2023 Toyota Crown First Drive Review: The Emperor's New Groove

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 2.5L I4 hybrid (XLE/Limited), 2.4L I4 Turbo hybrid (Platinum)
Output: 236 hp (2.5L) / 340 hp, 400 lb-ft (2.4L)
Transmission: CVT/6AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 42/41/41 (2.5L) / 29/32/30 (2.4L)
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 5.6/5.7/5.7 (2.5L) / 8.1/7.3/7.8 (2.4L)
Starting Price (USD): $41,045 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $50,020 (Lmtd, inc. dest.) / $53,995 (Platinum, inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $47,410 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $52,810 (Lmtd est, inc. dest.) / $61,810 (Platinum est, inc. dest.)

Remember this figure: Twenty thousand. Give or take.

That’s the number of 2023 Toyota Crowns the Japanese brand is hoping to sell in the US next year. Last year the company shifted 19,460 Avalons *, the full-sized sedan the Crown ostensibly replaces.

The Crown has been an enduring name in Toyota’s home market for decades, the flagship of the family. It was last officially on these shores 50 years ago, however, so it’s essentially a new name for most buyers. Toyota is using that opportunity to introduce folks to a new type of sedan, one that includes some of the features buyers are ditching the car for in the first place. An elevated ride height and taller cabin should, at least in theory, stem the flow of buyers heading to SUV-land.

The result is a vehicle that isn’t afraid to get a little weird. Or a lot. But beyond its unusual looks, the 2023 Toyota Crown feels stuck between segments: too SUV-like for the car crowd, and too car-like for the SUV crowd.

Get a Quote on a New 2023 Toyota Crown

What’s new?

Pretty much everything you can see, inside and out, is new for the 2023 Crown. The bit that isn’t? The TNGA-K platform, which underpins everything from the RAV4 and Camry to the Lexus ES and RX. It’s the latter that the Crown is perhaps most like—there’s that SUV connection again—since this features the first Toyota application of the Hybrid Max powertrain.

This is, essentially, the same hi-po hybrid setup employed in the Lexus RX500 F Sport Performance. The system pairs a 2.4-liter turbo-four, integrated electric motor, and six-speed automatic transmission up front with a dedicated, water-cooled electric motor out back, dubbed eAxle. With full-time AWD, we’re talking 340 combined horsepower, 400 pound-feet of peak torque, and a combined 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km). Hybrid Max is available exclusively on the top Platinum trim.

The XLE and Limited trims both stick to the more familiar modern Toyota hybrid system. The 2.5-liter inline-four and a pair of electric motors combine for 236 hp, routed through a continuously variable transmission to an on-demand AWD system.

All of that fades into the background once you see the Crown in the metal. In isolation, it’s weird, especially in the higher-contrast two-tone looks like red or white with black. Standing 3.5 inches (90 millimeters) taller than a Camry, the Crown remind me of a college design professor’s rant about folks who stretch fonts. It’d ruin the original designer’s carefully considered proportions, he’d say. At least we can’t accuse Toyota of playing it safe though, right?

Standard rolling stock is 19-inches, with the Platinum rolling on 21-inchers. The latter, combined with the soft shape and blade-like front end, the Crown has a real concept car vibe. It still gives car from behind too, where the tall tail, full-width taillight, and graceful roofline visually shrink the beast.

2023 Toyota Crown interior and comfort

First impressions matter. So imagine my shock when I get into a Crown Platinum and find I have to open the moonroof shade to avoid my hair making constant contact with it. Toyota is serious about the whole elevated driving position thing, and that means even though this has the extra height over a Camry, actual space isn’t much different. In fact, the Camry has it just beat in every major measure except second-row legroom, which is the one category the outgoing Avalon still has the advantage in.

Good and situated, I can take stock of the Crown’s cabin. The semi-floating design of the dashboard, along with the bronze trim in the Platinum, combine for a subtly modern layout. The material quality is generally good even on this pre-production model, with the only weak spot being the plastic in the lower section on the passenger side. In fact, there’s a lot of plastic in general here; we wouldn’t say no to more material variety, to further reinforce the Crown’s position at the top of the pecking order.

Toyota earns points for keeping a long line of physical buttons below the screen, making easy access to common controls a priority. More of this, automakers.

During the pre-drive presentation, Toyota urges us to pay attention to the ingress and egress of the Crown. Sure enough, it’s a smooth move laterally, no muss, no fuss. The leather seats are comfortable, and both heated and ventilated up front. The entry-level XLE features a wool-like seating material, which looks great and nods to previous Crowns. Second-row seating is similarly supportive, though again, that roof is low.

A traditional trunk in place of a SUV-style tailgate or even a liftback felt like a missed opportunity when I first saw the Crown earlier this year. The trunk itself is big, but accessing it through the oversized mail slot of an opening can be awkward. However, the separate cargo area does make for a very quiet cabin. You win some, you lose some.

2023 Toyota Crown technology and features

Firstly, let me just say that the Crown’s 12.3-inch infotainment screen never went as orange as the press photo above shows, at least during my time with it. The Crown uses the Toyota Audio Multimedia system, a system AutoGuide has praised before, and it’s no different here. The system is snappy, easy to read, and the native voice assistant service accurately follows commands. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and so is a wireless charging pad and five USB ports—on all trims. I’m especially fond of the little slot setup used for the Qi pad. Not having your phone sliding around, constantly wondering if it’s actually charging or not, is huge.

Every Crown also includes a second 12.3-inch screen ahead of the driver. Like the 2023 Highlander, which adopts a similar setup on higher trims, the Crown allows users to customize much of this screen’s content, as well as its appearance. Toyota hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, with digital dials that closely resemble traditional analog ones. It’s a solid setup with a low learning curve—something big sedan buyers should appreciate.

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard across the board here. There are improvements to the pedestrian and cyclist detection of the automated emergency braking, plus the usual suite of lane-keep assist, lane departure alert, road sign recognition, lane trace assist, and full-range dynamic cruise control. A 360-degree camera is optional on the Limited and standard on Platinum.

2023 Toyota Crown driving impressions

We start with the Platinum, and its 340-horsepower punch. It’s spritely, with enough grunt to easily overwhelm those narrow 225-section tires. And when you’re not egging the Crown on, the six-speed auto lets the engine fade into the background, something Toyota’s CVT-equipped hybrids have a hard time accomplishing.

Power is available anywhere in the rev range, and with full-time AWD always sending at least some power to the rear axle, there’s a good balance pointing the Crown into a corner. The steering is light, but quick and consistent, providing more driver confidence than the Highlander I drove earlier in the day. Once into a corner, however, the Crown’s chunky 4,306-pound (1,953-kilogram) weight catches up to it as it leans on the outer front wheel. The Platinum features adaptive dampers, which do a great job soaking up mid-corner bumps, but a sporty drive this ain’t. Perhaps the rear-wheel steering from the RX500h could improve agility—but I don’t think many buyers would care. A quick, coddling ride feels more appropriate. Don’t bother switching around drive modes, unless you like the instrument cluster animation.

The familiar 2.5-liter hybrid setup is as you’d expect. The increased amount of sound deadening in the Crown keeps engine drone to a minimum. It never rises above adequate, but you won’t find yourself feeling stranded on on-ramps. Toyota has also made the base drivetrain typically efficient: we’re talking 41 mpg (5.7 L/100 km) combined, and that seemed well within reach on our hilly test route.

2023 Toyota Crown pricing and competition

Pricing for this not-a-crossover-honest kicks off right where the Avalon left off, and clear of the Camry. The XLE rings in at $41,045 ($47,410 CAD), including destination, slightly higher than the entry point for the aging Nissan Maxima—which ceases production next year. At the product presentation, Toyota namedropped the Nissan as well as the Kia Stinger as what it sees as two prime competitors. Coincidentally, the rumors continue to suggest the Stinger will bow out this year. The all-American big sedan (built in Canada)? The Dodge Charger is driving off into the sunset in 2023, too. We’re sensing a pattern here.

A more interesting comparison happens right on the Toyota showroom floor. Camry pricing stops just shy of the Crown, and there’s no configuration pairing the hybrid with AWD. There is with the RAV4, naturally, as well as the Venza and Highlander. Buyers can save a few grand opting for any of those, though they’ll miss out on the refined driving dynamics and stand-out design of the Crown.

The loaded Platinum we tested rings in at $53,995 (around $62,000 CAD), with the only option being paint. That places it right on top of the Lexus ES range, the other comfy, premium sedan in the Toyota fold. The ES only comes with the 2.5-liter hybrid setup though, giving the Toyota a serious power advantage if you so choose.

Final Thoughts: 2023 Toyota Crown First Drive Review

Two weeks removed from my time with the 2023 Toyota Crown, and it still confounds me.

In other markets, the 2023 Toyota Crown will come in up to three additional styles, including two SUVs. I asked Toyota why it didn’t bring one of those to North America, and the response was that the company doesn’t want to abandon car buyers. The Avalon isn’t the only three-box disappearing: most of the segment is, within the year. Toyota believes many of those folks still want a car, but figures a light sprinkling of SUV-ness should sweeten the deal.

I’m not sure. Despite the embiggened proportions, the Crown offers poor interior space. It drives better than any mainstream SUV, but stops some way short of being genuine fun. On the flip side, it’s a left-field statement in a segment that’s long been criticized for being too conservative. Will 20,000 people want to make such a statement? We’re about to find out.

*- In Canada, Toyota sold 167 Avalons in 2021. A company spokesperson said in an email that Toyota “can’t comment on the sales plan for Crown, as the current production and inventory situation remains unpredictable, and any number we could give you would probably be wrong at the end.”


How much does the 2023 Toyota Crown cost?

The new model starts from $41,045 ($47,410 CAD), including destination.

When can you buy the 2023 Toyota Crown?

Dealerships in the US will begin receiving Crowns around December.

Is the Toyota Crown a hatchback?

Wouldn’t that be nice? No, despite the SUV influence, the Crown uses a traditional trunk layout.

Discuss this story on our Toyota Crown Forum

Become an AutoGuide insider. Get the latest from the automotive world first by subscribing to our newsletter here.


  • Hybrid Max is fun
  • Cushiony ride
  • It's different...


  • ...maybe too different
  • 2.5L rev drone
  • Tight headroom
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

More by Kyle Patrick

Join the conversation
2 of 3 comments
  • Dan Starley Dan Starley on Oct 25, 2022

    As a 78 year old man, the 3.5 inch rise will make all the difference in getting in and out of the Crown. I had to sell my BMW 3 series convertible because it was too low for me to get out of! I would like to compare the seat cushion height with that of most SUVs.

  • David Lambing David Lambing on Oct 25, 2022

    I love my Avalon and will not be trading it in on a Crown. They should have looked at the history of the Honda Accord crossover before making this decision. Not everyone wants to drive an SUV. I think Ford did the motoring public a big disservice killing almost every car they made before thinking things through. Chevy, too. No wonder America is in such sad shape.