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In ancient lore, the Trojan maiden Cressida is known for her deceitful nature, and the name is synonymous among Hellenophiles for a (decidedly sexist) portrayal of woman’s duplicity. And yet, Toyota chose the name Cressida for its full-size, rear-drive sedan built from 1978 to 1992, a vehicle that lived up to its mythical namesake with the road manners of a more expensive luxury car, yet the price and reliability of an upstart commodity brand.
Replaced by the front-wheel-drive 1995 Avalon, Toyota has yet to offer a sedan that lives up to the Cressida’s reputation for smooth operation and graceful, rear-drive style. But viewed through that lens, it’s possible the automaker might have snuck in a spiritual successor without us realizing it. Although powered by a hydrogen fuel stack instead of a velvety inline-six, the 2021 Toyota Mirai is poised, comfortable, and luxurious (despite its humble badging and reasonable-luxury price).
Its most direct competition is likely the Hyundai Nexo fuel-cell crossover, but the Mirai occupies a more premium space thanks to its rear-drive styling and a well-constructed interior. It may not be a traditional electric vehicle like the similarly sized Tesla Model S, Mercedes-Benz EQS 450, and Lucid Air, but the Mirai nonetheless offers more than 350 miles of zero-emissions range, and its hydrogen tank can be fully replenished in just a few minutes. With specs like that, forget Cressida. The Mirai might actually be a zero-emissions Trojan horse – if you live in California and near a hydrogen station, at least.
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Gallery: 2021 Toyota Mirai Review
- Exterior Color: Hydro Blue
- Interior Color: Black
- Wheel Size: 19 Inches
If you remember the old Toyota Mirai, well, we commiserate. Looking like a third-generation Prius with pec and bicep implants, the first Mirai fuel-cell vehicle did very little to impress the buying public. That changed for the 2021 model year, when the new Mirai arrived based on the rear-wheel-drive platform found under the Lexus LS. The Mirai is now a long-hood, low-roof stunner, with butterfly wing headlights, a trapezoidal front grille, and subtle creases on the rocker panels to enliven its soft, organic design. Full-width taillights and a fastback-aping greenhouse give the rear end a planted stance.
Inside, the Mirai takes a lot of inspiration from its Lexus mechanical sibling. A wing-shaped, 12.3-inch infotainment screen extends outward from the 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, with a similarly shaped outrigger on the other side housing the water tank release button and an HVAC vent. The padded dashboard and center console interlock, yin-yang style, to give the center stack a place to live, and the Prius’ funky, fingertip-tiny shift knob appears next to the HVAC controls within an easy reach of the driver.
Materials are nearly as good in the Mirai as they are on the aforementioned Lexus. Well-padded plastics are everywhere, and Toyota’s excellent SofTex vinyl upholstery feels rich and supple – no animal skins needed. The Mirai’s only real shortcoming, design-wise, is its liberal use of glossy black plastic on the center console and infotainment bezel. As in other applications of faux piano black, it attracts too much dust and fingerprints to look anything but cheap and chintzy.
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 9.6 Cubic Feet
Like the fickle Cressida (the Trojan, not the Toyota), the Mirai’s interior tells two different stories. The driver and passenger get heated and ventilated seats and a decent amount of space, although the wide, high center tunnel causes some claustrophobia – the largest of the Mirai’s three hydrogen tanks lives there. The fuel-cell Toyota also rides beautifully, with excellent body control and a smooth ride over all kinds of pavement surfaces. A hushed cabin, whether trundling over potholes or traversing expansion joints at freeway speed, is your reward for silent fuel-cell propulsion.
But while the front row is habitable for most folks, the back seat is undeniably cramped. The seat itself is well-shaped and padded for long-haul comfort, but the Mirai’s 37.4 inches of rear headroom and 33.1 inches of rear legroom come up short against the EQS, Model S, and Lucid Air Pure.
And then there’s the luggage area. Thanks to a 1.24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery located behind the back seat, there’s only 9.6 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. The seats don’t fold to expand it beyond that, and surprisingly for how long the hood is, there isn’t a frunk under there, with all the space occupied by the fuel cell stack. The Mirai is a big car on the outside, but inside, it has less cargo space and passenger-hauling ability than a Prius.
- Center Display: 12.3-Inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 8.0 Inches
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No
The 2021 Toyota Mirai boasts a standard 12.3-inch touchscreen display, although unfortunately, it runs on Toyota’s dated Entune infotainment. Touch response is reasonable, but it has low-resolution graphics, and the frustrating menu layout makes it difficult to adjust audio or vehicle settings on the fly. If you want to sidestep Entune altogether, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, though they require a wired connection.
On the plus side, there is a standard digital instrument cluster that offers a good amount of information, and the Limited-exclusive head-up display helps the driver keep their eyes forward. A surround-view monitor and automatic parking assistance also come with every flagship trim. Unlike most Toyotas and like some Lexuses, the climate controls have a slick full-auto mode that activates the seat and steering wheel heaters or the seat ventilation as appropriate – set your ideal temperature and enjoy a whole-body experience.
- Engine: Solid-Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell Stack
- Output: 182 Horsepower / 221 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Single-Speed Electric Motor
When it comes to straight-line speed, the Mirai’s svelte styling writes checks that its single electric motor and fuel cell stack can’t cash. Mounted on the rear axle, the motor only produces 182 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. On one hand, its instantaneous torque helps the Mirai feel stout enough for a quick stoplight getaway or unprotected left turn, but there’s no denying that 182 ponies just isn’t enough for something that weighs 4,335 pounds. The Mirai’s premium price adds to the dynamic frustration, which places it between the much more powerful Tesla Model 3 and Model S sedans.
That said, the Mirai is actually something of a lightweight compared to some other zero-emissions vehicles, giving it surefooted, stable handling. No one will confuse it for the barn-storming Porsche Taycan, but the big Toyota is much more enjoyable to drive than I expected. And while it doesn’t offer true one-pedal driving, the Mirai does have big, bold B marked on the transmission selector that will crank up regenerative braking a bit – good for a seven-tenths hustle down a mountain road. Adding to the fun is a volume-adjustable propulsion sound that makes the Mirai sound like it’s being pulled in by the Death Star’s tractor beam.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
The Toyota Mirai comes standard with the automaker’s full arsenal of safety and driver-assistance equipment, including full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane tracing assistance and lane departure prevention, and automatic emergency braking. The 2021 model I drove requires the driver’s hands to be on the wheel, but for 2022, the Mirai gets Toyota’s new Teammate hands-free highway driving aid.
Even without Teammate, the Mirai is a good road trip companion. Gentle inputs on the steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes keep the car well-positioned against other traffic (although at times the car is too slow to respond to a newly clear road ahead, as when a slow truck moves to the right).
Neither the government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have rated the Mirai for crashworthiness, perhaps owing to its limited availability in California only.
- Range: 357 Miles
- Efficiency: 67 City / 64 Highway / 65 Combined
- Hydrogen Tank Capacity: 5.6 Kilograms
The 2021 Toyota Mirai arguably competes in a class of one as the only fuel-cell luxury sedan on the market. With a full, 5.6-kilogram load of hydrogen, the EPA estimates the Mirai Limited can travel 357 miles, while the base Mirai XLE can go 402 ticks of the odometer between refueling. Those numbers come up a bit short of the Lucid Air Pure (406 miles), but they’re right in the hunt with the Mercedes-Benz EQS 450’s 350-mile EPA rating, as well as the Tesla Model S’ 375 miles.
Some might consider the likewise–hydrogen-powered Hyundai Nexo crossover to be the Mirai’s most natural competition, and it will travel 380 miles per tank. With both the Hyundai and the Toyota, their biggest benefit is that they can be refueled in a few minutes, compared to the 30-45 minutes it can take for an electric car at a DC fast charging station. However, traditional EVs can also recharge overnight at home, making them far more convenient for those whose daily commutes are less than 100 miles. i.e. just about all of us.
Hydrogen stations are also very difficult to find, even in zero-emissions-friendly California. I live in the suburbs of LA, and each of my three refueling options was a 15-minute drive away. With 55 retail stations dotting corridors between San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe, the Mirai is only a good fit if you can draw a daily commute or a vacation route that suits the car’s range. By comparison, there are more than 3,000 public EV chargers in the city of Los Angeles alone.
- Base Price: $49,500 + $995 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $66,995
- As-Tested Price: $67,420
With a base price of $50,495 with destination, the Toyota Mirai XLE is a decent bargain for a long-range vehicle with zero tailpipe emissions. That price is just a bit more than the base Tesla Model 3 and much less than the Model 3 Dual Motor. Meanwhile, the similarly sized Model S is nearly double the cost of an XLE.
My Limited tester started at $66,995 with destination and rose to $67,420 with a single option, its lustrous Hydro Blue paint. For 2021, Limited models came standard with a glass roof, ventilated seats, and a surround-view monitor, among other niceties. In my opinion, the add-ons aren’t worth the extra cost nor the reduction in driving range, so I’d pick an XLE (and drape it in that gorgeous shade of blue). However, the 2022 Limited includes Teammate driver assistance, and that would make it a more compelling option for me.
All that is moot unless you live in California, which is the only place Toyota sells the Mirai. But if you are a Golden State resident, the automaker will throw in a $15,000 fuel card, which should give most customers at least three years of hydrogen. For those who want to transition away from gasoline but don’t have access to charging at home, the Mirai is a great option thanks to its lovely styling, adequate real-world performance, and sumptuous and quiet ride.
Mirai Competitor Reviews:
- Lucid Air: Not Rated
- Mercedes-Benz EQS: 9.1/10
- Tesla Model S: Not Rated
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