The Story of Toyota Cressida (Part III)

Today we find ourselves in the third installment of Toyota Cressida coverage. The first Cressida slanted in 1978 with curvy European styling influences and was a more luxurious version of the Corona Mark II that North American consumers were already familiar with. After a short period from 1978 to 1980, a second generation Cressida was introduced for 1981. It continued a much more traditional three-box sedan shape and looked quite Japanese despite marketing claims about its “European look”.

Beneath the conservative form were a number of whiz-bang electronic features, all applied to an interior that was redesigned solely for the US Cressida market. The second Cressida was more successful than the first, and new technological features like electronic fuel injection made it more desirable. After another short model from 1981 to 1984, it was time for the third generation of Cressida. The new one from 1985 had even more conservative styling than the previous two. Say hello to the X70.

Once again the Cressida was a name change on Toyota’s mid-size Mark II offering in the Japanese market. There, the new-for-’85 Mark II discontinued its Corona prefix and severed ties with its originator. Toyota pitched the Mark II as a luxury car and moved the Corona down a lesser path that would see it continually stripped of features. Corona disappeared after 2001, as a Corolla-like front-wheel-drive sedan.

By the mid-1980s, there was more domestic competition in Japan for the Mark II: long-running offerings like the Nissan Laurel were joined by newer models like Nissan’s Leopard. Toyota also rivaled the Mark II internally, as it spawned similar cars in the Chaser and Cresta during this generation. More on that shortly.

Much like the second generation Mark II, the X70 version had three body styles. All had four doors, in sedan, hardtop sedan, and wagon form. As was the common theme of Japanese cars in the 80s, the Mark II is getting bigger in its new generation. The wheelbase only stretched slightly, from 104.1 inches to 104.7 inches.

The sedan’s overall length has increased by about three inches, from 180″ to 183.1″. The width remained the same 66.5 inches as it was a critical number at the time. The Mark II’s 1.68 meter width meant it was fair inside Japanese regulations for a “small-sized passenger vehicle”, where a maximum width qualification of 1.7 meters has been determined by the government. Wider and the Mark II would have moved to the “full size passenger vehicle” class which had much higher taxation. Size decreased slightly in this generation, from 56.1 inches in 1984 to 55.7 inches in 1985.

Visually speaking, the X70 Mark II and Cressida were not entirely retired from the X60 generation. Toyota applied the same conservative three-box form used in the outgoing model, with slightly more modern proportions. At the front, the most notable change was the arrival of the composite headlights used in other markets since 1981.

The lamps were flanked by larger corner markers that wrapped farther down the fender, in amber (in the US) as before. Large turn signals decorated the bumper as before. Much of the early ’80s model’s chrome trim reverted to black in this generation as Toyota opted for a less flashy look. The facelifted LTD-type grille and its slanted slat predecessor were both discarded in favor of a simplified egg-crate design. There was a new square Cressida badge in the center of the grille, in addition to capital Toyota letters in the lower right corner. In some markets, the grille was instead of the horizontal slats, but retained the simpler look.

The extra wheelbase length served to make the front overhangs a little less noticeable, but this view was also aided by a bumper closer to the front than before. Both the fenders and the side profile of the X70 were very similar to the outgoing generation.

A noticeable difference was the black trim strip halfway up the body, which stood out more than the old car’s body-colored trim. This trim had a simple chrome piece built in to make it more interesting. Although a little lower off the ground, the greenhouse looked almost exactly like the old car’s. There were three windows on each side, all surrounded by chrome. Viewed from the side by any casual observer, the new Mark II would have looked indistinguishable from the old one.

The rear fared a bit better in the modification department, as the lamps now sported a red and amber design combination with larger integrated reverse lamps. The X70 has done away with the separate amber indicator lenses on each end, as well as the black rubber gasket that separated the lenses. The new rear end looked cleaner and made better use of its limited chrome. The bumpers have also been updated here and come out less like a shelf. However, the addition of a thick black trim strip on the rear bumper caused the rear to lose some of the premium look of the previous generation.

Inside, the new Mark II relied on the same basic interior design as the old one. There were additional niceties like an electronic equalizer instead of a manual set of levers, and the air conditioning got automatic air-mix but retained its manual temperature control. The dash leaned into its mid-80s via an optional digital instrument cluster, fashionable at the time.

The digital speed display was accompanied by various information on the on-board computer. Fuel and RPM information was now displayed via horizontal bars, in well-lit green and teal. Even the temperature sensor was a horizontal bar. The warning lights were separated from the main gauges and moved to their own small clusters on either side of the wheel. The seats were still brougham type, extra padded and upholstered in corduroy or shiny leather.

We’ll save most of our styling commentary on the sedan version here, as the Cressida wasn’t imported in its sportier hardtop form. This one was a frameless window design, which was generally more aggressive than the sedan. The Cressida wagon was based on the sedan and shared most of its appearance. One difference was at the rear of the wagon, as it did not receive a modernization like the sedan. It retained an older-looking tailgate and dual rear wipers.

X70 buyers experienced a dizzying array of market-dependent engines. Engines numbered 11 in total and ranged from a basic 1.8-liter inline-four to several mill-built straight-sixes of varying displacements. The smaller I6 was a 2.0 liter, and the larger was still a 2.8. There were also two diesel engines from the same 2L engine series as before, either naturally aspirated or turbocharged. Transmissions also varied by market and included two different four-speed automatics, a three-speed automatic, and four- and five-speed manual transmissions.

The Mark II’s most exciting engine, the twin-turbocharged version of the 1G straight-six, was reserved for markets outside of North America. A 2.0-liter, the 1G-GTE had dual overhead camshafts and managed 182 horsepower. This was a considerable power advantage over the normal 1G engine, which only produced 133 horsepower.

For Cressida’s purposes, the North American customer was once again entrusted with the 5M-GE 2.8-liter straight-six, with double overhead camshafts and EFI. Notable changes to the new Cressida’s engine were limited to a knock sensor that helped with fuel management. Horsepower stayed at 143 initially, but small improvements have been made over the years. At the end of the generation, the 2.8 produces 161 horsepower. All third-generation Cressida were automatic and four-speed, except for a selection of 1986 examples which were offered with a five-speed manual.

Other advancements with the new car included optional TEMS (an electronic damper control system), the aforementioned digital gauges, and a CD player. Secondary stereo controls were found on a new button pod mounted high on the dash next to the instrument binnacle.

1988 Toyota Cressida

Again with Cressida for ’85, Toyota created a different interior for US market cars. Other left-hand drive Cressidas had a different dashboard design, no power shoulder belts, and a different steering wheel. As before, the Cressidas available in Canada had a different interior from the American examples.

The third Cressida was short-lived, much like its predecessors. Changes were few over the years and included the entry and deletion of a manual transmission option in 1986, and a revised four-speed automatic for 1987. That year was also the last for the slow-selling Cressida wagon, as Toyota saved itself the trouble. to sell a luxury wagon in North America. This particular Mark II wagon had a very long life and remained in production until 1997.

Toyota expanded its Mark II type products with this generation, as it spawned a new generation Chaser when it debuted in 1985. A four-door hardtop sedan, Chaser resembled the Mark II but was slightly smaller. Successive generations of the Chaser refined its sporty image and it lived until 2001 as a well-equipped, sporty hardtop sedan.

The Cresta was also a Mark II offspring and continued on its Mark II platform for a second generation in 1985. Cresta was more expensive than the Mark and filled the mid-size spot below the very expensive crown. Starting with the X60 generation, Cresta gradually converged with Chaser and moved down a bit, until it was canceled alongside Chaser in 2001. Both Chaser and Cresta existed before the X70 Mark II, but were consolidated on its platform and became more similar to it. in 1985.

The third generation Cressida was on sale from 1984 to 1988 and cemented the model’s reputation as a conservative and reliable (if somewhat stuffy) luxury sedan. Toyota gave it another chance in 1989, when the Cressida was ousted from the top by this brand new brand with the L logo. More next time.

[Images: Toyota]

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