The Toyota Century has always been a quiet car. Dead quiet. Silent. The kind of car for a captain of industry to relax in after a long day on the job. Or for a Yakuza boss to slink around the seedier parts of Osaka after a, um, long day on the job. At least, that used to be the case.
Now, with this TOM’S Century, it’s becoming clear that the Japanese ultra-luxury sedan market has turned a corner. The near-silent ride on special cloth seats behind lace curtains in the back of a Century has been supplanted. By tuner cars.
About a year ago, we were introduced to a new kind of Toyota Century when Toyota President
Morizo Akio Toyoda rolled up to a track event in a white one that had been given the special treatment by his in-house tuning and motorsports crew, Gazoo Racing. This car, the GRMN Century, was eventually officially revealed shortly after at the 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon along with a black twin. Mesh grille, body kit, and special wheels fitted, the cars looked the part but were reportedly unchanged underneath from their more buttoned-up production siblings. Still, the fact that these cars had any sporting pretensions whatsoever (even if they were only skin-deep) represented a stark departure from any production Century we had seen before.
Not that it really mattered that much, though. Those two cars were prototypes. No production GRMN Centurys (Centuries?) have been built so far, so if you were looking to get yourself into the decidedly Japanese Rolls-Royce alternative, your only option was a standard one, lace curtains and all.
At least until now. TOM’S, another factory-backed shop known for its Supra race cars as well as its aftermarket parts for many models in the Toyota stable, has finally put together a tuned Century that you can buy even if you’re not the president of the goddamned company. Well, if you’re one of the first 36 in line, at least, according to Autoblog.
Aside from being available for purchase, the TOM’S Century has something that the GRMN version didn’t get. It’s got an upgraded exhaust system that should do something to boost the sounds, if not the performance put out by the Lexus LS-derived hybrid drivetrain that sits under the Century. That’s in addition to some suspension tweaks and the requisite body kit and new wheels, of course.
I’m not personally enamored with the look, to be honest. I like the understated approach Toyota has long taken with the stock Century, and GRMN’s take at what a high-performance version seemed to do a lot more for me than this one. Maybe it’s the wheels. They’re a little… early ‘00s for my taste, I think.
Still, it’s a lot of fun to see a car that has long been the mainstay of the ultra-serious, ultra-successful elite of Japan gain a sense of humor. I’m here for that, even if the closest I’ll ever get to the hallowed back seat of one of these is probably chopped up in the trunk after saying the wrong thing to a bouncer in a Shibuya pub.