mReview: Toyota Vellfire Hybrid – Emperor’s Bento Boxcar

Published by on . Updated on 19 May 2024
Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703941958875 M Review+Toyota+Vellfire+Hybrid+ +Featured
Any towkay would feel imperial and very important if he has this luxurious Japanese MPV at his service. 

The feeling is great, whether the towkay is the CEO of an MNC, the most enterprising person in an SME (small & medium enterprise), a sole proprietor who is private and limited, or a self-employed contractor in the private-hire/car-rental sector. 

On the throne seat of the Vellfire, any businessman is the emperor of the business in question, or the empress if it’s a businesswoman. From where they’re seated and wherever they’re headed, the world of commerce is their oyster, and they can afford to order Jumbo Seafood every day.

Speaking of jumbo, the Vellfire is a large vehicle. At over five metres in length, it would stick out of a typical HDB carpark space. This MPV is taller than every SUV in the Toyota + Lexus model range and almost as lofty as the last Land Cruiser. The Vellfire’s wheelbase stretches to three metres, which is only about half a Japanese-chopstick shorter than the long wheelbase of the Lexus LS limousine. 

Towkays who want an even larger and plusher Vellfire can get the Lexus LM, which further upgrades the onboard experience from ANA business class to first class (ANA stands for All Nippon Auto in this case) and charges a quarter-million dollars more for the privilege of travelling in the ultimate Tokyo limo bus for the really rich.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703941973854 D38 V1351 Fotor

There is a Leng Kee urban legend that the big boss of a multi-brand automotive company, who has a fleet of luxury saloons and upscale SUVs at his disposal, is usually in the second row of his trusty Alphard when travelling between meetings. 

I don’t know how true that story is, but I do know that the new Vellfire here, which is essentially a fancier Alphard (Alpharder?), is a bento boxcar fit for an emperor, ideally with a professional driver behind the wheel. 

Driving the Vellfire, I feel a strange urge to wear white gloves and a cheap suit from Uniqlo, or perhaps a cheaper suit from Mustafa for this low-budget beng. I even feel like combing my hair before leaving my home and hitting the road.

Actually, I don’t “hit” the road in the Vellfire, because it goes gently over the tarmac like there are magical tatami mats between the undercarriage and the blacktop to block noise, absorb vibration and possibly make the immediate surroundings more Zen, regardless of religion. 

The ride on 225/55 R19 tyres is pillowy and peaceful, except over poorly paved/repaved road surfaces, which not only challenge every chassis without air suspension, but also hammer Singapore’s reputation for smooth roads. The Vellfire’s TNGA platform, by the way, is said to make the newcomer 50 percent more rigid than the previous third-gen model, which would enhance refinement, stability and collision safety.

The Vellfire is a smooth operator helping the chauffeur to provide the passengers with a smooth journey and hopefully encourage them to give a good tip/rating/compliment.  

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703942054003 D38 V1317 FotorVellfire's handling is A+ by Hiace standards and B+ (bus plus) by Harrier standards.

It’s a modern 2.5-litre hybrid whose automatic petrol-electric transitions are refined enough to just let the driver know they’re happening and leave the passengers largely unawares en route. But every request for power with a firm prod of the accelerator would get the four-cylinder engine working noticeably, like a reticent shogun called into action by his master - he is not happy about it, but gets a move on. 

There is an EV mode button to make the car run as a temporarily electric vehicle, but only if there is enough juice in the battery, the speed is slow enough and the drivetrain load is low. In certain places, such as carparks or driveways, this opportunistic driving mode might provide some relief to pedestrians nearby who are breathing in Vellfired air from the exhaust pipe. 

The more fortunate folks inside the Vellfire cabin can breathe easy, because Panasonic’s nanoe X ion generator has been combined with the three-zone climate control system to provide conditioned, cool and clean air. 

They can sleep easily, too, especially the two VIPs seated in the captain’s chairs of the second row. These are true business-class seats for the road, with everything except delectable gourmet meals and attentive flight attendants to make it a great way to fly at ground level. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703942079688 D38 V1362 FotorBusiness leaders and supreme rulers alike would love these superseats.

The pair of superseats are motorised every which way, cushioned to perfection and upholstered in luxurious materials. They have integrated ventilators to cool you down and built-in massagers to limber you up, with the latter offering two levels of relaxation in Japlish - “Weakly” or “Hardly”. They also have a full set of armrests and proper ottoman footrests. 

What they don’t have are bolsters, pyjamas and bedding, and a Singapore Girl to tuck you in. 

For the Very Important Person who prefers to be working rather than sleeping, there is a foldable side table, a three-pin power socket, USB ports and personal reading lamps on standby for productive work on the go. 

To facilitate any multi-tasking, there are two dedicated remote controllers to operate the rear air-con, the two seats’ individual cooling/heating, the fascinating panoramic skylight covers, the four rear windows' slightly mesmerising roller sunshades, and the overhead lighting (which can be customised to meticulous madness, including a mind-boggling choice of 54 colours for the ceiling illumination).

Each controller also has a “Smart comfort” function with four selectable modes - Dream, Relax, Focus, Energise. These activate pre-programmed settings for the air-con and interior lighting to achieve the desired effect, with the Energise option also activating “thermal stimulation in your seat”, preferably not too close to one’s groin. 

There are several assist grips at the second row to make entry/entry through the power-sliding doorways more comfortable, especially for senior citizens and young seniors. Those handles might also come in handy to help the Energised passenger who is too thermally stimulated in his seat. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703942104080 D38 V1360 Fotor

If the second row is business class, then the third row (pictured above) is premium economy, which is still much more comfortable than the budget seating in Toyota’s other seven-seater, the sensible Sienta. 

Access through the narrow aisle between the captain’s chairs needs a bit of ninja skill, but boarding/alighting through the open doors with the big chairs electrically shifted out of the way is not too difficult, unless you happen to be chubby or clumsy.  

The headroom all the way in the back of the Vellfire remains generous, but the flip-down centre armrests are skinny affairs and the outer armrests are clad in hard plastic instead of the soft leather that adorns the armchairs in front. The air-conditioning is adequate though, the seatbacks can recline a little for a spot of lounging, and there are useful storage slots for personal effects. 

Obviously, the space back there is more comfortable for two adults than three, or kids, or pets. Each captain’s chair has 11-stage fore/aft motorised adjustment to vary the front legroom and consequent rear legroom, which is great for sharing the mobile living-room, but the unclassy clank of the seat rails at each stage affects the impression of almost-Lexus accommodation. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703942173446 D38 V1306 FotorBig, dignified and dramatic Vellfire is a hellfire in the boxy-MPV design stakes.

The Vellfire boot looks spacious enough for a major airport run or a one-week driveaway holiday, plus groceries galore. Flip down the 50:50 split-fold backseats for extra cargo space, or fold them away to the sides for extra-extra cargo space. It’s all done manually without much difficulty, although some form of power assistance would be welcome. 

The powered tailgate, an essential feature, is so big that I need plenty of clearance. Opening that epic gate anywhere is quite a spectacle for non-van owners such as myself.  

On the other end of the stowage scale, the Vellfire’s glovebox is surprisingly small - gloves and cloves would fill it up pretty quickly. The console box is much roomier and its bi-directional lid boosts usability.  

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703942215297 D38 V1366 Fotor

There are numerous other amenities to make life easier for the captain behind the wheel, whether a captain of industry paying his own way or a minibus captain earning a living. 

The 14-inch multimedia touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto keeps the driver well-informed and well-connected, without being confusing or distracting. The 15-speaker JBL hi-fi system provides excellent entertainment to make every trip an onboard concert. 

The 360-degree parking camera/sensor system is a boon to any driver, even someone already familiar with mammoth MPVs. That said, parking this imperial palace-on-wheels requires more space and time than parking a Sienta or two, and the Vellfire’s height restricts it to 2.15m carpark entrances. Speaking of parking, the IU is really far away from the driver’s seat, making the insertion/removal of a stored-value card quite tricky.  

There is real leather everywhere, fake woodgrain somewhere and Lexus-like build quality.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703942249148 D38 V1367 Fotor

Toyota’s suite of active safety aids helps to keep the Vellfire driver out of accidental trouble on the road. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is particularly useful for a car like this, destined to do a lot of mileage on expressways.    

Perhaps the only thing missing for me is a greater range of upward tilt adjustment for the steering wheel, just to complete my atas-minibus fantasy.  

I’m no towkay and I won’t be my own boss someday, but if I wish to feel imperial and very important in an MPV, I cannot do better than the emperor’s bento boxcar which is the new Toyota Vellfire Hybrid.

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1703942357382 D38 V1314 Fotor

Toyota Vellfire Hybrid 2.5
Price (at time of publishing): $395,888 including COE  VES Band: B
4-cylinder 16-valve hybrid

2,487 cc
Power & Torque:
188 bhp @ 6,000 rpm 
& 239 Nm @ 4,500 rpm
Driven Wheels:
17.24 km/L
0-100 km/h:
11.3 seconds
Top Speed:
180 km/h
Fuel Tank Capacity:
60 litres
Dimensions (L x W x H):
5,005 mm x 1,850 mm 
x 1,950 mm
3,000 mm
Cargo Capacity:
No official data

Read More: mReview: 2023 Maxus MIFA 9 - The Best Value Electric Luxury MPV

Read More: mReview: 2022 Toyota Sienta - A Sienta, But Not A Siesta

Download the Motorist App

The easiest and smartest way to manage your vehicle in Singapore.

Download Now

Download the Motorist App now. Designed by drivers for drivers, this all-in-one app lets you receive the latest traffic updates, gives you access to live traffic cameras, and helps you manage LTA and vehicle matters.

Did you know we have a Motorist Telegram Channel? Created exclusively for drivers and car owners in Singapore, you can get instant info about our latest promotions, articles, tips & hacks, or simply chat with the Motorist Team and fellow drivers.