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Toyota has revealed yet another member to the Crown family reboot, as it attempts to shore up the world's last remaining large sedan and wagon for buyers who refuse to step up to SUVs.
Known as the Crown Signia, it is the high-riding production version of the Crown Estate concept previewed in mid-2022, sitting alongside the closely-related S235 Crown Crossover Sedan and lower-riding S236 Crown Sport wagon, as well as the significantly different and more-stately S232 Crown Sedan fastback.
Available in Japan and North America amongst other regions from sometime next year, the Crown Signia takes the number of body styles for the series to four.
While some critics might question the wisdom of leaning so hard into a passenger-car segment in terminal decline around the world at the hands of SUVs, the Crown Signia's more-practical family-friendly shape, raised ride height, extra ground clearance, chunky tyres, plastic wheelarch cladding, and integrated roof bars set it apart from its siblings and straight into crossover territory.
Subaru Outback, look out!
That said, while Toyota Australia Vice-President Sales, Marketing and Franchise Operations, Sean Hanley, believes that the latest Crown range has enough appeal to be a success in Australia, it would also create internal complications for the organisation.
“It's a fantastic car with brilliant technology... but it would also step on Lexus' toes,” he told CarsGuide at last month's Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo, adding that the resulting price overlap might confuse consumers in Australia and undermine the luxury brand.
Like most of the Crown versions, the Signia will be motivated by a variation of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid powertrain featuring a motor on each axle for on-demand all-wheel drive.
However, the real innovation within the broader Crown family lies with the S232 Crown Sedan fastback that was also just launched this past week, though this one definitely seems like a Japan-only proposition for the time being.
This is because it ditches the GA-K transverse-engine version of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) for the GA-L version with a longitudinal-mounted powertrain and rear-wheel drive, as per the Mirai – the company's hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV).
Yep, not only does the Crown Sedan fastback offer an FCEV option straight out of the Mirai, as an alternative to the comparatively more-mundane HEV hybrid set-up shared with the other Crowns, it also uses the Mirai's specialised platform.
This could end up being a watershed moment in the move towards a hydrogen society, as all the other FCEVs currently in production – meaning the Mirai II and Hyundai Nexo – use expensive bespoke bodies, while the Crown Sedan fastback FCEV aims to bring costs down through economies of scale as a result of sharing components with other models.
It may not be immediately apparent given the sheer ubiquity of the long-lived series, but the Crown has long been a testbed for Toyota.
Now in its 16th generation since 1955, the original Crown was one of the first full-Japanese developed mass-produced vehicles, setting the stage for the Ford Falcon-inspired second-gen S40 version of 1962 to help push Toyota exports across the globe.
Since then, it evolved into a high-series luxury car (though beneath the largely hand-built Century flagship) until the first Lexus LS of 1989 took over that role in many parts of the world a little time after the end of the seventh-gen (S120) model's run in 1987.
Not in Japan, however, as the Crown had by then splintered into many different versions, including into the Comfort taxis that have become an internationally famous symbol of the country, remaining in continuous production to this day.
Today, the series has resumed the mantle as innovator, and on a number of different fronts to boot. If one large passenger car range can fend off the SUV juggernaut, surely this is it.
Is it time for the Crown to return to Australia? Do you think it can live side-by-side with Lexus models? Will disenfranchised Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and even Kia Stinger GT owners flock to Toyota dealers to relive their big-car fantasies?
Let us know in the comments below.