited didn’t feel extremely different from the Platinum, despite the different AWD system, though it did feel a bit more coarse in terms of noise/vibration/harshness. The lower power – by the way, the Max system has 400 lb-ft of torque, Toyota didn’t give a number for the other powertrain yet – was noticeable, of course, though the Limited I drove still had no issue scooting away from stoplights. I’d have less confidence in passing/merging punch, however.

Overall, the Crown’s driving dynamics and on-road manners seemed to split the difference between the Camry and the outgoing Avalon. It’s got some moves, but it loses the Avalon’s sense of serene comfort. In general, of course, most folks will make that trade. The Avalon was a great companion for long freeway stints, but it was a snooze around town. The Crown, by contrast, balances things out better. For commuting duty, it will work well enough.

At least from a driving dynamic standpoint. Style is a jumbled bag. On the outside, I found that the Crown’s looks are highly dependent on the color and wheel combo – some combinations are just easier on the eyes than others. Inside, it’s a bit of a mess – I like the digital gauges and Toyota’s new infotainment system, and it’s nice that the infotainment system integrates well into the upper dash. I also found the controls intuitive and easy to use.

That’s all good, but the materials also look and feel too low-rent for this price point. The shifter is weird for the sake of weird. The vertical wireless cell-phone charger seems like a clever way to save space, but it failed to keep bumps from disengaging my phone from charging the way it is supposed to.

At least the cabin is comfortable, and the higher floor makes entry and exit easier. I was dealing with some pain from a routine medical issue, and getting in and out of the car wasn’t as uncomfortable and awkward as it could’ve been.

Toyota is starting Crown pricing at $39,950 for an XLE, with the Limited costing $45,550 and the Platinum ringing in at $52,350. Those prices don’t include destination.

Standard or available features include heated front seats, 19-inch wheels, a fixed panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, JBL audio, heated and cooled front seats, LED headlights, leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking assist, 21-inch wheels, digital key, adaptive suspension, Bluetooth, satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, USB ports, and two-tone paint.

Toyota's Safety Sense 3.0 suite of advanced driver-assistance systems is standard.

EPA fuel-economy numbers are listed at 42 mpg city/41 mpg highway/41 mpg combined for the base powertrain and 29/32/30.

This iteration of the Crown feels like a completely competent commuter sedan, though it loses a bit of what made the car it replaces so great for long highway drives. The interior does fall a bit short of the expected quality at this price, especially when Toyota’s luxury arm can offer you an ES with a nicer cabin for similar money.

Toyota’s newest Crown is likable enough, but it’s also flawed. The interior needs work, for one. It’s a solid attempt at a new North American flagship sedan, but it feels just a bit undercooked.

[Images: Toyota]

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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
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  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)