The flagship sedan loses its V12 but gains a Lexus hybrid V8

Toyota has released images of the third generation Toyota Century ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show. This is notable, because in the Toyota flagship sedan's entire 50 year history, there has been until now only one complete redesign. While minor updates have been made over the decades, the 2018 Century will be only the third completely new generation in, well, half a century.

Released in 1967, the Century has been Toyota's flagship sedan for five decades. Originally powered by a V8 when such engines were rare in Japan, the second generation introduced in 1997 was given an exclusive V12 not offered on any other Toyota product. Traditionally, it was sold only to VIPs. No matter how much money you had, you couldn't just walk into a Toyota dealer to buy one. Only the royal family, government officials, senior company executives, and celebrities were allowed to own one. Of course, it was also the ride of choice for yakuza bosses.

The third-generation Century maintains the noble exterior design that instantly identifies the car as such. The design is smoother and larger, but otherwise largely unchanged from its original design 50 years ago. This is very much expected and a prized feature in Japanese society. It grows longer by 2.5 inches to a lengthy 17.5 feet and taller by an inch for a height of nearly 5 feet — all the more space for the big boss in back to stretch his legs.

The Century departs from tradition under the skin with 5.0-liter V8 mated to a hybrid system. Gone is the bespoke V12. The engine is a version of the UR series that powers the Lexus LC 500 and F-Series performance cars. This could point to more uses of the the V8 with hybrid drive on other Lexus vehicles.

The interior now has a raised ceiling, along with a power leg rest, and power rear seats with built-in massage function. A LCD multifunction screen in the armrest lets the VIP control the seat adjustment, climate, and 20-speaker sound system. Upholstery options include the standard wool, or optional leather. Lastly, there's a modern rear seat entertainment system, but also old school touches like a writing table and reading light.

It is of course, even quieter than the outgoing Century, with a stiffer body, new suspension, new engine mounts, specially developed tires, an active noise reduction system. There's also a new suite of safety sensors like blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts and collision avoidance electronic nannies.

The Tokyo Motor Show begins October 25.