Japanese Hospitality On Wheels
Ah, the Toyota Alphard. It has become synonymous with luxury mobility and being isolated from the chaos that Manila has to offer. Despite its high price tag, the Toyota Alphard is one of Toyota’s popular models here in the Philippines with 508 units sold last year. The sheer refinement, luxury, and comfort that the Alphard brings are unprecedented, even when compared to some of its more expensive competitors, which is why it’s no surprise that the Alphard is the mobility choice of numerous wealthy Filipinos as well as high-end resorts and casinos. For the majority of my life, I’ve only experienced the Alphard from the backseat, leading to my curiosity about what’s life like in the driver’s seat of the Alphard. So consider me happy when I was handed the keys to this Luxury White Pearl unit.
Toyota gave the Alphard a bit of a nip and tuck last year. The changes are small, but they all add up to a minivan that looks exquisitely luxurious. Up front, there is a tall and wide grille that’s embellished in chrome. For 2018, Toyota swapped out its own badge for something that’s similarly offered in the Japanese domestic market (JDM) version. The tall grille may be too ostentatious for some, but I personally like it. Flanking it are a pair of sleek LED headlights which also feature LED daytime running lights. At the sides, the Alphard carries a sleek profile despite the boxy shape due to a sharp window crease, forming a floating roof effect with the B-pillar. The five twin-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels blend well with the elegant bodywork, while the large LED taillights cast a striking glow at night. My favorite design is the Alphard’s sweeping LED turn signals, which really give this luxury minivan a very premium and modern look. Perhaps this is one way of motivating people to actually use the turn signals.
Opening the automatic sliding doors reveals an interior that is supremely elegantly designed. Save for the slightly clunky door thud, the interior materials and build quality are exquisitely top notch. There’s loads of soft-touch materials, leather, plus the roof lining and pillars seem to be made from some suede-like material that further contributes to its relaxing atmosphere.
Its neat party trick is, of course, its supremely comfy captain’s chairs. They’re electronically adjustable in four directions, including the footrests. The control panel also houses the buttons for the seat heating and reading lights with three levels of brightness. Meanwhile, the ceiling features controls for the rear climate control and LED ambient interior lighting, which can be configured in three level of brightness and sixteen different colors. The best part about the interior is its sheer amount of space. Whether you are at the second or third rows, there’s more than enough space for a full-size adult to even do a de kwatro. Even the third-row has flip-down armrests when no one is sitting in the middle. It’s really that comfortable.
At the back of the third row is enough cargo space for six people on a 3-day outing, including their souvenirs. While it may seem small upon initial inspection, there’s a very deep hidden underfloor storage, which contributes to the Alphard’s flexibility. Plus, the third-rows are adjustable fore and aft for more cargo room or rear legroom. Stowing the third-row seats when these are not in use further increases the voluminous cargo space, though this involves flipping the rear seats up in the same manner as the one found in the Toyota Fortuner and Innova.
Oddly enough, while the Alphard’s liftgate is actually powered, it becomes a manual affair when it is opened from the outside. It only becomes automatic when you control it with the key fob or through the power liftgate buttons located at the trunk and at the overhead console up front.
With all this talk about the rear amenities of the Alphard, what about the front amenities then? Well, even the front occupants are not short-changed in terms of luxury features because both front seats have both seat heating and cooling. The front passenger seat also gets the benefit of a footrest. For this refresh, Toyota has also added a handy digital rearview mirror, which utilizes a camera to project what’s behind the Toyota Alphard as you drive along. There’s also a new electronic parking brake that automatically engages and disengages are you shift to and from park, respectively. Lastly, the driver’s seat moves back automatically when turning the vehicle off, and then moves back to its original driving position when the vehicle is turned on. It’s these small, well thought out features that highlight the Alphard’s “omotenashi” design principle, which means Japanese hospitality. Toyota’s engineers and designers want to make a minivan that’s as comfy as your living room.
Infotainment duties are provided by a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system with built-in navigation, and while I normally bemoan Toyota locally-sourced infotainment systems, this one is actually quite good. The interface is simple and straightforward, plus connecting to Bluetooth is as simple as it can get.
Under the hood of the Toyota Alphard is a revised version of its 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine, now utilizing the 2GR-FKS engine code. The revised engine now features D-4S direct injection along with a smooth and seamless engine start/stop system. Along with other revisions, the Alphard’s engine now produces 296 hp (+21 hp) and 361 Nm (+21 Nm) of torque, sending power to the front wheels via a new Direct-Shift 8-Speed Automatic transmission, which replaces the 6-Speed Automatic with Super ECT.
This new powertrain combination improves its on-road performance and fuel economy. Not that the pre-facelift Alphard was slow, but this new one pulls much better throughout the rev range. Acceleration is brisk, even outpacing cars like the Honda Civic RS Turbo in a straight line and during overtakes. The new 8-speed automatic delivers seamless shifts, downshifting almost always to the correct gear when left in pure automatic mode.
Despite its spirited performance, do not mistake this for a sports car. Acceleration is tuned for effortless acceleration, not neck-snapping performance. The softly sprung suspension means there is a degree of body roll dialed in, yet the Alphard remains composed through the bends. It’s never floaty, changing its directions linearly and progressively as you enter and exit a corner. Likewise, the Alphard’s light steering is biased for comfort. There’s no sense of communication between your hands and the front wheels, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in a minivan like this. In the end, this is what the Alphard is all about. It’s suppressing all the outside elements to let the occupants travel in the utmost luxury and comfort.
Comfort is indeed the Alphard’s game. Regardless of where you sit, the seats provide plenty of support even for taller adults. We started our journey from Imus, Cavite, and by the time we were still at Skyway, which is just around 20 minutes from our journey, everyone was already asleep. By the time we reached our dinner stop at Petron Lakeshore NLEX, everyone felt relaxed without a single hint of fatigue.
As for fuel economy, the Toyota Alphard was able to achieve an average figure of 8.9 km/l over a week’s worth of driving with me. It even peaked at 10.0 km/l during a traffic-free weekend.
Costing P3,680,000, the Toyota Alphard may seem expensive at first, but there’s a reason why it has become the country’s most popular luxury MPV. It’s simply because there’s no other minivan out there, regardless of price and class, that matches the comfort, luxury, and refinement that the Toyota Alphard brings. Its small but critical revisions have made the Alphard a luxury minivan that’s able to cocoon you in the same level of luxury and comfort that your house’s living room offers.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.4 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.