Toyota Cressida cars (or Mark II, Chaser, and Cresta)

Toyota built luxury cars before Lexus came along — the Cressida, Chaser, and Cresta, which were all the same car, with different names. A mid-sized sedan competing with Mercedes, Volvo, and other “imports,” vehicles, the 1973 Cressida was only sold in Japan; it left the nation in 1977, and was built as the Cressida through 1992 (continuing under other names continued into the 21st century).

1987 toyota cressida

The Cressida was re-engineered on a regular four-year schedule; the 1977-1980 series was available as a wagon, coupe, or sedan; and the Cresta variant was added in 1981. All were rear wheel drive, sharing driveline components (and the straight-six engine) with the sporty Toyota Supra.

It was not an inexpensive car, by any means — in 1981, for example, the Cressida started at a stunning $11,600, which was roughly double the entry price of a Corolla. A typical large American sedan of the time would have a standard V8 engine double the displacement of the Cressida’s 168-cube six. (Toyota did not break out their sales, but the company sold around half a million in the U.S. each year from 1979 to 1983, and the Cressida was just one of seven models.)

The 1973-76 Mark II had simple but elegant styling, with round quad headlights in most markets, soft cloth seats, high quality imitation wood trim, and generally high build quality with tight clearances.

1978 toyota cressida

Contemporary reviewers praised the absence of squeak and rattles, along with the extensive soundproofing and the power and manners of the straight-six engine. Gas mileage was not ideal, but still beat most American luxury cars. Cornering was reported to be good, despite the smooth ride. This generation weighed around 2,850 pounds (the wagon added around 50 pounds).

The car included air conditioning, which was unusual as a standard feature at the time, along with an automatic transmission, power steering, rear seat armrests, a stereo, radials, reclining front seats, and a rear window defroster.

1978 cressida wagon

The 1981 Cressida was restyled, and the coupe was a no-show, though the sedan and wagon continued. US cars had an automatic driver's-side seat belt. On the lighter side, the engine size was boosted to 2.8 liters (168 cid), and fuel-injected, for a 116 horsepower rating. That was mild enough, but the 1983 engine gained a dual overhead cam, and the rating shot up to 143 hp (156 hp in the 1984-88 Cressida). This was impress for the small engine size.

The 1982 gained an electronic trip computer, one of the first cars in the world to have one (the first, oddly, was the Chrysler/Plymouth Horizon); it provided information on estimated time of arrival, average fuel economy, and remaining fuel range, along with a trip odometer and alarm clock. Buyers could choose two-tone paint, as well.

1982 car

The 1983 Cressida sedan — but not the wagon — also gained an independent rear suspension and rear disc brakes, to handle the extra power and to compete more effectively with Audi and BMW, with an optional five-speed stick-shift was also available. Reviewers again praised the Cressida for its cornering, ride, quiet interior, and build quality, though noting that taller people might feel cramped, and that there was little interior and trunk space.

The new automatic transmission, the world’s first to have electronic control, had three modes, for power, normal driving, and economy; it also had four speeds, 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.

The 1985 Cressida was enlarged a little, speaking to reviewers’ concerns, and given more aerodynamic styling, with a rear spoiler on the sedan. The soft, comfortable suspension provided surprisingly good highway stability and control; new variable-ratio rack and pinion steering helped the driving feel, and a standard seven-way-adjustable driver's seat made it more friendly for long trips.

1986 cressida

The automatic transmission kept its digital controls, with a power shift mode which lowered shift points for better acceleration (at the expense of gas mileage); and buyers could opt for electronic shock absorber control, with a sport mode that increased stiffness. Weight went up by over 200 pounds. 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 a new 3-liter six, with four valves per cylinder and a substantial horsepower boost to 190 hp. 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).

1989 cressida

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. Sales were still light — fewer than 10,000 were sold in the US during all of 1991, for example (the steep $22,198 price, around $10,000 more than a base Camry, was likely responsible for that). The car weighed 3,439 pounds.

leather seats

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.

cressida sedan

Specifications: Toyota Cressida sedans

Car specs 1977-1980 1981-84 1985-88 1989-1992
Length (in) 178 186 188 190
Wheelbase (in) 102 104.1 104.5 105.5
Height (in) 57 54.3 54 54
Width (in) 66 66.5 66.5 67
Weight 2,600 lb 3,000 lb 3,214 lb 3,417 lb
Cargo (cu. feet) n/a 12.4 13 12

Engines: straight-six specifications

  1977-80 1981-82 1983 1984-88 1989-92
Displacement 2.6 l* 2.8 liters (168 cid) 3.0 liters
Horsepower 116-121 115 143 156 190
EPA mpg (auto)       19/24 19/24**
EPA mpg (stick) *     20/24 n/a
Valves 12 12 12 12 24

* Fuel-injected starting with the 1980 Celica; 1.8 and 2.0 liter four-cylinders available in some markets. Combined fuel economy was 19 mpg with two-barrel carburetor (1977-79) and 21 with fuel injection.
** Premium

toyota dashboard

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