2024 Toyota Crown Limited: a long day’s journey into meh

LEGS FOR DAYS The 2024 Toyota Crown sedan (seen here in Limited trim) is powered by a 2.5-liter hybrid engine and three electric motors, including one on the rear axle, providing on-demand all-wheel drive. Averaging 41 mpg, the Crown can travel about 600 miles between fill-ups.  (Toyota)
LEGS FOR DAYS The 2024 Toyota Crown sedan (seen here in Limited trim) is powered by a 2.5-liter hybrid engine and three electric motors, including one on the rear axle, providing on-demand all-wheel drive. Averaging 41 mpg, the Crown can travel about 600 miles between fill-ups. (Toyota)


With a hybrid powertrain, the Crown boasts a remarkable 600-mile range, but its compromises in materials and amenities are conspicuous in a vehicle that can run more than 50 grand.

RANGE ANXIETY is not just for EV owners anymore. The number of gasoline retailers in the U. S.—gas stations—has fallen by almost a third since 1991, driven off the map by rising real-estate costs and faltering profits, among many factors.

If gas stations are getting few and far between in your world—or if the germy delights of the typical refueling experience have worn thin—Toyota would like to suggest its 2024 Crown. Under that dromedary-like hump is a veritable camel, a large family sedan offering up to 600 miles of range, thanks to its super-efficient hybrid powertrain and non-trivial gas tank (14.5 gallons). The average driver would only need to visit a gas retailer two or three times a month. You even could skip this year’s tetanus shot.

Introduced in 2023 as a replacement for the normcore Avalon, the Crown recycles a decades-old nameplate that has been affixed to a wild diversity of Toyotas, from sports coupes to limousines to pickups. The latest Crown is none of the above, but a crossover fastback sedan. Or maybe a fullback?

Mine feels like a minority opinion of the Crown’s big-and-husky styling. I love it. The proportions are strong, the silhouette is quick, the pica-thin lighting details over the headlamps and taillamps smart and well drawn. The overall form does seem a bit taut at the surface, like the skin of an overfed cetacean. The top-of-the-line Platinum package is available in two-tone paint schemes, including black and white. I trust that is referred to internally as the Free Willy package.

I drove the borrowed Crown Limited ($50,020, as tested) around for days and nights on end, like the Flying Dutchman, trying to make a respectable dent in its fuel supply; but at 38 mpg, observed, it took ages. I was often hungry, lonely and bored. More than once I found myself riffing lyrics to the Peter, Paul and Mary folk hit “500 Miles." I’m Mary.

Among legacy automakers Toyota has pushed back hardest against vehicle electrification, arguing that in the near term, hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains offer a shorter path to decarbonization than tailpipe bans and EV mandates. Part of Toyota’s argument rests on the assumption that hybrid technology’s lower costs accelerate market acceptance.

But rather than becoming cheaper over time, Toyota’s hybrid tech remains costly. In the last year of the Avalon (2022), for example, the base model XLE started at $37,400, with delivery; the hybrid upgrade added $975, to make it $38,375. The 2024 Crown XLE, with effectively the same Prius-like powertrain, starts at $41,445—a $3,070 bump. Why must saving money be so expensive?

The Crown’s price point suggests an impending moment in the new-car market when ships pass in the night. Notwithstanding its desert-crossing range, the Crown’s performance and efficiency is no match for a comparably priced Tesla Model Y. But the Toyota does have one archaic virtue: It burns gasoline. One day Americans may have to pay extra for the privilege.

In XLE and Limited trim, the Crown is powered by a naturally aspirated, Atkinson cycle 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine (184 hp), with two electric motors entrained in the continuously variable transmission (CVT); a third electric motor between the rear wheels acts independently to provide coordinated all-wheel drive. This is all fairly standard Toyota hybrid brilliance. In fact, the Crown relies on a 1.2-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery rather than one with lithium-ion cells. Why? I suspect for the same reason Chernobyl reactors had a positive void coefficient: Because it’s cheaper.

Unlike Toyota’s Prius Prime or RAV4 Prime, the Crown is not available with a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option. That may be in the plans.

In daily driving and striving, the Crown’s hybrid system maintains a grim, tight-lipped efficiency whenever possible, gliding along on the electric motors to save gas and range. The Crown often behaves exactly like any EV. When conditions and demand do require the engine for any length of time—for example, the first start of the morning or when overtaking on the highway—things can get pretty shouty. The CVT transmission’s effortful wind-ups and wind-downs were breaking my heart.

For those who like the Crown’s regal presence but are over saving the planet, Toyota offers the Platinum trim package, powered by a turbocharged, hybrid-hyped 2.4-liter four-cylinder, putting out a combined 340 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. The huffier engine is mated with a six-speed wet-plate transmission in place of the CVT. That makes quite a difference, shaving a couple seconds off the car’s 0-60 mph pace. Fuel economy plummets predictably, to 30 mpg, combined.

The Crown’s thrift costs in other ways that are conspicuous in a vehicle that can top 50 grand. The trunk lid doesn’t have power closure; up front, the hood lacks support struts but instead has a fold-out prop. The glove box latches with an undamped rattle. Many touchable sections of the cabin are cast in hard plastic; those parts wrapped in soft-touch materials didn’t feel all that padded. Amenities such as a head-up display that are merely competitive at this price point are MIA.

Our test car—built in Toyota’s flagship factory at Tsutsumi—suffered from wind noise at highway speeds, coming from around the windshield pillars and side-mirror pods. Crosswinds could cause turbulent sounds to slip past the windows’ weatherstripping. It must be noted that the low-level whistling could have stood out against the Crown’s generally hushed cabin ambience.

Anyway, if you absolutely hate gas stations, or if you just want to spend up to 12 hours of uninterrupted quality time with your bladder, this car is for you. Fill ’er up.

2024 Toyota Crown Limited

Price, as tested: $50,020

Powertrain: Naturally aspirated 2.5-liter DOHC inline-four engine, two AC synchronous electric motors, with three-mode, continuously variable transmission; rear-mounted independent AC motor (54 hp) providing coordinated all-wheel drive.

Combined system output: 236 hp

Length/wheelbase/width/height: 196.1/112.2/72.4/60.6 inches

Curb weight: 3,980 pounds

0-60 mph: 7.2 seconds (Car and Driver)

EPA fuel economy: 42/41/41 mpg

Cargo volume: 15.2 cubic feet

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