Lotus Eleven. Click image to enlarge
Story and photos by Norm Mort
Tokyo, Japan – In Japan, everybody gets excited about the Tokyo Motor Show! The Tokyo show differs from most of the international exhibitions in a couple of ways: first, it takes place every two years, like some of the European events. This was the fortieth year – which mathematically would mean the first Tokyo Show took place in 1928 – but in truth, the first show was held in 1954 in Hibiya Park. Thus, it wasn’t always every other year.
Two years ago at the 39th Tokyo Motor Show, there was a large display of old vehicles, but for the 40th anniversary, there were no old vehicles at the show at all. Even Mazda, which is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its rotary engine, left the 1967 Cosmos at the museum in Hiroshima.
Another feature of the Tokyo Motor Show is the vast display of trucks, buses and motorcycles. Not all the truck manufacturers bring their vehicles, but Fuso was there “big time” with its Super Great. As well, parts manufacturers also have a space in the north hall.
Fuso Super Great. Click image to enlarge
The world’s major automobile manufacturers are all present. The automobiles are housed in the main Makuhari Messe which consists of three buildings side by side consisting of an east, central and west hall. The event is also popular with young Japanese models who want to promote their careers. Rarely is there an opportunity to take a photograph of a car without a model present.
Although the event’s pre-publicity advertised there were seventy-one World Premieres taking place at the Tokyo Motor Show, these included many motorcycles, trucks and concepts. In fact, if there was any central theme to the show it was that it was a showcase for concept vehicles.
Beginning at the Mazda stand the big news was the unveiling of the all-new Mazda Atenza (Mazda6), which was unveiled for the first time in Japan.
Mazda Atenza (Mazda6) top, and Mazda Taiki. Click image to enlarge
Initially for the Japanese market only, the Atenza will arrive in Canada probably as a 2009 model with similar styling.
The Mazda Taiki made its debut appearance. The fourth concept car in the Nagare (flow) design theme series, the Taiki continues the evolution from the Mazda Nagare, Mazda Ryuga, and Mazda Hakaze by further advancing and refining the design theme. This was the first time all four cars were shown together; it was also the first time all of the design team was present. The Taiki is a three-seater sports car (Actually a two-seater with a baby seat); powered by a next-generation rotary engine with a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout.
As well, there was the line-up of the next-generation Mazda engines; each completely redesigned, to establish a new balance between fuel efficiency, clean operation, and driving performance. Also introduced at the stand were active safety technologies being developed for future applications. These included a safe driving support system that interfaces with networked Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), as well as bioplastic technologies that will be utilized in interiors panels and seat material. Mazda, along with companies, universities and the government in Hiroshima are part of the New Regional Consortium Research Development Programme supported by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. This enabled Mazda to become the first automaker to develop a plant-sourced bioplastic with a high-quality appearance as well as shock and wear resistance suitable for extrusion-molded automobile interior parts. In addition, the Biotech material derived from plants will help to further reduce CO2 emissions.
Mazda Atenza (Mazda6) top, and Nissan GTR. Click image to enlarge
Interestingly, Mazda was the first automaker to introduce bumper-to-bumper recycling-a system that collects damaged bumpers from cars on the road, almost completely removes the paint and reuses the material in new bumpers. The featured Mazda Premacy (Mazda5) Hydrogen RE Hybrid will also incorporate material recycled in this way.
The Japanese press was excited by the new Atenza (Mazda6) sedan as this is a vehicle that will sell in large numbers, but the most talked about newcomer was a limited production sports car. The mid-engine Nissan GT-R was shown at the thirty-ninth Tokyo Motor Show and stole the scene. It appeared in production form with some minor modifications in styling, but it was as exciting as ever. A key feature is the world’s first independent transaxle 4WD developed by Nissan. The sports car body is a combination of carbon fiber, aluminum and steel. Powered by a 473-hp, 3.8-litre twin turbo V6 “VR38” engine with a maximum torque of 434 lb-ft from 3200 to 5200 r.p.m. The power is transmitted by an all-new GR6-type dual clutch transmission with paddle shifting and a Borg Warner six-plate dual clutch for direct control. Drilled Brembo brakes bring everything to a quick halt.
The much anticipated Supercar will be available in early December in Japan through Nissan’s High Performance Centres. No date for North American importation of this $75,000-$85,000 supercar has been announced at this point, but the first year’s limited production for Japan has been pretty well sold out.
Nissan also showed two concept cars that will probably never see production. One known as the Round Box was a convertible, while the other was a sedan called the Intima.
Lotus Elise Supercharged (top), and Honda Fit. Click image to enlarge
Another world premiere sports car was the hot Lotus Elise Supercharged. Powered by a 217-hp 1796-cc four-cylinder engine, the Lotus Supercharged version enters production in December with deliveries beginning in March, 2008. Zero to 60 mph times have improved to 4.4 seconds with a top speed of 150 mph (243km/h) for this 903 kg sportster. Optional equipment includes removable hardtop, metallic colours and more. Also shown was a unique to Japan only, red, white and blue Lotus Eleven.
Honda took a very soft approach to introducing its latest Fit. The key question in most automotive journalist’s minds was if the new “beautified” Fit would be as versatile as the last. Certainly it appeared so and if there has been no compromise in functionality it should become a quick seller worldwide. The Fit goes on sale this month in Japan, so look for it in the Great White North sometime in 2008.
Another hot item widely applauded – not as much as the show star GT-R, but popular – was the Honda CRZ concept. Inspired by the previously loved CRX, this sports coupe features sharp-angled styling that appealed to the younger set. It was certainly far more spectacular than the overly functional Honda Puyo.
Subaru WRX STi (top), Suzuki Kizashi and Suzuki X-Head. Click image to enlarge
The newest version of the Subaru Sti in the always popular WRX version of the Impreza debuted with enthusiasm in Japan. The hot five-door hatchback is powered by a 2.0-litre engine in Japan, but will be 2.5-litres overseas and generate approximately 300 hp. Subaru also had some concepts on hand; the nicest one being the Exiga.
Suzuki had a truckload of new concepts. Everybody seemed to love the wagon version of the already greatly admired “Concept Kizashi”. Known as the Kizashi2, this cross-over sport wagon was one sexy Suzuki – and when was the last time you hear Suzuki and sexy in the same line? Equally admired was the concept mini truck called the X-Head. A perfect sized pickup for these fuel efficient times; this 4X4 comes with a bike-storage rack and multi-purpose boxes built in the side panels of the utility bed.
Not new-new, but now in four-door guise, was the BMW M3 joining the coupe already announced. A new BMW tii was given lots of play and referred to as the embodiment of the old 2002tii from thirty years ago.
Daihatsu had five different mini concepts on display from three highly practical Tanto models to a cool off-road Mud Master van riding along on 16-inch wheels.
Daihatsu Mud Master. Click image to enlarge
Three large gull-wing doors make this van an easy loader for any job you might throw at it.
Still, I liked the sports car models that were also dotting one of the largest displays areas at the show. A totally impractical Suzuki concept was the bubble-like SSC.
The American car makers were also in Japan big-time and drew their fair share of attention. Ford was the only one with a world premiere, but it was a newer version of the Ford Escape called the “Expression.” This was a teaser model to gauge the public’s reaction via styling, etc. add-ons including a punchy colour and added chrome grille bars.
Toyota Crown Hybrid (top), Orochi Kubuto and Alfa Romeo Competizione. Click image to enlarge
Toyota unveiled only concepts – fairly wild, some rather unusual to put it mildly, but one that was particularly North America-friendly was the new Crown Hybrid concept. Very nice indeed!
VW showed the concept “Space UP” that was a small family car with handsome lines, while being very practical.
Two of the nicest Concept models were found at the Mitsubishi display. The sleek coupe with a retro-like VW Karmann Ghia accent was the Miev Sport. The shape was great, but production of this “electric” model in the future is unlikely. The larger, very contemporary diesel-powered Mitsubishi Concept ZT was also a bright spot at this Japanese automaker’s stand.
A proposed design from Mitsuoka was the Ferrari-like Orochi Kubuto super car. If it gets built, it should sell. Also pictured are some cars that didn’t debut, but most people love to see – a Lamborghini and an Alfa Romeo Competizione coupe that was constantly surrounded by drooling photographers and journalists like me.
The Tokyo Motor Show is held at the Makuhari Messe about an hour north of Tokyo. The 2007 show runs from October 27th until November 11th. For more information visit Tokyo-Motorshow.com.