TOKYO — When luxuriating in the rear-seat hush of the just redesigned Toyota Century — Japan's answer to a Rolls-Royce — it's the little things that define the car as one part iconic ultrapremium status symbol, one part anachronism from a bygone era.
There is the wool moquette upholstery tailored to create a quiet, warm, cocoonlike cabin with all the nostalgia of Granddad's old business suit. There is the ceiling fabric, embroidered with a slanting lattice motif that evokes the understated gentility of Grandma's lace tablecloth.
Front and center stands a massive 11.6-inch audio screen with its fully functional television set, all controlled by a sophisticated touch panel at the passenger's fingertips in the center arm rest.
But then you notice the interesting choice of a DVD player add-on. At least it's Blu-ray. And there is also the clock — analog, of course.
And a shoehorn stand.
The latter is essential because the simple act of reclining in the back seat enjoins the well-heeled rider to immediately pop off the wingtips and throw up their weary trotters on the car's fold-down ottoman.
Rest assured, the Japanese would not be as gauche as to put shoes on the ottoman.
The whole experience explains why Toyota Motor Corp. keeps building this limousine. It perfectly encapsulates a frozen-in-time Japanese aesthetic of what luxury ought to be.
It is also one reason why export-minded Toyota has no plans to sell the Century overseas, despite finally giving the car its first redesign in 21 years. In an international limousine market dominated by Rolls, Bentley and Maybach, much of the Century just gets lost in translation.