There’s no doubt about it, the Tokyo Motor Show’s importance on the global scene has been on the wane for upwards of two decades. Blame a home market where outside automakers have a tough time cracking the code or the ascent of other international expos like AutoChina. Either way, you could forgive us for not being pumped about covering this week’s festivities.
But you’d be wrong — we’re incredibly excited, because all the signs point to one of the most vibrant Tokyo shows in years.
Whether you’re a technophile, a high-performance gearhead, an SUV devotee or just someone with a weakness for oddball Japanese design, the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show promises gobs of eye- and braincandy. Here’s just a taste of what we’re looking forward to learning more about next Wednesday and Thursday during the show’s media preview days.
Honda Sports EV Concept
Honda’s Urban EV Concept was the surprise star of September’s Frankfurt Motor Showthanks to its combination of friendly, retrofuturist good looks and the promise of emissions-free electric running. For the Tokyo Show, Honda is looking to build on that momentum with the debut of its Sports EV Concept.
Based on the teaser image above, we’re expecting the show car to be a diminutive sports car with a sloping roofline, a long hood and likely only two seats. The fact that Honda is making an electric sports car concept suggests that the company believes not all cars will be autonomous transportation pods.
Honda Riding Assist-e
You didn’t think everything at the Tokyo Motor Show would have four wheels, did you? The Honda Riding Assist-e is an evolution of the self-balancing motorcycle tech the company has shown before, now with an electric powertrain.
Based on Honda’s NC 700, the Riding Assist-e doesn’t appear to be a fully autonomous bike — instead, its autobalancing is designed to ease rider stress in low-speed situations like traffic jams and when approaching or pulling away from a stop.
Mazda ‘design vision model’
Mazda’s legendary rotary engine is celebrating its 50th year, but there’s sadly still no reliable word of a new Wankel-powered sports car introduction for this auto show, production-intent or otherwise. That said, sports-car-minded fans of the brand won’t come away from the Tokyo Big Sight exposition hall empty-handed.
An unnamed concept known simply as the ‘design vision model’ has been teased, and this sleek-looking sports car appears to have four doors. Said to preview the next evolution of Mazda’s Kodo design language, it’s possible the design could be a precursor to a new RX model.
Mazda ‘product concept model’
The Tokyo debut with the dullest excuse for a name may just be the most important car of the show for US consumers. That’s because it’s expected to provide a good indicator of the next-generation Mazda3, which is due to bow next year as a 2019 model.
The five-door showcar will be powered by a Skyactiv-X engine, which uses compression ignition at higher revs, like a diesel. Mazda has pledged that this unique technology will make it into its production cars shortly, offering superior, diesel-like low-end torque and significantly improved fuel economy.
Mitsubishi e-Evolution Concept
This Mitsubishi concept looks a bit like a flying saucer thanks to its rounded, bubble-top greenhouse and unconventional nose. What’s under the skin sounds no less futuristic.
Three electric motors power the wild crossover SUV, but the vehicle’s most interesting tech is its claimed AI hardware, which includes a sensory network that gathers road and traffic data and compares it against the driver’s inputs to gauge intent. That hardware also enables a personalized digital driving coach, and the vehicle has the ability to learn occupants’ voices and their preferences to better serve their needs.
Naturally, the e-Evolution also includes a deployable drone, “Blade Runner 2049” style, to check traffic conditions ahead. Because… why not?
Nissan Intelligent Mobility SUV concept
Like Toyota’s Supra and Mazda’s RX-7, a concept successor to Nissan’s legendary Z sports car has been the subject of persistent rumors for the Tokyo Motor Show, but lamentably, there’s still little hard evidence to suggest one will surface. But even if a neo-Z fails to appear, Nissan still has plenty that’s of interest.
Nissan’s show presence will likely revolve around two debuts — a sleek, long-nosed crossover SUV concept that builds on the automaker’s Intelligent Mobility vision for the future. That means we can expect it to be powered by electricity, and also be capable of heavily or fully automated driving.
In the single shadowy teaser image that the Yokohama-based automaker has released, we also can’t help but notice a certain likeness to Faraday Future’s FF 91, but we suspect it’ll look quite different in person.
Nissan Leaf Nismo Concept
If that all sounds too pie in the sky for your tastes, Nissan’s Leaf Nismo Concept seems like it has a significantly better chance at landing in your driveway. This visually amped-up version of the automaker’s recently introduced second-generation Leaf EV features markedly racier bodywork and a reworked suspension for improved handling.
Nissan has hinted that it might produce a sportier version of its electric hatchback in the past, and this looks like it’d be a good place to start.
Subaru Viziv Performance Concept
Subaru’s display centerpiece will be its Viziv Performance Concept, a sports sedan showcar that likely previews the automaker’s next WRX, although a couple of media outlets have suggested it may instead hint at a hotter Legacy. While Subaru hasn’t confirmed much about the car, shadowy teasers suggest it it has muscular bodywork, ample air intakes (likely needed to feed a souped-up engine) and a sizable rear wing.
Despite being a driver’s car, the VPC is expected to carry a host of advanced driver-assist systems, centering on an evolution of the company’s EyeSight suite of active safety features.
Toyota GR HV Concept
Even if a long-rumored Supra successor doesn’t show up, Toyota will have a hugely interesting presence at this year’s show. Highlights include the GR HV, a targa-topped sports car concept based on today’s production 86 coupe.
Why are we excited about it? We’re eager to learn how its novel automatic transmission works — it has a manual mode that lets you shift through an H-gate just like a stick shift, only without the pedals. We’re also eager to see if its funky, aggressive new bodywork looks good in person.
Toyota TJ Cruiser Concept
If your idea of automotive fun skews more sport utility than sports car, Toyota’s got you covered, too. Its funky TJ Cruiser concept is a rectilinear SUV that melds the sliding doors and cargo-toting capability of a van with the boxy flared fenders and attitude of an SUV.
Despite its brutish appearance, it’s powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with hybrid assist, so it might actually be pretty fuel efficient.
To be fair, we don’t know much about Yamaha’s Motoroid concept motorcycle, but we do know it looks amazing. Based on the development concept of “Unleashed Prototype,” Yamaha says the bike is “capable of recognizing its owner and interacting in other capacities like a living creature.” It sounds halfway to sentience.
No word yet on what powers the Motoroid, but it appears to be electric judging by what looks like large external cylindrical cells.
This thing looks less like a motorcycle for humans and more like a two-wheeler for a Gundam robot to ride into battle. That’s just fine by us, because it’s exactly the type of thing one can only expect to find at the Tokyo Motor Show.
Looking a bit like a steampunk golf cart or some sort of insectoid Transformer, Yamaha’s MWC-4 is a single-seat personal mobility device that leans into corners like a motorcycle.
Powered by an electric motor and backed by a small range-extender engine, the spindly runabout looks well suited to densely populated cities with low-speed traffic where maneuverability and ease of parking are prime assets.