I feel I should probably begin my look into this past week’s Tokyo Motor Show with a disclaimer: The show is nothing like it used to be.
Tokyo used to be one of the most wackiest shows on the international motor show calendar. It only came around every two years, but it could always been counted on for delivering strange and colorful visions of the future through numerous concept cars and one-off design studies. Yes, it still has those, but these days the Tokyo Motor Show is a shadow of its former self, mostly due to foreign manufacturers opting to attend Chinese shows in the Asia region, and others like Volvo abandoning shows altogether.
The ‘Japan Domestic Motor Show’ is probably a more fitting name nowadays, but that doesn’t mean it’s a total waste of time. It’s still a decent day out, and it gives you a glimpse into the future Japanese manufacturers are crafting for us motor-heads.
As you’d expect, the 2019 show was very much EV-centric. We’re about to enter the true beginning phase of electrification, where all these vehicles we’ve been promised over the last few years are actually becoming a reality.
Take the Honda e for example; we finally got to see it in almost production spec next to a pair of electric scooters that are going on sale next year. EVs for the masses are indeed here, and the choice is going to grow exponentially.
Running in parallel, regular cars like the new Honda Fit (Jazz) were unveiled in a nice array of guises. We’ll leave you to assess the design of this one yourselves; all I can say is that it looks very smiley.
I was a little sad that despite many different versions of the Fit being shown, a Type R or even a familiar RS variant were nowhere to be seen. Honda, even if you’re never going to make one, at least let us dream.
Those dreams were tucked away at the back of the Honda booth in a little gallery populated with F1 cars, starting off with the current Aston Martin Red Bull Racing machine.
It’s always amazing to see the evolution of F1 cars and how aerodynamics dictate most of the shapes.
Every time I visit the Honda Collection Hall at Twin Ring Motegi, this is the car I always end up taking the most pictures of.
It has a very special aura, and it was awesome to see it at the Tokyo Motor Show this year.
Autonomous driving transportation pods are a common vision of the future for most Japanese manufacturers, and you’ll see a couple more examples later in this post. At the Suzuki booth I found the Hanare Concept, a self-driving mobile room. Yes, really.
The Waku Spo on the other hand definitely has a cool vibe about it. The boxy two-door design is reminiscent of Japanese cars from the 1960s and ’70s, and could be a future interpretation of what a fun, sporty vehicle might be. Suzuki provided no real information other than that it’s a plug-in hybrid.
Now we’re talking. The new-gen Jimny is one Japan’s most successful cars of recent times, so much so that if you visited a domestic Suzuki dealer today and placed an order for one, you’d be in for a 12-month wait for delivery.
Nissan is a pioneering company when it comes to EVs (the Leaf came out almost a decade ago), but they haven’t forgotten that fun should be at the heart of cars. I’ll have a short drive experience of the Nismo Leaf RC to share with you shortly; it’s the model that made me rethink this whole shift to electrification.
Who else is digging Nismo’s new motorsport colors for 2020?!
The Ariya EV was the big unveil for Nissan at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. This all-wheel drive, mid-size SUV marks the beginning of a new design language for the company.
If there is one segment that seems like a no-brainer to electrify in Japan, it’s kei cars. The Nissan IMk hints at what an EV kei van could look like, and it’s hard not to like it. It looks like a miniature Elgrand to me, and that’s a good thing.
In the eco world Mitsubishi is known for its PHEV powertrains, and for Tokyo Motor Show 2019 they showed off possibly the most complex interpretation of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle – the Mi-Tech. I won’t even attempt to categorize it, but since it has no roof and no doors let’s call it a dune buggy of the future, perhaps?
If you’re in the middle of a desert cresting and jumping dunes, the last thing you want to do is run out of juice. No need to worry here though, as the Mi-Tech features a compact gas-turbine engine which can either run on diesel, kerosene or alcohol. This in turn charges the batteries, which in turn send juice to the motors that run all four wheels. There are even electrified brake calipers.
Mitsubishi – over-complicating cars since the GTO…
If there’s one car I really want to get behind the wheel of, it’s the Alpine A110. This is the S version, which has an additional 38 horsepower over the base model, plus retuned suspension and grippier tires. It sounds like a recipe for even more fun, so I must borrow one of these as soon as possible.
With far less Japanese sports cars than there used to be, it’s easy to see why European performance models like the Renault Megane are growing in popularity here in Japan. I see more and more of these cars both on the streets and at the track, and this new facelifted RS version looks like it will fuel the trend even more.
Call me gullible or just plain hopeful, but I bet I wasn’t the only one at Mazda’s press conference waiting to see if maybe, just maybe, the little space next to the MX-30 would be filled by an RX-9 concept.
But no… With all the rumors in Japanese auto magazines about the RX-9 finally coming to fruition, I really thought 2019 would be the year, but I guess we’re going to have to wait a little longer…
There’s a lot to like about the MX-30, a compact EV SUV with RX-8-like rear suicide doors. Top marks for Mazda’s designers.
It wasn’t until I entered a poorly-advertised upstairs display hall that a smile came back to my face – I had suddenly found heaven. The 2020 Tokyo Auto Salon booth welcomed me with an array of cars that you and I live for.
And sat smack bang in the middle was a Kremer 935/77 that BH Auction will be putting under the hammer at TAS 2020.
I wanted to hug and kiss it for simply being there.
I went around the back to check out the glorious rear end with boxed-out fenders and a propped-up wing around the barely recognizable 911 bumper line. I could smell a mixture of gasoline and oil emanating from the engine, so I took deep breaths in an attempt to clear any thought of EV cars from my head. Breathe in, breathe out…
Remember this Impala lowrider from TAS 2019? It took home the Best Paint award, for obvious reasons.
Masato Kawabata’s D1 A90 was the world’s second 2JZ-swapped new-gen Supra after Daigo Saito’s car built in collaboration with HKS, But now, with the help of Do-Luck, it’s powered by a Lexus V8 running a single turbo setup. I’ll definitely need to take a closer look at this machine in the coming months.
Despite the warm weather that has continued well in to autumn here in Japan, the HKS TRB04 reminded me that time attack season is upon us. Tsukuba Circuit pilgrimages will commence soon.
The Neo Classic Racer built by Honda’s Modulo arm redefines restyling jobs. This goes beyond a simple set of overfenders, as it’s more like a re-skin. We really need more of this.
Cusco’s rally-spec Skoda was also on display, but what I really liked was what was parked next to it.
Old Toyota Land Cruisers are all the rage in Japan now, and one of the biggest resellers, Flex, likes to restore and customize its stock and offer up creations like this for sale.
For 2019, every single foreign manufacturer other than Mercedes-Benz opted out of the Tokyo Motor Show, so it was nice seeing this line-up of exotics brought together to publicise an upcoming supercar event.
If you think about it, a Mitsuoka Orochi is a restyled Honda NSX. Bring Liberty Walk into the project, and what you’ll get is a restyling of a restyling, thanks to the addition of over-fenders, a front splitter and a massive rear wing.
When you think of two-tone interiors, I bet you envision something other than this. I’ll take the red side thank you very much.
Could this be the rarest car in the world to receive the LBW treatment?
It was cool to finally see a Dallara Stradale in person – and what a thing of beauty.
I’m not just talking about its looks; these are the cars we need to see more of – lightweight and simple in design to give you the most satisfying of drives.
An 855kg (1,885lb) curb weight dictates minimalism, but that is one well-appointed cabin.
If I had to pick one car from Tokyo Motor Show as my favorite, it would be this. I’m really glad the Japanese importers for Dallara brought it to the show.
Back down in the main hall, Lexus was the next manufacturer I visited.
And it was all very much future-oriented thanks to the LF-30, which is an all-electric, gull-winged styling exercise.
For some reason, the other half of the Tokyo Big Sight convention center wasn’t enough for Toyota, so they built a huge pavilion in front of the Toyota Mega Web in Odaiba, which required show-goers to take a shuttle bus in order to reach it. The whole transfer took more than half an hour, and then I was greeted with a very over-the-top booth with honestly not much in it.
Sure, they had the e-Racer concept which hints at what racing may look like in the future.
But then the rest of the booth was full of strange future-themed gadgets, like the Micro Palette, which is an autonomous delivery bot. What all of this has to do with cars is beyond me.
Next door at Daihatsu, at least they had actual vehicles. This is the Wai Wai, a six-seater minivan.
And here’s another one of those rooms on wheels.
We also got a look at EV trucks of the future, which according to Daihatsu will be even smaller than what you can see on Japanese streets today, and also able to despatch drones.
Away from the future dreams (or perhaps nightmares?), I did at least find something quite cool, but as equally confusing. This is a Daihatsu Copen which has been modified by Gazoo Racing, as you can see from the ‘GR’ badge on the grille. Up until now, Gazoo Racing has only enhanced Toyota models. See why I’m confused?
I guess in the massive Toyota ecosystem it makes sense, but I’ll take it at face value – it’s cool. The Copen GR reminds me of a mini-sized Nissan GT-R.
The two cars I really wanted to see on the Tokyo Motor Show press day that I attended were the Toyota Mirai and the TRD Supra, but both of these were unveiled at two separate offsite events. Thanks, Toyota.
My final stop at the show was the Subaru booth. From this moment on, Subaru will change.
Will the change be for the better or worst? That remains to be seen, but this Impreza WRX STI is the final car to be powered by the EJ20 engine.
It would have been cool to see something extra powerful for this final hurrah, but the ‘Final Edition’ EJ20 produces a modest 308PS.
Bye-bye EJ20, it was nice while it lasted.
I’m going to end with a welcome to the restyled Levorg, one of the most popular cars that Subaru sells in its home market, and a model that I know a lot of people would like to see exported to other countries.
So there you have it, the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, a glimpse into a future where autonomous EVs will roam the streets and where little bots will deliver packages to your doorstep. I’m personally all for evolution and automation, but for every 10 EVs, every manufacturer should have a halo sports car that defines the pillars the brand is built on. I really hope this is something that won’t be forgotten in the future. We as enthusiasts can only wait in hope.
Dino Dalle Carbonare