If you want to portray a sense of affluence and importance in Japan, you can’t do much better than the exceedingly regal Toyota Century. The country’s ultimate old-money status symbol, seen in countless movies, manga and anime, has been around since 1967 – but such has been Toyota’s reluctance to mess around with the formula that the limousine has been redesigned just once, in 1997.

Now, however, there’s a new Century, making its debut at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show in prototype form before going on sale in mid-2018. Although its iconic looks remain mostly unchanged – with a long (usually black) body matched with lashings of chrome everywhere you look – the car is larger in all dimensions and its design has been modernised for a new era.

Measuring 5,335 mm long, 1,930 mm wide and 1,505 mm tall, the new G60 model is 65 mm longer (all going to the 3,090 mm wheelbase), 40 mm wider and 30 mm taller than the outgoing G50. It even dwarfs a long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class by being 89 mm longer, 31 mm wider and nine millimetres taller, although the Sonderklasse‘s wheelbase shades it by 75 mm.

On the outside, the stately look has been enhanced with a more upright C-pillar, highlighting the importance of the rear passenger compartment of this predominantly chauffeur-driven car. The square headlights are now fitted with triple LED projectors with Adaptive High Beam System (AHS), and they flank an intricate grille design incorporating a crown pattern behind the vertical slats.

Moving to the rear, the full-width tail lights now have a black centre for a more refined look, while the three-dimensional lenses lend a more harmonious look. The lower sill and increased door opening height improve ingress and egress into and out of the cavernous cabin.

Step inside and you’ll find plush 100% wool upholstery rather than the usual leather found on other luxury vehicles, although high-end, soft-textured cowhide is also available as an option. Once ensconced, the horizontal dashboard design maximises the sense of width in the cabin.

This feeling is enhanced through the use of a heather pattern on the backs of the front seats and the console between them. The latter houses a large rear entertainment display, which rear passengers can kick back to watch from their reclining massage seats, stretching out onto a new powered footrest deployed from behind the front passenger seat.

An integrated LCD screen hidden in the rear centre armrest allows those at the rear to control the seat, climate and audio functions. Those required to do business while on the move will be pleased by the inclusion of a writing table and reading light, and audiophiles will be able to enjoy their tunes being piped through a 20-speaker premium sound system.

Purists, however, might want to look away: the new Century ditches Toyota’s first and only V12, the venerable 5.0 litre 1GZ-FE, for – gasp! – a V8. The similarly-sized, direct-injected 2UR-FSE mill – paired to twin electric motors and a nickel-metal hydride battery – is the same powertrain package found in the outgoing Lexus LS 600h, albeit with rear-wheel drive rather than the Lexus’ all-paw system.

Toyota has yet to release the power output of the new car, but expect total system output to hover around the 439 hp mark produced by the LS 600h. Outstanding fuel consumption is also promised, and the optimisation of engine mounts and the active noise control system should silence any lingering doubts that the new Century is as quiet and as smooth as it was with four extra cylinders.

Comfort and stability has been improved still further through a stiffer body and specially-tuned suspension, together with newly-developed tyres that reduce road vibration. Safety-wise, Toyota Safety Sense P – which includes Pre-Collision System, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control – will come as standard, along with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.