I’ve been driving a lot of Toyota vehicles recently, which has been a fascinating dive into product design and evolution. From the outside, it would be reasonable to figure that there’s a reasonable amount of standardization across vehicle models in a lineup, but it’s remarkable just how different the interior design and drive experience of the various Toyota vehicles have proven. For example, just a few weeks ago I spent some time driving the very latest Toyota Prius, the 2023 Toyota Prius Limited, finding it a very nice drive but darn awkward and uncomfortable to enter and exit due to the odd placement of the B-pillar. The B-pillar is the support bar that’s between the front and back seat windows and you probably never think about it, but when it’s off, every single entry and exit is clumsy. The back seats, however, were comfortable and adult ready.
Zoom forward to the latest Toyota, the 2023 Toyota Crown Platinum, and those two characteristics have been reversed. The sedan is a pleasure to enter and exit, even for a tall driver, but I couldn’t even lean back in the back seats due to the low roof. For kids and shorter passengers, it would undoubtedly be a non-issue, but my 6’2″ frame just didn’t want to jenga into that back seat. Meanwhile, the interior is surprisingly similar in many ways, with the exact same climate control interface.
The Crown, it’s worth mentioning, has been on sale in Japan for decades, but 2023 is the first year the company has decided to bring it to the United States market since its original, sold from 1958-1973. It’s an overall larger sedan than the Prius and there’s a Crown “Signia” SUV coming to the US market in 2025, Toyota’s first full EV (other than the weirdly named bZ4X, that is). The Crown sedan has a distinct two-tone design that stands out on the road too, as you can see in this “Heavy Metal” model I drove for a week:
It’s a sleek vehicle with a sporty appearance and those great headlights and grill give it a vaguely menacing air too. This model featured big 21″ 10-spoke alloy wheels that helped with that curb appeal too. The Crown is a Hybrid MAX vehicle, utilizing Toyota’s industry-leading hybrid technology powered by a 2.4L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine with a 6-speed direct shift transmission (surprisingly, not the almost ubiquitous Toyota continuously variable transmission), This delivers a combined 340 horsepower, lots of power that delivers a zippy drive experience that I found quite fun. Jumping into highway traffic? Rabbiting from a stop? It’s got plenty of juice for the task.
The dashboard was nicely laid out with big, bright screens and oodles of power ports, along with a wireless charging well that actually held my iPhone 15 Pro in the exact optimal spot and charged it wirelessly:
The rather florid infotainment system is 12.3″and features wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, powering an 11-speaker JBL sound system. Very nice sound, and since the interior is pleasantly quiet and buffered from road noise, it offered a superior music listening environment, even at highway speeds.
If you compare this dashboard design to the 2023 Prius, you’ll see that the main difference is the location of the gauge display behind the steering wheel. The Prius is so high up and far back on the dashboard that while it offers the feel of being in a jet plane cockpit, it’s also hard to read because the steering wheel itself gets in the way! The Crown sidesteps that problem by retaining the far more traditional position for those all-important speed and engine status indicators.
The above shows the bright, colorful gauges, but it also highlights one aspect that I found quite disappointing, particularly with it utilizing the Hybrid MAX technology: The fuel efficiency was pretty darn poor. EPA ratings are 29/32, but as you can see, my relatively eco-friendly driving yielded an average of 26.2. This makes me wonder how the EPA numbers are so much higher but perhaps it hadn’t been tuned for my altitude (I live at 5200′ elevation).
As with many modern automatic transmission vehicles, the car still uses a lot of display space to show the tachometer, though of what value is knowing the current rpm of the Crown Platinum? It’s my belief that auto manufacturers have long since needed to rethink the gauge display entirely because the information that’s important is often conveyed through tiny icons (notice how many are shown just to the right of the “26 MPH” display) while large swaths of the main gauge display are wasted on information that isn’t actionable by the average driver. I suppose that’s a discussion for a different review, however!
Getting a bit closer to the infotainment system, notice how the screen is 100% consumed by Apple CarPlay:
Many of the vehicles I drive are designed with the mobile phone info system as one of a number of possible modes for the Infotainment system, typically shown by having a control bar or set of buttons alongside the infotainment screen that lets you switch from CarPlay/Android Auto to one of the other vehicular information modes. For example, the GMC Canyon I’m driving this week has its own built-in Google Maps nav system that’s always just one button away. I’m not sure which design I like better, but it’s worth noting that if you do have a full-screen display like on the Toyota Crown, there’ll typically be an app icon for the vehicle that switches you back to “non-CarPlay” mode. In this instance, it’s the Toyota icon.
I already mentioned the climate controls that are essentially identical to the 2023 Toyota Prius, but I want to show it again:
I really like this interface because it offers easy access to a lot of features without any ambiguity about what button controls what feature or function. The “piano keyboard” style keys are also easy to use even while driving over a bumpy road, a definite win for the design team. Missing in action, however, is the steering wheel heater control. My theory is that there just isn’t space (though you can see the indicator for it in the very center as part of the AUTO icon set).
There are a lot of power plugs, but be aware that they’re all USB-C. No USB-a options so if you have older devices, you might need new charging cords to have it be vehicle compatible. The small divider as part of the upper cup holder proved a real boon too, offering a simple spot where smartphones could be deposited without them being swallowed by the wireless charging well. Also note the extremely subtle Drive Mode control as part of the shifter, along with the odd shift patterns required to get into reverse, etc. Why not just a straight forward/backward gearshift, Toyota?
Stepping out and into the back seat…
There’s an acceptable amount of legroom and a design that makes it easy to enter and exit the rear seats too. The roof height, however, left me sitting quite uncomfortably when I wasn’t leaning forward, something that doubtlessly won’t impact anyone under 5’10” or thereabouts. The rear seat climate controls were a bit austere for a $55K sedan too:
Again with the USB-C charging only, but do adults simply not sit in the back seat of sedans in Japan? Seems like the Crown is ready for an upgrade to this component for the American market, at least.
And, finally, as a sedan it didn’t have any “cargo space” but instead a trunk. With a rather limited amount of space:
This is plenty for groceries but if you’re going to go all-in on your next Costco run or want to ferry the kids to sports practice, this is going to prove a tight fit. Buyer beware if you’re someone who hauls lots of gear (or just keep your eye out for the Crown Signia SUV model, coming for the 2025 model year.
After the awkwardness of the 2023 Toyota Prius, I was worried about how it would be to drive the 2023 Toyota Crown Platinum, but in fact it was a really nice sedan with lots of smart features and a lot of power to help get you there safe and on time. The two-tone design might take a bit of getting used to but it’ll grow on you…
The Crown is a smart addition to the Toyota lineup and might well be a solid option for a growing family. Its rear seat headroom issue and smaller trunk might be stumbling blocks, but a drive around the block might convince you to learn how to cope in return for the peppy 340hp turbocharged Hybrid MAX performance. If only it had better fuel efficiency…
2023 Toyota Crown Platinum, powered by a Hybrid MAX 2.4L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. BASE PRICE: $52,350. Options: Premium Paint, Two-Tone Paint, Preferred Accessory Package, Side Puddle Lamps, Mudguars, Key Glove. AS DRIVEN: $55,217.00
Disclaimer: Toyota loaned me the Crown for a week in return for this candid writeup. Thanks, Toyota!