Motorist Car Buyer's Guide: Toyota Crown Athlete
What if you wanted a big, luxurious Japanese sedan, yet it had to be a less common model? Perhaps the Toyota Crown Athlete could be the answer to your conundrum.
Part of the Toyota’s longest running model line, its history stretches all the way back to 1955. Classified as a mid-size luxury sedan, it has been considered as an upmarket offering in Toyota’s line-up, possibly even comparable to Lexus.
Given its history and reputation, the Crown is also one of the few Toyota models that holds the distinction of having its own unique insignia, with a stylised crown emblem featuring both inside and outside the car.
Motorist would like to extend our thanks to Sphere Automobile for loaning us the Toyota Crown Athlete for this article.
What is this?
This is a 13th generation 2008 Toyota Crown Athlete. For this generation, Toyota released four variants, the Crown Royal, Crown Athlete, Crown Majesta and Crown Hybrid, with each variant being more luxurious than the next, except for the Crown Hybrid, which had its own distinct designation as a hybrid.
Available with a range of engine options, a 2.5 and 3.0-litre V6, a 3.5-litre hybrid V6, and a 4.6-litre V8, buyers had their pick when it came to their desired engine choice.
This particular unit is fitted with the naturally aspirated 2.5-litre V6 mated to a six-speed torque converter automatic, driving the rear wheels. Power was rated at 215 horsepower and 260 Nm of torque, which was enough to propel this 1.6 ton car from zero to 100 km/h in seven seconds.
This particular Crown Athlete might be 14 years old, but it doesn’t feel its age at all. It is smooth, quiet and comfortable with a creamy powerband, and the engine feeling calm and unpressured even when the throttle is depressed further. To say its ride quality is a step up compared to continental cars of its era is no lie, for it is truly that refined and comfortable.
Is it any good on the wallet?
Being a Toyota, and with the reputation they have for reliability, there isn’t much to worry about, just ensure that the maintenance schedule is adhered to, replace any wear-and-tear items, and it should run relatively problem-free.
This particular unit has over 170,000 kilometres on the odometer, but still felt mechanically solid without any funny noises emitting from the engine. However, there are some things that should be noted about the 4GR-FSE engine in this generation of the Toyota Crown.
The engine is known to spring an oil leak due to a breakage in the rubber section of the oil line for the lubrication of the VVT-i system. This could lead to rapid oil loss, even severe engine damage due to oil starvation, particularly the camshaft beds and crankshaft bearings. Fortunately, Toyota has long launched a recall campaign to rectify this problem.
The water pump has also been known to be prone to leaks, noise and failure, with owners reporting the average life of the water pump to be about 50,000 kilometres. Problems with the water pump can prevent coolant from being properly circulated around the engine, so it is advised to do a check on it periodically to keep an eye on its health and replace it if necessary.
The factory quotes fuel consumption at 12km/l, with fuel tank capacity being 71 litres, and a theoretical range of 852 kilometres. Being a 2.5-litre V6, fuel consumption is expected to be higher, with 9 to 10km/l being a more realistic expectation, with 639 to 710 kilometres of range to be expected instead.
Is it comfortable inside?
For a car built in 2008, it is still extremely comfortable. The seats are plush and fully upholstered in leather, and are almost akin to sitting in an armchair. The second row has ample legroom, with the seats also being plush.
Interestingly, the middle seat is firm, but not unbearably firm, and a smaller sized individual could sit there for an extended period without much issues. Although, the legroom for the middle passenger is limited due to the transmission tunnel eating into the rear footwell. Still, it is best recommended that only two passengers sit in the back for maximum comfort.
Both front seats can be electronically adjusted, with the front passenger seat also able to be adjusted by rear passengers with buttons mounted on the side of the seat, which is a convenient feature to have, especially when the rear passenger desires more legroom.
This particular unit has a completely black interior, with the dashboard and door panels being covered in a mix of leather and plastic, while the door inserts are perforated leather. The stylised crown emblem also features in the cabin, being placed on the steering wheel and storage compartment.
Additional features include fully automatic windows, and a centre storage compartment that has hinges on both the left and right. This allows both the drive and passenger to open the cover on their side without having to awkwardly reach over the cover and rummage for their items.
Being built in 2008, this Crown Athlete still retains its original in-car entertainment system, which limits it to just the radio and a CD player. Still, it’s a foolproof and straightforward system, with knobs to tune the radio station and adjust the volume, and numbered buttons for radio station pre-sets.
The HVAC system is also equally straightforward, with all the controls being hard buttons, none of those new-fangled capacitive touch panels, making for easy adjustment of the air conditioning even while on the move. Additionally, there are also rear air vents, which come very much in handy given Singapore’s climate.
The gauge cluster is analogue, with a small digital screen to display range, odometer and the trip computer. Being a parallel import, the wording in the gauge cluster is completely in Japanese, but it should present much of a problem for most people as the important information does have some English wording to it.
Can it carry a lot of cargo?
The boot has 523 litres of capacity, and is fairly deep as well. At least two golf bags should be able to fit in the boot without much issue. And no, there is no spare tyre.
The modern Toyota Crown has shared its platform with the Lexus GS, so it would only be fair to consider it as an alternative. It is also the only Japanese car that can be compared to the Toyota Crown in terms of luxury and equipment specification, and even though the Lexus might be slightly more luxurious than the Crown, the Crown itself isn't too far behind.
If you don't want something Japanese, then how about German? The 5 Series is one of the best options in this class, and its sales numbers throughout the years is proof of its popularity, especially with several variants available to satisfy each buyer's desire and budget.
Even though the Toyota Crown was never officially brought into Singapore and was only ever available as a parallel import, you can see what makes it so desirable and why the Japanese kept it for themselves all these years.
Subsequent generations of the Toyota Crown continually improved on the luxury aspect, and even though they were built on the same platform as the Lexus GS, the Crown avoided the controversial styling that Lexus adopted, opting instead to stay with a less edgy design befitting its status of the upper echelon of Toyota's offerings.
Plus, with the latest generation of the Toyota Crown being recently launched and set to be available as a crossover, wagon, sedan and an electric car, it is no longer just a sedan. While it remains to be seen how this might affect the prices of older Crown models, I daresay this only makes the previous generations, with their sedan only bodystyle, all the more desirable to the discerning buyer who knows exactly what they are getting.
If you are keen on getting a Toyota Crown as your next car, or any other used car for that matter, do take a look at our used car selection here for some of the best deals!
Motorist would like to once again extend our thanks to Sphere Automobile for loaning us the Toyota Crown Athlete for this article.
Photo Credits: Lee Thern Yang (@TheBigSoup)
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