“Your Heart Will Race,” is the Tokyo Motor Show’s theme. And people who yearn for cutting-edge technology, way out-of-the-box concepts, and even some vehicles that will actually be produced, will probably find that true. Preshow publicity promised “Technology x Fantasy” and that’s been delivered during its nine-day run, which ends Sunday.
“Fantasy” doesn’t mean “no wheels,” but it takes in a wide spectrum of other design ideas. The shapes and sizes range from weird to wonderful.
One writer described Toyota’s Kikai concept as “a bit like one of the post-apocalyptic vehicles of Mad Max 2.” The engine is completely visible. Meanwhile, the tiny Toyoda Gosei Flesby concept is covered with external airbags to help protect pedestrians.
Nissan’s Teatro for Dayz concept is geared toward tech-savvy youth. It’s a box on wheels, with an all-white exterior and interior that can instantly change via LED lights and screens to reflect the occupants’ desire. Onboard cameras let passengers communicate with friends wherever they may be.
Mercedes’ Vision concept also is designed for “Generation Z.” The sleek, rocket-like pod is configured like a lounge inside. It runs on a fuel-cell powered electric engine and can be driven or operated autonomously while the passengers are occupied with their media.
Toyota, Honda and Lexus also are showcasing hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Toyota’s FCV Plus concept is quirky-looking and interesting partly because Toyota boasts it could generate power for a home. It moves Toyota closer to its goal of being 90 percent emissions-free by 2050. Meanwhile, Honda’s new Clarity fuel-cell vehicle will be available next year offering a 300-mile range and capacity of five passengers. With just 12 public hydrogen stations in the U.S., Clarity will have limited appeal for now.
The Lexus LF-FC concept uses a fuel cell to power the rear wheels and electric motors for both front wheels. However, when comes to market in a year or so as the next-generation LS it likely will be gasoline-powered. This concept version is longer, lower and wider than the current LS and offers gesture controls and several autonomous driving features in its technology portfolio.
The Nissan IDS (Intelligent Driving System) concept could indicate the direction for the next-generation Nissan Leaf. It’s a hatchback with a 60 kwh motor. It’s also a showcase for Nissan’s autonomous vehicle technology. Nissan says it’s testing an autonomous vehicle in Tokyo and promises multiple autonomous models available by 2020. In “Piloted Drive” mode the IDS’s seats swivel inward, the steering wheel retracts and the cabin is softly lit.
Subaru and Mazda are showing concept vehicles that signal future directions. Subaru’s Impreza concept hatchback is streamlined with a wider and lower profile than the current model, although the drivetrain probably will be retained. Subaru’s Viviz concept may be the future Forester – a crossover hybrid with a serious cool factor: a sliding bumper that converts into a bike rack. It also carries some new crash avoidance and autonomous driving features.
Perhaps the biggest oohs and ahhs were over Mazda’s RX Vision concept. It’s sexy by almost any standard, with an amazingly long hood. Speculation centers around whether it will ever get built, and if it does whether its Wankel rotary engine – remember? – will make driving it just as appealing
Arguably the most exciting drive shown in Tokyo is the BMW M4 GTS sporting 493 hp that does zero-60 in 3.7 seconds. The unique water-injection system helps up the speed. About 300 of them will be sold in the U.S. beginning next year for about $160,000 each.
The Tokyo show also offers many tiny, less costly, tech-laden “city cars” that may be the future of personal transportation in congested cities for drivers who want more than a bike and less than a luxury sedan. While they may not make your heart race, there’s plenty here to confirm that “Technology x Fantasy” are rapidly changing how and what we drive.