There were plenty of standout cars at the 2020 Tokyo Auto Salon, but of all those on display at the Makuhari Messe over the past few days, three really stood out to me – and they were all from Japanese vehicle manufacturers.Toyota GR Yaris
Forget the Supra. That’s arrived and people have already started playing around with them, which is great, no, actually awesome, but Toyota is not done. Far from it, it seems.
Akio Toyoda went ahead and used a domestic aftermarket tuning show for the global unveil of the GR Yaris homologation special. High fives, high tens, and fist bumps all round to Toyota – the most exciting Japanese manufacturer right now.
Toyota’s Tokyo Auto Salon booth was impressive. It used motorsports and classics to show that what it’s doing has roots and a link to legends of the past. Better still, it was cohesively laid out for the fans to see, understand, and most importantly of all, enjoy.
While the Supra was the main car of the show this year – something you’ll see with the A90-specific post we’re putting together – the talk of the TAS 2020 was the GR (Gazoo Racing) Yaris. You can see it here, center-stage next to a ST165 Celica brought along to support the ‘GT-Four to GR-Four’ message coined for the all-new hot hatch.
Offered only in right-hand drive, the order book was opened at TAS with the basic model costing just under 4 million yen. That gets you the world’s most powerful three-cylinder engine developing 268hp and 370Nm of torque thanks in part to a twin-scroll turbocharger, plus all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual gearbox, all wrapped up in an aggressive little exterior with pumped fenders. It’s totally reminiscent of the good old Group B days.
The car is available in Japan in a ‘1st Edition’ guise until the end of June this year, in two versions – the base RZ, and the RZ High Performance which comes fitted with more track-focused upgrades.
That includes an intercooler water sprayer, and a pair of Torsen helical LSDs front and rear to make the most of the 4WD system. An electrically-controlled center diff then allows the driver to split the torque in three ways: Normal (60 front/40 rear), Sport (30 front/70 rear) and Track for a 50/50 bias.
Along with the GR Yaris street car reveal, Toyota also showed a Rally Car Concept, along with a CVT Concept which as the name suggests employs a CVT transmission. If you’re wondering why a CVT, well, so am I. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what it’s all about.Honda Access EK9 Civic 2020
The second showstopper for me was the EK9 Civic Type R on display at the Honda Modulo booth. This car was put together in three months by Honda Access designers and engineers in their mid-20s, highlighting that love for the older models that exists in all of us.
We are all aware of how popular restomodding has become in recent years, with so many outfits taking legends of the past and giving them a modern spin. However, to see a manufacturer-owned company do it is a whole other thing; it gives a feel of authenticity, and the end is result is that much more special.
The feel of quality that OEM concepts always have is instantly visible, starting with the bright headlight conversion which employs a perimeter design to bring the iconic EK9 headlights right up to date.
Shod in Yokohama A052 215/40R17 tires, the Civic 2020 wheels feature a twisted futuristic 5-spoke design.
The cabin has been kept very simple with a pair of black Recaro sports seats, but your eyes will be instantly drawn to the modern instrumentation in the binnacle, and the backlit Civic 2020 center console.
The body has smoothed details around the front and rear bumpers, and the entire thing is painted in a metallic silver with what looked like many coats of clear for that extra-shiny concept car look.
The rear lights get the same perimeter effect as the headlights, and since we are in 2020 the center Civic naming could have only been backlit. The drilled-out treatment on the rear diffuser mimics the front grille for a touch of continuity, front to rear.
As for the engine? I’m sure you all want to know about that, but let’s just call this an aesthetic study, the result of pure passion expressed in an official kind of way.
This is exactly what manufacturers should start doing. Imagine if Nismo took this approach to restomodding the BNR32, BCNR33 and BNR34 Skyline GT-R; refining their bodywork with modern touches, re-engineering the lights and instrumentation, and going a tad wilder with the engine and driveline. I need a box of tissues just thinking about this stuff.Nissan Skyline 400R Sprint Concept
Moving to the Nissan stand – their most well laid-out and interesting TAS display in recent years – we find a one-off concept of the Japan-only 400R version of the current Skyline.
What makes this car special is the fact that after years of using NA and hybrid engines (the 2.0-liter turbo Mercedes-Benz engine used by the Skyline for a short time is best forgotten), we finally find another proper Nissan turbocharged motor under the hood of a Skyline…
Something the NACA ducts borrowed from the R35 GT-R may hint at.
However there’s no VR38DETT under there, but rather the direct injected VR30DDTT, which has finally arrived in Japan and proven to be a runaway success with buyers of this new updated version of the Skyline sedan.
The US has been enjoying this engine – in both 300hp and 400hp guises – for a few years in the Infiniti Q50 and Q60, but Japan was left without a boosted Skyline until now. This means tuners can finally start playing around with it before it’s dropped into other future Nissans, the most obvious of candidates being the next generation of the Z perhaps.
The Sprint Concept also brings other hope; the possibility of Nissan starting to develop a really hot version of the Skyline 400R, hinting at a potential range of parts that could come with a Nismo version.
This is of course all speculation, but the fact remains: the base Skyline now has decent turbo motor that enthusiasts seem to be loving.
Japan may well be climbing back up the performance car ladder in the coming decade, while producing many more EVs I’m sure. It’s good to see that not all hope is lost for enthusiasts.
Dino Dalle Carbonare