Toyota’s roomy home-on-wheels for Asian kingpins has opened for business(men) as a second-generation model.
THE Vellfire is designed to transport seven people (or eight if so specified) in quiet comfort, like a relaxing Japanese lounge for the road. Karaoke, sake and parttime GROs are optional. What comes as standard is plenty of cabin space. Passengers in a Previa/Estima will view the Vellfire as a terrace house, while the brood in a Wish will be wishing for a bungalow like this. The second row is almost a mobile living room, with diff erent “armchair/footstool” configurations for diff erent persons/occasions – rearranging the “furniture” is easy once you figure out the seat levers and floor rails. It’s a comfortable place for two captains of industry (or their lieutenants) to talk shop on their way to yet another business meeting/meal/venture. Compared to the second row, the third row is less roomy and not so comfy, because the squabs are shorter, the seatbacks are less shiok and there are no integrated ottomans. But for two adults of average height (1.6m to 1.8m), the Vellfire’s third row would qualify as premium economy instead of cattle class.
The on-board air-conditioning (with a separate control panel for rear occupants) is amazing, with every 0.5 deg C adjustment made/felt immediately and highly eff ective vents that beat our hot weather (no sweat). There are stowage points aplenty for small items. Large items such as golf bags and holiday luggage can be accommodated by folding/ flipping the third-row seats and parking them against the side windows. Additional “secret” storage (148 litres) is TOYOTA VELLFIRE 2.5 STORY DAVID TING PHOTOS VERNON WONG available under the boot floor, making the Vellfire one hell of a van for contraband. Seated behind the wheel (leather-wrapped and adjustable for both rake and reach), I feel like an Asian kingpin (who made a fortune from supplying tiny pins to big factories). The driving position is bossy enough for me to see from here to my company’s next fiscal year, while the dashboard is grandiose enough to match my table at the office.
Like my (imaginary) expansive desk and expensive chair, the Vellfire “offi ce” has been decorated with leather and wood. Towkays won’t be okay with the car’s original fabric seats, even though they’re plush and have an interesting pattern. Buyers will definitely ask/pay for leather upholstery, which the dealer will retrofit locally. What cannot be retrofitted is the advanced JDM (Japan domestic model) equipment that makes the Vellfire a veritable limo. The optional gadgetry includes programming of the power-slide doors to open automatically upon approach, a Panoramic View Monitor that gives the driver a helpful “see-through” perspective of the vehicle’s surroundings, automated Parking Assist, and radar-based “follow the front car” cruise control with an operating envelope of 0-100km/h. Another limo-worthy option is a 17-speaker JBL hi-fi system with a 12.1-inch multimedia screen and a full suite of entertainment “channels” – Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SD, USB, HDMI, Aux and Bluetooth.
Less useful, but specified as standard in every Vellfire, is LED illumination of the ceiling, with four levels of brightness and no less than 16 colour variations. Too bad there’s no “Tokyo disco” mode to make the hues dance. The most surprising non- Japanese feature in the JDM Vellfire is the English language menu for the instrument cluster’s multi-function display. So, there is no need for me to tikam with kanji when reading the trip computer, setting the rear air-conditioning output, selecting one of three buzzer tones (and their volume) to be played while a motorised door is in operation, and activating/deactivating/ customising certain functions. On the move, the 2.5-litre Vellfire is no ball of fire, but it seems to be quicker than its 2.4-litre predecessor. Since the kerb weight is largely unchanged at close to two tonnes (and the vehicle is still large), the perkier pick-up must be due to the 2AR-FE engine’s extra 131cc, 12bhp and 11Nm.
The acceleration of the new Vellfire seems to be slicker, too – reaching 80km/h so smoothly that I don’t even realise the speed until I check the speedometer. It’s also a quiet cruiser on the highway, with just a little wind noise from the elephantine side mirrors. Even the sound of the indicator signal is barely audible. The engine is very well insulated from the cabin, except when the revs are “pressed” with a firm right foot to above 3000rpm. The CVT is effi cient in turning engine power into forward motion, yet isn’t too “stretchy” during hard acceleration. The suspension, now with rear double wishbones in place of the previous (less sophisticated) torsion beam, is supremely supple, with the 235/50 R18 Toyo Tranpath tyres rolling softly over the tarmac despite their size.
Contributing to the refined ride quality is the cabin’s solid soundproofing, which includes sandwich steel plates in hidden places and possibly some tatami mats underneath. As a bonus, the Vellfire doesn’t behave like a clumsy barge in corners. Instead, it exhibits decent grip, plus enough stability to keep the chauff eur and the chauff eured on an even keel. Toyota’s new Vellfire is fired up and ready to serve Asian kingpins, but they have to bring their own karaoke, sake and GROs.