Toyota Motor Corp.'s new Century luxury car is put through its paces on a test run. (Tomohiro Yamamoto)

NAGAKUTE, Aichi Prefecture--The Century, flagship model of Toyota Motor Corp.'s domestic market, has undergone its first major redesign in 21 years, giving the luxury car an extra wow factor.

Production of the Century began in 1967 to mark the centenary of the birth of Sakichi Toyoda, the company's founder. The car's only other major redesign was in 1997.

The Century is the chauffeured limousine of choice for imperial family members, political leaders and business executives, and the most expensive in the Toyota lineup with a price tag of 19.6 million yen ($179,000), including consumption tax. The latest model became available on June 22.

Featuring “master craftsmanship” in both its interior and exterior designs, Toyota says the car stands as a symbol of its commitment to the highest standards of manufacturing and attention to detail.

Plant workers spend 40 hours on the coating, including finishing polish, of each third-generation Century model. Noise-proofing materials are also installed seamlessly by hand.

A craftsman spent six weeks engraving a metal mold for the phoenix emblem mounted on the grille of the car.

Masato Tanabe, the senior engineer in charge of developing the new Century model, boasted that it is “half handmade.”

Passenger comfort was another priority. The rear seat comes with a massage function. A touchscreen in the armrests operates an audio system and can open and close curtains on the side and rear windows, among other functions.

There is also a feature for cancelling out engine noise to keep the interior space quiet. Vibration is reduced to such an extent that passengers can even read newspapers and magazines while on the move, Toyota officials said.

The gas-electric hybrid vehicle has a 5-liter engine and a fuel efficiency rate of 13.6 kilometers per liter of gas, up significantly from 7.6 km per liter for the preceding model.

It is also equipped with automatic brakes and other safety functions. These improvements account for a 7 million yen increase in price.

The redesigned Century is for sale in Japan only. Toyota has set a sales target of 50 units a month.

The car is available in four colors, including “Kamui” (eternal black) and “Mashu” (dark blue).

The cars are manufactured on a purpose-built production line at Toyota Motor East Japan Inc.’s Higashi-Fuji Plant in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture.