On safari with Toyota’s secret, no nonsense luxury bus
A while back, we were picked up by one of these en route to a Toyota launch. I was gobsmacked by the Quantum VX Premium that day. Immediately, I set about arranging one for our next Kruger National Park trip. A week that turned out every bit as special as expected.
The most astounding thing about this vehicle, is that it’s pretty much a Toyota state secret. Never even knew it existed before that, and it seems that Toyota doesn’t do too much to move them. Word of mouth does that on its own. It’s not difficult to see why!
This is of course also the big brother of the Quantum range. You know them. That double-edged sword. Overtaking the morning glut on the pavement left, twenty-two up, and flat on the horn. On the flipside, they’re getting your force to work. Indeed, South Africa depends on the Toyota Quantum more than most. This one’s a little different though. Luxury from the ground up, it only has six seats. Premium Class, I tell you! And it even looks completely different. Some may call it gawky, but we really enjoy how this no nonsense luxury bus looks.
Toyota’s secret, no nonsense luxury bus
Stylised LED auto high beam and levelling DRL headlamps and LED front fog lamps punctuate an elaborate and unique chrome grille to set VX Premium apart from its everyday Quantum kin. It has body colour bumpers, while the chrome spreads to the door handles and large retractable power wing mirrors. The flanks feature edgy side skirts and muscular mudguards housing zany chrome faced black 17-inch alloys. Moving aft, there’s a tailgate spoiler, LED taillights and fog lamp, and even more unique Premium chrome
5.3 metres long, 1.97 m wide and 1.99 m tall, the 2,685 kg Quantum Premium rides on a 3.2 metre wheelbase. That’s a hell of lot of space for just six occupants! Which is why the four sumptuous, partially leather clad fully power-adjustable leg and backrest captain’s chairs are the highlight of this King of Minibuses’ vast and comfy rear cabin. There’s mood lighting and stainless scuff plates. An overhead console provides each seat with its own LED reading lamp and climate control vents, and seatback pockets ahead.
A tray shelf with cup holders sits between the middle row seats. All four captain’s pews also have their own cupholders under a little flap on their inner armrests. Third row passengers have ledge tables cast into the side walls with a couple of cup holders and other goodie areas too. Each second and third row seat has its own fast-charging dual USB C sockets.
Top Quantum a Premium place to ride
The second row seats power almost totally flat to allow their occupants to virtually lie down. Their leg rests come all the way up, their backrests lay most of the way down. The third row is a little less flexible, but still delivers the ideal, laid back seating position in a cavernous and comfortable space. A little set of buttons on the inside of their central armrests adjusts and heats of each of the four pews. Convenient enough, they’re a little difficult to operate and heating is too easily bumped on. They’d be better served on the front of the armrests.
The second row seats easily fold and slide forward to access to the back row. All four versatile second and third row seats lock into position on their rails wherever you want to fix them. All four can also be removed completely, to make Quantum Premium into a two or four seater. There’s not much space for luggage with everyone comfy six-up, so we took a trailer for our luggage. A four seat configuration would deliver huge baggage space.
Quantum’s swing-up tailgate would not open with the trailer hitched, needed space to swing up without it and attacks the user on unlatching. Another bother was that the rear windows do not open at all. That’s fine most of the time as the rear cabin climate control keeps conditions ideal. But parked game watching proved an issue with the engine switched off on hot days. Each rear side window has a sunshade, however.
A Premium driving environment
Up front, the driver has a wood and leather-trimmed tilt and telescopic multifunction four-spoke steering wheel. It’s backed up by a leather gear knob and frames smart driver’s instrumentation with an Optitron speedometer and TFT colour multi-information display. You’ll recognise it, and Quantum Premium’s infotainment set-up from higher grade Hiluxes and Prados. That Auto, CarPlay, standard USB and Bluetooth kit also brings 12 speaker DAB and AVN audio, navigation, a reverse camera with guidelines and Toyota Connect.
Our VX Premium also had rain sensing front and intermittent rear window wipers and an anti-theft alarm immobiliser. Smart entry has a wireless door lock for speed dependent auto door locking with child lock, and a rather annoying key reminder buzzer. The beep-beep-beep power sliding door alarms are just as irksome. Especially for your neighbours trying to sleep when you set off on a 4:30 am game drive!
Safety spreads to vehicle stability, trailer sway and hill assist, and park distance controls to supplement the reversing camera. A brake synchronised pre-crash blind spot monitor has rear cross traffic and lane departure alerts. Add curtain, driver, passenger, driver’s knee, and front side airbags with force limited pretensioner seat belts and ISOFIX child restraints on all four rear seats.
Handles, brakes, holds the road impressively
A prod on the starter button wakes the 115 kW 420 Nm 2.8 litre common rail diesel four-pot. It drives the rear wheels via a familiar 6-speed automatic. Familiar because albeit slightly less powerful, that’s also all Hilux hardware. Packing MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension with hydraulic power steering, there’s ABS anti-lock braking with assist on ventilated front and discs all round. Good for 165 km/h top speed, Quantum VX Premium accelerates healthily and drives very well.
Behind the wheel around town and on urban freeways as we prepared to leave, we found VX Premium super quiet on the road. A plush and friendly demeanour cossets six lucky occupants. Yet it handles, brakes, and holds the road impressively. And it never even knew the fully laden trailer was there. It has a 400 kg normal and 1,500 kg braked towing capacity. Toyota claims a combined 8.7 litres per 100 km cycle. A tad optimistic. Quantum loves to cruise and keeping this big square thing at those speeds does have side effects on its 70 litre fuel tank. The claimed consumption relates to 229 gram per kilometre CO2 emissions.
Our trip called for our expert driver to take the wheel with his lovely lady for company up front, the gogos to occupy the middle and the missus and me hindmost rows. Not only was it great to play the kids again, but our may hours in the back compartment all proved wonderful. A splendid way to travel in absolute style and luxury.
What better way to explore the Park?
Cosseted by typically effective Toyota climate control, sitting in our splendid captain’s chairs aboard our fine mobile lounge, what better way to explore the Kruger National Park? Our middle row guests never complained once. The four of us in the back all nodded off more than once, in splendid comfort.
Backed by a 3 year 100,000 km warranty and 9 service 90,000 km plan, R1.175 million may seem dear for a glorified minibus taxi. But scratch a little and it soon becomes clear that it’s not quite so. To match this spec, you will drop one and a half on a Volkswagen, two million on a Mercedes. Looked at like that, this far bigger and just as luxurious Toyota is still a bargain.
We learned to spot Quantum Premium VXs as we went and were surprised how many of them are actually running around. It is difficult to beat this as a high-end family, hospitality, and corporate bus and once you start seeing them about, the penny drops. There’s likely good reason why Toyota doesn’t bother pushing this one. It probably wouldn’t get enough of them to go around if too many people got to know about it! – Michele Lupini
Images: Giordano Lupini