Toyota has Bentley in its sights as it reportedly looks to spin off its long-running Century nameplate as a standalone luxury car brand to sit above Lexus.
An executive from Toyota told Forbes at the Tokyo Auto Salon that the company plans to expand the sale of its Century sedan and SUV models to the global market and sell them under a standalone Century brand name.
“The Century will actually be positioned above the Lexus brand as an extra luxurious brand,” the executive told Forbes.
They confirmed Toyota is targeting markets outside Japan and is currently in the process of establishing its global positioning.
Forbes’ source didn’t go into detail on how many countries will get access to the newcomer brand but did confirm it will be available in both left- and right-hand drive markets in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas.
The source also confirmed the Century SUV will be offered to buyers as a fully customisable vehicle similar to the likes of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley.
Buyers can reportedly opt for a standard Century SUV which will set them back around US$170,000 (A$258,800) or reach for a top-spec bespoke build for around US$220,000 (A$334,600) like the Century SUV GRMN.
Toyota reportedly has plans to refer to its Century SUV globally as the Century while its four-door saloon sibling will adopt the Century Sedan name.
The Century SUV debuted in September 2023 and has been showcased in a number of guises, including a GR Sport with rear doors that slide like those of a people mover, as well as a four-door convertible.
More recently at the Tokyo Auto Salon, the brand revealed a GRMN (Gazoo Racing Meister of Nurburgring) prototype which belongs to Toyota chairman and former CEO Akio Toyoda.
The prototype features a rail-less power sliding door, and revised suspension to keep the SUV stable and flat during cornering.
According to Forbes, the bespoke Century SUV GRMN prototype – should it reach the production line – could wear the Morizo Edition badge. It will reportedly set customers back around US$200,000 (A$304,400) and thus far is the highest spec version of the luxury SUV to be revealed.
The Century SUV is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain with a total system output of 303kW of power. This is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and an eFour all-wheel drive system.
It’s the same powertrain setup as the recently revealed Lexus TX550h+, which is a luxurious version of the left-hand drive-only Toyota Grand Highlander. The Century SUV shares its platform with these models.
Toyota claims the Century SUV has an electric range of up to 69km on the Japanese WLTC test cycle. When the battery is depleted it has an average hybrid fuel consumption of 7.0L/100km.
The current Century sedan – only the third generation since the nameplate’s debut in 1967 – debuted in 2018.
It rides a different, rear-wheel drive platform and features a hybrid V8 powertrain.