Toyota Cressida MX63
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The second generation Cressida, the MX63, was a significant redesign from the previous generation. Gone was the coupe version, but a more up-to-date body style was new for the sedan and wagon. Changes from the previous generation included a larger engine, now up to 116 hp (87 kW) thanks to the use of electronic fuel injection. The 5M-E would power the 1981
models before it was superseded by the 5M-GE, a DOHC engine with a substantially higher power rating, 143 hp (107 kW) in 1983
and 156 hp (116 kW) in 1984
Thanks to (then) AMI Chief Designer Alan Rutherford, Toyota Cressida's bound for Australia combined many of the Crown's attributes, but thankfully did not remove the driver from what was happening on the road, which, for our money, made it a better car. Rutherford and his staff had been telling Toyota HQ for years that Australian road conditions were not the same as those in the USA, and more to the point, Australians did not want their cars to handle with all the grace of a land based aircraft carrier.
To make the Cressida appealing to the driver, Australian Toyotas needed unique suspension
specifications, rather than just copping whatever the Japanese designers figured was suitable for the USA. In the case of the Cressida that thinking extended to different front end styling too. Though based on the superseded model, the 1980/1981 version was different in almost every respect other than in wheelbase dimensions. It was longer, wider, higher and had a wider track front and rear. Full advantage of these increased dimensions had been taken to produce a high quality interior package which was slightly more roomy than the Holden Commodore
The front suspension
was still by MacPherson struts although geometry, springs, damper rates and a sway bar helped overcome the vagueness of the recirculating ball steering with its variable ratio power assistance. At the rear the four link coil sprung live axle was located far better by means of a Panhard rod and a sway bar tuned to reduce natural understeer. Wheels were half an inch wider than before and were fitted with 185 steel radials in place of the 175. Disc front and drum rear brakes
The Cressida’s engine and four speed automatic transmission
was exactly the same as for the Crown. The engine was the sweet spinning 2.8 litre straight six, which was an increased bore version of Toyota’s previous 2.6 litre unit. It was fuel injected and offered a 22 kW power increase with 98 kW at 4800 rpm. There was also a 34 Nm increase in torque but at a higher 3600 rpm. While there was a choice of manual or automatic transmission in the old Cressida, this X50 model came only with the auto box, but it was the one with the popular .688 overdrive fourth ratio. First, second and third ratios were exactly as before.
The 4 speed Toyota auto
was a fully fledged four speed unit in design, rather than a three speed with an overdrive addition. The overdrive
actuating switch was thus a cut-out. With overdrive off, this switch prevented the box changing into fourth - it was as simple as that! The only thing that stopped the Cressida from being better in terms of acceleration was the taller 3.727 final drive ratio as compared with the previous models 3.909 type. While this allowed remarkably quiet high speed cruising, it did make initial acceleration somewhat leisurely for a car with this power to weight ratio. All up weight was reasonable at 1235 kgs considering the high level of luxury equipment fitted. Zero to 100 km/h would clock in at around 12.5 seconds.
Inside the Cressida
As far as the equipment level was concerned, virtually everything then available in a car came as standard kit. There were tinted windows with electric winders front and rear, central door locking, an AM/FM stereo cassette player with four speakers and an electric antenna. Full instrumentation included an electric digital clock, the usual speedo
and tacho combination, with 4 gauges set 2 each side covering temp, alternator, oil and fuel. Useful items such as a remote boot lid release and a fuel flap remote control were also standard, while the switch for the overdrive fourth gear was located on the centre console rather than being widely separated from the T bar shifter as it was on the Crown. Adjustable front seat head rests, map lights and power steering were all included. The boot could carry plenty of luggage, but Toyota didn’t forget to include storage space in the cabin too. There was a lockable glove box and a parcel shelf on the passenger side under the facia. Map pockets were included in both front doors and there were pockets for the use of rear seat passengers in both front seat backs. There was also a lidded bin in the centre console.
Extensive Standard Equipment
But despite the extensive list of standard equipment, there were some options available. These included two types of air-conditioning
. The cheapest of these, at A$753, was manually operated. For $1200 the Royal Crown's automatic unit was available, but only in the sedan. Again only in respect of the sedan, an electrically operated sun roof cost A$700. There was even a hi-fi radio cassette player complete with graphic equaliser for an extra $250. Base price for the Cressida sedan at release was A$12,600. With its slightly lower level of opulence, the wagon cost a little less at A$12,300. The wagon featured the coil spring suspension rather than leaf springs of the superseded Cressida wagon. Spring rates and shock absorber settings differed from the Sedan, however, to cater for the wide variation in loads.
The Cressida would never set your heart alight behind the wheel if you wanted to punt it hard from time to time. To even approach any form of spirited driving you would need to keep the engine on the boil as much as possible. If allowed to die down too much, relatively slow acceleration could be something of a problem. That apart, handling, although in the understeer category, was very predictable. Driven sideways (which Cressidas seldom would be) the tail could be hung a long way and still be brought back from the brink without too much trouble. Because of the work Alan Rutherford and his team at Toyota completed on the springs and suspension generally, the ride was necessarily reasonably firm, but by no means harsh. This provided very stable high speed cornering with little or no tendency for the car to skip around over undulations. Although it was possible to experience a measure of impact harshness in the cabin, it was thankfully very rare.
New Zealand Cressida's
The Cressida was assembled in New Zealand initially only with a two-litre, four cylinder petrol engine and five-speed manual or optional three-speed automatic transmission. In 1983
, the Cressida was refreshed and gained an independent semi-trailing link rear suspension, rear vented disc brakes, and the 5M-GE engine. The technology came from the Toyota Supra parts bin with minor differences. A 5-speed manual transmission was available, but cars equipped with it were considerably more rare than automatic versions. The electronically-controlled A43DE automatic transmission was another improvement over the previous hydraulically-controlled A43DL transmission and had three modes: Power, Normal, and Economy. This iteration was praised for its handling, ride, quiet interior, and most of all, its reliability; the Cressida was quickly gaining a reputation for outstanding ownership.
The F1 Project
In August 1983
Toyota chairman Eiji Toyoda initiated the F1 project ("Flagship" and "No. 1 vehicle"; alternatively called the "Circle-F" project), a clandestine effort aimed at producing a world-class luxury sedan for international markets.This led to the creation of an all new, full size luxury sedan designed for export markets and was called the Lexus LS. US federal law for seatbelt and safety regulations saw the introduction of automatic seat belts which consisted of a motorized shoulder-belt that was deployed in the closed position when the door was closed and the ignition on.
The Cressida was the first car produced with the motorized shoulder belts as standard equpiment on every vehicle. The belts would be installed on all Cressidas in the United States from 1981
on. After this mid-life facelift, a mid-grade specification similar to the original one-model line was offered on New Zealand assembled models with the four-cylinder engine; a new top version had a two-litre six-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic and air-conditioning
, becoming the first Kiwi-built Toyota to have 'air' as standard. A large number of the four cylinder cars with dealer-fit air were sold to car hire company Hertz. Both engines were sub-two litres to avoid high sales taxes on larger engines that applied in New Zealand at the time.