Decades ago, American Motors Corporation took its Concord, gave it a bit of a lift and four-wheel drive, and made it one of the most interesting machines on the road: the Eagle. Whether one chose the Eagle in coupe, sedan, wagon, liftback, kammback, or convertible form, they wound up with a ride unlike anything else in the showroom at the time, capable of traversing rougher terrains that only the likes of its Jeep siblings usually saw. One could even say the Eagle was the Ur-crossover, setting the stage for the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V of the Nineties, and all of the crossovers that followed thereafter.
Decades later, there’s a new lifted sedan on the market, this time from Toyota: the Crown. It, too, moves its power through all corners. Unlike the Eagle, though, the Crown isn’t meant to hit the trail at all.
So, who is this lifted Crown for, then? Toyota sent down an example in its highest trim level, the Platinum, to my driveway in Virginia’s New River Valley so I could spend a week finding this answer out for myself.
Long live the Crown
Introduced to the world in 1955, the Crown is Japan’s longest-living sedan nameplate, as well as the second-longest running nameplate in use in the country; only its off-road sibling, the Land Cruiser, is older. The Crown is also the seventh-longest running nameplate in the world, included with the likes of the Corvette, the aforementioned Land Cruiser, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and the oldest of them all, the Chevrolet Suburban.
The Crown reigned in North America from 1958 through 1972, when it was replaced by the Corona Mark II. The nameplate’s return to this market comes attached to the 16th-iteration, a “reboot” per Reuters that includes the first SUV to bear the Crown name, and a massive push to sell the four variants of the new Crown (including a wagon and a non-lifted sedan) in 40 markets around the world.
Turbocharging comes at a price… at the pump
For 2023, there were three trim levels available with the Toyota Crown: XLE, Limited, and Platinum. The XLE and Limited trims use a 2.5-liter hybrid-four whose combined 236 horses find the corners through a CVT. The Platinum, meanwhile, takes it to the next level with a 2.4-liter turbo-four hybrid with a direct-shift six-speed automatic to guide all 340 hybrid horses to the set of 21-inch, 10-spoke machined alloys.
This increase in power, unfortunately, also means an increase in appetite for fuel compared to the two lower trims. While the XLE and Limited see Prius-esque combined mileage of 42 mpg (41 city, 41 highway), the Platinum brings a combined 30 mpg to the open road (29 city, 32 highway). I managed around 22.2 mpg due to mostly in-town driving (taking Mom to work in the morning).
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The 2023 Toyota Crown comes with a pair of 12.3-inch displays to inform and entertain. The center display has support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus an updated infotainment system with a handful of connected subscription services with free trials. Your favorite podcasts and albums can be enjoyed either through the XLE’s six-speaker sound system or the upper trim levels’ 11-speaker JBL system.
On the road, the driver can switch between regular and adaptive cruise control, though the button to set the speed was too flush with the steering wheel for me to select without looking at the button first. The driver can also switch between ECO, SPORT, NORMAL, COMFORT, SPORT+ and CUSTOM modes for everything from making the most of the fuel in the 14.5-gallon tank to cranking up the turbo to merge with interstate highway traffic. Blind-spot monitoring, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane-departure assist, automatic headlights and lane-tracing assist are among the various safety systems available for use through Toyota Safety Sense 3.0.
A luxuriously lifted life
Behind the wall of technology, the 2023 Toyota Crown brings a bit of luxury to the lifted sedan life. Every trim level has eight-way adjustable seating up front with heat. The Limited and Platinum trims throw in a panoramic fixed sunroof to let in the sun’s rays and those starry nights, leather seating with ventilation up front, and heated rear seats to keep your friends and family in back warm during the cooler months.
Out back, the sedan shows its crossover influence more with a rubberized cargo tray holding all of your groceries and other, messier items. With the rear 60/40-split bench upright, the space under the trunk lid is 15.2 cubic feet. For comparison, the 2023 Dodge Charger delivers over a foot more of space at 16.5 cubic feet, the 2023 Chrysler 300 also offers a foot more at 16.3 cubic feet, and the 2023 Honda Accord beats them all with 16.7 cubic feet. The Crown does best the 2023 Nissan Maxima, though, whose 14.3 cubic feet of trunk space will hold a bit less luggage for those out-of-town trips.
Who is this lifted sedan for?
The AMC Eagle’s lifted lifestyle allowed owners the ability to go to more places than almost any other sedan, wagon, coupe or convertible could in its day. The Toyota Crown, on the other hand, appears to be meant solely for paved roads to the mountain top. It certainly stands out because of its higher elevation as far today’s sedans go; its exterior styling also goes a long way, especially in the two-tone Bronze Age/Black paint this Platinum example wore.
It would appear that the Crown sedan, then, is for those who want the ride height of a crossover, without the baggage crossovers usually carry (in the figurative sense, anyway). It certainly caught one fellow driver’s eye at the car wash on the way to Draper Valley Overlook (she liked the two-tone paint, for one). The heated seats and steering wheel came in handy for the colder mornings when I took Mom to work, and the driving experience, for the most part, was comfortable and uneventful, as I suspect most Crown buyers would want it to be.
The Crown’s purpose in life seems all well and good, then, but there’s just one thing:
Arriving in the summer of 2024, Toyota will send its Crown SUV — dubbed the Crown Signia — to the North American marketplace. Replacing the second-gen Venza, the 2025 Crown Signia is set to come with a similar feature set as the Crown sedan, but with more cargo space behind the second row than the sedan. It’ll likely have the same price range as the sedan, as well (speaking of, the 2023 Crown’s range was $39,950 to $52,350, $54,420 as-tested with $1,095 destination fee).
The question then arises: does one buy the sedan, or the Signia? I suspect more than a few consumers may head straight for the latter and its increased utility over the former, as they’ve done since the crossover/SUV/truck boom began all the way back in 1990 with the 1991 Ford Explorer. Will the sedan’s unique place in the market allow it to continue on as the second half of the New ’20s begin?
Flip a coin.
Photos: Cameron Aubernon/Aubernon Highway