What you see here is the big daddy of Toyota MPVs. It’s called the Vellfire and — at nearly 5m long, 1.85m wide and 1.9m tall — it is an MPV so large it makes the Innova Crysta look positively mid-sized. The Vellfire is a mountain of an MPV, but you can make what you want of the way it looks. As with all other MPVs, what really matters is what it is like on the inside.
The moment the powered sliding rear doors open, you are greeted by corridor levels of space between the front and middle-row seats — and that is with the seats in their regular settings. It is a bit of a step up into the Vellfire, but the journey in is well worth it. The middle row is made up of two XXL-sized captain seats that seem more like La-Z-Boy recliners than regular seats. Finished in cushy, high-grade leather, they offer excellent support all around and get a huge range of adjustments. A section of the armrest flips open to reveal a control panel for all manner of seat settings, from backrest angle to the angle and length of the powered leg rests to seat heating and cooling; there is no massage function though. Those seated on the left can even move the co-driver seat forward (via buttons on said seat) for more space. At full extension, the middle seats make for a great place to unwind after a long day at the office.
The large windows add to the feeling of space, and what is good is that they 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 cabin. However, there are some curious omissions in our test car, like the lack of any charging points at the back, as well as a rear-seat entertainment unit, which is something you would just expect to be there. And not to be picky, but the retractable trays for the middle-row seats are quite small, though the fold-out cupholders do work well.
Moving to the third row, the seating position is comfy, and given the abundance of cabin room, it is immensely easy to reach a knee-room compromise with the middle-row passengers. There is no shortage of head and shoulder room either, and the seats are wide enough for three, though the centre split — they are split folding seats — can be bothersome to a middle occupant. Reclining backrests, fold-down armrests, dedicated AC vents and sun-blinds for the rear windows just make it more welcoming. Access though isn’t the easiest — the aperture is quite small despite the MPV’s size — but even so the third-row experience is among the best in the business. Luggage room too isn’t an issue. The third row seats can be slid forward, or dropped forward and flipped to the sides — Innova style — to make more room. A low loading lip and powered tailgate make it easy to load luggage.
Those seated up front have it rather good too. The seats are big on comfort, get heating and cooling, and, as an added plus, the front passenger seat comes with a powered leg rest too. Seat memory, an easy access system (it automatically moves the seat backwards for ease of entry) and a heated steering help make the driver’s life easier. There is also lots of space for small items.
But for all its gizmos and practicality, the Vellfire’s interior still feels like a Toyota interior. The dashboard is easy to navigate and there is generous use of soft-touch materials, but many of the buttons feel plasticky and some even look dated. The after-market touchscreen infotainment system doesn’t do it any favours either.
For an MPV as large as the Vellfire is, it is surprisingly easy to drive. The high seating and large glass area provide a great view, and what also helps break the ice is the surprisingly light steering. It is easy to place the Vellfire and even U-turns don’t require any special effort.
The powertrain’s easygoing nature also helps. The Vellfire makes use of a hybrid powertrain that comprises a 150hp, 2.5-litre petrol engine and a pair of electric motors — one paired with the engine and the second to the rear axle, adding in power when required — making it an all-wheel-drive MPV. Combined power is rated at 197hp. The large Toyota builds speed with grace and manages to mask its two-tonne-plus bulk well. It is quite at ease with a full house and it is also possible to drive the Vellfire in pure EV mode for short distances; this, however, requires gentle inputs on the accelerator or the engine will kick in.
Of the other things, the Vellfire rides a bit firmer than you would like and noise insulation isn’t at par with, say, a German luxury car either. The question is, would you consider the Vellfire over a like-priced luxury SUV or sedan? You see, the Vellfire will come to India as a full import this year, which means prices will be in the range of ₹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 is not 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 is at least worth a good look. For all you know, it could just be the luxury car you did not know you wanted.