Tuesday 21 February 2017

Put the mojo back into your motoringJapanese manufacturers will show both sporty and eco-friendly models in Tokyo, says Kyle Fortune

Published 13/11/2011 | 05:00

The 42nd Tokyo Motor Show opens its doors to the public on December 2. It's at a new venue, the city's 'Big Sight', which brings the spectacle back into the city.

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Not even the tragic Great East Japan Earthquake of March was able to slow the progress of Japan's car industry. Actually, that's not entirely true, the legacy of Japan's horrific natural disaster is still seeing delays in car production and deliveries, but no other country could have coped as well as Japan seems to have.

The mood of this year's show is confident too, with the promise of a number of significant world debuts at the event. Non-Japanese manufacturers will of course be in attendance, but thanks to the proximity of the LA Auto Show and Japan's huge domestic marketplace, the majority of the new model reveals and concepts are Japanese.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated is the arrival of Toyota's FT-86 coupe (though it may be called Celica). Japan's manufacturers have seemingly rediscovered their sporting mojo, with this year's show promising the arrival of a number of high-performance machines. A car that's been rumoured, spied and leaked more than any in recent memory, the FT-86 is something of a back-to-basics sports coupe that's been developed in partnership with Subaru. It'll get its own version, badged BRZ, but the Toyota is more significant as it'll sell in bigger numbers worldwide. It arrives in Ireland in May 2012.

Unveiled in concept guise at the Tokyo show in 2009, nobody can accuse Toyota of rushing the FT-86 to production. Its Subaru DNA is obvious thanks to a lightweight 2.0-litre flat-four boxer engine mounted low under its long bonnet, but it'll drive the rear wheels only. Indeed, the FT-86 is refreshingly simplistic in its approach, with its engine, mated to a conventional six-speed manual transmission, delivering a relatively modest 200hp. Promising purity of handling and fine balance mated to decent -- if not outrageous -- performance, the FT-86 eschews the big horsepower, technology-rich direction of many of Japan's sports cars.

Indeed, Toyota's (and Subaru's) back-to-basics performance car couldn't be any more different to the 2012 Nissan GT-R, which will also debut at the Tokyo show. Visually unchanged, Nissan's annual revisions will see Godzilla's (as it's affectionately known) power output increase from 530hp to 550hp, with torque increasing 20m to 632Nm. The result? An even faster GT-R, with Nissan claiming an incredible 0-100km/h time of 2.8 seconds. Also promised is a new track-specific version, featuring changes to its brakes, reduced weight and more speed.

As Yang to the GT-R's Yin, Nissan will also display its Pivo 3, an electric city car concept that follows the Pivo and Pivo 2 in providing a solution for inner city mobility. This one looks more like it's ready for the streets than pie-in-the-sky thinking, which could very easily borrow from alliance partner Renault's Twizy to reach production reality.

Not to be outdone on the sports car or green front, Honda is said to be readying a new NSX. Honda has been without a flagship sporting model for sometime. The on-off project has been rumoured since production of the last, Ayrton Senna-developed NSX finished in 2005. The new NSX is anticipated to take a slightly different tack to the original, with a hybrid powertrain mooted as a potential solution for Honda's supercar. Don't be surprised if Honda's friendly, and scarily human, robot Asimo gets involved in pulling the covers off an NSX concept -- showing the direction for a possible 2013 production car.

Electricity will be big at the Big Sight, with that NSX concept sharing a stage with a small electric sports car and a tiny electric commuter concept. An all-electric, plug-in Civic and a new plug-in hybrid model, will be put on sale in Japan in limited numbers while the firm evaluates the technology. More relevant, and available in showrooms by the end of 2012, will be new diesel engine technology from Honda, with a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel to join its existing 2.2-litre unit.

That's not the end of it. Toyota will officially show its new junior Prius, the Prius C, bringing its hybrid technology into the supermini marketplace. Inexplicably, it's not for Europe -- though a hybrid version of the Yaris will be, wearing new front and rear bumpers to mark it out as the electrically assisted model in the range. Throw in a fuel-cell prototype with its own -- rather than borrowed -- architecture and the Toyota stand will be a busy one in Tokyo. Underlining the significance of the US marketplace to its upmarket relative Lexus, it's anticipated that anything new from it will be unveiled in LA later this month instead.

Mazda is staying true to its domestic roots and will preview its next new saloon in the form of the Takeri concept. Expected to give a taste of how the replacement to the Mazda 6 will look, the concept builds on the firm's SkyActiv technology, reducing weight and energy loss through stop-start systems and regenerative braking. Efficient or not, if Mazda manages to make its production car look half as good, it'll fly out of showrooms.

Along with its BRZ, Subaru will reveal a new Impreza and a hint of its next Legacy in the guise of its Advanced Sports Tourer Concept. One of the more wacky technologies shown in the Advanced Sports Tourer is a large monitor built into the steering wheel, which Subaru claims means 'information will be available to hand to support contemporary lifestyles'. Quite. It's unlikely to be the most outrageous idea on show in Japan, at an event that's got a reputation for the extraordinary. Indeed, the Tokyo show promises to be as interesting as ever -- earthquake or not.

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