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Toyota Vellfire Hybrid 2.5 Elegance (AH40) Review: Edging Ever Closer To Opulence

The newly introduced Lexus LM has allowed Toyota to elevate the position of the Vellfire to a new plane of luxury.
James Wong
James Wong
15 Oct 2023
On the road, the car feels serene, majestic and important.
What we like:
Amazing interior
Thoughtfully designed inside and out
Feels like a car to drive
Terrific comfort
What we dislike:
The engine can feel rough at higher revs

The S-Class has traditionally been the Towkay-mobile. Increasingly, this function is now being carried out by Alphards or Vellfires with tinted windows, a scene we see all too often in Asia.

So, the new Vellfire is indeed a very important car, for it determines the sway of the executive luxury market. We will soon see many of these new Vellfires doing duties as company cars with a chauffeur at the helm, or as family cars for aristocrats with a litter of kids.

The fact that Lexus manifested a people mover called the LM is also important to note. It has clearly drawn the line between itself and the Vellfire, allowing the Vellfire to move upwards ever closer to that admittedly very high bar set by the LM (especially the four seater version). The effect is that the Vellfire now feels more Lexus than ever before.

Really? How so?

Just look at the car’s 14-inch infotainment system, gear shifter or leather dash. It’s all pure Lexus.

It looks pretty similar to the last Vellfire. What has changed?

You’d be right in saying that, but then, there’s only so much you can do when designing a large MPV without infringing too much into interior space.

The Vellfire somehow looks more purposeful than ever before. Its front grille is intentionally made to integrate seamlessly with the headlights, looking sharper and crisp. Its side profile is less slab-sided than before with a silhouette line that runs from the front to the back in a wavy single stroke.

A thoughtful gesture from Toyota worth mentioning is how it placed the buttons to control the rear tailgate on the side of the tail lights, rather than right in the middle, so that one doesn’t risk being hit as the tailgate extends outwards. Sweet.

Yeah, I do see the changes now. But what about the interior?

Arguably, the biggest change in the new Vellfire comes from within. The standard fit JBL speakers feel very JDM, as well as the Nanoe air conditioning that filters impurities from the air outside.

The all-important second row features ottoman captain seats that have every imaginable luxury you could wish for. Wrapped in genuine leather, there is seat ventilation and massage, touch displays to control all vital functions and legroom that rivals a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Toyota has intentionally engineered more space between rows and it is telling. As the Vellfire has always been a rather tall car, it is also now easier to get in and off with an access step built on the car’s side ledge.

But wait, there’s more. There is a new Overhead Console that looks straight off an Airbus A380. It incorporates soft configurable ambient lighting (you have 14 colour choices, my son’s favourite is green), two moonroofs (one above each captain seat) and various buttons to control everything from reading lights to the sunshades.

Speaking of the sunshades, one must experience them cascading down like a waterfall when they close. It’s a simple differentiator versus the conventional bottom-up mechanism, but it makes a big difference to the theatre of it all. It feels much more like a Japanese lodge in the Vellfire, just because of this.

The third row seating in the Vellfire might just be one of the most luxurious of its kind around. Besides the obviously generous room back there (in comparison to most cars where only kids can sit in the third row), the seats are finished in the same lovely leather and also have their own armrests, USB charging ports and cute sunshades for the C-pillar window. They will fold 50:50 as well, if you need more luggage space.

All very cool, it might just be even cosier than my BTO! I reckon it’s also better built?

Constructed on Toyota’s now-familiar TNGA platform, the Vellfire’s chassis is 50% more rigid than its predecessor. This is also achieved through strategically placed structural adhesives.

The Vellfire also employs sophisticated double wishbone rear suspension, although it has kept air suspension at bay. A good thing, I reckon.

Well, how does it drive then?

How do I put it? Its $400k price tag may initially put people off, but remember again that this Vellfire is asking for the same money as a base BMW 520i or Mercedes E200. Yet it offers comparable luxury, and space that any other body style would be hard to match up to.

On the road, the car feels serene, majestic and important. It is where million dollar business decisions are made. Where precious family memories are minted for life. All conducted in impossibly pleasurable comfort. The ride is almost like a magic carpet ride, although noise insulation does intrude more than expected in places like the MCE tunnel or in situations where a loud motorcycle or truck is passing by on the next lane. That said, I can hardly think of anything else better for the price to drive to Kuala Lumpur on a whim.

Even fuel consumption is pretty impressive with Toyota’s workhorse - I got 12-13 km/l with the 247 hp 2.5-litre I4 engine paired with a hybrid drivetrain and CVT. It will probably survive WWIII or something, but I do feel that when the engine kicks in, it does feel a tad rough at higher revs. At least the engine is very well isolated from the cabin so passengers don’t really notice.

So it seems nice for passengers, but how about the driver?

The car actually doesn’t feel its size very much. It’s surprisingly nimble for its dimensions, while parking is a cinch because of its boxy shape. Power is more than adequate so you never sense the heft. It’s a relaxing experience driving the Vellfire, so even though it’s no sports car I think the driver can derive pleasure by lowering his heart rate. There’s also the full-suite Toyota Safety Sense that comes as standard in the Vellfire which will keep the car in check along Singapore’s congested roads.

You seem pretty enamoured by the car. Has Toyota created a winner?

Honestly, I think so. It is a very, very good people mover and a truly luxurious one at that. I’d specify TV screens, retire the 2.5 in favour of the 2.4 turbo hybrid and add more noise insulation to make things truly perfect. But as it stands, the Vellfire is near perfect. You’re essentially buying a Lexus, while costing significantly less.

Photos by James Wong


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