Tokyo’s biennial auto show has cultivated a reputation as being the place where Asian OEMs bring their wild and wacky concept vehicles out from under their veil of secrecy to show the world what’s possible if imagination ruled the world. While the tendency at the North American show in Detroit is to show cars and trucks that are potentially going into production, in Tokyo, the spectacle-like aspects of the show shine. But not all of the vehicles at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba City were of the over-the-top variety. Here are a look at some of the more extreme and the more likely vehicles we saw.—KMK
Toyota i-REAL Concept: The i-REAL is the latest in a series of Toyota concepts that focuses on the study of mobility beyond the automobile. Designed to reduce overall space utilization, the i-Real is a 3-wheeled motorized chair that can travel at low and moderate speeds by extending the single rear wheel for improved stability. The chair features perimeter monitoring systems that alert pedestrians of its presence via light and sound warnings. The system also prevents the i-REAL from colliding with objects. Toyota is studying the possibility of producing the i-REAL for handicapped and aging populations.
Nissan NV200 Concept: A van that accommodates only two occupants—there’s a good utilization of space. Designed for the Jacques Cousteau’s of the world, the NV200 features a sliding cargo pod with numerous cubby holes and compartments to store such items as underwater air tanks and wet suits. The pod slides out of the rear of the NV200 which then allows the front passenger seat to move into the rear compartment via a rail system built into the floor. While the pod is a neat idea, it takes up all the rear storage space when parked in the rear of the van, rendering the rear compartment useless.
Honda Puyo Concept: This may be the first car in the world a pedestrian will want to be hit by. Cocooned in a silicon shell, the Puyo concept builds on the sense of touch, with Honda encouraging guests to touch and even hug the car. If the soft silicon exterior weren’t puzzling enough, Honda engineers have used LED lighting to make the Puyo’s exterior change colors, depending on the mood of the driver—stay away if the Puyo behind you is bright red. Inside, the Puyo is controlled by a joystick and the gauges move upward from the instrument panel to greet the driver. Puyo’s fuel cell powertrain also makes it green-friendly; imagine that!
Suzuki X-Head Concept: TThe shrinky-dink of pickup trucks is the best way to describe the X-Head. Built on a chassis the size of a city-size cargo van, the X-Head doesn’t compromise on functionality. It comes complete with load-bed units tailored for defined purposes, including a camper, with sleeping space for two adults; the fashion, designed for urban mobility; and a rescue unit designed for emergency service use. Styling is bold and brute, not something you’d expect from Suzuki
Nissan Round Box Concept: Personal interaction is a key facet of the Round Box, which Nissan calls a “sports bar” on wheels—with the minor exception of no beer tap. Designed to entertain both the front and rear seat occupants, Round Box—so called because of its use of round and square design templates—features a “Play Catch” entertainment system that allows front and rear seat passengers to swap entertainment and information, including transferring MP3s. Powered by a turbocharged gasoline direct-injection engine, the Round Box has a three-section removable roof allowing everyone to experience open-air driving.
Mitsubishi MiEV Sport Concept: Take a Volkswagen Beetle, chop the top and add an electric powertrain and you have the latest concept from Mitsubishi. An aluminum space frame underpins the MiEV Sport, which uses three electric motors—one at each front wheel and one to power the two rear wheels—mated to a lithium-ion battery pack to provide 115 hp and 500 lb.-ft. of torque with a top speed of 112 mph and an operating range of 124 miles.
Suzuki PIXY+SSC Concept: Someone at Suzuki might have had too much sake. The PIXY+SSC combine two modes of transport in one vehicle. The van-like SSC (Suzuki Sharing Coach) pod holds the two PIXY modules that can traverse sidewalks and shopping malls independently from the SSC. The idea is to allow individual people to move in a smaller vehicle than the one large vehicle commonly used. Underwritten with support of the Japanese government to study future modes of transport, Suzuki says the PIXY provides safe transport for the elderly and those unable to drive conventional automobiles.
Mazda Taiki Concept: As if we haven’t heard enough about sustainability to make our heads spin, Mazda has come up with this concept to address the need for environmentally-friendly sports cars. The zoom-zoom brand says the Taiki—the latest in Mazda’s attempt to build off its Nagare concept series—is meant to symbolize air flowing through a tube, although we’re not sure what shape the tube was, actually. The two-seat, front-engine, rear-drive concept features Mazda’s next-generation rotary engine, a clear sign that Mazda plans to keep the powerplant in the family for the time being.
Mitsubishi Fuso Canter Eco-D Concept : TIs this not the coolest dump truck in the world? Dubbed the first ever dump truck with a hybrid powertrain, the Canter Eco-D brings style to what would normally be considered a mundane task, hauling dirt. The 10.99-ft. wheel base carries a 6,613-lb. dump body mated to a 3-liter DOHC diesel engine (92 kW); an ultra-slim electric motor/generator (35 kW); a high performance lithium-ion battery; and automated mechanical transmission. This is what every road commission truck should strive to be in the future.
Toyota 1/X Concept: TThis is what happens when you send the Prius to Jenny Craig. Toyota’s engineering and design teams were hard at work making the 1/X the lightest, yet most advanced hybrid vehicle. Utilizing carbon-fiber reinforced plastic for body construction, the 1/X weighs just 926-lb., or 1/3 of the Prius. Power is provided by Toyota’s new plug-in hybrid system with a 500-cc engine mated to the rear wheels.
Toyota Hi-CT Concept: Long live the box! The dimensions of Toyota’s Hi-CT just about summarize its purpose: 131-in. long, 67-in. wide and 70-in. tall. While quirky—the concept includes a removable trunk and abundance of natural light throughout the cabin—the Hi-CT also provides a sneak peek at Toyota’s plug-in hybrid technology complete with a battery located under the floor.
Nissan GT-R: Rarely has a car garnered as much buzz among the tuner crowd as Nissan’s GT-R. It’s been more than six years since the GT-R concept debuted in Tokyo, and after several starts and stops the GT-R is road-ready. Powered by a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6 producing an expected 473 hp, the GT-R is expected to carry a price tag of around $70,000. Hopefully those kids playing Gran Turismo have saved up their allowances.
Mitsubishi Concept-ZT: Darth Vader, your car has arrived! This car is a close representation of the future large sedan coming from Mitsubishi. Built from an aluminum space-frame construction, the ZT is powered by a 2.2-liter, 4-cyl. clean diesel with a twin-clutch gearbox. The interior uses “green” plastics throughout.
Subaru Impreza WRX STI: The tuner crowd can rejoice as Subaru finally takes the wraps off the production version of its testosterone-laden WRX STI. While the front fascia design is in keeping with the styling set by the rest of the Impreza line-up, the STI has wider body flares and rear fenders to give it a more aggressive appearance. What’s most important is the new five-door bodystyle that’s likely to help the STI expand its appeal. The STI will continue to carry Subaru’s trusted asymmetrical all-wheel-drive system and power from Subaru’s turbocharged 2.5L horizontally opposed 4-cyl. engine.
Honda CR-Z: Take a close look at this “concept,” which Honda insiders say will be the foundation for a hybrid sports car set to debut in 2009. The CR-Z looks more than a bit like the CRX from the ‘90s and that’s no mistake. Honda plans to use the CR-Z hybrid sports car to showcase a number of technologies, including LED headlamps, along with natural materials throughout the cabin. Looks a little like anime on wheels.
Nissan Intima Concept: Besides having a name that’s more reminiscent of an impotency drug, Nissan’s Intima concept provides a strong hint at a future Nissan or Infiniti sedan, particularly when it comes to the interior. The suicide-door design provides improved entry and egress, while the front passenger seat swivels 80° toward the outside to “escort” the passenger into the cabin. The glass roof allows the passenger to ponder what’s right and wrong with the world, while the driver gets to take in the “floating” instrument panel and large door armrests.—KMK