Before Lexus, Toyota built luxury cars — the Mark II, Cressida, Chaser, and Cresta, essentially the same vehicle with different names. A mid-sized sedan competing with Mercedes, Volvo, and other "non American" vehicles, the Cressida was brought out in 1973 for domestic use, and was only sold outside of Japan starting in 1977. The Cressida name disappeared in 1992 (earlier in the US), though production of the basic vehicle under other names continued into the 21st century. Substantial changes were made to the Cressida on a four-year schedule.
The Cressida used the same straight-six engine and rear wheel drive components as the Toyota Supra in the United States; there were also four-cylinder, diesel, and other six-cylinder engines used over its lifespan and global distribution. Until 1981, the Cressida was available as a wagon, coupe, or sedan. The Cresta joined the Mark II and Cressida in 1981.
The 1973-76 Mark II boasted simple but elegant styling, with round quad headlights (some markets got just two headlights), soft cloth seats, high quality imitation wood in the interior, and generally high build quality with tight clearances and small gaps. Reviewers of the time noted an absence of squeak and rattles on even one-year-old test cars. Standard features included air conditioning (unusual as a standard feature at the time), automatic transmission, power steering, rear seat armrests, a stereo (again unusual), radials, reclining front seats, and a rear window defroster. Power windows were optional. Soundproofing was extensive, and the straight-six was both powerful and quiet, but gas mileage suffered, albeit not as badly as with American luxury cars of the time. Cornering was reported to be very good by standards of the times, despite a smooth ride.
In 1981, the Cressida gained a larger engine, now up to 116 horsepower and using fuel injection; it would get a substantial boost in 1983 with a dual overhead cam, pushing power up to 143 hp in 1983 and 156 hp in 1984 (the size of both 1981-82 single-cam and 1983-88 dual cam engines was 2.8 liters, or 168 cid, making for an impressive power output from a small engine.) The dual-cam six with 156 hp would remain through 1988. However, the coupe was dropped at the end of the 1980 model year (the wagon would last through 1989). In the US, the Cressida had an automatic driver's-side seat belt.
In 1983, the Cressida gained an independent rear suspension and rear disc brakes along with that engine upgrade to dual cams, to compete more effectively with Audi and BMW; a five-speed stick-shift was also available. (Wagons did not get the new rear suspension or disc brakes.) Reviewers praised the Cressida for its cornering, ride, and quiet interior as well as its build quality, while noting that taller people might feel cramped, and that the interior and trunk space was relatively small. Also new, and going well with the power boost on the straight-six, was the world’s first electronically controlled automatic transmission to offer drivers the choice between power, normal driving, and economy with the push of a button; it also had four speeds, still very unusual at the time. Standard features included reclining front bucket seats, power windows and locks, tilt wheel, cruise, automatic temperature control, and FM stereo with power antenna. Leather seats and power sunroof were optional.
In 1985, the Cressida was enlarged, and given more aerodynamic styling; the sedan got a thoroughly unnecessary rear spoiler. The soft, comfortable suspension provided surprisingly good highway stability and control, with good handling; variable-ratio rack and pinion steering added to driving feel, and a standard seven-way-adjustable driver's seat made it friendly. (Other standard features included a Technics stereo and cruise control). A new option was the electronic shock absorber control, with a Normal/Sport switch that could increase shock stiffness; other options included leather seats and digital dashboards. The automatic transmission was given digital controls, with a power shift mode (and a normal mode) which lowered shift points for better acceleration at the expense of gas mileage. Weight went up by over 200 pounds, though the car didn't grow much. The Cressida Luxury Wagon had over 70 cubic feet of carpeted cargo space (with the rear seatbacks down).
The 1989 redesign saw slight concessions to the trend in rounded styling along with another 200-pound weight gain and slight lengthening. The engine was replaced by a new 3-liter engine with four valves per cylinder and a substantial horsepower boost to 190 hp, counteracting the heavier weight and then some, so that straight-line performance was quite good. Antilock brakes were made available, and a "park lock" was added to the transmission (so the driver needed to press the brake to shift from Park). The suspension and body were tightened to improve cornering, without hurting the ride, and more sound insulation was added to bring the Cressida to luxury-car levels of silence on the road. The interior and trunk space remained fairly small, and the new, unique, and uncalled-for slide-out climate control system didn’t win many friends. Still, the Cressida, with its high quality and luxury in a relatively small package, remained a good value and bet until its end (in the US). After 1992, the Cressida continued to be built in Japan, albeit renamed to Mark X in 2004.
Specifications: Toyota Cressida sedans
|General car specifications||1977-1980||1981-84||1985-88||1989-1992|
|Weight||2,400 lb||3,000 lb||3,214 lb||3,417 lb|
|Cargo volume (cubic feet)||n/a||12.4||13||12|
Engines: straight-six specifications
|Displacement||2.6 liters*||2.8 liters (168 cid)||3.0 liters|
|EPA mileage (auto)||19/24||19/24**|
|EPA mileage (stick)||20/24||n/a|
* Not fuel-injected. 1.8 and 2.0 liter four-cylinders available. More information would be appreciated.