Toyota Crown Royal Saloon

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Toyota Crown S110 Sixth Generation

1979 - 1983
6 cylinder
2.6 litre
98 kW @ 4800 rpm
3 spd. auto + ODrive
Top Speed:
175 km/h
Number Built:
1 star
Toyota Crown S110 Sixth Generation
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1

The Poor Mans Mercedes

The Crown had always been Toyota's flagship. It represented luxury, Japanese style. In the early days of Japan's emerging motor industry western eyes were assaulted by some weird and wonderful designs, most of which had little appeal. But it was the included standard kit that lured many – along with the keen pricing. By the time of the 6th generation Crown the Nippon designers had at last managed to show some restraint, almost developing a minimalist formula previously only found on European cars.

But the “Poor Mans Mercedes” was, unfortunately, just that. Once you got past the electronic wizardry and luxury additions that came standard with the Crown, all that you were left with was an overweight three box sedan of ultra conventional design and almost devoid of any driving character. Some road testers of the time even noted that, had it not been for the included “toys”, the Crown would have been arguably the most boring car then made. Boring it may have been, but it was also reasonably priced and very quiet.

Like a large set of dogs balls, the Crown’s luxury was obvious to all. Strangely though the initial cars to hit the Australian marked lacked a passenger side exterior rear vision mirror, and the driver's side mirror, though adjustable from inside, was not electrically operated. Power adjustment was also missing from the driver's seat, although it did have squab angle and lumbar support adjustment in addition to the normal fore and aft seat back angle controls.

Behind the Wheel

Inside the driving controls were well laid out. The main binnacle housed a large central speedometer with odometer and trip recorder. To its right was an electronic tachometer, red lined at 5750 rpm, but running to an optimistic 8000. To the left was a combined fuel level and water temperature gauge. A string of warning lights along the base of the binnacle doubled as checks that everything was functioning when the ignition key was turned on. A quartz digital clock was placed to the far right of the cowling which also enclosed the instrument binnacle. Radio/stereo controls and the automatic air-conditioning knobs were arranged below it.

Steering column stalks looked after three speed wiper/washers with intermittent (left) and the headlights (right). More rocker switches were located to the right of the steering column, and worked the electric radio antenna and the overdrive selection. A console mounted in the driver's door had yet more switches for the electric window lifters, rear door locks and the window lifter lock. Common to cars today, but rare at the time the Crown was launched, was a feature where all four doors locked automatically a short while after the car moved off from a standstill. There was also a courtesy light for the ignition lock to make it easier to find at night.

The air-conditioning was climate controlled. There were even independent controls for the use of rear seat passengers. A normal heater and demister system was of course provided, along with numerous air ducts to reach just about any part of the cabin. The interior trim was of a high quality. Seats were faced with velour, while vinyl and plastic wood inserts were featured in the doors. Deep pile carpeting on the floor looked good, and supplemented the reduced levels of sound penetration, along with an obviously well thought out sound deadening package. Around the roof there were grab handles and air vents.

Unfortunately the front bucket seat design is by no means as good as it looks. The squabs are relatively firm, but without sufficient shape to locate the body properly. The same goes for the front seat backrests which lack proper support for the shoulders. Indeed, despite the wide range of adjustment available, we found it difficult to attain a really comfortable seating position which stood us in good stead over a longer period of driving. Rear seats are better, and knee room is quite generous. The central arm rest can be folded to accommodate three in the back, but they'd better be small as the Royal Crown is a fairly narrow car, as was the Super Saloon before it.

Cabin storage space was varied. There was a small detachable rubbish bin that could be placed on the sidewall in the front passenger's foot well, this was in addition to a centre console cubby and a locking glove box. Ther was also a narrow parcel tray beneath the facia on the passenger's side. Front seat backrests contained pockets for the use of rear seat passengers. The designers obviously intended that the majority of luggage should be carried in the boot. And to that end, they made it large enough to take plenty of luggage, comfortably enough for four people. Better still the boot was long, wide and deep enough not to give any trouble where odd shaped packages or cases are concerned. There was a remote boot lid release within reach of the driver, as well as a remote release for the fuel filler flap.

On the Road

The 72 litre petrol tank enabled a reasonable range - around 600 kms - which we are guessing would have been plenty in Japan, but not enough for the all important Melbourne to Sydney run without having to stop. Power came from a 2.8 litre version of the straight six overhead camshaft engine used in Toyota's Super Saloon. It had an iron block and alloy head, being fed by electronic fuel injection. It delivered 98 kW of power at just 4800 rpm, with very good torque at 220 Nm at 3600 rpm. But it was still a big heavy clunker in the traditional style of most Japanese designs. In the early 1980s it seemed only Mazda were able to design and manufacture a sophisticated engine, with both Nissan and Toyota a long way behind.

The electronic injection system was controlled by an on-board computer which monitored driver demands to provide exactly the correct fuel air mixture to suit conditions. The computerised electronic injection, along with the fully transistorised ignition system tied into the same computer ensured that the engine was smooth. The transmission was basically a three speed unit and, while not advanced as the automatic transmissins found on todays cars, it was one of the first that could be manually controlled through a normal T-bar if required. Road testers were unanimous praising just how smooth and well placed the changes were.

There was a little delay when changing down manually, but otherwise it operated very well indeed. The overdrive turned the 1:1 top gear into a cruising .688 ratio, dropping rpms back by 500 rpm. The overdrive was electronic and operated by a rocker switch on the right hand side of the facia. It would have been better placed near the T bar, but at least it was there, and was a welcome addition when cruising Australia's long highways. The overdrive would only engage when your speed reached 35 km/h, at which point there was a slight jerk and the tacho needle dropped back. Once engaged, it functioned in the manner of a fourth gear - a kick down on the accelerator would cause the ratios to swap down to top or second, depending on the pressure. You couldn't engage the overdrive with your foot flat to the floor. The absolute maximum speed in overdrive was around 175 km/h in direct top.

Front suspension was by double wishbones and coil springs. At the rear there was a live axle supported on coil springs and located by a four link trailing arm system. A sway bar featured at the rear, but otherwise the chassis was much the same as in the Super Saloon, including the same wheelbase. The Super Saloon's rear drum brakes had been replaced by discs however, to help stop the vehicle with its additional 60 kgs all up weight. Once on the road the Crown delivered a soft slinky ride. Some road testers noted that it was so soft, there was hardly any real road feel at all. Even so, over sharp ridges the suspension could be caught out and impact harshness could be felt.

Though the speed sensitive power steering reduced effort, it was unfortunately linked to a recirculating ball system - long after everyone outside Nippon had learnt the brilliance of rack-and-pinion. Why the Japanese stuck to this system for so long is anyones guess, particularly given the Crown featured all the usual characteristics - vague,and requiring constant correction. If you unfortunate to encounter a cross wind things went from bad to worse - making it almost impossible to keep the car in a straight line. This vaguesness combined with the soft suspension prevented the driver having any real confidence at higher speeds. The Super Saloon did have an additional sway bar to help reduce the problem.

The steering was not the only problem. The Crown would roll way too much during cornering, and pitch severley under heavy braking. This was not the formula for a drivers car. There were four wheel disc brakes - and under normal conditions they were very good - but in emergency braking weight transfers to the front resulted in the rear wheels locking together, pitching the whole car sideways violently. Enough with the pessimism. On a straight bit of tarmac the Crown did edge back a degree of a respect. Despite a hulking mass, its acceleration figures were very good, moving off from a standstill to 100 km/h in a touch over 12.5 seconds. The standing start 400 metres would come in at 18.7 seconds. Those figures were well ahead of the previous Super Saloon with its 2.6 litre carburettor engine. The could can be said of fuel consumption. The older model managed 14 litres/100 kms compared with 13.3 litres/100 kms of the bigger unit.

We mentioned at the start of this article that the Toyota Crown was the poor mans Mercedes. Or maybe BMW. It probably did have these two marques in its sights, but at the time the Japanese manufacturers were still some way off. The Crown was certainly no Lexus, so it was never going to pose any serious threat to the Germans. But it was a good car - steering and suspension setup aside. Perhaps the problem with the Crown was that it was pretending to be something that it wasn't. It was true that it had some of the best characteristics of your comfy loungeroom chair - but based on capability alone it was not the car for anyone who enjoyed their driving. For those that liked the idea of driving their lounge on the road, it was perfect. Better still, it represented exceptional value. But there were better options out there, even if you ignored the Germans. GMH and Ford offered world class luxury cars, and Volvo had a range that you would enjoy driving.

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