Toyota Crown Athlete Hybrid 2.5 S
Toyota Crown Athlete Hybrid 2.5 S (A)

Oneshift Editorial Team
15 Jun 2015
 

Toyota Crown Athlete Hybrid 2.5 S (A)

Introduction, Exterior

Having been around since 1955, the Crown is one of Toyota's oldest nameplate., and was also the marque's first car with a proper name instead of letters. In fact, a number of popular Toyota models we know were named after the Crown – the Camry is the phonetic transcription of the Japanese word for “crown”, while Corona is the Latin for “crown”, and Corolla is Latin for “crown of flowers”. 

The Crown is Toyota's flagship sedan in most markets, save for Japan where the Century takes the cake instead. The Crown is an important car in Japanese markets, Toyota shifts about 4000 these cars per month on average.

The most recent, fourteenth-generation Crown was introduced in Japan in early 2013. Offered in Royal and Athlete trims, the latter is aimed at younger buyers or those who prefer to do the driving themselves. To appeal to them, Toyota has injected some flair into both the exterior and interior to differentiate the sportier model from the more stately variant.

The most significant difference is perhaps the grille. Instead of adopting horizontal slats on the large grille like the Royal, the Athlete uses a diamond-pattern with a thick chrome surround, coupled with a flared and angular lower air intakes. On each of the front wheel arches, a characterful but subtle bulge accentuates the car's slightly more “sporting” pretensions. Around the rear, the Athlete sports rear lights that illuminate in two spheres on each side, whereas the Royal's rear lights illuminate in horizontal lines.

Overall, the Athlete's styling is no doubt pleasant and business-like, very much like a tuxedo. Toyota's designers' gamble with the large front grille has paid off, the car has a slightly aggressive stance without committing the mistake of over-styling or blinging out the car too much. The Athlete-unqiue styling cues packs a little more of the “sport” that it very much needs over the Royal as a “sporty” variant .

The clean and unfussy lines on the Athlete will stand the test of time well - no doubt the car will continue looking relatively modern and relevant in 10 years' time, just like how its predecessors are today.

 

Interior 

Step into the Crown, and it's clear to you that Toyota's stylists have put some thought into bringing the interior bang up-to-date and in line with the sharp exterior. The swoopy dashboard and door panels are leather trimmed and stitched, lifting the ambience of the classy cabin. The leather-trimmed steering wheel is thick and an immense joy to grip.

Everything inside feels very well put together too, the buttons make the right satisfying clicks and feel as though they will were made to last. Everything that you can see and touch feels tactile and decidedly premium. The centre console trim surrounding the infotainment screen looks like brushed aluminium, because it really is brushed aluminium. Toyota hasn't pinched on the cabin quality, that's for sure. 

While its predecessor had a centre console festooned with buttons circling the infotainment screen, the latest Crown replaces them with a small touch capacitive screen below the infotainment screen. On this so-called “Toyota Multi-Operation Touch control unit”, you'll be able to adjust the dual-zone air-conditioning, raise or lower the electrically controlled rear windscreen blinds, and change the driving modes – with options of Sport, Eco, and Normal. While the buttons and interface were in Japanese and none of us could read a single word of the language, learning to use it was a breeze. 

In keeping up with the Joneses, the 

The seats on the Athlete are different fare from the Royal. These sports seats offer more far more lateral support around the thighs and the shoulders, and come with a far “sportier” stitching pattern compared to the Royal. 

Another dissimilarity in the interior is the use of darker-grained wood panels on the centre console, whereas the Royal uses wood with lighter hues, again, in a bid to differentiate the two models to cater to different audiences.

The rear seating in the Athlete is possibly one of the best in class, offering plenty of leg and headroom as you are seated on the comfortable body-hugging seats that relaxes its occupants.

The Crown Athlete's interior is a well-crafted, well-made, spacious, luxurious, and up-to-date. Without doubt, this is one of Toyota's finest interior to date and right up there with the Germans, a far cry from the “regular” Toyota interiors many of us are used to.

 

Drive

The powertrain beneath the skin is a 2.5-litre inline-4 engine, mated to an electric motor driving the rear wheels together with the petrol engine. The hybrid powertrain produces 220bhp, and 220Nm of torque, comparable to that of a 3-litre engine, Toyota claims. Coupled with a E-CVT (A) gearbox, the Athlete Hybrid picks up speed with ease and moves along briskly.

Put the car into Sport in the Toyota Multi-Operation Touch control unit, and the Athlete Hybrid comes alive. Throttle response sharpens, the steering feels much more responsive, and the electric motor is pushed to deliver dollops of instant usable torque. In fact, the car feels alive when driven hard in Sport mode. The steering will be slightly light for those used to the heavy steering on BMWs, but it's very feelsome. Despite weighing in at almost two tonnes thanks to the additional components making up the hybrid drivetrain, ride remains composed and keeps up with the car around corners.

Driving the Crown Athlete Hybrid hard is of course, not the point of the car is it? Leave it in the Comfort setting, and the car just drives so smoothly, power delivery is linear across the rev band, and even as revs climb, it never feels asthmatic. Another one of the car's attributes that makes it an excellent vehicle to waft about, is its ability to insulate occupants from the external environment. In fully electric mode, the cabin is dead-quiet. Even when driven at 80km/h with the, there isn't a trace of wind noise, and road noise is minimal thanks to heavy usage of sound-proofing around the car.

While many of us would assume a Crown Athlete Hybrid like the one we tested to be as fun to drive as a boat on choppy waters, the truth is, the Japanese luxo-barge is as composed and pleasant to steer and be in as many of its German counterparts, and that is a rather surprising verdict.

 

Conclusion

The latest iteration of the Crown Athlete Hybrid is a Toyota that surprises, especially if you were expecting a sedate and dull sofa on wheels. It looks handsome in a conservative manner, steers sweetly, rides comfortably, and covers ground with an impressive urgency (in Sports mode). Coupled to the traditional Crown strengths of spacious and comfortable accommodation, a fuss-free driving experience, and its exclusivity on local roads, this car is perfect for those looking to enjoy an accomplished left-field luxury sedan in relative anonymity.

 

 

 

Car review is sponsored by Autolink Holdings :


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