Text: Iñigo S. Roces / Photos: Iñigo S. Roces | posted October 29, 2009 18:57
All sporting green
Not even the shadow of the global financial crisis could stop the land of rising sun from putting on a show. The 41st biennial Tokyo Motorshow opened its doors to the public last October 24 and will stay open until the 4th of November.
Like in past years, the event is being held at the Makuhari Messe convention center with halls that span 21,259 sqm each. The 13-day event will be the stage for 270 vehicles in total, 39 world premieres, and 21 Japan premieres. There are also motorcycles are also in the motor show, this time sharing the same exhibition hall with some of the cars.
Despite the impressive numbers, this is the fewest number of participants since the Tokyo Motor Show started in 1954. The length of the show has also been cut by four days from the original plan. American, European and Korean auto brands were noticeably absent. Lotus and Caterham Cars of the United Kingdom, and Alpina of Germany, on the other hand, made the effort to be counted. As for motorcycles, Harley Davidson (USA), Bombardier (Canada), Adiva (Italy) and Kwang Yang Motor Co. (Taiwan) were present for the motorcycles.
The show comes at a time when the world is still feeling the global financial crisis. Locally, weakening interest in automobiles from the youth is also disconcerting manufacturers. Their support is needed now more than ever, particularly with a theme like, "Fun driving for us, eco driving for Earth," thought up by organizers, Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA).
With this theme, JAMA hopes to "balance the enjoyment of driving and the protection of the environment" and "demonstrate the attractiveness of, and dreams associated with automobiles, to young people, who will become important customers in the future."
Eight Japanese manufacturers willingly took on the challenge with exhibitions featuring the latest hybrid and alternate propulsion systems. Many of the vehicles employing these propulsion systems keep a young and sporty driver in mind.
Leading the charge among them is a retro-throwback from Honda. Following of the cult-like following of the CR-X is the CR-Z concept. While the low profile, short wheelbase and broad stance is nothing new, an airplane cockpit style interior will certainly turn heads. It groups displays and controls together for a visually intuitive interface. The powertrain is also geared towards guiltless enjoyment with a 1.5 liter i-VTEC engine and Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system and a world's first six-speed manual on a hybrid.
Toyota is no stranger to the power of nostalgia either. The drifting craze put its Sprinter Trueno AE86 in the forefront and the company is now nodding back with the FT-86. Lovingly called, hatchi-roku, this two-door coupe hopes to bring back affordable sports-coupe performance its inspiration heralded in with lightweight construction, 4-wheel independent suspension, a 6-speed manual transmission, and a 2.0 liter boxer 4 engine co-developed with Subaru.
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd, maker of Subaru, had their own idea of guiltless enjoyable driving. The Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept is a four-seater sport-hatch with gullwing doors that open all the way to the back seats. The hybrid powertrain is made up of three engines: a 2.0 liter turbo charged boxer four with direct injection and two electric motors at each axle for the trademark "symmetrical all-wheel drive" experience. The vehicle also includes Subaru's latest Eyesight stereo camera road scanning system that helps minimize collisions with vehicles and other obstacles.
Mitsubishi has a concept for the rougher terrain called the PX-MiEV. This all-wheel drive, three motor plug-in hybrid system employs a 1.6 liter inline 4 for the front wheels, an electric motor for each of the axles and Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) and Electric-powered Active Yaw Control (EAYC) to shift wheel power and torque from front to back and side to side. A "cocochi" interior inside utilizes upholstery that reduces organic compounds, bacteria and odors while maintaining the interior climate. Yes, the seat IS the air conditioner. Soft LED lighting create a pleasant mood inside while cameras trained at the driver's eyes sound audible and visual alarms in case his alertness decreases. Finally, there's the ridiculously named Multi-around Monitor which is comprised of cameras around the body that combine their images to produce one cohesive image of the vehicle's surroundings.
Nissan's new vehicle is a two-seater although you wouldn't exactly call it a sports car. That's because the two seats are arranged in tandem, and rather than being low and broad, it's short and narrow. The Land Glider is an all-electric concept designed to ease congestion in cities and make better use of parking spaces. Being 1.1 meters wide and 3.1 meters long, you could easily stuff two in to a space and still have room for the doors to open. In addition, the car leans into turns to provide a more motorcycle-like driving experience despite it still being a four-wheeled vehicle. No new news on the exact details of the powertrain, but the flight yoke equipped interior should keep you occupied for a while.
Mazda adds "sustainable" to its "Zoom Zoom" mantra (no, I'm serious, they really did) with the Mazda Kiyora. Already being loaned to Japanese government authorities and energy-related organizations, the Kiyora integrates Mazda's next generation Skytech engine and transmission systems that match fuel economy figures of hybrids all without the aid of an electric engine. The engine boasts of 15 % better fuel economy over its older model and the transmission has a 5 % improvement over its predecessor. A light body, an idling stop system and regenerative braking help the Sky-G and Sky Drive systems achieve figures of 32 km/L.
Lexus showed off a luxurious new hybrid hatch called the LF-Ch. The sporty five door hatch features a a cabin with a "Remote Touch" interface that allows centralized fingertip control of navigation, entertainment and climate systems. The seating is made of semi-aniline leather over exposed polished aluminum frames. The dash and the rest of the material will be made of wood and soft-touch materials. There are no-specifics on the hybrid powertrain itself, although Lexus promises it will have four settings: Normal, Eco, EV and Sport all of which seem to work similarly to the Prius' system save for the unadulterated "sport" setting.
Finally, the most awaited unveiling was that of the Lexus LF-A, the brand's limited production US$375,000 super car. The spectacular angular vehicle seems to take design cues from Koenigesegg, Pagani and Ferrari all at once. The vehicle is powered by a front-mid mounted 4.8 liter DOHC 40 valve V10 that produces a frightening 560 PS and 354 lb-ft of torque, all without so much the aid of a turbo. Power goes through a six-speed sequential paddle-shift gear box and then to the rear wheels. This will rocket the LF-A to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and to a top speed of 325 km/h. All this is reigned under control by VDIM, VSC, traction control and ABS with carbon ceramic brake discs all around. What most people haven't heard is that all this excitement happens while meeting EURO5 emission standards and with scintillating tunes coming out of the 12-speaker Mark Levinson system as the background music.
If there's one thing this Motor show is proving, it's that green certainly does not equate to boring. It's a shame that there aren't enough youth at this show. They'd see that the future concepts certainly know how to get the heart pounding while still keeping the skies clean.