Toyota or Bentley? It's not typically a question that needs to be asked, but it is one that you might ponder in Japan, where Toyota offers the Century. This luxury flagship has undergone its first full redesign in over two decades and hits the market as an impressively revamped, chauffeur-style sedan complete with a hybrid powertrain, driver-assist suite and premium audio.

The all-new Century made its world debut at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, and Toyota began selling it across Japan this month. The launch of the third-generation Century is significant not only because it gives the world outside Japan a look at a level of luxury not otherwise associated with the Toyota badge, but because it's been 21 years since Toyota last trotted out an all-new version.

Toyota launched the very first Century in 1967, commemorating the 100th birthday of Toyota Group founder Sakichi Toyoda. Since then, the car has served as the company's Japanese-market luxury flagship, a chauffeur-driven saloon embraced by business executives, emperors and dignitaries.

We suppose the ultra-luxury sedan segment is one in which buyers don't mind eschewing the latest technological and styling evolutions for something that's large, comfortable and exquisitely classic, but the Century was still noticeably itching for a full redesign as last year's Tokyo show approached. The last generational overhaul came in 1997, when the new Century brought with it a newly developed 5.0-liter V12 engine, updated rear passenger compartment and more contemporary styling.

Toyota has followed much the same "new engine, improved rear cabin, exterior restyling" format with the third-generation Century, addressing the car's outdated look with a redesign that modernizes without losing the model's ageless charm. The car enjoys the addition of a fuller, more upright front-end, as well as stronger lines and fuller volumes throughout. The straightened C-pillar is designed to shift the car's visual presence to the rear, where the most important passengers sit.

The large, vertically slatted grille and headlamps with LED adaptive high beam technology make a very strong first impression. Centered on that grille is a phoenix emblem that also rises forth in other parts of the exterior design.

Toyota has once again focused in on the Century's most important occupants, stretching the wheelbase by 65 mm (2.6 in) to increase rear-seat legroom and comfort. A raised ceiling meanwhile adds headroom and increases the overall feeling of spaciousness.

Toyota has also decreased the height of the side sills by 15 mm, allowing for easier ingress and egress and flatter floor mat seating. The rear left (passenger-side) VIP passenger enjoys a power leg rest and massage function.

Keeping the very important rear passengers entertained is an 11.6-in display mounted centrally between the front seats. Audio is fed through a 12-channel amp before it's distributed out to 20 strategically positioned speakers.

Rear passengers maintain full control of their environment using a 7-in touch panel command center in the console, offering adjustment of audio, climate, seat massage and curtains. Wood trims and exclusive fabrics add to the feature-rich ambiance.

The Century may be all about the passengers, but it still has to drive from place to place. Here, Toyota scales back from the V12 engine, modernizing the powertrain with a V8-based hybrid system. The 5.0-liter 2UR-FSE V8 puts out up to 376 hp and 376 lb-ft, while an electric motor kicks total system output up to 425 hp. Toyota promises a quiet, silky smooth ride and excellent fuel economy. A comfort-tuned electronically controlled air suspension and active noise cancellation help ensure an optimal experience in the seats.

Other odds and ends for the chauffeur to interact with include the Toyota Safety Sense package with pre-collision system, lane departure alert, adaptive high beams and radar cruise control; parking support alert; and blind spot monitor. Helpnet activates immediate emergency services contact upon air bag deployment, while D-Call Net identifies severe accidents and automatically and calls in the air and ground ambulances.

The Century is on sale now across Japan, starting at a cool ¥19,600,000 (approx. US$177K). Toyota plans to build around 50 units per month at its Higashi-Fuji Plant.

It's been quite a month at Toyota. Along with the all-new Century launch, the automaker also confirmed its new race-derived hypercar.

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