"Deru kugi wa utareru," a Japanese proverb, translates to "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." It speaks to the culture found in the country soaked in tradition and conservatism.
The very notion of standing out and being different is flabbergasting. So how does one travel in the lap of luxury if a Rolls-Royce, Bentley or Maybach is too opulent and excessive? Perhaps, the Toyota Century could be a more fitting ride.
The Century is the flagship luxury sedan for Toyota of Japan and is sold exclusively at hand-selected stores throughout Japan. Toyota chose the name to pay homage to the 100th birthday of Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Loom Works and its subsidiary group of companies such as Toyota Motor Corporation that his son Kiichiro started.
The limousine received a significant redesign for its second-generation available from 1997 - 2017, making it the first large-scale update since the cars' inception in 1967. Each Century is assembled at Toyota's Shizuoka Plant. Many of the body lines were carried over and softened to modernized the ultra-luxury sedan.
Asides from a few robots that help marry the body panels together, the rest of the processes including painting and polishing each car (like the Super Black and Light Grayish Blue Mica featured) are all done by hand from skilled craftsmen. Being a limousine, the Century is filled with creature comforts meant to rival the world's best luxury sedans.
Entering the rear cabin through the soft-close doors, you're greeted with an interior fitted with Merino Wool rather than leather (due to the amount of noise leather can make, which is perceived as rude). Vehicles destined for taxicab liveries tend to be fitted with grey leather instead for ease of cleaning and maintenance.
The rear seat is power reclining and massaging, which also incorporates a center console that drops out and houses climate control and a tape recorder for noting essential details. The front passenger seat center can also turn into a footrest for the rear seat occupant to really stretch their legs out. Rear occupants have the option of a television with an accompanying VHS player for entertainment.
Powering the limousine is a very special engine. The 1GZ-FE, a 5.0-litre all-aluminum V12 equipped with dual overhead camshafts. It features Toyota's variable valve timing system with intelligence (VVT-i) and individual engine control modules for each bank of cylinders. The forty-eight valve twelve-cylinder produces 295hp and 355lb/ft of torque. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels by an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.
As a limousine, comfort is of the utmost importance. With that in mind, the Century is equipped with air springs and multi-link geometry suspension all around with many components borrowed from the Lexus LS/Toyota Celsior (UCF30). Braking is handled by 4-piston and 2-piston fixed aluminum calipers and vented discs all around to ensure the 1,990kg (4,390lb) sedan comes to a stop when needed.
The Century has solidified itself as a status symbol without the "look at me, I'm rich" persona and that's something we can get behind, or rather be in the back seat of.