Performance Hunting At The Tokyo Motorshow
The nearly-here NSX

Are Japanese manufacturers slowly embracing the sports car once again? It seems like a decade has gone by since we’ve seen real exciting things happening on the new car front, but after spending some time walking the halls of the Tokyo Big Site this past week I did come away satisfied that it’s all taking a turn for the better. Sure the nineties are definitely gone: a decade where all sorts of exciting JDM cars were being made in a more affordable price bracket, but things are definitely improving if what we saw at the 43rd Tokyo show is a taste of what’s to come. After way too many years of hybrids and eco cars, it looks like performance and fun behind the wheel is once again becoming a priority with Japanese makers, the movement spearheaded by Nissan and its surprise IDx Freeflow concept and IDx Nismo version we saw yesterday. But while Nissan certainly stole the show there was quite a lot more to feast one’s eyes on…


… starting at the Honda booth. Finally the much anticipated NSX has taken yet another step towards final production: the car you see here is pretty much the final show car before design is once again toned down ready to hit the dealerships. I spent some time looking over it and took in some of the details like the carbon fiber brake package hiding behind the polished and carbon trimmed five-spoke wheels – 19 inch at the front and 20 inch at the rear.


Honda enthusiasts might complain the car shares nothing with its predecessor: it’s obviously no longer a lightweight, it goes about achieving its performance through a longitudinally, centrally-mounted, direct injected V6 engine mated to a hybrid system and it has gone AWD with a pair of electric motors driving the front wheels. It’s a product of the time we live in; big manufacturers like Honda feeling like they have no choice but to pack as much technology into cars like these as possible. It will no doubt be a great performer – it is a Honda after all, but it will be a complete opposite to the old NSX.


A carbon fiber roof has become a must-have on any sports car these days, keeping as much weight off the top part of the car to refine balance.


Aside from a few details, it’s safe to say the interior is very close to production ready. It definitely looks back at the previous NSX for inspiration and does a good job of bringing the message across that this is one serious super car! There is plenty of carbon fiber and grippy suede on the centre of the leather bucket seats but we will have to wait until late next year or early 2015 to see what will actually make it into the production vehicle.


Sitting next to the NSX was the much talked about S660 project, but while Honda hasn’t really given us much information to chew on…


… the little compact sports car is an obvious hint back to the S600 and S800 cars of the sixties and more obviously to the Honda Beat.


It gives us a good idea of what a production model could look like if it’s given the green light, but we won’t be seeing it much before 2015.


The little new-age Kei car will primarily be aimed at the domestic market but I’m sure there would be a lot of people that would consider driving something small, light and fun like this in other markets too. Check out that interior: very CRZ-like, but like all of these concepts we saw at the Tokyo Motorshow, it only has two pedals! A CVT transmission is the last thing I’d want to see in a fun car like this.


The proportions are carried through rather well to the rear, almost looking like a miniature version of the big NSX sitting next to it. We definitely approve, so speak up if you want to see Honda make the little future Beat!


Alongside lots of futuristic hybrid or Fuel Cell-powered concepts, it was only the ‘old’ FT86 Open Top Concept that brought true enthusiasts to the Toyota stand. It appears they are still gauging interest before they take a decision whether or not to make the drop top versions of the Hachiroku. It would allow the 86 to steal some of the Mazda Roadster market and appeal to an even broader audience, so seems to be pretty much a no-brainer!


The Lexus RC, hidden away at the back of the Lexus display, was showing off one of the sexiest profiles of the whole show…


… probably only really matched by the Mercedes Benz S-Class Coupe Concept. The big, luxurious, technology-packed coupe was sitting right next to…


… the Final Edition of the SLS which was also being shown at the same time at the LA show. It seems a pity to put this car out of production but it has obviously served its purpose and come to the end of the line. What a car it has been! If you recall, Larry recently shot the SLS Black along with the original 300SL: a great way to close the chapter for this generation of the car.


As a bit of a Subaru fan myself, I was disappointed to see that the new Impreza and the Legacy Concept were brought to LA and not shown in Tokyo, but it’s an obvious sign of the times. The 2013 Tokyo Motorshow was exactly one third the size of the 2007 show, as a lot of manufacturers prefer to save their budgets and set up displays at more important motor shows around the world. All we had to look at was a curious, almost Volvo-inspired shooting brake version of the BRZ – the Cross Sport Concept – which is powered by the same horizontally opposed four with drive being sent to the rear wheels via – get ready for this – a CVT transmission. This curious creation joined the Levorg, yet another awkwardly styled wagon from the maker, and yes, just like the new Impreza WRX, using a CVT transmission.


Here’s something more exciting and with no CVT in sight: the WRC version of the Lupo R. We like!


This is one car I look forward to driving in 2014. The 991 Turbo, shown here in Turbo S Cabrio guise, and set to carry on the Turbo flag for years to come…


… just oozes quality and performance no matter where you look.


911s always seem to work so well as drop tops!


While I was very sad Porsche Japan didn’t bring the new GT3 to Tokyo, I at least had this Cup version to salivate over. This right here is motoring perfection, and I’m sure some nut in Japan will buy one of these, stick a number plate on it and drive it around Tokyo!


With the Japanese market being one of the most important for Alpina, it’s not a surprise they chose the Tokyo Motorshow as the venue to unveil the all new B4 BiTurbo, based on the recently released BMW 4-series. The luxurious coupe boasts special hand-built version of BMW’s twin-turbo straight-six engine developing 410hp and 600Nm (442 lb/ft) of torque. The car sits on the signature Alpina turbine blade wheels – 20-inches all round.

The future of sports cars

With a lot of the attention being given to the IDx concepts, the Nissan Blade Glider might have been a little overlooked or probably even dismissed as ‘just a concept’ by a lot of people. However this is quite a bold statement for Nissan, and big props to them to exploring a whole new approach to creating the sports car of the future. Think of it as a street version of the Delta Wing, using the same sort of layout as the controversial race car and bringing its technology to the motoring public.


Nissan have built a test vehicle to try out the innovative layout and it has managed to reach cornering forces higher than the GT-R. The small 100-section front wheels are set close together and with a weight distribution of 30/70 (front/rear) it allows the electric powered car to carve through corners with great efficiency and not a sign of understeer. Ex Super GT driver Michael Krumm, had a go in the test car and was apparently blown away by its capabilities and potential.


Open the vertical doors and the driver can enjoy a McLaren-like central driving position with two passengers sitting behind on each side.


It’s a daring car to produce and one that might look way ahead of its time right now but it will be interesting to see what the future might hold for us enthusiasts.


I for one am not going to judge it just on appearances; there’s far too much technology and thinking put into it to dismiss it so easily.


The man behind the idea and project is Tsuyoshi Narita, a name that might sound familiar to you here on Speedhunters as he’s the owner of the R34 GT-R Bonneville speed challenger that is currently being built at Dandy. He also happens to drive a certain touge-special FC3S we featured last year. It’s great to see car guys like him in charge of pushing boundaries within the company.


Another name you might be familiar with is Hiroshi Tamura, the original Mr. GT-R. He is the guy that headed the R34 GT-R project and is the man now in charge of integrating the Nismo brand with run-of-the-mill Nissan models. His new baby, the Nismo GT-R, was another big attraction at the Nissan stand…


… the epitome of the R35, packing 600hp and a host of upgrades that include specially set-up suspension, Nismo GT-R specific Dunlop tires and a slightly redesigned exterior that creates more downforce without messing up the car’s original slippery Cd.


The signature red/black color combination we have been seeing on other complete Nismo cars like the March, Juke and 370Z is also carried over into the GT-R with lots of red detailing around the matte grey exterior as well as the interior. It wasn’t possible to get closer to the cabin but the carbon Recaro seats, as well as a suede-covered steering wheel and dashboard were easy things to spot.


At the rear the Nismo GT-R sports extended hips and a carbon diffuser section as well as a high-mounted wing. GT-R otakus will spot the titanium exhaust from the SpecV that is also offered via Nismo, as well as the all-new afterburner lights…


… which have made the debut on the regular 2015 R35 model. The stock version of the GT-R, now going into its seventh year of production, brings many improvements like slightly more supple suspension, a new wheel design, a new metallic orange color…


… and these new headlights. These feature multi LED projectors which even vary the ray of light according to the speed the car is travelling. Like the taillights, these are very cool upgrades and one I’m sure a lot of R35 owner will want to fit onto their cars. I know I would!


It was great to see Jaguar give importance to the Japanese market by bringing the F-type coupe to the Tokyo Motorshow.


The cabriolet version is already probably one of the nicest drop tops currently in production and this coupe further builds on that thanks to a very flowing design that really brings back images of the old E-type.


Jaguar sure knows what they are doing!


There are no changes to the interior, but there don’t need to be; this is one nice and comfortable cabin to sit in and enjoy the raspy V6 or burbly V8 singing away through the exhaust pipes!

Gotta have fast wagons

As usual I just can’t help the lure of a performance station wagon, and when it comes to those, Audi is definitely the class leader. The new RS6 Avant has just shot straight up to the top of my all-time favorite super-haulers, and I haven’t even driven one yet. I don’t think I even mind the bright red color, especially when it’s mated to black 21-inch wheels.


There’s no longer a twin-turbo V10 powering this generation of the car, tree-huggers the world over having forced manufacturers to downsize their big performance engines. Still the 4L twin-turbo V8 is capable of 553hp and should still be pretty tuneable.


It looks Audi is also getting ready to fight off the hot M-version of the BMW 2-series and the AMG CLA with the S3 sedan. With around 300hp, this will be quite the little performer…


… and as you can imagine Audi quality and simple ergonomics are very much preset in the interior, even though it did look and feel slightly plasticky against the more expensive S and RS models it was on display next to.


2014 will be the year of the i8, and its smaller i3 brother. BMW have something very special on their hands here, an impressive and commendable step towards the future, not forgetting that fun should be part of the equation even on cars that need to be eco-friendly. What they have done here is pretty much create and sell a concept car for the street, and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of both these cars.


First however, it has to be the M4; I was hoping to see it at the show, and while it might not be big news as we’ve all seen it before, I just couldn’t believe the presence this car has. It’s great to see manufacturers that don’t forget to cater to those that value performance over everything else. Japanese manufactures really need to take notice!


The whole week prior to the show I was driving this exact M6 Grand Coupe around the streets of Tokyo. I won’t go into how much I fell in love with this luxurious performance sedan as I would probably bore you, but this is one of the best cars I’ve driven this year.

The quirky side

But enough with big manufacturers. The Tokyo Motorshow has always had its own unique presence of smaller car makers, or companies trying to create something different or wacky. I came across this race-car-for-the-street project at the Ikeya Formula stand – yes the suspension and gearbox guys – and I was blown away. It’s still in development but it looked like a pretty good replica of the Toyota TS020 GT-One Le Mans racer from the nineties. I hope they make it and if you look closely you can see it already has the license plate holder!


How about this for a modern take on the Lotus 7!


You might have heard of Ken Okuyama, the Japanese designer that worked for Pininfarina and penned cars like the Ferrari Enzo and 599. Under his Ken Okuyama Design brand he has started creating minimalistic two-seater cars like this new Kode 7 Clubman…


… powered by a Honda K-series motor. The idea here was to create a modern, yet timeless design, taking inspiration from the Lotus 7 but with a visibly Japanese twist to it.


The Kode 7 is also available in a more sedate version with lots of aluminum and carbon detailing. Ken’s design studio designs all sorts of stuff from household accessories to probably the most curious vehicle on display at the show…


… a customized compact tractor. I think this serves as the perfect image to close this look at the 2013 Tokyo Motorshow; a show that was worryingly small compared to what we saw back in the good old days, but at the same time hinting that change has started, that some Japanese manufacturers have begun to think more about the performance side of things. Now we just have to sit back and wait, to see if cars like the IDx and the S660 will make it to production or if the NSX will be what enthusiasts want from Honda.



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I think you mean the Polo WRC :P


I was about to say the same thing. It's a Polo R WRC.


OMG! The horror. Wheel design of the new GT-R is so ugly...


@Jan Smitoe then don't look If you don't want to...for me its astonishing...


I wonder when someone is going to take the WRC Polo R and bring it to rally-cross? it never hurts to try and bring another manufacturer to the sport!
also that Nissan concept based on the delta wing principle is awesome!
me personally im excited to see more and more electrics coming out, it has been too long!


andddddddddddddd no new Z car...


@Mike Already been done! Search Anton Marklund!


The NSX 2.0 will be around 3k in weight w/ the latest tech and w/ driving dynamics of utmost importance = just like the old NSX.


I'm excited about cars like that Datsun 510 looking concept as well as the S660 and of course the NSX! Despite popular belief this new NSX shares a lot of the DNA with the original. When the concept first came out. I was not convinced at all, but once I saw the refined concept the following year and saw in in person at New York. Plus the prototype at Mid Ohio and talking to Honda representatives, this car will share a lot more. Yes it is a big step from the original. It's been almost ten years since the original was discontinued, but I think the DNA will show for sure in this car. Thats good to know since I am a massive fan of the original as it's one of my favorite cars of all time. Seeing it in white was stunning!
That Ikeya Formula car is awesome!  It does look like the Toyota GT-ONE doesn't it! Proper car with a lot of character and probably gobs of performance I would love to see one of those!

The Nissan concept is too cool! How awesome would it be to see some kind of 510 spiritual successor! That would be a sweet Toyobaru fighter for sure!

The S660 has me feeling the same. I trust the shape and look of the car will clean up in time and look more and more "Real" once it gets the green light. I hear a 6 speed will be offered! Car manufactuers sure can't go wrong making super light affordable sports cars like these. They win on the fun level, speed level and efficiency level. Plus price and availability more people will sure want to buy them!


Shawn Sejera You get it, and for that I salute you!


El honda es feo


@Jan Smitoe What are you talking about? They look like some simple 6 spokes, and the steering wheel is a nice suede 3 spoke. Not seeing ugly, seeing simple and functional.


dino please keep bugging the auto makers about that CVT,  get them to put in a third pedal for your readers and all the other car guys and gals out there. thanx


That tractor just made my day! :D


SebastianFettel cual honda? la nsx es belissima. la otra es como un tico taxi.


LouisYio if i had a ridiculous amount of money i'd get the nsx over the gtr ... its just sooo sexy. (now the gtr is an attractive car and ring killer but it was about damn time the nsx made a come back)


@Jan Smitoe those rims and that color make it look very aston martin-ish.


I want that S660!!!!!!!


Great article! I have  been renting a few automatic cars lately and I can not stress how much I missed my clutch pedal while driving them. Here in Thailand an automatic car desert, manufacturers offer many new cars only in automatic  it's really frustrating.


koko san Unfortunately it's all going auto these days, I just hope for the interesting cars at least, manuals will continue to be offered!


meal stub I thought it would be cool to show. Talk about a WTF moment when first seeing it LOL


@truhidden Oh I will don't worry. Those crappy transmissions have no place in any cay. A good auto, like the new ZF 9-speed will be a far better choice if mpg is a big concern


I hope to god Honda doesn't put Continentals on the NSX.


every single car featured is an automatic
le sigh


As far as the new NSX being the "complete opposite", I disagree. Okay, the hybrid tech and AWD isn't in keeping with the spirit of the original, but at least it's a mid-mounted V6. Remember the first couple NSX concepts from earlier in the decade were front-engine V10s! More like the LF-A than the NSX. I've never been a fan of the SLS, but the carbon hood and rear wing just serve to make it worse; it looks very "boy racer", very unfitting for a $300,000 grand tourer. I'd take the Alpina 4 series over the new M4; I don't care much for the M4's front fascia and I've always been a sucker for Alpina's wheels. For me, the most interesting cars are on the last page. I absolutely LOVE the Toyota GT-One; one of the best looking Le Mans prototypes from the 1990s, IMHO. A road-going version would be just sublime! I also like the Kode-7, a bit like a Japanese Ariel Atom.


Why oh why can't they have the electric motors an option for the NSX?
Those who want to be eco can have them, and those who want driving feel can do without.