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Old 2nd April 2020, 13:44   #1
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Default A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire

The Toyota Vellfire is on sale in India at a price of Rs. 79.50 lakhs (ex-showroom).

This review has been jointly compiled with Smartcat. Thanks to him for the expert observations & photography!
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220605.jpg

We were indeed curious to know as to why Toyota would bring this luxury petrol hybrid minivan to India, at a price that's nearly 4 times that of the Innova. At first, it sounded like a branding exercise. Frankly, Toyota doesn’t need a branding exercise. They already have the Land Cruiser and Prado selling in good numbers at prices higher than the Vellfire.

After spending several hours (not kidding) discussing with many product and marketing managers, we started getting a feel that this is a branding exercise for the company's SHEV cars. The product briefing was heavily focused on Self-charging Hybrid Electric Vehicle (SHEV), and why Toyota is intentionally staying away from pure EVs.

Being the largest car manufacturer in the world has its benefits. Toyota has access to data and research that most companies could only dream about. They have been pioneers in green and renewable fuel technology for over 20 years. In fact, I was familiar with their briefing material about SHEVs, thanks to an earlier trip to Toyota HQ in Japan, which mainly addressed SHEV cars. There was nothing new about the technology they presented. You can refer to our report from 2013: Toyota Hybrid Technology: Drive & Experience @ Japan. We are sure it is quite mature by now.

So, why are they talking about this mature technology and bringing it in a Rs. 80 lakh minivan?

The Indian government has been aggressively pushing for adoption of EVs via schemes like NEMMP, FAME 1 and FAME 2. Based on their market research, Toyota doesn’t believe that this is the right approach. They believe leapfrogging from IC engines to EVs is wishful thinking. They think IC engines to SHEVs is the right approach for the reasons explained in the following slides.

High Fuel Efficiency:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200221_190138.jpg

In a Toyota SHEV, the vehicle runs on pure battery power for 60% of the driving time:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200221_190152.jpg

The CO2 emissions are 40% lower than the CAFE 1 target:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200221_190233.jpg

Point 5 is a killer stat:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200221_190258.jpg

Vellfire emissions are just 1/10th of BS6 limits:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200221_190412.jpg

After the longer discussion, I can add some more points.

6) There isn’t enough Lithium in the world to satisfy the government's 2030 goal. There is no EV battery manufacturing base in India.

7) Pure EVs require a very different ecosystem. Very few countries have built the ecosystem for EVs. This is not just charging stations, but part suppliers, trained EV mechanics and garages, etc. With SHEVs, the change happens in a phased manner.

8) There is a huge industry connected to IC engine vehicles. Abrupt switching to EVs will cause chaos and lead to massive job losses.

9) Unlike BEVs, SHEVs don’t require charging or charging stations. Folks can drive a SHEV just like the IC engine car, while getting twice the fuel efficiency.

10) EV powertrains are highly inconvenient for heavier vehicles. A 5-ton EV truck will require a 1.5-ton battery, which doesn’t weigh any lesser when it is out of charge.

Toyota wants the government to consider a 4 pronged approach, which involves 4 types of systems:
  1. EVs for city drives / 50 km range. This will enable quick charging too.
  2. PHEVs for 200 km range. These can charge at home and also work on petrol.
  3. SHEVs for 400-600 km range. These can use existing fueling infrastructure.
  4. Fuel Cell for trucks and buses that do long distances with heavy loads.

However, the government's policy so far has been very unsympathetic to hybrid cars. Prior to GST, hybrid vehicles were taxed around 30%. Under the GST regime, hybrids attract 28% GST + 15% cess (43%). Recently, the GST on EVs was reduced from 12% to 5%, while hybrids are stuck at 43%.

Toyota, Honda and Suzuki have been heavily lobbying the government to treat hybrids similar to EVs. However Tata and Mahindra are opposing that phased transition.

So, this is where the Vellfire comes in. Toyota plans to import only 60 Vellfires every month, and sell them only to businessmen, industrialists and celebrities. I am sure this list also contains politicians. Once all these VIPs start using the Vellfire, they are bound to notice the advantages and become supporters and unpaid ambassadors of SHEV technology. That is a very clever way of branding a technology and help push a SHEV-friendly policy through. That is why five star hotels and corporates can forget about adding the Vellfire to their fleets via EPCG scheme - they can purchase it duty free. Toyota doesn’t want to sell it to them, because it doesn’t meet the SHEV branding criteria.

Last edited by Aditya : 2nd April 2020 at 13:48.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 13:44   #2
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Exterior

The front is so massive that they had to split it into two parts. Then there's the amount of chrome. It will out-bling Bappi Lahiri! It's not the shiny chrome you usually see. You would need to wear sunglasses if it was. Instead, it is smoked black chrome:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220584.jpg

Vertical back is relatively plain save for the chrome bar running across and the JDM aftermarket type lights which don't have any amber or red colour on them to distinguish the brake light, reverse light or turn-indicator:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220574.jpg

There's no hiding the boxy van profile. The sliding rear door has its channel neatly concealed below the third row window giving it a clean look:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220578.jpg

Walk up to the Vellfire from any angle and it stands out. Be it the front, side or rear, it will most likely shock you with its dimensions, boxy profile and outrageous front end:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220600.jpg

For a van, there is a lot going on in terms of cuts, creases and contours:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220586.jpg

The Vellfire measures 4,935 mm in length. While it is lesser than the Kia Carnival (5,115 mm), it will still be a handful in traffic:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220576.jpg

Headlight looks like it is split, but it's actually a single piece with a body-coloured strip separating the upper and lower sections. The top houses the projector LEDs for low and high beam as well as DRLs and the bottom is the cornering light, which is also an LED projector:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220592.jpg

The front camera for the 360 degree surround parking system is mounted below the "T" logo on a chrome strip:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220594.jpg

LED foglamps right surrounded by the dark chrome finish:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220593.jpg

Thanks to the absolutely massive windshield, the wipers have a unique design. The driver's side wiper blade is almost twice as long as the passenger's side unit:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220595.jpg

Hybrid badge on the front side fenders tells us this behemoth standing is not a regular diesel or petrol van:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220591.jpg

225/60 Bridgestone tyres wrapped around 17" black chrome finished alloy wheels again add to the bling factor:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220587.jpg

All-LED tail-lamps have a smoked finish and no colour making them look like the JDM aftermarket lights you get:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220590.jpg

Badge on the tailgate indicates it's a Hybrid well as AWD. The Vellfire uses Toyota's E-four system, which means it also has an electric motor for the rear wheels and doesn't need a conventional propeller shaft going from the front to the back for AWD operation:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220588.jpg

Toyota calls the single Vellfire variant in India as the Executive lounge edition:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220589.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 2nd April 2020 at 13:47.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 13:44   #3
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Interior

The interior of the Vellfire is where the luxury quotient comes into picture to try and justify the hefty price tag. You can get the Vellfire either with black interiors or dual-tone (beige and black) interiors. More than the front the middle row of seats gives a real luxury experience and is the talking point of this van.

The dashboard is standard fare with a wide centre fascia and a slew of buttons from the Toyota parts bin. Soft touch materials all-round give it a premium feel, but it's nowhere close to the German saloons that are priced even lower such as the Mercedes E-Class:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220526.jpg

The front doors are absolutely huge in terms of length, but the shallow door pockets are a joke. Note the seat memory preset buttons at the top and the JBL branded speakers:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220532.jpg

The doorpads have soft touch plastics on the top and leather cushioning for the armrest and the area above it. The rest of it is all hard plastics:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220531.jpg

The bottle holder on the front doorpad can only accommodate a 500 ml bottle:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220571.jpg

Ingress & egress at the the front is very easy for most folks, but this is not a traditional monocoque in which you can just slide into. There is a step provided for those who can't climb in easily:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220559.jpg

A look at the front seats in black. The front passenger seat is electrically adjustable but doesn't have memory presets. However, it does have an extendable ottoman for when the boss decides to sit in the front:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220622.jpg

A look at the black & beige seats. The front seats can recline fully flat:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220536.jpg

Front seats are ventilated with heating and cooling functions. There are cup holders as well as a space to keep your phone:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220540.jpg

The central cubby-hole can be opened from either side:


The glovebox is really small for a vehicle of this size. The DVD player also restricts the size of items you can place in the glovebox:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220543.jpg

I put my cap in the glovebox for reference and it was a tight fit:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220545.jpg

Controls for sunroof, rear power sliding doors and power boot lid are overhead along with the map lights:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220547.jpg

There are a grab handles to hold on to, for the second row passengers. For a graceful entry, these are needed as the sliding door results in an elevated floor:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220599.jpg

Open the rear sliding doors of the Vellfire and you know why Toyota calls this the executive lounge. These are like 2 business class seats or lazy boy recliners. The seats are the USP of the Vellfire:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220621.jpg

The seats have extendable ottomans that are electrically adjustable for height as well as length. You can extend them for tall passengers:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200119_193508.jpg

Recline the seats and extend the ottoman and you can almost sleep in them. Notice that the seatbelts are on the seat and not on the pillars so that they can be used even with the seats reclined:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200119_195303.jpg

Fellow moderator Vid6639 in zen mode at the back:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-img_20200119_195109.jpg

The second row is the master bedroom equivalent in this car. It has airline quality dining tables and individual electric controls for the seats for reclining and the position of the ottoman with 2 memory presets. You can also control the reading lights as well as the ventilation. Notice that the control for fore & aft movement of the seat is missing. That's because that is mechanical - as a safety measure for the third row. It's not cost cutting, but it allows 3rd row passengers to jump out by sliding the second row with one single action in the event of an emergency:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220530.jpg

The dining table for the captain seats:


The storage space in the seatback pockets behind the front seats is limited. Also note the HDMI port at the back of the center console and the 2 dummy plates. For inexplicable reasons, Toyota does not give a rear 12V DC port or USB port in India:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220549.jpg

Front seatback pockets are really small. What's worse is that thanks to the sliding rear doors, storage space at the back is completely missing except for bottle holders...
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220550.jpg

...and these 2 small cubby holes at the end of the center console. There is a remote control for the rear roof entertainment screen (seen later on):
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220522.jpg

Spring-loaded grab handles and air-con vents for every row:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220567.jpg

Air-con controls as well as mood lighting controls are placed on the roof along with a screen to watch videos. The screen is controlled by the remote seen earlier:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220554.jpg

Toyota says the Vellfire is a 7-seater, but it is actually a 6-seater. Can you imagine a middle seat passenger in this third row? That headrest is the only hint of the middle passenger seat. The third row seats can also slide forward to liberate more boot space:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220566.jpg

Third row ingress/egress is easy provided the passenger is not obese:


We doubt if anyone will use this luxury minivan to carry any cargo, but there in enough luggage space even without removing any seats, just in case one needs it:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220596.jpg

The third row seats can be lifted upwards. just like the Innova's giving a flat floor:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220597.jpg

The second row can be slid all the way forward to liberate maximum cargo capacity. Notice the heavy duty rails on which the second and third row seats slide on:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-p2220598.jpg

The Vellfire has massive leg room for all the passengers as seen in this video:


The tailgate operation:

Last edited by Aditya : 2nd April 2020 at 13:49.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 13:44   #4
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Team-BHP team attended the pre-launch media drive of the Vellfire inside the Toyota factory in Bidadi, Bangalore. It was a very limited test drive on a straight track about 1 km long and with a small loop at both ends.

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We got to drive for 30 minutes in this loop, with the top speed limited to 60 km/h. Since the track had no potholes, speed bumps or curves apart from the loops at the ends, we wonít be able to shed much light on the driving dynamics or suspension of the Vellfire.

We did get to test the brakes though and those are excellent. This is a 2,280 kg behemoth, and the brakes bring the car to a stop very assuredly and have excellent modulation. The brakes also generate electricity and charge the battery.

It is a powerful minivan, with an 86 kW IC engine and a 105 kW electric motor driving the front wheels. However, it is not strictly a front-wheel drive. It also has a 50 kW electric motor driving the rear wheels. Thatís a total of 241 kW or 323 BHP. But I donít think those numbers can be added up just like that. Those motors and engines activate and deactivate automatically depending on driving conditions. Here is a small demo of their working. Moderator Smartcat was recording the screen while I drove.



It has an electric continuously variable transmission (CVT), which means acceleration is smooth and gradual. Driving with a heavy foot only gives a rubber band effect. I took the loops at the ends at 50 km/h and the vehicle banked well. The electric power steering was precise and I never felt any inadequacy in the handling.

Last edited by Aditya : 2nd April 2020 at 13:50.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 13:50   #5
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As mentioned before, Toyota has been researching green technology and ways to manufacture cars in harmony with nature. They have set goals to build cars with the least impact on the environment. They also have very ambitious goals to achieve the same in the life cycle of a car, including recycling the car at the end of its life. As an example, the Toyota Bangalore plant shown below doesn't use any ground water or external water source for its manufacturing process. It entirely depends on rainwater harvesting and water recycling. The only external water supply is used for providing drinking water to the employees.

See this satellite image of the Toyota Plant near Bangalore. Notice the undeveloped area in the red circle? That is called the Toyota Eco Zone:
A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-fullscreen-capture-3122020-71021-pm.bmp.jpg



We spent at least two hours here going over how Toyota's green car building strategy dovetails with nature conservation, to reverse the adverse effects of climate change. There is one large tent in the Eco Zone under which they showcase how every part of a car can be recycled in an economically viable way. As an example, if you throw away a used electrical cable, it has no value except as landfill. However, if the rubber shielding is removed from the copper wiring, both items can be easily recycled and sold for a good sum. They have been teaching local businesses various such techniques to make a profitable business out of automobile trash. I can't post any images here since photography was not allowed in the Eco Zone.

Disclaimer: Toyota invited Team-BHP for the Vellfire test-drive. They covered all the travel expenses for this driving event.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 13:54   #6
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 2nd April 2020, 17:03   #7
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i think this is an excellent vehicle to own except for the price and for the lack of charging your mobile device. I dont see any other faults of this vehicle.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 19:05   #8
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A luxury people mover to show off with. The interiors are; the price is ; the external looks are rather unconventional !!
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Old 2nd April 2020, 19:36   #9
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With the amount of chrome on the front of the car, I'm surprised they bothered with headlights. At night, given our dear citizens' love for high beams all the time, these chrome panels could just catch and reflect the light and there you go! The world's most reliable headlights with no need to ever replace a bulb.
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Old 3rd April 2020, 00:12   #10
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The Merc V class gives more bang for your bucks I guess.

My friend recently commented this on seeing a Vellfire "I dont know if it's just me. Vellfire reminds me of the character Darth Vader from the movie Star wars

Car makers call it " new design cues "
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A Close Look: Toyota Vellfire-screenshot_20200403000643_whatsapp.jpg  

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Old 3rd April 2020, 00:41   #11
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Such an ugly looking car - I wonder who would want to be seen in one. When they put a hefty price tag on a car, shouldn't they hire somebody to design something decent?
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Old 3rd April 2020, 07:54   #12
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The styling is surely rather outrageous but I personally think this is amongst the most baller vehicles you can purchase. Sure, there are more expensive cars, more comfortable cars, but none are as purpose-built and in-your-face as this.
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Old 3rd April 2020, 10:30   #13
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More than the car, I think we should focus on their SHEV strategy, which is what they are really trying to push. What do you guys think about their SHEV better than EV philosophy?
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Old 3rd April 2020, 10:43   #14
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Fantastic review as usual Samurai, great attention to detail. I loved Toyotas top down approach on this. Sell this only to the decision makers, influencers and highest people in the society so that the rules are changed and percolate down to other cheaper cars and perhaps even local assembly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
More than the car, I think we should focus on their SHEV strategy, which is what they are really trying to push. What do you guys think about their SHEV better than EV philosophy?
I was always of the opinion that hybrids are the way to go in India. Esp, the ones like the Camry, etc. and not the mild ones from Maruti. I have been a staunch advocate of the Camry hybrid and someone I know who owns one is my viewpoint. He says in peak traffic, the car gives 14+ km/l even today. The car is the old model and was picked up pre-GST days when the prices were good.

A similar petrol car will give perhaps 7-8 km/l. There is no headache of charging or any special requirements. Being a Toyota, it just goes for regular servicing. Also, if and when the battery goes bust (lakhs of km + tens of years), owners can simply not bother to replace it and run it like a regular petrol car.

With better tech, this could have lead to range-extended electric vehicles (kinda like the i3, or the diesel-electric locomotives), with a small petrol engine to keep the batteries charged but one that doesn't power the wheels directly.

As for the govt, who's pushing for EVs, they could have adopted an exhaust-based taxation policy. 0% tax for pure EVs, 5-7% for EVs and 13+ for the fuel burners.
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Old 3rd April 2020, 11:04   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
It was a very limited test drive on a straight track about 1 km long and with a small loop at both ends.
We have booked this car way back in July when they had shown to their Dealers. At that time, they have assured October/ November Deliveries. They did Import an initial lot but didn't launched the car commercially and gave it to the dealership principal for their own use/ demo. After multiple rides in the dealer vehicle, my feedback for the middle seat-

1 Seating Posture - 10 /10
2 Ambience - 10/10
3 Amenities like cooled/ Heat Seat - 8/10 ( It misses Massage options that other cars like 7 / S class offer)
4 Ride - 7/10

Now, that an area where I found this car lagging. Despite being made especially for the rear occupants, the ride is nowhere plush as we will have it in say any Air Suspension model cars including Land Cruiser 200 or newer X5. Sedans like an S Class and 7 series are way ahead in terms of body control as expected.

Will this be a deal-breaker? Yes & No, if you have some other models that have coil springs, chances are that you won't even notice. Similarly, I found the car runs better when loaded with 3-4 people, maybe the way springs are used. On the other hand, if your usual rides are Air Suspension models, the difference will be noticeable. I could feel something was amiss in the first ride but the initial euphoria took over. I went for 2 more drives before deciding that this car won't serve my purpose and asked for a refund.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
More than the car, I think we should focus on their SHEV strategy, which is what they are really trying to push. What do you guys think about their SHEV better than EV philosophy?
Isn't this case of lost opportunities? Problem with Hybrids is that they add too many costs without showing incremental benefits - performance or range. So basically, they have to add motors, batteries and still keep the engine

Even in the matured markets like US/ Canada and Europe people have not adapted to these the way they are choosing Electric. Previously, even I used to think that Hybrids are midway and will suit us better but given the high costs and the limited number of manufacturers ( true hybrids), I don't see a future. And the way we have seen in past, even if the Government drops GST on such vehicles to 18 %, Toyota will not reduce prices proportionately.

So, I am afraid, I don't see any future of this technology.

Last edited by Turbanator : 3rd April 2020 at 11:06.
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