Both MPVs are well-known for their classy and spacious interiors, comfortable ride quality, powerful and fuel economical powertrain, and high reliability and ease of maintenance, as well as strong residual values.
UMW Toyota Motor, the sole authorised importer and distributor of Toyota vehicles in Malaysia, had in August this year launched the new third-generation Alphard and second-generation Vellfire.
Both MPVs have engines and ECU (engine control unit) programming that have been tuned to run better in local hot weather conditions.
Such tuning is only done for units that are imported by UMW Toyota Motor.
Toyota Alphard 3.5L
The Alphard is offered in two variants – the higher grade Alphard 3.5L Executive Lounge which will set you back RM519,900 and the Alphard 3.5L which costs RM419,900.
Paying an extra RM100,000 gets you features such as semi-aniline leather upholstery, second row VIP seats with seat air-conditioning, a more premium audio system with 17 JBL speakers and a larger eight-inch touchscreen display.
The Alphard Executive Lounge also comes with a 9-inch rear seat entertainment system with Blu-ray Disc player. Also exclusive to the Alphard Executive Lounge steering switches is a voice recognition for hands-free operations.
However, our test drive unit for this photo-shoot was the lower-priced Alphard 3.5L which we found to provide a refined and smooth motoring behaviour.
The powerful 3.5-litre V6 engine with dual VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) is a solid performer with 271ps of power and 340Nm of torque, mated to a silky-smooth six-speed automatic gearbox.
For us and our passengers, being in an Alphard on the move is like enjoying top-grade “durian” - it is quiet, refined, powerful, relaxing and comfortable.
Like the Vellfire, the Alphard has an electric power steering that is precise and nearly effortless to use.
Toyota Vellfire 2.5L
The Vellfire 2.5L is the entry level variant in UMW Toyota Motor’s range of premium MPVs.
The new Vellfire takes on the ‘Bold and Fearless’ design theme and the front fascia sets it apart from its bigger sibling the Alphard by the large Toyota logo and chunky horizontal slats.
It is fitted with LED daytime running lights and another distinction is the rear combination lamps on the Vellfire are C-shaped.
The dual linear illuminations of the lamps of the Vellfire also mirror the two-section headlamps at the front for a touch of symmetry.
As for exterior deisgn, a nice touch is the blacked-out quarter pillar which expresses a roomy cabin.
While the overall shape is boxy, it is far from boring as it has accented surfaces and the shoulder, which passes through a horizontal axis starting from the headlamps, expands in an arc from the front towards the rear, giving it a dynamic three-dimensional form.
Power is derived from the 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine with dual VVT-i.
The output from this engine is rated at 180ps and 235Nm of torque mated to a 7-speed CVT (continuously-variable transmission). Inside, the Vellfire 2.5L has a black colour theme with black woodgrain trim.
Metallic ornamentation and woodgrain pattern ornamentation give a strong impression of high craftsmanship in the cabin.
The instrument cluster consists of the optitron meter combination with 3-dimensional meter rings and the coolant temperature and fuel gauges.
Between the meters is a 4.2-inch colour TFT Multi-Information Display (MID). It also comes with a 7-in touchscreen display audio system and the screen display digital maps for route navigation by GPS and also serves as the control centre for the entertainment system.
The new Vellfire has much more space to offer as the wheelbase has been increased by 50mm. Ingress and egress is even easier as the step-up height is reduced by 50mm. The sliding door opening has also been enlarged by 70mm.
If you are driving one, than you will be surprised at the level of comfort it offers, not to mention how quiet the cabin is, making long distance sojourns less exhausting.
And if you are seated in the Captain Seat, then you have the best seat in the house.
Turn on the Ottoman seat feature to put your feet up and you can either sleep, read or watch what’s on the large rear display screen to pass the time.
Premium MPVs rule
Both the Alphard and Vellfire are actually close siblings with many similarities in design, interior layout, comfort and safety features, and plush cabin materials.
Step inside the cabins, and you will be hard-pressed to tell the differences.
Both MPVs are huge people movers at almost 5 metres in length and 1.9-metre in height, and on the road, they easily stand out among a mundane crowd of smaller vehicles. Getting in and out, especially in tight parking spots, is made a lot easier with powered sliding doors on both sides.
The best spots to be in the MPVS is the second row, where the Alphard 3.5L and Vellfire 2.5L get Captain Seats with power reclining and Ottoman features, as well as a side table. With both third row seats raised against the sides, up to six golf bags can be fitted in the rear cargo section.
Both the Alphard and Vellfire also get standard features like a twin moonroof, sunshades on the side windows, ceiling illumination (with up to 16 different colours), and three-zone automatic air-conditioning with nanoe air purification.
Regarding ride and handling, the new Alphard and Vellfire run on 18-inch wheels with tyres sized 235/50 and are quite planted when tackling road curves and corners at higher speeds; there is substantially less of the “softly floating” sensation in their predecessors.
This is likely due to better suspension engineering by Toyota, which uses independent front MacPherson struts with stabilisers, and new rear double wishbones for both MPVs.
The double wishbone suspension is usually preferred by premium and performance cars as it provides a good balance between handling and ride comfort.
In summary, the commanding road presence, high levels of refinement, ride comfort and safety features in both the Alphard and Vellfire help to jusify their astronomical price tags, and they continue to be the MPVs of choice for local “towkays” or big business owners. - THOMAS HUONG and RIZAL JOHAN