A multi-utility vehicle is always in demand in a country like India. It is the go to vehicle when the family decides to go on a long trip with their uncle’s friend’s brother’s aunt’s family. This calls for a lot of space for the people as well as their luggage with some extra space for the food that is carried by families here on their road trips. The go to car was always the Toyota Innova. Families loved it and so did the cabbies for the unmatched reliability and comfort. But everyone knew it was getting long in the tooth so eventually it was time for a new one. An all Innova was to be launched after 10 long years.
So fast forwarding 10 years, and we have the Toyota Innova Crysta with us. One look at the old one and you can clearly see that the 10 years look worthwhile. The new car is much more imposing to look at and has wider dimensions. Length wise it is not much longer but width and height has changed. Also puny 15 inchers are gone and make way for glorious looking 17” rims in the top spec car we have. You finally start to think that Toyota has finally made a car that could out do the old Innova. It could just be the Innova Crysta.
The car I have with me today is the top of the line Z AT in the diesel guise. And I must say it looks absolutely smashing especially in this particular shade christened “ Garnet Red”. The subtle chrome around the grille, fog lamp cowls, and around the window line exudes this feeling of premium segment. I like. The rear now has a larger tailgate then before so it is much easier to load the luggage in to the boot of this car. Overall, I feel the car is much better to look at than its predecessor. And that it is finally a good-looking one that could really appeal to the heart of the buyers instead of only the mind.
With the key fob in hand, I press the key less entry button on the door handle and open the wide doors. I am greeted with an all tan leather interior with highlights of various other materials too. Aesthetically, I am blown away with the color combination. Clearly this shows how much Toyota wants to take the Crysta to the premium segment. I climb in (yes have to climb in this time as opposed to the lower car like ride height of the old one) and make myself comfy in the driver’s seat. The electrically adjustable controls help me find my ideal driving position in no time. I am ready to head out for a drive.
I put my foot on the brake pedal and push the starter button (on an Innova!) and I am greeted with a loud roar of the 2.8-liter diesel engine. This is nothing new as the old Innova also was fairly loud on cold starts so some familiarity starts to creep in. I slot the gear lever through its zigzag path into D and off I go. The engine has very good low-end grunt and can potter around city with absolutely ease. I am in the ECO mode now among the 3 engine mappings and you would feel the little lag in acceleration. Again, for city driving, it is more than ample because there is no need to use all 170 odd BHP in stop start traffic. Again a reminder of how easy it was to manage the older car in the city hustle and bustle as well. The similarities do look like they have been carried over.
I finally hit the highway and I decide to try out the second engine mapping which is called the ‘NORMAL” mode. This mode basically signifies that the engine is neither in environmental friendly, fuel saving mode nor in the lets-try-to-beat-the-nissan-gtr mode. This makes for the engine to cruise quite easily at triple digit speeds. In fact, this car has a 6-speed auto box, which is a torque converter so it is a relaxed box, which helps in making this car a relaxed cruiser. The torque is always there in this mode for any overtakes or just maintaining a steady speed, which can also be done by enabling the cruise control. So far so good.
All this while, the Innova Crysta seems like the old Innova but with most of its flaws sorted. Good thing this because the old one had some glaring flaws. But then there is something I have yet to try which the old car certainly did not have. And this is the “PWR” mode. This is the engine mapping that makes the ECU think that we can set a blistering time on a drag strip. Yes, it has the most aggressive acceleration in this mode. So I push the PWR button and I can instantly feel the engine revving much more freely to the redline (but please do not do that as it gets really loud and boomy) and the gearbox holds the gear for longer. This means some pretty rapid acceleration is accomplished by planting the right foot on the accelerator pedal. Damn, this should be the default mode of this engine. If you keep accelerating, pretty soon you will be doing license-seizing speeds on public roads. Yes in an Innova.
The steering feel is decent for a car of this size. Yes, it does get light as speeds build up but it is much more assuring than the old car. Turning in at decent speeds, there is body roll and you have to sort of guess how much steering input is needed but nothing uncontrollable or out of hand. In city speeds, it feels little on the heavier side but again one can put the blame on the 17” inchers and the 215 section tires.
Coming to one major chink in the Crysta’s armor and that is the extremely dum witted gearbox. The gearbox is in one higher gear than what it should be at any time but that could be because it is tuned for efficiency rather than outright power. For sedate driving, the gearbox suffices but for even remotely aggressive driving, the gearbox just does not cut it. It takes light years to downshift after kickdown and if I put the gear lever in the manual mode, it still takes centuries to carry forward an upshift or downshift. Horrendous.
Trying to forget the horror of the gearbox, I slip into the middle row with the captain seats and let the chauffeur handle the wheel. Oh wow, this seat could be the best I have laid my bottom side on in a very long time. The captain seat is almost like a business class like seat. Excellent contouring on all sides and great support for the back too. I am impressed. The last row seats are also decently comfortable but avoidable for people above 5’10-11 as it can get cramped for them. The boot space is also good enough to suffice most needs, be it with the third row of seats open or closed.
So the Innova Crysta comes around as a complete package. Well, almost. For one, it drives really well. It is supremely comfortable I think it looks amazing. It has all the gadgets and gizmos that are fit for the 21st century. It has all the safety features to keep everyone protected. It is a Toyota so it will probably outlive the owner. But then it has its own set of flaws. The extremely lethargic gearbox is a downside for the racer boy in you. It takes its own sweet time to actually carry out a change, be it an upshift or downshift. And secondly, the pricing strategy that Toyota has adopted is questionable. This top of the line Z AT diesel car costs almost 25 big ones on road. 25 lacs for a Toyota Innova. Never saw that coming anytime soon. It is much more complete as a package now but 25 lacs for this is really steep.
But you pay the extra premium for the T badge and the associated reliability that comes with it? Does it justify the pricing? I think not but the sales charts say otherwise. I am sorry but I can never plonk 25 lacs of my hard earned money on the Innova. Toyota, you have a lost a potential customer.
And just when you think this is the end…
Here is the link to Quickshift’s Video Review on this car!