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.
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...
There’s a multi-function colour touch-screen
incorporating a (Japanese frequency) television, compass, audio controls and
A fridge in the parcel shelf...
Roof mounted rear HVAC outlets with dedicated
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
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.
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.
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’.
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!
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