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The absolute top trim of Toyota’s sports cars is the Gazoo Racing Nürburing Maester edition. GRMNs have included a high torque track-tuned Yaris, a lowered, stiffened, and carbon-fiber clad 86, and rumor is we may soon have a GRNM Supra with a 473-horsepower M4 engine. In the meantime, Toyota just revealed its next GRNM edition and its…a limousine sized luxury SUV?

The Century GRNM may seem like the black sheep in Gazoo Racing’s lineup. But the vehicle makes more sense when you realize it is a one-off that was custom built for Toyota’s retired executive and heir to the empire, Akio Toyoda. And I never thought I’d say this, but the “performance oriented” SUV is downright sweet when you learn it is named after Akio’s mentor and driving instructor, Hiromu Naruse.

With more time on the Nürburing than any other Japanese driver, Naruse was the true Maester of the ring. And he was also the man who inspired Akio to go undercover and race the 24-hours of Nürburing with an alias. The legendary race led to the creation of Gazoo Racing. But more on that later.

Gray-colored Toyota Century luxury SUV with Gazoo Racing badge.
2024 Century GRMN | Toyota

First, the new Century. Even those this ultra-luxury new crossover shares a chassis with the Toyota Highlander, don’t call it an SUV. The Century is titled just that, the “Century.” The name is a traditional model name for Toyota’s top-trim JDM sedans. But rumor is that Toyota plans to turn “Century” into a ultra-luxury brand, positioned above Lexus. The “Century” will soon be joined by the “Century Sedan” to fill out the lineup.

The Highlander-based “Century” aims for build quality on par with a Bentley or Rolls Royce. And at the equivalent of $160,000 USD, its MSRP isn’t far behind.

When Toyota revealed the new Century, it also announced a bespoke customization department. To show off its custom work, the automaker rolled out a Century cabriolet and the Century GRNM. The cabriolet on stage is actually one of two roofless Century. Toyota already assembled a very special reinforced parade model for Akio’s personal friend, the commissioner of the Japan Sumo Association.

The Century GRNM certainly looks sportier than its stock sibling. Its got a dark bluish gray paint. (Which is probably named “moon dust” or “northern moss” or something ridiculous). But it also gets special 22-inch blacked-out alloy wheels. Its body kit even has aerodynamics such as side skirts, a dramatic splitter, and–get this–a diffuser. Okay, that’s pretty cool. Inside its dark leather is a modern two-tone design. And of course it’s got red brake calipers. To my eye it looks lowered too.

Akio Toyoda's limousine Century SUV with its sliding rear doors open.
2024 Century GRMN | Toyota

My opinion on performance trims of SUVs has always been that their badges shouldn’t write checks their suspension can’t pay. So, for example, if Dodge wants to slap a Hellcat badge on a Durango or Jeep and actually give it 700 horsepower, great. With AWD, it’ll even beat a Charger to 60 mph. Same story with Cadillac’s Escalade-V. It promises straight-line speed and certainly delivers.

SUVs wearing badges made famous by track-tuned sports cars are a different story. Let’s just say, there’s only so much you can do when you have the center of gravity of a school bus. And Toyota is not publishing any output or performance numbers on the Century GRNM. So I fully expect it to be a stock PHEV/V6 which means 406 horsepower and an AWD system. This thing even has the sliding rear limo doors. It’s not exactly a “driver’s” SUV.

But as I mentioned, I’ll make an exception for a one-off built by Akio. Back when he was a mere Vice President, Akio lobbied hard for a “Toyota Works” racing team that could explore technology to use in the brand’s sports cars. The board said no, sticking with its rapid badge-delivery systems (F1 and NASCAR). So Akio and his driving instructor flew to Germany, bought a pair of old Lexuses, prepped them on a budget, then entered the 24-hours of Nürburing with fake names. And they finished the endurance race!

For a sponsor, Akio painted “Gazoo Racing” on the side of the cars because was a car auction website he had been running on the side. After the race, the board let him have his race team. And it greenlit the Lexus LFA.

The instructor was Toyota’s head test driver, Hiromu Naruse, the Nürburing Maester. He was killed testing the LFA near the Nürburing, but Akio kept his memory alive as the highest trim available on a Toyota sports car. So is Akio allowed to throw that badge on his personal limo, even if its an SUV? Heck yeah. And you know what, Akio could probably beat me around the Nürburing in this thing, no matter what I was driving.

Next, read up on Akio Toyoda’s daring Nürburing race, or see the Century GRNM for yourself in the video below:


Gazoo Racing Began When VP Akio Toyoda Went Undercover to Run the 24 Hours of Nürburing