Autocar India regulars would have read our detailed first impression of the Toyota Vellfire but what we have here is the final version for India. There are detail differences to the one we drove before but the USP remains the same – MPV flexibility with business-class seat comfort.
As the pictures make clear, the Vellfire is a whole lot of MPV. A Kia Carnival might be longer, but the Vellfire’s stubby bonnet section and slab-like sides equal a massive cabin and make the MPV look larger than it is. You’ll have to be a bit imaginative to see the ‘samurai’s piercing gaze’ inspiration to the front end but the double decker headlight and chrome heavy grille sure give the Vellfire a face like no other. A slanting second row window is your best indicator that the colossus besides you at a traffic light is a Vellfire while LED lights, a roof spoiler and a generous splattering of chrome add some character to the cliff-like rear.
Make what you want of the way the Vellfire looks because, like with other MPVs, it’s not what it’s like on the outside but what it’s like on the inside that truly matters. The Vellfire’s XXL exterior and 3 metre wheelbase translates into an enormously roomy cabin that’s best experienced from the comfort of the middle row.
The large chairs are no less than thrones and are comfy enough to feel like they’ve been plucked from a Lexus. And that’s before you note the small console tucked away under the armrest for a whole range of seat settings. The seats can be heated/cooled, the backrest angle is adjustable and you can even change the angle and length of the powered legrests. With the seats all the way back and at full extension, what you get is a near-flat bed. ‘Boss mode’ that slides the front passenger seat forward at the touch of a button frees up even more room to stretch out at the back. The Vellfire’s middle row seats are exceptional. Period. Just wish it wasn’t as big a step up into the cabin.
The Vellfire for India sees the inclusion of a 13.0-inch rear entertainment screen that folds out of the roof. The remote control to summon the screen and operate it, though, is a bit too 1990s. Also part of the package is a rear sunroof, sunblinds for the second and third row windows, 16 colour options for the roof lighting, and auto climate control for the rear section of the cabin. Fold-out tables and cupholders also help convert the Vellfire into an office on the move but frustratingly there are no power outlets at the back.
Access to the third row could have been better. While the middle row seats slide forward conveniently, the aperture isn’t big enough for large adults to walk in. Said large adults will not have an issue of lack of space at the back though. It’s easy to find a convenient legroom compromise with the middle seat passenger and there’s enough shoulder room for three at the back as well. Foldable armrests and backrest recline up the comfort level further. It’s really as good as it gets in the third row. The Vellfire fulfils its duties as a load lugger with ease too. The third row seats can be split, slid forward and even folded upwards Innova style to free up a flat loading area. A low and wide lip make the task of loading luggage fairly convenient too.
The Vellfire is available with a hybrid powertrain that comprises a petrol engine that works in conjunction with a 143hp front axle motor. A 68hp rear axle motor only kicks in when added grip is needed, forming an electric all-wheel drive system in the process. Curiously, the India-spec Vellfire’s 2.5-litre petrol engine is rated at 117hp which is significantly down on the Japan-spec model’s 150hp output. A short stint of speed restricted driving at Toyota’s test track revealed performance to be adequate though we’ll need more time in real-world conditions to get the full picture. The Vellfire has a pure EV mode too but you need to be very gentle with the throttle to drive with no emissions from the tail pipe. Interestingly, a study by Toyota found that strong hybrids like the Vellfire run on battery power alone for 60 percent of the time in Indian city conditions. The promise of low emissions and high fuel economy could be a draw for some.
For an MPV of the Vellfire’s size, it’s surprisingly easy to get comfy behind the wheel of. The steering doesn’t require much effort, the large glasshouse gives a great view out and the 360 degree camera with a BMW-like augmented reality display is slick too. Also nice is the 10-inch touchscreen unit that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The plush front seats make it easy to spend long hours behind the wheel while the front passenger will appreciate the powered leg rest too. Where the Vellfire loses points is in quality. Sure, there are many leather-lined and padded surfaces but you don’t have to look too hard to find less special materials too. And that’s a bit of a shame for an MPV that goes up against a Mercedes-Benz V-class.
An MPV with a Toyota badge and a near-Rs 85 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom) price tag would typically be a hard sell. Yes, the Vellfire is expensive for what it is and frankly isn’t the first model that comes to mind for a luxury car buyer either. But for the chauffeur-driven majority who spend most of their time seated at the back, the big Toyota actually has huge appeal. And that’s all down to the superb middle row seats that are good enough to swing our vote away from many like-priced German cars. Sit in one and you’ll get what we’re on about.