Come on, Toyota, Don't Keep the Century SUV Just for Japan, Give It to the World!

There were quite a lot of cool novelties across the automotive industry shown by carmakers over the past week or so, albeit none of them were more intriguing than Toyota's new Century SUV - a model with normal or sliding rear doors!
Toyota Century SUV and others - opinion 10 photos
Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinionToyota Century SUV and others - opinion
I was on vacation with the kids during the first days of September because we love to road trip when the summer holiday rush is almost over – just ahead of the first days of school. So, I didn't do my usual survey of the final week of August's novelties – but I will try to compensate now with a review of the first days of September.

They say that the first month of fall is when you start reaping the benefits of year-long investments, but the automakers started early in 2023 and gave us a wonderous August. It had something for everyone – Land Cruiser, Santa Fe, 2025 Escalade IQ, the Monterey Car Week, a new Alfa supercar, and even some camper-focused events both in Germany and across the big pond (aka the Atlantic Ocean) in the United States.

No worries, there's much left for this first month of fall, too – IAA Mobility 2023 and also the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, plus many others, are looming. But the first days show that we must brace ourselves for a tidal wave of novelties across all four corners of Earth. The first significant introduction was, of course, the 2024 Tesla Model 3 'Highland,' which is finally official with a slightly enhanced new face, additional things to worry about inside the cabin, and many other mods requested by the fan base.

I reckon it will sell well but probably not as much as the Tesla Model Y, which kind of seems like a more comprehensive package – and call me outdated, but I still want to rely on physical controls for the most essential functions of a car. Sheesh, I feel like a 20th-century-old man saying that, but I can't wrap my head around a touchscreen doing absolutely everything in a vehicle. What if a kid breaks it in the middle of nowhere?! Well, mine are at least old enough to laugh at the idea of bundling everything into just one place, with almost no plan B in sight! Moving on, we remain in the realm of EVs because BMW AG continues to believe in MINI's star, even if their prices have alienated way too many old-school Mini fans.

Now they have an excuse for those high MSRPs with the third generation MINI Countryman that's larger, sleeker, smarter, much more minimalist, and electrified – if you want to. And there's even double choice in the batter department, thanks to the Countryman E and SE All4. Oh, wait, they also bundled most stuff on the dashboard's central screen – and it's a round one! I hope it's more reliable than Tesla's track record.

Plus, it didn't come alone – the 2025 MINI Cooper also came out to the presentation party with its own two electric variants, including the 215-hp Cooper SE. With that in mind, let's get ICEy a little – in the most exotic way possible, thanks to Bizzarrini's Giotto, a naturally aspirated, V12-powered wonder of a hypercar that Giorgetto Giugiaro himself penned. If you want China stuff, we have them too, including the local version of the Ford Ranger mid-size pickup truck starting from just $22k and the Zeekr 001 FR.

Toyota Century SUV and others \- opinion
Photo: Toyota
The latter is a crazy contraption with 1,265 horsepower – more than the Tesla Model S Plaid and the Lucid Air Sapphire offer. However, I bet none of them will see it ready to duke it out at the local quarter-mile dragstrip in America – what a wasted opportunity to go berserk at the sight of something ugly that disappears past the ET and trap speed pole in a jiffy! Speaking of the US, there were some 2024 model year updates for the Murano, Dodge Durango, and Chrysler Pacifica (are they still making that minivan?!), but I don't care enough about them to delve any further into their subjects.

Instead, I do like the W124-series 2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain because it's a proper alternative to both station wagons and crossovers – and I could even live with the myriad of little stars in the glossy grille plus the bigger ones in the taillights if I didn't know any better that the E 450 with 375 hp and mild hybrid (62 mph sprint is done in 4.6 seconds with Boost function) would cost an arm and a leg when brawling with the Audi A6 Allroad and Volvo V90 Cross Country.

While some automakers are careful to add as many battery-powered models as they can, Toyota still thinks hydrogen will save the planet – and I secretly hope that occurs before we run out of precious metals to create battery packs and before the planet becomes a heap of junk covered in cells, like in Wall-E. In other news, Jeep bid farewell to its Gladiator model in Europe with the FarOut final edition; the Citroen C5 X Hypnos is the French brand's PHEV cruiser, while Land Rover presented a 23-unit special run of the Defender 110 in honor of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Oh, and Ford also unleashed the Mustang Mach-E Rally, in case you wanted to play with something other than a Lambo Huracan Sterrato or Porsche 911 Dakar in the dirt behind your secluded mansion. Meanwhile, James Cameron didn't release a new Avatar installment, and nobody made any typo (unless I missed one or two in my article!) with the Avatr 12, which brings the Chinese brand to Europe with up to 570 horsepower (Huawei dual-motor setup) and a 94.5-kWh cell-to-pack ternary lithium-ion battery pack supplied by CATL.

If it sounds like an espionage flick, remember it's not my fault. Finally, last but not least, I want to talk about the elephant in the Japanese bonsai shop – Toyota's Century SUV. It was launched to universal awe, wonder, or appalment as a chauffeur-ready alternative to the Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan, Aston Martin DBX, Lambo Urus, BMW XM, Ferrari Purosangue, and all the other ultra-luxury crossover SUVs out there. And it's so darn quirky and outstanding that I really hope Toyota will be wise enough to try and sell it outside of its home market of Japan, where the Century sedan remains an exclusive offering.

Sure, some will say it's like a $170k dumbphone in the world of touchscreen smartphones. Well, I say they are only half right. It's not a Cullinan, for sure. But it's also not a Nokia 3310 but rather a 'featurephone' of the world of automobiles – something that retains the form factor of earlier generations of models but can still provide access to all the things you take for granted in an ultra-luxury SUV these days. Besides, it's so quirky it's absolutely cute, and I bet the American aftermarket realm would jump at the chance of playing with this thing and giving the Cullinans and Uruses a run for their customization and personalization money!

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About the author: Aurel Niculescu
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Aurel has aimed high all his life (literally, at 16 he was flying gliders all by himself) so in 2006 he switched careers and got hired as a writer at his favorite magazine. Since then, his work has been published both by print and online outlets, most recently right here, on autoevolution.
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