TOYOTA VELLFIRE | Test drive review of the luxury MPV
For the longest time there was no option to the Toyota Innova. Over the past 15 years over 900,000 Innovas have been sold, a sizeable chunk to repeat buyers. Now, though, there are options. Step down in price and there’s the Mahindra Marazzo. Step up and there’s the Kia Carnival. Rocket up and there’s the Mercedes-Benz V-Class. And now to keep Innova Crysta owners in the family, especially those who are doing really well in life, comes the Toyota Vellfire.
Velvet on fire, that’s what Vellfire stands for! Another useless factoid is that Toyota wanted to bring in the Alphard, the name under which this 4.9 meter long MPV is sold in most Asian markets, but another manufacturer had already registered the name and refused to give it to Toyota. So we get the Toyota Vellfire and its horizontal acres of chrome, as opposed to the Alphard and its waterfall of chrome.
Check out our Youtube video for the Toyota Vellfire here below
Styling that is impossible to miss
One thing is for sure, you will not miss the Toyota Vellfire for the world. Not that long ago we liberally accused Toyota of being boring — no such criticism can be thrown the Vellfire’s way with its outrageous styling. Viewed head on it is like nothing else, vast slabs of chrome slapped across the width of the short and stubby nose, with a further protrusion of chrome in the centre that Toyota describes as a Samurai warrior’s crown. The chrome slabs are interspersed by full-LED headlights, sharply cut by said Samurai’s katana.
On the styling front everything has been thrown at the nose because the profile is a vast and slab-sided. It’s practicality over everything else, and of course more chrome — hyper chrome, as Toyota describes those 17-inch wheels. And the rear has another chrome slab across the width, so big and so shiny that all of Toyota’s test track was reflected in it. To repeat myself, this does look like nothing else, and is all the better for it. After all nobody wants to fly under the radar these days
I’ll get to the driving in a bit, because that really is secondary to the pampering the Toyota Vellfire subjects its occupants to. Unlike the Mercedes-Benz V-Class the Vellfire’s second row doesn’t swivel so your minions cannot grovel at your feet while you read them the riot act. That apart the Vellfire’s middle row is the most amazing thing stuck into an automobile. We talk of business class seats in the S-Class and 7 Series; the Vellfire is first class. These are like the La-Z Boys at home, if you have a really, really high quality La-Z Boy. Let us first slide the front passenger seat out of the way via controls on its side and then sink into the wide, comfy and plush armchairs in the middle. These chairs slide, manually and individually, while the rest of the controls are electric. A missed trick is the lack of a massage function, you only get heating and cooling. It does recline to near-flat, the ottoman (leg rest) slides out and extends to support your feet and you can really, really stretch out within that three metre wheelbase. There’s actually so much space that if you haven’t been needlessly greedy with the second row leg room, three people can fit in the third row. In fact your two big burly body guards can comfortably sit in the third row with not just enough knee, head and shoulder room but more importantly enough hip room for the heat they’re packing.
Back in to the armchairs. Both the doors slide open electrically. The glass is insulated for both heat and noise and there is an added sunblind though you have to manually operate that. There’s a sun roof, both for you and for your driver. There’s a separate climate zone for the rear. There’s a smallish table that slides out from the arm rest, too small to be used for your laptop, and there isn’t a charging port either for the laptop. Leave actual work to the staff, then while you whirr the TV down from the roof and cast stuff from your phone. Or you can just crank up the 17 speaker JBL sound system. I liked the Vellfire’s armchairs so much I had to be reminded about getting out on to the track to drive it.
Driving the Toyota Vellfire
There’s no diesel engine in the Vellfire and what we get for India is the 2.5-litre petrol that makes 115bhp and 198Nm, mated to a hybrid powertrain with a 105kW motor on the front axle and a 50kW motor on the rear axle. This is all-wheel-drive, but the AWD is there not for any off-roading nor any WRC-like cornering but to ensure safety and stability. The total system output is 194bhp and that makes the 2.2 tonne, primarily front-wheel-drive MPV, get a reasonable move on.
Like all Toyota hybrid powertrains, the Vellfire too gets a CVT gearbox and it gets moving silently on pure electric power. It will stay in electric mode if you’re very light with the throttle, though when the petrol engine does kick in you barely feel or hear it. The refinement is fantastic and sound insulation lovely; you’re absolutely cocooned from the rest of the world.
Get on the gas hard and the engine does become vocal though, and that typical rubber-band effect of the CVT gearbox becomes all too apparent. This isn’t something to be hustled, the steering is light and lifeless, and there is ample body roll to warn you not to do anything silly. The Vellfire even has a predictive stability control system that doesn’t react to a slide but intervenes before said slide even happens.
That said, the Vellfire is rather easy to drive, despite its sizeable proportions. Visibility is good, you sit up high, and there’s not much in the way of a bonnet in front of you. I cannot really comment on the ride quality as we only drove it on the short test track at Toyota’s factory but I suspect it will be lovely and keeping in step with the positioning and purpose of the Vellfire — and that is to pamper the boss.
Expensive and full imported
The Toyota Vellfire will be launched on March 26 and the pricing is expected to be in the region of Rs 80 lakh, ex-showroom, for the fully-imported MPV. Which is a fair bit of money and a very, very big jump over the Toyota Innova Crysta. But if the Thrill of Chilling is more your thing then you can hardly do any better than the Vellfire. This is a Gulfstream on four wheels.