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Crown Jewel

The top-of-the-line grey import V8 Toyota Crown rivals many of today's super-saloons - but cost just AUD$2900!

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • Unbelievable equipment level
  • Smooth 1UZ-FE V8
  • Genuinely jaw-dropping value!
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Here’s an unlikely match-up!

In one corner we have a brand new Audi A8 – an AUD$200,000-odd German-built machine that’s widely considered the best car in the world. And in the opposite corner, fighting way above its class, is the Toyota Crown V8 – an unloved 16 year old deportee from Japan. Both are luxury saloons, both have quad-cam V8 power, adjustable suspension systems and an equipment list that extends to televisions, sub-woofer sound systems and electronic doodads galore.

But the big difference is the Crown costs just AUD$2900 plus ADR-ing – barely one percent the price of the Audi! Ding-ding - it’s a knockout before Round One even begins!

Of course, the big Audi is from another planet when it comes to safety, emissions, all-wheel-drive handling, styling and a whole list of other things, but the similarities in size, creature-comforts and engine performance can’t be ignored. The top-line Crown V8 is a stunningly comfortable and well equipped vehicle.

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We’ll forget about the Toyota 4-litre V8 for a moment and focus on the dizzying number of features found aboard the Crown. Features like power windows/mirrors, central locking, trip computer, electric seats, CD player, driver’s airbag, cruise and climate control fall under the ‘d-uh’ category but check out these...

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There’s a multi-function colour touch-screen incorporating a (Japanese frequency) television, compass, audio controls and more....

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A fridge in the parcel shelf...

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Roof mounted rear HVAC outlets with dedicated temperature controls...

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And then there are individually electric reclining rear seats, oscillating dashboard vents, an electric retractable steering column and a Soarer-style 3D digital dashboard. The whole cabin is trimmed in velour and the shag-pile carpet mats are so thick you feel like breaking out the lawnmower. Oh, and don’t overlook these classy seat doilies – somebody actually paid for them!

All this and, remember, it’s just AUD$2900 plus ADR-ing...

Unfortunately, the Crown feels pretty old-school on the road. The power assisted steering is slow and vague (not helped by the standard 70-series tyres) and the ride is much lumpier than we’d expect. However, our test car had a problem with its airbag suspension system which caused the bum-down stance seen in our photos. A pair of in-cabin switches let you select a Normal or Sport ride and a Normal or High ride height – neither were operating during our drive. Handling is not a strong point and the rear of our test car was upset by mid corner bumps. Switchable traction control comes standard. The four wheel disc brakes are decently powerful and feature ABS though the pedal of our test car was quite soft. A foot operated handbrake makes maximum space available on the centre console.

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Despite now being around 16 years old, the Crown V8’s quad-cam 1UZ-FE can still be regarded a smooth and refined engine with plenty of power. Quoted output is 191kW at 5400 rpm and 353Nm at 4600 rpm on premium unleaded. Our test car had a broken exhaust system which seemed to let the 4-litre donk breathe easier and performance was quite strong – definitely better than the twin-turbo or supercharged 1G 2-litre Crown models. Despite weighing almost 1700kg, the V8 Crown feels like a 9 second 0 – 100 km/h performer – comparable to a contemporary Lexus LS400, which uses the same engine. On paper, the 1UZ is now showing its age – it doesn’t have variable cam timing, electronic throttle control or even a variable intake manifold. And, although well matched to the engine, the standard four-speed auto is missing a ratio or two in today’s context. Its manual Power/Economy and Overdrive buttons are also quite old fashioned.

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It’s got pillar-less doors and attractive pearl paint but there’s not much more that can be said about the Crown’s appearance. The huge taillights are reminiscent of those on a Ford ZL Fairlane, the grille is fussy, the 14 inch alloy wheels look like ‘70s hubcaps and then there are those ghastly add-on chrome weather guards. Still, our test car got us thinking about the Crown’s potential – some low-rider adjustable hydraulic suspension (if you’re really P-I-M-P), dark tint and a hard-edged exhaust bark wouldn’t hurt! Oh, and you’d definitely want some aftermarket wire wheels and white-walls as the finishing touch! C-o-o-l...

If this is your kind of cool, you should check your bank balance now because, at AUD$2900, this is possibly the world’s best buy. YahooMotorsport current has two Crown V8s left and, due to last year’s import regulation changes, there won’t be any more arriving. But be aware the two cars that remain are the roughest of those that were imported – our 1990 test car needed suspension work, a new battery (the damn thing kept cutting out!), a thorough body and interior detail and the necessary work for ADR compliance under the now defunct ’15 year old rule’.

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For maybe five grand registered and ready to go, you can consider yourself King of the road in the top-line Crown. Just make sure you keep a hundred bucks stored on the glovebox – you can pass it to the owner of the A8 who pulls alongside because they’ll surely need it!

Parts Treasure Chest!

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If you’re not keen on driving a Crown V8 you might be interested in purchasing one purely for parts. For AUD$2900, you get the engine, transmission, diff, fuel pump and you can be assured there’s all the electronics required for a conversion. Then there’s the airbag suspension which you might be able to experiment with, the fridge, digital dash (seen here) television and touch screen, the electric reclining rear seats, some decent size brakes, the list goes on!


YahooMotorsport 0416 080462

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