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Toyota Vellfire India First Drive Review


A mass market badge on the front, a body style that’s rarely associated with luxury and a price tag that’s sure to invite a scoff or twenty! Have the sensible Japanese lost their marbles or is this really a luxury barge worth picking up?

 

It’s hard to make sense of trends these days. For the longest time, everyone’s been on about how MPVs (except for the likes of the Ertiga and Innova Crysta) can’t seem to catch a break in India. But now, we’ve got multiple variations of the Mercedes-Benz V-Class, the new Kia Carnival and now this, the Toyota Vellfire

On the surface, nothing about its asking price seems to make sense. But a brief drive experience gets us a clear idea of what works in this MPV and what doesn’t.

Look At Me! 

If you like your cars to grab attention, the Vellfire does the job well enough, thanks to its size and styling. Interestingly, large as it is, the size is the secondary element when it comes to the attention grabbing factor. It’s nearly 5 metres long but both the Kia Carnival and the Mercedes-Benz V-Class are longer, wider and have longer wheelbases.

Dimensions

Vellfire

Carnival

V-Class

Innova Crysta

Length

4,935mm

5140mm

5115mm

4735mm

Width

1,850mm

1928mm

1985mm

1830mm

Height

1,895mm

1880mm

1755mm

1795mm

Wheelbase

3,000mm

3200mm

3060mm

2750mm

 

No, what really pulls the pupils is its over the top styling. Those LED headlamp slits look otherworldly and the gargantuan real estate occupied by the ‘Samurai Armour’ front grille is insane. The side profile is very boxy and it’s where the Vellfire looks its largest. Even the standard 17-inch alloys look small when the Vellfire is viewed from the side.

At the rear, the LED tail lamps look sharp and the rear chrome garnish is large enough to be spotted from the moon.

But if you prefer your designs to be understated or subdued, this is far from the right pick. Comparatively, the V-Class has a calmer styling package and of course, has a more prestigious badge on it. In fact, some may wonder if the Vellfire belongs to an embassy or 5 star hotel. It’s not the traditional idea of a private car and you may have to explain why it costs this much. Toyota Vellfire Price

Thankfully, that’s exactly where the real cream of the packaging lies.

Move Aside, Mobile Homes 

Toyota says the Vellfire was essentially built around its lounge-style 2nd row seats. Every element in the cabin has been designed to complement the experience for the people who sit here. An MPV isn't the sexiest thing when it comes to luxury, but this body style lets you do things that are harder to do in a sedan or SUV. 

The boxy design opens up loads of headroom and more leg space than you’d ever call necessary. And that’s where the experience of luxury begins. The middle row seats slide back and forth manually, but the backrest, leg rest and leg rest extension are all controlled via control panels integrated into the door-side armrest of the 2nd row seats.

Drop the seats to their most stretched out setting and even someone who is 6.5ft tall can hit snooze mode in minutes. It’s an experience that’s better and more relaxing than most business class airplane seats. The seats themselves are heated & cooled and get tiny fold out tables. That said, the tables are only large enough to completely support a bento box or perhaps an iPad.

 

Good thing then that there’s a 13-inch remote operated rear entertainment screen with HDMI and Wi-Fi connectivity (CD input also supported). So if your phone supports Miracast, you can use apps like YouTube by mirroring it to the screen. The 17-speaker JBL audio system also sounds quite good, so you can roll up the rear sunblinds and catch a movie on the way back from work.

Other amenities include power sliding side doors, powered, heated and cooled front seats with an ottoman (extendable leg rest) for the co-driver, 16 colour ambient lighting and 3 zone climate control. The front 10-inch touchscreen also comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Oh yeah, did we forget? There’s a dual pane sunroof too. The chauffeur can operate the sunroof and rear doors via a front roof mounted console. 

It’s sad, then, that in offering all these luxuries, Toyota somehow forgot to offer a rear USB charger or even a 12V socket! They certainly aren’t lacking for space to integrate them.

7 Seater? 

Not quite, the 3rd row isn’t ideal to seat three but two can tango with ease. This is by far the best 3rd row we’ve ever experienced. The seats are wide, well-cushioned and recline adjustable. You also get rear cupholders, AC vents and reading lights.

Unlike most third rows, you don’t sit with your knees shooting up. The third row shares its rails with the 2nd row seats as well, so the slide action has a l-o-n-g travel range. However, with the last row pulled all the way back, there’s little storage space to spare.

However, while the Vellfire is a large MPV that can seat the whole family, the 3rd row is unlikely to actually be used very often (Toyota’s interactions with potential customers indicates the same). So you can flip the third row up and load up the boot with files, bags and everything in between. There’s also heaps of storage underneath the boot floor.

Almost Electric

The Vellfire comes to us in its petrol hybrid form. The series parallel hybrid system is essentially the same setup as the Camry’s. Toyota says the Vellfire will prove to be very fuel efficient in the real world. Aside from the claimed fuel efficiency figure (16.35kmpl), the system itself has been tuned to use the battery pack as far as possible (Toyota says it’ll run on pure EV power 60 per cent of its drive time).

Engine Specifications


Engine: Petrol Hybrid
Displacement: 2494cc
Max Output (Engine): 115PS @ 4700 rpm

Max Torque (Engine): 198Nm @ 2800-4000 rpm

Front Motor: 140PS @ 4500 rpm

Rear Motor: 53PS @ 4608 rpm

Unfortunately, all we got is a few slow laps at Toyota’s test track, so there’s not much insight we can offer for now. But the first impressions are good. The on-paper numbers aren’t hair raising but it doesn’t feel underpowered in the slightest. Regular driving is a very smooth and largely quiet affair.

 

That said, the test track is a very smooth surface and even so, there was some firmness felt from the suspension. At speeds of 40-60kmph, you can feel a few jitters from even a smooth road surface. And yes, through corners, you will feel a healthy amount of body roll too, even if you’re taking them at only around 40kmph. This is where the large size, especially the tall height offers a disadvantage vs a similarly priced sedan.

Does It Make Sense?

Priced at Rs 79.5 lakh ex-showroom, the Vellfire is for a very specific kind of buyer. One who prioritises comfort over everything else. If you care about brand or body style, there's little something like this can do to make you choose it.

There really is no comparing this with a Kia Carnival or Mercedes-Benz V-Class, because the back seat experience is at a different level altogether. You would genuinely look forward to traffic jams because of how relaxing that middle row experience is. The sad bit? This could've been a reachable upgrade for Innova Crysta owners, even with that expensive hybrid tech, if only it wasn't an import. 

So while there is a justifiable premium for the rich materials, cabin quality and of course, the excellent seating comfort, most of what makes the Vellfire so expensive is taxation. Ultimately, anyone buying this probably has other cars for making a statement or arriving in style. Buying the Vellfire is to indulge yourself and no one else. 

Toyota Vellfire Video Review

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