I’m just going to gloss over the Toyota Vellfire’s exterior design and styling because, like all other MPVs, it’s what the Vellfire’s like on the inside that really counts. All I’ll tell you is that it’s big on bling and is a mountain of an MPV; nearly 5m long, 1.85m wide and 1.9m tall, it makes an Innova Crysta look positively midsized. Now over to the main event.
The moment the powered sliding rear doors open to give me my first good look at the Vellfire’s cabin, I’m a bit taken aback. There’s corridor levels of space between the front and middle row seats – and that’s with the seats in their regular settings. If the Innova is a living room on wheels, this one’s a mansion! It’s a bit of a step up into the Vellfire, so it’s handy that there’s a sturdy grab handle each on the B-pillar and at the back of the front seats for added support. The journey in is well worth it, as I quickly find out. The middle row is made up of two large seats that are closer to La-Z-Boy recliners than your average captain’s chair. Finished in cushy, high-grade leather, the XXL-sized seats offer excellent shoulder, back and thigh support, and even the headrest bolsters can be adjusted. The seats wouldn’t feel out of place in a Lexus; they’re that good.
You can personalise the experience too. A section of the armrest flips open to reveal a control panel for all manners of seat settings. You can adjust the backrest angle, as well as the angle and length of the powered leg rests. There’s seat heating and cooling too. But for the full effect, you need to be on the ‘boss’ seat. Reach out to move the co-driver seat forward (via buttons on said seat), or better still, have your chauffeur do this for you, then adjust your seat for full extension. The seat motors whirr into action and what you get a few seconds later is a near-flat bed. This is business class on four wheels. It’s a great place for captains of industry to unwind after a long day at the office.
Watch this space
My preliminary findings of the all-important middle row are immensely positive but, as an MPV, it’s important that the Vellfire be inviting for the other passengers as well. And it is. For one, those seated in the third row won’t feel like unwanted guests. The seating position is comfy and given the abundance of cabin room, it’s immensely easy to reach a happy knee-room compromise with the middle-row passengers. There’s no shortage of head and shoulder room at the very back either. The rearmost seats are wide enough for three, but the centre split can be bothersome to a middle occupant. They work really well for two. Reclining backrests, fold-down armrests, dedicated AC vents and even sunblinds for the rear windows are all part of the package. Yes, for an MPV of the Vellfire’s size and one with sliding doors and sliding middle row seats, you’d expect easier access to the last row (the aperture isn’t all that large), but even so, the Toyota’s third-row experience is among the best in the business.
The cabin is immensely flexible too. The third-row seats slide forward to make more luggage space, split 50:50 and can also be moved out of the way altogether by flipping them to the sides, Innova style. A low loading lip and powered tailgate make it easy to load luggage. The boss’ car sure can be put to good use when it’s time to shift offices.
The Vellfire’s size – coupled with a dashboard that extends far out to meet the base of the windscreen – would typically make this a slightly intimidating vehicle to drive. The good news is you don’t need much time behind the steering to get comfy with the Vellfire. The high seating and large glass area give a great view out, and what also helps break the ice is the surprisingly light steering. It’s easy to place the Vellfire and even U-turns don’t require any special effort. Our test car only featured a reverse camera, though versions sold abroad get a 360-degree camera that will undoubtedly make life easier still. On the move, the steering offers enough feel to let you drive the large Toyota with confidence. The seemingly inadequate ground clearance doesn’t pose an issue either.
The Vellfire for India comes powered by a hybrid powertrain that comprises a 150hp, 2.5-litre petrol engine that runs the Atkinson cycle, and a pair of electric motors, one for each axle. The 105kW (143hp) front motor works in conjunction with the engine (combined power is rated at 197hp) to drive the front wheels via an e-CVT. The 50kW (67hp) rear motor, on the other hand, solely powers the rear wheels when needed (at full throttle, for instance, or when slip is detected) to form an electric four-wheel-drive system.
The powertrain provides the Vellfire with more than enough go. The large Toyota builds speed with grace and manages to mask its two-tonne-plus bulk quite well. It’s quite at ease with a full house too, and there’s not much noise from the engine bay either – at least at typical driving speeds. The ready power means you don’t need to wind the engine all that often either. It’s also possible to drive the Vellfire in pure EV mode for short distances; this, however, requires absolutely gentle inputs
on the accelerator.
Driving impressions done with, it’s back to the middle row. The large windows get my vote, and what’s good is that they can be rolled down, and also come with full-length sun blinds. Other features of note include a second-row sunroof, 16-colour mood lighting and dedicated climate control for the rear section of the cabin. However, there are some curious omissions too. While a seat massage function would have been a nice feature to have, a rear-seat entertainment unit is something you’d just expect. Also, our test car didn’t have any charging points at the back; this can be frustrating if you need to work on your laptop on the way to office. And not to be picky, but the retractable trays for the middle-row seats are also too small, though the fold-out cupholders will keep your beverages firmly in place.
Sprawled out at the back, I can tell the ride is a tad firm and there’s more road noise than you’d get in, say a German luxury car. The question is would you consider a Vellfire over a like-priced luxury SUV or sedan? You see, the Vellfire will come to India as a full import in early 2020, which means prices will be in the region of Rs 85-90 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom).Image-conscious buyers will scoff at the idea of spending big on an MPV (let alone one from Toyota) and broadly speaking, the Vellfire isn’t the sort of vehicle that fits the typical description of a luxury vehicle. However, those who want space and comfort above all else, and also value the peace of mind that comes with buying a Toyota, will actually find a great match in the Vellfire. If anything, it’s at least worth a good look. For all you know, it could just be the luxury car you didn’t know you wanted.