As the world's largest automaker, Toyota is quite well-known for land vehicles, including SUVs like the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. Lesser known is the corporation's marine arm, which sells several car-inspired boats in the Japanese market. The latest is the Ponam-31, a "sports utility cruiser" that puts a rather elegant cabin atop a hull that skips across the water by way of dual Land Cruiser engines.
While not nearly the everyday name it is in the automobile industry, Toyota has been in the marine business for nearly 25 years, having started R&D back in 1990. After several years of development and corporate investment and restructuring, it revealed the Ponam-28 in 1997. In the following years, it launched the Epic line of ski boats, which were actually manufactured and sold in the United States for a brief time before Toyota wound the line down after the 2001 model year. Unlike Epic, the Ponam line survives today.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
That brings us to the new Ponam-31. The 10.6-m (35-ft) boat slots in between the Ponam-28 and Ponam-35 models in Toyota's current range. Like those models, the vessel includes car-inspired design and features. In the case of the Ponam-31 that inspiration extends to the new boat class that Toyota has coined: sports utility cruiser. That sounds more like a marketing gimmick designed to tie into its SUV line, but at least Toyota has given it enough thought to define the category. It says the sports utility cruiser blends comfort and performance in a boat that's perfect for a leisurely sunset dinner cruise as well as an early morning fishing expedition.
Toyota's classification appears to be pretty accurate, as the Ponam-31 combines a performance-honed powertrain with a rather stylish, cozy deck and interior. Like other Ponam boat models, the Ponam-31 borrows from the Land Cruiser for propulsion. Its dual-engine powertrain consists of two 256-hp (191 kW) 3.0-liter turbo diesel inline fours. Those engines are derived from the Land Cruiser Prado and specially tuned for their new-found marine application. Toyota claims the powertrain offers a potent punch of power and fuel efficiency while limiting emissions, noise, and vibration.
The Ponam-31 touches the sea with an A5083 aluminum alloy hull. There's plenty of deck space fore and aft of the central cabin. Toyota shows the cabin laid out in a clean, utilitarian design with a sofa and table space, and says the furniture can be arranged in a variety of layouts. The boat has an open-plan flybridge that hosts up to five people above the cabin.
The Ponam's powertrain isn't the only aspect inspired by Toyota's great wealth of vehicular experience. The boat won't necessarily be the most car-like vessel on the sea, especially when the Revolver 44GT is out making wake, but Toyota says its auto design experience has guided the curves and surfaces of the boat's body, pointing specifically to the rear deck rail as analogous to a rear car spoiler.
Toyota also offers buyers the "automated driving" options of a Drive Assist pilot support system and Virtual Anchor System (VAS). Launched last year on the Ponam-35, the VAS combines GPS-based location, wind direction and current flow information to automatically maintain the boat position or heading.
The 12,350-lb (5,600-kg) Ponam-31 can bring up to 12 people out to sea. It has a fuel capacity of 164 gal (620 L) and fresh water capacity of 29 gal (110 L).
Toyota anticipates selling about 15 Ponam-31 models a year through a network of 49 Japanese distributors. The boat will base in at a cool ¥29,700,000 (US$277,000).
Step aboard in Toyota's video promotion below.